The Gameboy (1989)
The Gameboy, an 8-bit handheld video game device, was created by Gunpei Yokoi and Nintendo Research & Development 1—the same staff who had designed the Game & Watch series nearly a decade earlier. Redesigned versions were released in the form of Game Boy Pocket, and Game Boy Light (Japan only), but for the most part, each version contains the same hardware as the original.
The GameBoy was the very first internationally successful handheld gaming system, and upon its release in the United States, it sold its entire shipment of one million units within a few weeks. It was a phenomenon and the start of the popular handheld gaming trend.
On the design side of things, the GameBoy was made simple and devoid of any true styling. The plastic is light gray in color and has a slight texture, but that’s about it. But where the GameBoy does stand out is in build quality. The Gameboy might just be the toughest gaming console ever made, sturdy enough to survive a bomb and the first video game system to travel to space.
The big problem with the original Gameboy however, is the screen. GameBoy’s screen features 4 levels of gray to augment the lack of back-lighting, and while players could adjust the screen’s contrast with the slider on the device’s left side, the display quality isn’t very impressive since it is extremely grainy and difficult to see in most lighting conditions. And of course the original Gameboy didn’t display any bright shiny colors; Instead we got a horrid green and grey screen, a decision Nintendo made in order to save on battery life (4 AA batteries last for up to 30 hours of gaming on the system).
It’s library of games includes deep entries into the Super Mario, Zelda, Metroid, and Final Fantasy series, and in total, there were 716 games released worldwide. These games also include classics like Mario Tennis, Shantae, Kid Dracula, Metal Gear Solid and Mortal Combat, to name a few. And lest we forget, the Game Boy is responsible for unleashing two of gaming’s greatest phenomenons: Tetris took the world by storm and then, of course, Pokemon Red and Pokemon Blue launched an international craze. The games are classic and more importantly, fun which is what truly makes any console special. Unfortunately, it isn’t the pinnacle of handheld gaming, as some would like to claim. That system comes later in this list.
Game Boy Color (1998)
While mostly retaining the same hardware as the original Game Boy, the Game Boy Color’s primary competitors were the much more advanced Neo Geo Pocket and the WonderSwan by Bandai (released in Japan only).Though the Game Boy Color outsold crushed the competition in sales, it had a very short lifespan. Nintendo shopped shipments in 2001, effectively making the era of GBC only 3 years long. While it features a pair of secondary Zelda games as well as a pair of Pokemon titles, there really isn’t a true classic to be found in the system’s entire repertoire. Games made specifically to take advantage of the system’s hardware, were few and far between, and while to addition of color was a welcome change, Nintendo and gamers were getting ready to move on.