Here’s a bit of proof that time flies: Nintendo’s Game Boy has just turned 25. Released on April 21, 1989 in Japan, the Game Boy wasn’t the first handheld console released, but it was the one that struck the right chord with most people. When it was released in North America a couple of months later, it sold 1 million units in just a couple of weeks. Over its lifetime, and including variants up to the Game Boy Color, 118.69 million units were sold.
At the time of Game Boy’s launch, it was a technically impressive machine. While the monochrome screen of course lacked in comparison to the NES at the time, what mattered most was that this was mobile Nintendo. It was also the console that set the world on fire with Tetris, thanks in part to the fact that it was included in the box. Would Tetris be as big today had it not been included? It was placed into the hands of some 30 million people, after all – so it makes you wonder.
Over the course of its life, the Game Boy saw a number of special versions, something that would become a Nintendo staple. The Game Boy Pocket was a slimmed-down version, and the Game Boy Light was the first to have a backlit screen. The biggest of these special releases was the Game Boy Color, the first console ever that featured backwards compatibility. Not only could you play the latest Color-specific games, but you could play every other previous Game Boy title as well. Even better: Twelve different color palettes could be chosen from to enhance those original monochrome games.
I never owned a Game Boy until the Color model was released. Pokemon Red and Blue were released months earlier; I caved into the hype, and was happy that I did. I have fond memories of playing that thing, late at night, with a Nyko nightlight that plugged into the Game Boy and could be manipulated to achieve that perfect angle. I believed a lot more in “Gotta catch ’em all” than I did “Gotta catch some Zs” back then.