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Happy 25th Birthday Game Boy!

We celebrate the 25th birthday of one of the most successful pieces of gaming hardware to date: the Game Boy. It is the system that debuted Nintendo icons like Kirby, Wario and Pikachu, and carried along parallel installments of popular favorites like Zelda, Final Fantasy and Mega Man. Every kid in the 90’s either had one or knew someone with one and thus everyone knew what this sucker could do. For many it was a time killer, and for others a gateway into lengthy adventures that required a much higher investment of effort; but in the end, we all have memories of the green screened device that could.



This 8-bit device only has as many buttons as a NES controller and a monochromatic screen, and yet that’s all it and it’s colored-screen successor: the Game Boy Color, needed to last fourteen years on the market, defeat several competitors and sell over 118 million units. The device was a hit right from the beginning thanks to not just a Mario game at launch, unparalleled battery life and competitive pricing, but the genius idea of packing it in with the next big game: Tetris.

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This device, its success and your memories of it would not be possible without its creator, Gunpei Yokoi. Creator of several Nintendo products prior to their video game days such as an extending hand called the Ultra Hand and love testers; Yokoi was the brains behind Nintendo’s first handheld gaming device: the Game & Watch followed by the Game Boy. Yokoi was also one of the leads behind some of Nintendo’s hit games such as Kid Icarus, Metroid, Mario Bros. (Arcade), Donkey Kong, and Super Mario Land. After the failure of the Virtual Boy, Yokoi left Nintendo in 1996 and sadly died in a car accident in October of 1997.

Nintendo’s legacy for the Game Boy continues today with the successful Nintendo 3DS. Though the 3DS has much more advanced processing, screens and connectivity, it still harnesses some ideals that made the Game Boy popular; and stumbled at first because of going against said ideals, like battery life and price. The 3DS even has some Game Boy games available to download through its online store, the Nintendo eShop, including some of Yokoi’s classics. Plus, it continues the tradition of Nintendo handhelds performing much better on shelves then their home consoles, despite their added horsepower and technical prowess.

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I actually own every model of the Game Boy released in the U.S. right up to its final form, the Game Boy Micro. I got my first in 1990 along with Super Mario Land and I was very off and on with it with games like Donkey Kong ’94, Wario Land and Alleyway up until Pokémon Red released in 1997, where it single-handedly took over 300 hours of my life into it. Today I play mostly on my 3DS despite my 60” HDTV glaring me at my right, and leaving home without it is as unsettling as leaving my wallet behind.

I raised a drink to the Game Boy today, because without it, we’d never see what Nintendo, their studios and third-parties alike could do when they didn’t have the bells and whistles of consoles and arcades, and produce content that exclusively relies on fun as it’s selling point.

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