The Game Boy was created by Satoru Okada and his team at Nintendo Research & Development 1 (R&D1), which was led by Game & Watch creator Gunpei Yokoi.
It was released in 1989 and had a green monochromatic display, 8-bit CPU and 8 kilobytes of RAM. On the surface, this was much less appealing than handheld competitors like the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear, both of which featured larger backlit screens and color images, but Game Boy had a longer battery life, a cheaper price tag and a more portable aesthetic.
In addition, Game Boy had superior software, including its North American pack-in title, Tetris, which is still the most popular puzzle video game in the world. Other launch titles included Baseball, Tennis, Alleyway (a Breakout clone featuring Mario) and Super Mario Land, the first original handheld Mario platformer.
Other games like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening (1993) proved that emotional storytelling could exist on handhelds, and Pokémon (1996) was such a popular RPG that it gave new life to the Game Boy as it was declining in popularity in the mid-1990s and even helped mitigate Nintendo’s console struggles in the late 1990s.
The Game Boy came in several other versions, including the Game Boy Pocket (1996), which was not only more portable but came in several different colors; the Game Boy Light (1998), which featured a backlit screen; and the Game Boy Color (1998), which displayed Game Boy games (including older ones) in color.
Through these different versions, the Game Boy lasted until 2003 when Nintendo ceased production in the wake of the Game Boy Advance (2001).
Game Boy was an important part of Nintendo’s growth in popularity, especially with girls, who made up almost half of Game Boy players, way more than the male-dominated console market. It speaks to the impact of its legacy that it was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 2009, 20 years after it was introduced and six years after it left the market.
Game Boy was actually the device that first introduced me to video games. For that reason, Game Boy will always have a special place in my heart. It was an important part of my life because it was only when I started playing video games that I finally began to appreciate and recognize them as legitimate art forms. Here is where it all began: my Game Boy Pocket, ladies and gentlemen!