Round Table: 30 Years of Game Boy

The staff discusses their favorite memories of the classic handheld!

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 04/28/2019 08:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

It’s hard to believe Game Boy is 30-years-old. Like the NES before it, the handheld was anything but a guaranteed success for Nintendo. Thanks to great software like Tetris, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening and Pokémon, however, the system proved to be a titan. In honor of the anniversary, we discussed our favorite memories of Game Boy.

Marc Deschamps

Oh, Game Boy. There was a time in my life when Nintendo’s original grey-colored handheld didn’t leave my side, no matter where I went, or how socially acceptable it might have been to do so. Of course, that wasn’t the case when I first got it. In fact, for a very long time, the system’s carrying case gathered dust underneath my bed. It just wasn’t as flashy as Game Gear (which I also owned), and while I really enjoyed games like Solar Striker and Wario Land, I barely played them unless it was through the Super Game Boy, on Super Nintendo. It just felt like the system, with its olive-green screen, wasn’t really worth my time. That is, until Christmas 1998.

Now, I don’t know exactly when I first got a Game Boy, but I want to say it was Christmas 1990, alongside my beloved Gund Super Mario plush. Nevertheless, that Game Boy of mine had to be almost eight-years-old by the time I received Pokémon Red, and that’s an eternity in the life of a video game system. Suddenly, however, Game Boy was like a new toy. I had to catch them all, you see. So, the device became tethered to me; it came to school, it joined me on road trips and it went to every relative’s house I visited. And no matter how many times I dropped the darn thing, it still worked like the day I got it. Thankfully, it didn’t guzzle batteries like that aforementioned Game Gear, either.

When people talk about Pokémon, it seems they sometimes neglect to mention just how much lifeblood the games pumped into the handheld industry. While that particular franchise was my favorite, it got me to play more handheld games than ever before, completely changing my perspective on the system. Suddenly, I was seeking out Game Boy games I’d missed out on, like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Final Fantasy Legend III. The system might not have been the flashiest available, but what it may have lacked in style, it more than made up for in substance.

Kevin Knezevic

I didn’t get my first Game Boy until toward the tail end of the handheld’s life cycle, after Pokémon Yellow had come out, but boy, do I vividly remember how desperately I wanted one as a child. From the moment I saw a picture of Super Mario Land’s box art hanging in the Toys ‘R’ Us video game aisle, I wished I could have a Game Boy of my own to play it. I pestered my parents repeatedly for one over the next few years, but they could never justify spending that much on yet another video game machine when I already had an NES and SNES back home.

Like Marc, though, it wasn’t until the arrival of Pokémon that I truly appreciated how special the handheld was. After so many years of waiting, I finally got a Pokémon-themed Game Boy Color- naturally bundled with a copy of Pokémon Yellow– for my birthday, and that moment is in large part responsible for why I’m such a big Nintendo fan to this day. That wasn’t the first time I had experienced a Pokémon game; I had played bits of my cousin’s Pokémon Red file before then. But it was the first time I got to embark on my own full adventure in the world of Pokémon, and I was rapt. The following year, Pokémon Gold and Silver hit North America and somehow managed to engross me even more, thanks to their improved visuals and in-game calendar.

I only got a handful of Game Boy games after that- among them the criminally underrated Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages– before I eventually moved on to Game Boy Advance, but I look back on my time with the system fondly. Ironically enough, it was the 3DS that gave me my biggest appreciation for the Game Boy; thanks to its robust selection of GB Virtual Console games, I got to experience so many classics I missed the first time around, including Super Mario Land 2, the wonderful Wario Land trilogy, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, Donkey Kong ’94, and many others. That one of those games is being remade for Switch- and is one of the console’s marquee releases this year, no less- stands as a testament to the Game Boy’s legacy.

Joshua A. Johnston

As someone born in the late 1970s, I first got my hands on a Game Boy when I was in middle school. Everything started and ended with Tetris. I wasn’t– and still am not– much of a puzzle person, but that pack-in game was good for hours of time-killing… or, at least, as long as the batteries held out.

Beyond that, I vividly recall a number of different games, some of them amazing and some of them flat terrible. Super Mario Land was less fun than I wanted it to be, given how different the play mechanics were from the original, but Super Mario Land 2 was inspired, right down to that epic final battle. I loved getting to continue the adventures of NES games Contra and Metroid on the Game Boy in the form of Operation C and Metroid II: Return of Samus. I felt a profound sense of accomplishment for beating Gargoyle’s Quest and profound ambivalence over the various Star Trek Game Boy games that I wanted to like but couldn’t.

As for Pokémon? For whatever reason, I never picked up or played any of the Pokémon titles as a kid; I only finally tried out Pokémon Yellow as an adult after finding it for ten cents at a yard sale.

I still have my Game Boy. Not long ago, my grade school aged daughter put some batteries in it to try it out. She thought it was okay, but not enough for her to do much more than try out a few of the games for a few minutes each. It’s still there if she changes her mind.

What are your favorite memories of Game Boy? Let us know in the comments below!

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