The Revival of the Game Boy


Amy Patterson

The original Game Boy was chunky, unwieldy, and a mild eyesore. Released in 1989, the Game Boy sent a shockwave through the gaming industry. Pivotal to the digital age, it left a legacy unwilling to die.

In 1998, after nine years of incredible profit margins, Nintendo amped up their original designs and produced the Game Boy Color, often referred to as the GBC. This model, with its aesthetically pleasing design, won over the kids of the ‘90s. It featured both a color screen and several original body colors, including dandelion, berry, kiwi, grape, and teal . (Mine happened to be teal.)

Coming as no surprise to fans of the 8-bit wonder, in 2001, Nintendo produced the Game Boy Advance. This product was not only compatible with GBA games; it was also backwards compatible, meaning it could run older games, such as original GBC games. With a 32-bit processor, the GBA outsold all competition, eventually finishing its shelf-life with approximately 82 million units sold worldwide. About half of these units came in the form of the Game Boy Advance SP, a completely unnecessary, but somewhat more convenient upgrade released just two years after the Game Boy Advance.

Twenty-five years after the release of Nintendo’s first handheld console, the Game Boy line still runs strong, but it has nothing to do with retro graphics or game quality. Nintendo can attribute the revival of the Game Boy to none other than the modern smartphone, a product capable of downloading, running, and enhancing every Game Boy cartridge ever released, (and some that were not released at all), through a process known as “emulation”.

“I used to run an emulator on my iPhone,” Dakotah Rickert, a WPHS alumnus told me, “but it’s not easy to do unless you jailbreak it. So, I bought an emulation device called the Dingoo A320 that ran NES, SNES, GB, GBC, and GBA games. I had about fifty games on it. I chose an emulator over the real thing because it ran a significantly larger variety of games, had a smaller total volume, and was cheaper in the long run.”

Jon Wagner, a high school senior with an Android cell phone, explains his reasoning for engaging in emulation. “I typically play the third generation of Pokémon games on a Gameboid emulator, because they’re strategic, nostalgic, and the perfect pick-up-and-play games.”

Luckily for Nintendo, there are some products smartphones simply cannot emulate. The Nintendo DS and Nintendo 3DS both require two screens, something cell phones lack, to execute gaming files, meaning the industry has nothing to fear from piracy.

So, next time you see a kid sitting at a lunch table, cell phone in hand, think to yourself: Facebook, text message, or Pokémon game? You might be surprised by just how often Charmander evolves.