Adventure Island vs. Wonder Boy

Adventure Island vs. Wonder Boy

Battle of the grass skirts

A.J. Maciejewski

Written by for Versus on

The Adventure Island and Wonder Boy series have a long shared history so let's explore both franchises and see which one's best.

Adventure Island 2 screenshot
What makes Adventure Island 2 better than the original? Dinosaurs!

Growing up with Master Higgins

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Adventure Island. The formula of having to constantly eat fruit and rush through stages while avoiding all sorts of cute creatures and discovering awesome secrets captured my imagination and kept me hooked. Upon playing the NES sequels, I was blown away by the fact that you could ride dinosaurs and save your power-ups between stages. I used to hoard loads of items for whenever things starting getting tricky. When the series debuted on the SNES with Super Adventure Island, I enjoyed it but it didn't quite feel like the next step up. Then, I played Super Adventure Island II and its non-linear Zelda-style campaign really clicked with me although it didn't capture the magic of the NES games. Overall, the Adventure Island series really spoke to me as a kid with its imaginative game worlds, adorable graphics, catchy music, and challenging yet tight 2D gameplay.

Wonder Boy enters the scene

It wasn't until I was a teenager that I discovered the Wonder Boy series. After all, I grew up with NES, Game Boy, and SNES and I never owned any Sega consoles until I bought them from garage sales in my teens. If I recall correctly, Wonder Boy in Monster World was the first game that I played in the series and it blew me away. The 2D platforming and combat complete with RPG elements was perfectly executed and it made me want to explore the Wonder Boy series more. Upon playing the original on Sega Master System, I was surprised that it's basically the same game as the first Adventure Island. After doing some research, I realised that Adventure Island was merely a NES port of Wonder Boy and ever since then, both series have taken their own directions. Believe it or not, I began to appreciate the direction that Wonder Boy took more than Adventure Island although to this day, I still play and enjoy Adventure Island.

Photo of A.J.'s Adventure Island and Wonder Boy game cartridges
I may not have them all but I do love my Adventure Island and Wonder Boy games!

Retro island adventures

Enough history, let's get to the games! The classic Adventure Island games are all about fast-paced platforming and they thoroughly put your retro gaming skills to the test. Meanwhile, Wonder Boy in Monster Land (the 2nd game in the series) steered away from this formula and offered more of an RPG adventure than a pure 2D action platformer. Whereas each Adventure Island sequel merely kept improving on the established gameplay, the Wonder Boy series became all about distinct and memorable adventures. That being said, there are a couple of exceptions as Wonder Boy III: Monster Lair is an automatically scrolling co-op platformer / shoot 'em up hybrid that's a ton of fun while the Japan exclusive Adventure Island IV for Famicom is indeed a non-linear adventure platformer with RPG elements.

After all is said and done, if you prefer straight-up action platformers then the 8-bit Adventure Island games will be more your thing and those who like adventure games with RPG elements will appreciate the retro Wonder Boy games. It's hard for me to decide which series I prefer when it comes to their classic games but seeing as I enjoy Adventure Island more nowadays, it wins this category.

Modern boys of wonder

Unfortunately, there haven't been many modern attempts to revive these 2 franchises. For starters, Adventure Island: The Beginning released on Wii back in 2009 and it was pretty rough around the edges and even had odd 3D visuals for some reason. In 2017, Wonder Boy Returns released for PS4 and it was a fairly shabby interpretation of the series. Thankfully, a remake of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap came out shortly after that retained the classic gameplay while showcasing gorgeous brand new visuals and an incredible redone soundtrack. Finally, Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom (a revival of the Wonder Boy franchise) debuted and holy hot darn, is it amazing! Although I miss the heck out of Adventure Island, Wonder Boy is clearly here to stay and it definitely wins here.

Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap screenshot
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap is much more authentic with retro visuals

Although there are tons of super-fun Adventure Island and Wonder Boy games, I have to pick an overall winner so the better series is...

Winner Wonder Boy

I may have a long history with Adventure Island and it remains one of my favourite retro 2D platforming series but Wonder Boy's recent revival is simply one of the greatest video games ever made. Plus, the older Wonder Boy games hold up beautifully. Here's hoping the Wonder Boy series keeps going strong even though it's called Monster Boy now. Also, Konami should really revive Adventure Island. They made a new Bomberman game so why not? Anyway, I'm blabbing now... Go Wonder Boy!

That's just my opinion. Agree? Disagree? Vote now!

Gameplay video playlist for Adventure Island vs. Wonder Boy 36:16
Wonder Boy Trivia

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