Retro Tech: Appreciating the Original Game Boy

By today’s lofty standards, the original Game Boy may appear to be an ugly, grey brick... a relic of a more parochial and simpler time. But this couldn’t be further from the truth, as the Nintendo’s very first handheld console was a true game changer in every sense of the word.

18 Sep 2013

By today's lofty standards, the original Game Boy may appear to be an ugly, grey brick... a relic of a more parochial and simpler time. But this couldn't be further from the truth, as the Nintendo's very first handheld console was a true game changer in every sense of the word. 

Original Gameboy

Not only can older Nintendo fans remember the impressive slew of games that graced the system (more on that in a wee bit), but the Game Boy paved the way for Nintendo's dominance of the handheld gaming market for the past 20 years. You just need to look at the success that the Nintendo 3DS is currently enjoying (approximately 33 million units sold to date) to understand the extent in which the Kyoto-based company have cornered this market.

But we don't think that the original Game Boy receives as much love as it should these days, so we're here to remind you guys why it deserves a special place in your heart. You never know, you may even be tempted to dig out the old system for a quick game...

The Games

As many people have said before, a system is truly defined by its games. And luckily for the Game Boy... it had plenty of those (and really really good ones too).

The one game that almost everyone who owned a Game Boy played was the legendary puzzle game Tetris. Not only was Tetris the pack-in title for the original Game Boy, but as anyone who has played it can attest, the game is also crazy addictive.

Tetris also helped to push sales for the Game Boy and make the system a household name, with approximately 35 million copies of the game sold!

Another huge success for Nintendo was Pokémon Red and Blue. The series has in fact been so successful that it's become difficult to imagine a time when people wrote it off as a temporary fad. But lurking underneath that kid-friendly veneer is a robust RPG that enabled you to battle and trade with your friends via a link cable. Therefore, it was one of the few handheld games at the time that provided both a single-player and social experience.

So whether you chose Charmander, Bulbasaur, or Squirtle to accompany you on your Game Boy Pokémon adventure, you'll have undoubtedly felt the urge to catch them all. You may have even spent too much time in your school playground battling against your friends...

Pokemon Red Intro Screen

But no Nintendo console line-up is ever complete without a flagship Mario title, and arguably the best Mario game on the Game Boy was Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins.

This game was the follow-up to Super Mario Land, and it ditched the strange creatures and vehicle sections of the original in favour of a world map, some amazingly creative levels, and fan-favourite power-ups like the bunny ears.
Six Golden Coins also marked the first appearance of new antagonist: Wario.

Within this post, we obviously won't be able to mention all of the great games that appeared on the Game Boy. But we know that there are many Nintendo fans out there who will fondly recall games like The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Donkey Kong, Dr. Mario, Metroid II: Return of Samus, and Mega Man V.

So if that's you, let us know what your favourite Game Boy game is...

Fade to... Colour?

Sure there were some awesome games for the Game Boy, but by the time we got into the late 90s, the whole system became rather dated. With the 32-bit generation of consoles invading many people's home, including Nintendo's very own Super Nintendo, the original Game Boy appeared cumbersome with original games for the device now few and far between.

So Nintendo's solution to the problem was to alleviate the biggest complaint levelled against the Game Boy, and launch a system in 1998 that enabled colour graphics.

Ingeniously entitled the Game Boy Colour, the newest Nintendo handheld was able to re-energise the market for 8-bit systems. Third-party developers like WayForward even began to create strong reputations for themselves with games like Shantae. Other titles, including Metal Gear Solid and Wario Land 3, were also able to thrive on the Game Boy Colour.

But in spite of these successes, the Game Boy Colour was to only last until 2001, when Nintendo launched the 32-bit Game Boy Advance. Not only was the Advance a relatively supercharged handheld console, but it ditched the old rectangular design in favour of something that Nintendo felt was far more comfortable.

Unfortunately, with the advent of the Advance the 8-bit Game Boy and Game Boy Colour were forced to retire. But it was a mighty fun journey while it lasted. We can even trace the beginnings of several classic Nintendo franchises like Pokémon, Kirby, Wave Race, and Wario to the original Game Boy. Although these games may not be able to compete with their modern day counterparts, these titles proved to be the modest beginnings for several game series that would last for years.

If you've still hung on to your classic Game Boy, let us know in the comments below...

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