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Gaming on the go: the enduring legacy of the Game Boy

Zelda Game Boy

Nintendo’s Game Boy is one of the oldest, best-selling, and most legendary gaming devices of all time. Originally released in 1989, the handheld Game Boy has witnessed 31 years of evolutionary gaming history and is the 3rd best selling console ever.

Take a walk down memory lane as we delve into the enduring legacy of Nintendo’s finest work, the Game Boy.Zelda Game Boy

With over 200 million collective units sold, Nintendo’s famous Game Boy revolutionised portable gaming, leaving a legacy like no other.

The original Game Boy – 1989

On April 21, 1989, Nintendo made a pivotal development in the history of the company. The brainchild of Gunpei Yokoi – who had just produced the pioneering sci-fi platformer Metroid on the NES – released the Game Boy and it was an instant hit.

The 8-bit handheld console supported interchangeable cartridges so you could play multiple games on the fly including Super Mario Land, a sidescrolling relative to Super Mario Bros. and the most popular game at launch.

While it could only display games in four shades of grey, the Game Boy created a baseline for all handheld gaming that would follow.game boy

When the Game Boy was released in the US on July 31 it also came with Tetris, quickly selling 35 million copies. One year and one day later, Kirby’s Dream Land was released and was the first of Nintendo’s many notable franchises to premiere on the pocket device.

On the 4th of October, 1997, tragedy struck when Gunpei Yokoi and his personal driver rear-ended a truck. When the two men got out to survey the damage, Yokoi, ‘the Father of Games’ and creator of Metroid and Kid Icarus, was hit and killed by a passing vehicle.

A year later, Pokémon was born with Red and Blue. The franchise immediately launched a trading card game as well as an anime series and is still one of Nintendo’s biggest properties.

Game Boy Color – 1998

In November 1998 the Game Boy Color was released, the first true successor. As implied by the name it supported 56 different colours. Plus, it was backward compatible with original Game Boy cartridges. Over the next three years, it saw 500 releases with an ever-expanding repertoire of legendary games, including Pokémon Gold/Silver/Crystal, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Metal Gear Solid.

The original Game Boy dominated the portable gaming market for 10 years after its release in 1989, however, as technology became rapidly more advanced the Game Boy Color was succeeded in less than three.Game Boy Color

Game Boy Advance – 2001

On June 21, 2001, a notable technological improvement was released with the iconic 32-bit Game Boy Advance. Featuring graphics comparable to the Super Nintendo, backwards compatibility, and additional bumper buttons, the Advance allowed for more complex gaming and was a fan favourite.

This significantly more powerful device allowed Nintendo to revisit some of their most established ’90s classics in what still go down as some of the most iconic games in history. These include Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow, the truly timeless Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald, Metroid Fusion, Final Fantasy 6, Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, and Astro Boy: The Omega Factor.

In fact, there were so many celebrated titles released on the Game Boy Advance that a total of 39 games sold over 1 million copies, while the console itself has sold 81.51 million units.

One year later the Game Boy Advance was improved further with the new SP model which featured a back-lit screen. While the Advance had significant improvements in battery life, the lack of screen lighting meant that most playing had to take place during the day.

Moreover, the new model featured a collapsable, clamshell-like design for improved portability and functionality. This mirrored the first Motorolla flip phones of the late ’90s and was a design adopted by almost all handheld Nintendo devices since.game boy

Modern Gameboy

As technology became far more advanced in the modern era, the Game Boy began to feel somewhat archaic in the gaming community. Ever striving to remain ahead of the curve, the Nintendo DS revamped the classic Game Boy design with a wide handheld, clamshell design, and two screens.

This innovative device brought about a new era of handheld gaming and is the 2nd best-selling gaming console of all time with 154 million units. This device proved Nintendo’s desire to innovate after 20 years and continue to be the face of modern gaming.

The DS packed the horsepower to run 3D games, allowing for ports from the N64 and original titles.

In 2006, the Nintendo improved this model with the DS lite, upping the run time of the rechargeable battery plus adding a camera. The DS saw some legendary titles released, building up a library of games that offered unique and collaborative experiences that couldn’t be found on your regular home console.

While the ongoing console wars are often thought to be between Sony and Microsoft, it is clear that Nintendo is the true king of gaming. It is likely that the similarities between Xbox and PlayStation have led to this warlike analogy, lending even more credit to the originality and innovation of Nintendo.

The true success of Nintendo began with its crowning achievement, the Game Boy, which is still a shining beacon in the gaming landscape. While the Nintendo DS has technically sold more units, if you combine the Gameboy, Gameboy Color, and Gameboy Advance’s collective sales, they reach over 200 million, making it the best selling console series in history.

So if you have the time in isolation, dust off an old cartridge and relive history.

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April 1, 2020