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- Originally released in 1989, the Nintendo Game Boy is now 30 years old.
- The Game Boy helped create a market for portable video games; Nintendo has sold more than 100 million Game Boy and Game Boy Color consoles worldwide.
- Nintendo continues to dominate the portable gaming market with innovative handheld consoles like the Switch and the 3DS.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Nintendo recently celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Game Boy, the handheld console that has been synonymous with portable video games for decades.
While the original Nintendo Entertainment System made Nintendo a household name by bring video games into homes across the world, the Game Boy made it possible to play games just about anywhere. And like the NES before it, the Game Boy created a baseline for every handheld console that would follow it.
Video games have changed a lot since the 8-bit, black-and-white pixels of the Game Boy were in style, but Nintendo has stayed at the top of the industry. Two factors helped the Game Boy become a long term success: durable design and a massive library of games. Even as Nintendo implemented innovative new features for its later handhelds, the company built a legacy on its consistent design and thorough investment in portable gaming.
From the original Game Boy to the 3DS and Switch today, here’s how Nintendo’s handheld consoles have evolved over the years:
Game Boy (1989) — $89
Evan Amos, Wikimedia
The basic, sturdy design, reliable functionality, and huge library of Game Boy games helped the basic hardware stand on its own for nearly 10 years, despite more technically advanced competition from handhelds like Sega’s Game Gear. For a time Nintendo’s console was literally synonymous with portable gaming, with just about any handheld gaming device being colloquially known as a Game Boy.
And, for a while, it was the best and only way to play "Tetris."
While the black-and-white graphics of the Game Boy may not be particularly appealing to the modern gamer, the console helped establish a market for portable gaming that has benefitted the industry as a whole.
Game Boy Color (1998) — $80
As the name might suggest, the Game Boy Color was Nintendo’s first handheld to feature a color screen. The Game Boy Color arrived nearly a decade after the original, providing a hardware upgrade for the more demanding games of the late ’90s. However, the system mostly served as a stop-gap until the release of the next-generation Game Boy Advance in 2001.
The Game Boy Color still saw more than 500 releases in that three-year span, though many of those games were still playable on the original Game Boy. The Color could also play classic Game Boy games, and would give them a basic color scheme to highlight their visuals.
Game Boy Advance (2001) — $100
Evan Amos, Wikimedia
The Game Boy Advance was a strong follow-up to the Game Boy Color, representing a significant improvement in handheld hardware.
The 32-bit Game Boy Advance was strong enough to handle games that were once exclusive to home consoles, letting players take their favorite classics on the road. This also gave game developers a chance to revisit some of the most popular genres of the ’90s for a new audience.
The GBA was fully backwards compatible with prior Game Boy games, too, rewarding customers who were loyal to the family of handhelds.
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