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Game Boy Turns 25: A Look Back

by Danny Bivens, Nicholas Bray, Andrew Brown, Andy Goergen, Tom Malina, Zachary Miller, Neal Ronaghan, Bryan Rose, and Guillaume Veillette - April 28, 2014, 12:43 pm EDT
Total comments: 5

The NWR staff look back on their experiences with the portable that started it all.

On April 21, 1989 the Game Boy was released in North America. Now on it's 25th anniversary, we take a reflective look in this week's roundtable. The NWR staff talk about their first memories with the original Game Boy, what games they first laid their eyes on, and the biggest experiences they encountered while playing the Game Boy (aside from the frequent battery changes). Check it out below!

Neal Ronaghan

My earliest memories of Game Boy involve playing Super Mario Land 2 and DK '94 ad nauseam. Those games ruled my little game-playing life for a time. I also enjoyed Tecmo Bowl, College Slam, and Donkey Kong Land on my big o'l brick. The later days were riddled with Pokémon and Game Boy Camera. It's kind of funny because I have such fond memories of the Game Boy, but as a kid, I didn't really play a wide variety of games. I just hope the 3DS Virtual Console gets more and more games that I missed!

Zach Miller

I got my Game Boy when I was 8. It was a revelation--partially because I didn't have an NES, but also because I could take it everywhere. The games I played initially were the games I basically got for my birthday that year: Super Mario Land, Tetris (which came with the system), The Castlevania Adventure, Solar Striker, and Boomer's Adventure in ASKMIK Land. I remember that I used to get really hot and itchy when I was nervous, so when I got to the end of SML, I was a hot, itchy mess. That game was tough for an eight-year-old! In fact, the only thing that gave me trouble was the boss with the big sea dragon at the end of World 2. My dad found a workaround, though: you can shoot the blocks out behind him and totally skip fighting him! I also beat Castlevania like a year later (maybe two) and that was quite an achievement. It's been muscle-memory ever since. I could never beat Solar Striker (and still can't). I also remember getting Bubble Bobble around that time. The tiny screen does that game no favors. The Game Boy was largely my vehicle entertainment. My family used to take camping trips in far-off parts of the state (everywhere in AK is at least an hour away) and I'd hole up in the backseat and play Game Boy. This is also how I entertainment myself DURING camping trips. I also remember bringing my GB on camp outs with the Boy Scouts. There was lots of feverish game-swapping. I discovered Wario Land that way. Eventually I got an NES, and an SNES, and all those other things, but the Game Boy will always be special to me.

Nicholas Bray

The only reason I wanted a Gameboy was because of Pokemon. I ended up buying a GB Pocket with Super Mario Land with my christmas money, and then had to save up for Pokemon Blue, which took me ages.

Super Mario Land was pretty fun though, but difficult. I was also such a Mario noob that I didn't understand why the bricks weren't breaking when I was little Mario. Up until that point I had only ever played a bit of Mario years before at a friends place.

A year or so later I wanted a GB camera. One day I was taken out of school to go do something with my mum, as I was flipping through the EB catalogue at the shopping centre I mentioned I wanted to get one. She said ok and we went and bought it. It wasn't until I was playing with it at home later that she said that I had to pay the money back...

Bryan Rose

I have two distinct experiences with the Game Boy.

Tetris, for one. I mean, who didn't play Tetris on the original Game Boy? The fact that you can play one of the most addictive games of all time (forget this Candy Crush monetizing nonsense) anywhere you wanted was amazing,if you had the battery power anyway. Also, the music. I think that's all I need to say regarding that!

But the biggest experience for me was Pokemon. I remember seeing the previews in Nintendo Power, but wasn't sold on it. I then watched the anime on the local UPN affiliate in the mornings and that's when I got sucked into that world. I soon got Pokemon Blue, and even though I was not the most advanced guy when it game to role playing games at the time, I was able to make my way through the game thanks to it's accessibility. I had a blast collecting the eight gym badges and going on to challenge the Elite Four. I knew all of the glitches and cheats to make my way through (Cinnabar Island trick shout out) but I could never get the elusive Mew that everyone told me for sure there was a way to get, something having to due with the weird truck at the S.S. Anne area. Years later I discovered there actually was a way, but it didn't matter. Pokemon was what made the Game Boy for me. And 16 years later, I'm still spending over a hundred hours trying to catch them all.

Andrew Brown

Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins. The original Game Boy and this particular game was the first piece of Nintendo technology I owned. It's dead nowbut I still have my collection of cartridges and I still play them on occasion.

I think the Game Boy also sparked my lifelong love of video game music. I remember hooking up my sister's old Walkman headphones, chucking DK '94 in and replaying the tower stages in the final world just so I could reach the final boss, find a safe spot to park myself without getting hit by DK's barrels, jack up the volume to ear-damaging levels and just groove the heck out until the timer expired. Those were good times.

Andy Goergen

I never actually owned any Nintendo handheld until the Game Boy Advance. I owned both a Sega Game Gear and even a Sega Nomad before I owned anything with "Game Boy" in the title. Yeah, I was that kid who kept touting the color screen of the Game Gear as evidence of superior hardware.

That said, I remember being entranced by the Game Boy several times in my life. My best friend as a kid was a girl one block down who had an original Game Boy and Super Mario Land. I must have played that thing for hours at her house, but it was never enough because I'd always have to give it back so we could go do something else. Really though, the best time was when I borrowed another friend's Game Boy and their copy of Link's Awakening and took it to band camp my 10th grade year. I stayed up very late playing the game, despite being mocked by my friends for my supposed anti-social behavior. I didn't really care, because I hadn't loved a video game as much as I was loving Links Awakening in a really long time. The music was perfect, the gameplay was solid, and it was an adventure you could finish in just about a week. One of those perfect, memorable experiences. And (TWIST ENDING) that's why I bought a Game Gear.

Guillaume Veillette

My experience is similar to Zach's in that I did not own an NES. So the Game Boy was my only way to get a fix of Mario. Plus, it was my first real experience playing a Metroid game, my first experience playing an RPG (English-French dictionary in hand), my first play through a Zelda game... All quality entries in those franchises, too!

So many memories.

Happy birthday, Game Boy!

Danny Bivens

My first experience with the Game Boy started in the early 90's when my older brother got the original fat unit bundled with Tetris. Since my parents saw how much fun that my younger brother and I were having with the thing, they decided to also get us Game Boys shortly thereafter. My first game was King of the Ring, a port of the NES wrestling game of the same name. It wasn't a great game by any means, but is sunk hours into it just excited to be able to play some pro wrestling on the go. Other games like Solar Striker, Kirby's Pinball Land and Radar Mission were constant go-to games for everyone in my family. Everyone, including my parents played the thing to death.

After being dormant for a few years, I started getting excited about portable gaming with the ensuing release of Pokémon in 1998. After getting Red that Christmas, my interest had been rekindled in handheld gaming and I just kept on going from there.

Tom Malina

Like some of the other staffers, much of my childhood game took place on the Game Boy in the absence of an NES. My first experience with the Game Boy was playing Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3 on my cousin's handheld. I had become so enraptured by Wario Land that when I was gifted my own portable a year later, I immediately borrowed the cartridge - to this day, it is still in my possession (oops!) and my time earning the best ending in that game remains one of my top gaming memories.

While Wario Land was the initial point of entry, my major addiction to Pokémon, perhaps unsurprisingly, was what kept me an active user of my Game Boy into the 2000s... not to mention a whole bunch of other games preceding it. Here's to your 25th birthday, you big old brick - you were a tonne of fun.


I had the unique problem of getting the Game Boy six days after I got a Super Nintendo, but I put enough time into Tetris, Mario Land and Super RC Pro Am to choke a horse before Pokemon showed up.

jarodeaApril 28, 2014

I never owned a Gameboy, so my sole experience comes from a few months I borrowed a friend of my brother's Gameboy for a few months during which my mother used Betty Crocker UPC's to get SML2 for free. Tetris came with the loaner and I played SML at a cousin's which wraps up my portable gaming experience prior to the GBA (outside of store demo units where I was able to enjoy the massiveness and horrific view range/ghosting of the Game Gear and the special horror that was the Virtual Boy).

jarodeaApril 28, 2014

Bah, an edit function, an edit function, my kingdom for an edit function.

ShyGuyApril 28, 2014

The Gameboy was Science Fiction when it came out. I played Super Mario Land on friend's unit.

pokepal148Spencer Johnson, Contributing WriterApril 28, 2014

Quote from: jarodea

Bah, an edit function, an edit function, my kingdom for an edit function.

we had that once, in the feedback subforum there's a thread for people to post their woes.

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