Oh, the Game Boy. What an amazing system. So many great memories, many of which will never be topped. Let's take a moment to remember the Game Boy for its 31st anniversary. As always, thanks for reading.
On April 21st all the way back in 1989, Nintendo gave birth to the Game Boy. The Big N followed up its home console success with portable gaming above and beyond what anyone had seen up to that point. While Nintendo had had a successful portable gaming run with the Game & Watch series, the titles offered were a bit rudimentary. The Game Boy did its absolute best to bring a console-like experience that you could hold in the palm of your hands. It seemed like something unfathomable at the time, and still impresses to this day.
It's hard to explain the magic of playing the Game Boy for the first time. Those who were around when the Game Boy was brand-new were really flabbergasted by the portable, myself included. There were a few minor portable gaming systems up to that point, but nothing that ever broke through, or even made a ripple on a worldwide scale. It took Nintendo's might in the game industry and technical know-how to create something that found a place in the market, and managed to cram NES-like experiences into a pocket-sized platform.
Playing the Game Boy for the first time seemed...impossible. It was unbelievably exciting to take such a small piece of hardware, fire it up, and see some of the franchises you loved from your NES. It's honestly an experience that I don't think will ever be replicated. We all have pocket-sized devices that play games, and the console industry has been running even longer. There's just nothing that could happen to recapture that feeling of awe that came from the Game Boy. It really was the birth of something brand-new.
Going from the NES and its sizable cartridges to the Game Boy with its tiny carts and minuscule form factor seemed like some sort of black magic. I'll never forget seeing advertisements for the Game Boy. I would just stare at them in complete disbelief, having no idea how Nintendo managed to make something like this happen. It didn't matter that the screen wasn't backlit or that there weren't any colors. It was the technical wizardry of playing console-style games on a handheld device that outshined any of the platform's shortcomings.
Again, the best we had for portable gaming back in those days were the Tiger Electronic handhelds. The vast majority of those units had a single game installed on them, and were majorly pared-down from traditional gaming. Extremely limited in terms of frames of animation, gameplay that was almost non-existent in some cases, and sound that could barely squeak out something recognizable. There were a handful of Tiger Electronic releases that were enjoyable out of hundreds that were extremely lackluster, but anything released in that line was dwarfed by even the first wave of Game Boy games, which were light years beyond.
In all of my gaming memories, the time I received a Game Boy for a birthday present is definitely one of my fondest. It was a pool party and I was 8 years old at the time. I had a bunch of friends over and we were swimming for most of the day, and then we got out for a bit to have some cake and open presents. I ran through the great gifts that my friends got me, and then my parents surprised me with something. I honestly had no idea what was in the box, as I didn't ask for anything. I opened up the package in front of my friends, and we all let out a collective gasp. My parents squirreled away enough money to get me a Game Boy and some games.
I wanted so, sooooooooooooooooooo badly to rip that sucker open and play it right there, but I didn't want to be rude to those at the party. I put everything back in the box and went on with the rest of the party. Admittedly, I was going crazy on the inside. All I could think about was playing the Game Boy, and I could barely focus on anything else going on at the time. It was only made worse by friends asking me to open it up and play it! I held firm though, and made sure I kept the Game Boy excitement for when the part was over.
I sat outside on my parents' deck and cracked open the Game Boy. My parents got me Tetris, Super Mario Land, and Castlevania: The Adventure. I was in absolute heaven with that combination. I didn't know what to play first! I eventually decided to kick things off with Tetris, which we all know proved to be an early killer app for the platform. It was honestly hard to put that game down and move onto the others! After some time with Tetris, I gave Super Mario Land a go, and I was wowed once again. It was a brand-new Mario adventure in the palm of my hands! How in the world was it even possible?! Things got even better when I went to Castlevania: The Adventure, which looked even closer to its console counterparts than Super Mario Land did. It was such a mind-boggling experience, and I can still recall that excitement today.
As the weeks rolled on, my Mom and sister got in on the Game Boy as well. My Mom became absolutely addicted to Tetris, which was a problem...because my sister and I wanted to play it just as much! My sister also spent a lot of time with Super Mario Land. In a matter of weeks, we had three huge Game Boy fans in our household. We all had to share the one Game Boy, which was definitely a bit of a struggle. I can remember going to grab it from my dresser to find it missing, only to happen upon my Mom playing it in the living room. If it wasn't with here, I could usually find my sister hiding in her bedroom playing it under her covers. Sure, it might have been annoying to have to steal away time with the Game Boy back then, but now I look back on those memories fondly.
I've never had another gaming experience like the Game Boy. The amazement at what it was and what it could do just can't be matched. It was a product of the time, and I can't envision anything like that ever happening again. When I pick up my Game Boy today, I still feel all those memories. I also feel the same excitement, joy, and wonder as I did in my single-digit days. It's just such a wonderful time machine back to a simpler time for gaming, and an exciting age for the industry.
The Game Boy was just the start to a very long and super-successful run for Nintendo in the portable business. That success continues on today through the Switch. Portable gaming is a big part of Nintendo's DNA, and they see why fostering that market continues to pay dividends. I know their fascination with portable gaming devices will continue on for years to come, and I'm quite excited to see where it takes us. That said, due to my old age in the gaming world and the strong memories I have, I don't think anything will ever top the Game Boy.
I think I'm going to go fire mine up right now. Tetris anyone?