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What is a Game Boy?

By J. Beam
Updated May 16, 2024
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The Game Boy® is a handheld video game console that is credited as the longest running video game system of all time. Developed by Gunpei Yokoi of Nintendo Japan, the console was released in the U.S. in 1991. Upon its release, it was bundled with the game Tetris and from the moment it hit shelves, it's been a best seller. The console evolved over the years both in technology and design, but continued to be the number one selling handheld video game system until it was discontinued in 2008.

The very first Game Boy® contained a mere 8-bit 4.19 MHz CPU with a 4-color display screen in grayscale and a resolution of 160x144 pixels. When the system proved an instant success, Nintendo wasted no time revamping the console, and the 10-year span between the original release and the release of the Game Boy® Advance delivered the Game Boy® Pocket and the Game Boy® Color. The original model was discontinued in 2003, but by this point, the Advance had a 32-bit 16.78MHz CPU, a color display and 240x160 pixels.

The console remained a top seller during its 10 years, and it was ready to make a leap into new areas. The Game Boy® Advance received some design criticism, especially regarding the back lighting, and Nintendo addressed this common complaint with the release of the Advance SP in 2003. This model was redesigned twice, with the SP and the 2005 release of the Game Boy® Micro. The flip screen of the SP model was a big hit, and it outsold even the Micro.

Even as the Game Boy® evolved, Nintendo successfully addressed consumer needs by allowing each and every system to support previous game titles. Super Mario Land and Pokemon Red and Blue were the system's best selling game titles with sales of 14 million and 11 million respectively. The company released the Nintendo DS™, another handheld game system that supported previous titles, in 2004. The Nintendo DS™ is a dual screen game system with touch button and stylus controls, and it can display 3-D graphics. This system has also been upgraded, with the Nintendo 3DS™ released in 2011.

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Discussion Comments
By Markerrag — On Jan 26, 2014

Ah, the good old early days of the Game Boy! I well remember how this one showed up and was simply unbeatable. Both the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear featured better graphics and full color, but the Game Boy had two things they didn't -- licenses to Nintendo characters such as Mario and extreme battery life.

You could sink 6 AA batteries into a Lynx and watch that system completely drain them in about two hours. The Game Boy, however, used 4 AA batteries and could run on them for 15 to 30 hours (according to Nintendo's specs). The Game Boy, in other words, was cheap to operate while its competitors were not.

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