Nintendo Game Boy Changed Handheld Gaming Forever 35 Years Ago

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Nintendo's Legendary Handheld Turns 35 Today!

Story Highlight
  • The Game Boy debuted in April 1989.
  • The handheld was considered iconic since it allowed titles like Tetris, Mario, and more to be taken on the go.
  • It remains an important part of Nintendo’s legacy 35 years later.

Handheld gaming has been through various phases. Whether it be the nearly two-decade-old PSP or the hybrid Nintendo Switch from 2017, this segment has rapidly evolved. However, much of handheld gaming’s popularity can be attributed to the Game Boy.

In April 1989, Nintendo unleashed its most important handheld. Dubbed the Game Boy, it came with cartridge-based games, putting dedicated handheld gaming experiences in the palm of our hands.

Because this concept was so limited and had never been done in such a manner at the time, the Game Boy became an instant hit. Today, this handheld celebrates its 35th anniversary.

Why it matters: The Game Boy was perhaps the beginning of the gaming giant’s focus on innovation and gameplay over raw hardware capabilities. This is a philosophy Nintendo follows to this day with the Switch.

Nintendo Game Boy
Nintendo Initially Used A Matrix Display To Cut Costs

Relying on a dot-matrix display and AA batteries, this handheld was considered revolutionary.

It launched alongside games like Tetris, leading to the perfect recipe for a successful handheld. Over its lifespan, this console saw releases from famous Nintendo IPs, including Mario, Zelda, and more.

However, the Game Boy saw another burst in popularity in 1996 when Pokemon Red & Green launched on the system, debuting what would go on to become one of Nintendo’s best-selling IPs.

Designed around the limitations of this hardware, Pokemon Red & Green relied on turn-based combat and simple sprites. This release spawned various anime adaptations, numerous sequels, and even Western films.

Pokemon continues to be vital to Nintendo’s gaming ecosystem today, but its association with the Game Boy paved the path for this console’s continued success in the latter part of its lifespan.

Pokemon Red & Green
Pokemon Became Essential To Nintendo’s Handheld DNA After 1996

Over the years, the Game Boy went through various revisions. 1998’s Game Boy Color introduced a colored LCD screen, the Game Boy Advance ventured into 32-bit gaming territory, and the Game Boy Advance SP introduced a clamshell design.

Overall, little needs to be said about this console’s legacy. With over 120 million sales under its belt, it remains one of the industry’s best-selling pieces of hardware, firmly sitting alongside the likes of the PS4.

Modern handhelds are blurring the lines between portable and console gaming. The likes of the Steam Deck have marked a notable comeback for this industry, yet they pale in comparison to the legacy of the Game Boy that debuted 35 years ago.

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