The Nintendo Game Boy turned 25 this past week. Well, it turned 25 in Japan on April 21. While the Land of the Rising Sun received Nintendo’s seminal handheld first, America would only have to wait three more months—until July 21, 1989—to brighten the lives of millions of Gen X and Y kids and young adults.
So, give or take a few months, depending on which side of the Pacific you live on, Happy Birthday, Game Boy.
Russell Archey, staff writer, @NeoScyther
Owned a Game Boy? Heck, I still have mine and it mostly still works. The screen is really blurry now, that’s all. I had the hard task of saving up for my Game Boy myself. Keeping allowances and not spending it is tough when you're a kid. Can't remember how old I was, but I didn't get the Game Boy at launch. My goal was to get a Game Boy and one game; this was when there was also the core system without Tetris. When I had enough saved up, my Dad took me to Target to purchase it along with Kirby's Dream Land. That wasn't a "scan and see which games look interesting" pick; I had planned to pick up KDL from the get-go. As we waited for the associate to get the keys to the lockup case, we noticed that the front copy of Super Mario Land 2 was mis-priced at $9.99 instead of $29.99. When the associate came back, my Dad asked if the price was in fact mislabeled, to which the associate said yes—but he'd still sell it to us for that price. I didn't have enough after the Game Boy and Kirby, but my Dad bought it for me. To this day, those are still two of my favorite Game Boy games.
Sean Cahill, staff writer, @GN_Punk
I got one for Christmas in 1989, already armed with Tetris. There were many arguments between my sister and I over playing rights to it because it was so addictive. However, my favorite game ever for the Gameboy was The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. As a child, I was devastated when it became true that the entire island was nothing but a dream of the Wind Fish, who was the strangest-looking character in any Zelda game. Seriously, that game scarred me and really made me realize that developers love to crush the hopes and dreams of its players.
Sean Colleli, staff writer, @scolleli
My family wasn't too keen on video games when I was growing up. Mom and Dad were always of the mind that I should have a computer that I could do homework on as well as play games. It took me months of wheedling and cajoling to talk them into an N64 for Christmas '98, so naturally I never had the original gray brick Game Boy as a youngster. Several school friends had them, and my wealthy cousin seemed to have a new model and color every year, so I was intensely jealous. Still, the tech snob in me always turned its nose up at the Game Boy's blurry monochrome screen, so I spent my allowance on other priorities--namely, Star Wars action figures.
Even when my cousin upgraded to the Game Boy Color, I still wasn't impressed. I was a little too old for Pokemon when the first-gen craze hit, and I've never gotten into it. But, at the time it, it seemed like Nintendo was just delaying the inevitable upgrade to stronger hardware. I remember being very impressed by Metroid Fusion when a high school friend got the original "taco" model Game Boy Advance, but the blurry, non-lit screen activated my cheapo instincts once again.
It wasn't until sophomore year that the front-lit, clam shell Game Boy Advance SP came out, and I finally had enough cash to get one and a few games. I still fondly remember strolling out of the Cleveland Avenue Meijer with an onyx black GBA SP in hand, with Metroid Zero Mission and Harvest Moon Friends of Mineral Town. That little SP sparked a portable obsession. It was my constant companion on the bus to high school and later college, and I even kept playing it after I got a DS. The GBA felt like the realization of a dream—when portable gaming technology finally caught up to the promise of the original Game Boy.
I eventually traded that first black GBA SP for the improved model with the brighter screen—a decision I still regret to this day. As a big grown-up adult collector, I now have two gray bricks, a Game Boy pocket, three GBA SPs, two DSs (Phat and Lite), a 3DS XL, a Game Boy Micro lost down in my basement somewhere, and over a hundred games spread across all of them. There would be something special about still owning the very first Game Boy you saved up for as a kid, so it makes me a little sad that I don't have it anymore. Hopefully, its front-lit screen and well-worn D-pad made some other kid's life a little bit brighter, and a little more fun.
Randy Kalista, staff writer, @RandyKalista
The only thing I remember from 1989 was SimCity on my buddy’s Commodore 64. I spent the entire summer over there, eating his Kellog’s Sugar Smacks (back when it wasn’t illegal to eat sugar), and riding our bikes down to McKay’s Market to buy some more milk to pour onto more Sugar Smacks. Then he got a Game Boy. It’s because of that device that I can sit down at a piano and play that jaunty Russian Tetris theme song by ear. I can’t actually do that, but I can summon the tune in my head and hum it, note for note, any time of day I want. Comes in handy with the ladies. Plus it made playing “hotseat” SimCity a little more palatable, once that magical little handheld machine came into his (our) life (lives).
Jeff Kintner, staff writer, @JKTerrezas
The greatest birthday gift I've ever received was my giant, green Gameboy and Donkey Kong Land 2. I've played through that, Metroid 2, and Wario Land enough times for the plastic screen protector to fall off. It gave me motion sickness after that, but I powered through it for the love of the games. Sad to say, after I got my Game Boy Color, it was only good for trading Pokemon between my Red and Blue versions—Because I was apparently too greedy to trade with my friends.