Wario is taking a nap during a trip into the Awazon River basin when he spots three masked creatures carrying treasure behind a waterfall. Following them in with the intention of taking the treasure for himself, he ends up falling down a trap door into a vast subterranean labyrinth. Wario must trek through the caverns to take the treasure and get revenge against the Mask-Guys.
The gameplay of Virtual Boy Wario Land is very similar to its immediate predecessor, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, lacking the drastic changes to the formula made later in Wario Land II. Wario can be hit once and turned into Small Wario before another hit kills him. Garlic once again provides power-ups similar to the ones from the first game, though they must be combined with new items for more advanced power-ups. Each level also houses one treasure that must be collected for 100% Completion.
Despite the poor reputation of the Virtual Boy console overall, Virtual Boy Wario Land, the last Wario Land game that Gunpei Yokoi worked on before his retirement and death, is frequently cited as one of the few truly good games it had, and it enjoys a high reputation among the few who still know about it. It's also the only game for the console to contain the name "Virtual Boy" in its title.
Not to be confused with Wario Land II, which is technically the third game in the series.
Virtual Boy Wario Land provides examples of:
- 1-Up: A diamond gives Wario an extra life. Often could be gotten in the heart bonus game at the end of a level.
- 2½D: Of the "layered" variety. There are several Side View layers that Wario and the enemies can alternate between.
- All Your Powers Combined: The King Dragon Wario form. Combines all the powers of Wario's hats.
- Black and Grey Morality: The enemies of the game are a bunch of mean monsters and demons, but Wario's only motivation against them is Greed.
- Continuing Is Painful: Game Over, and you lose all your treasure.
- Cool Plane: Wario's Bulldog seaplane returns (it previously made an appearance in the Japan-only Mario & Wario and a Japanese educational video featuring Mario and Kirby).
- Early Installment Weirdness: In both this game and Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3, Wario wears a safari helmet by default, rather than his usual yellow cap.
- Hailfire Peaks: Since the whole game's setting is underground, it's a bunch of underground levels usually mixed with something else.
- Hat of Power: The Power-Up Hat mechanics from the first game are back.
- Lawof 100: A hundred heart points are good for an extra life: a small heart is worth one point, a large heart is worth ten.
- Mix-and-Match Critters: The first boss is called a "Dinosaur Fish."
- Money Multiplier: At the end of each level there is a game where you can risk your coins to multiply them by choosing the correct bucket holding money bags: how much it's multiplied depends on how many buckets you want to choose from. Getting triple the coins means picking correctly from two buckets above you, getting six times the coins means picking correctly from three buckets, and the big ten times the coins means you must pick correctly from FOUR buckets! A wrong guess halves your coins, so if you choose wrongly three times you leave with an eighth of what you came in with! But if you get three consecutive correct picks, you could leave with anywhere from twenty-seven times the coins (for three triple-coin games) or up to ONE THOUSAND times the coins (for picking the right bucket out of four each of three ten-times-coin games)!
- Mook Maker: The Vase produces an enemy called a Vase-Based, but only the first time you throw the Vase on its side.
- Multiple Endings: Wario's mode of transportation back home from the Awazon depends on how much money you have or on whether or not you've collected all ten hidden treasures. See them all here.
- Nice Hat: Fancy wearing a Viking hat? How about a Winged Dragon or an Eagle?
- Playboy Bunny: One accompanies Wario on his magic carpet in the best ending.
- Playing with Fire: The Sea Dragon Hat, also the King Dragon Hat. The difference between them is the former shoots a stream of fire while the latter shoots fireballs.
- Super Strength: The Bull Hat from the first game returns, with the same abilities.
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: The Mask-Guys are almost identical to the Spear Men/Pirate Gooms from the other Wario Land games, in that they have a sharp object held in front that prevents Wario from killing them with a normal dash attack.
- Underground Level: All the levels are this.
- Video Game Flight: The Eagle Hat.