Our little monochrome friend is 25 years old today. In that quarter century, it has sold almost 119 million units; that's more Game Boys than there are people in the UK, and by a significant margin. And, as an extra for maths fans, there have been 30 million copies of Tetris sold. For a game all about falling blocks, that's pretty good going. So in honour of the little console that could, here are some (but definitely not all) of it best moments:
The Game Boy was never quite as pretty as its bombastic, full colour cousins Game Gear and Lynx, but for every new set of 6 AAs that the show-offs had to buy, the GB could run off for batteries for at least 10-12 hours (and it always felt like more, man that thing could run). Even when the Game Boy evolved into colour variants, it still retained that extensive battery life, something that few of its competitors could boast.
Somehow, Nintendo managed to look into the future and predict the selfie trend before anyone even had cameras on their mobile phones. The Game Boy camera was a slightly terrifying eyeball-looking beast that poked out of the top of your Game Boy (yes, even the original), and allowed you to take slightly terrifying monochrome pictures. Thirty pictures could be saved at a time, and you could edit the images with stamps to ensure that your friends never quite trusted you with your weird future camera ever again. Everyone knows, however, that pictures are no good if you can't share them, so Nintendo produced the Game Boy Printer, a neat little device that looked not dissimilar to the technology used to print till receipts. Each roll of paper took around 100 pictures, so it was ideal for spreading your terrifyingly-edited pictures around school without Facebook or Instagram ever having been thought of, let alone invented.
In 1996, everyone in Japan lost their shit over a game where...you collected pocket monsters....in balls? The concept was slightly lost on the Western world, because they were the days when getting news from Japan usually meant waiting for translated scans of Famitsu to be posted on a Usenet group. Some publications in the UK (N64 Magazine being chief among them) had a good go at trying to figure out the appeal, but the whole electric rat ball monster thing needed more of a show rather than tell approach. Finally, two years later, English language versions of Red and Blue came out in the US, and North America lost its shit over Pokemon. Another year later, the EU edition finally came out, and everybody everywhere was hunched over glowing screens trying to catch 'em all and furiously hammering the A button to make sure the Pokemon stayed in the damn Pokeball. After the trading cards got banned from schools and the TV cartoon almost killed children with epilepsy, a full blown cultural phenomenon had occurred.
Nintendo has always had a habit of being a little ahead of the curve, for better or worse. In the early 2000s, they produced a link cable that would connect the Game Boy Advance and Gamecube, and allow either alternative control methods, or multiplayer shenanigans. The best example was probably Legend of Zelda: Four Swords Adventures, which allowed co-op play with up to four players, or ruthless ass-kicking deathmatch play between four angry Links. It was good fun and certainly unique at the time, although it had a somewhat limited audience (four GBAs, four cables, a Gamecube and a telly is a lot of equipment). It's still a perfect example of Nintendo looking into their crazy crystal ball and realising what we were all going to want without us actually knowing it yet.
5. The e-Reader
Rarer than a Shigeru Miyamoto bad idea, the e-Reader was the precursor to today's DLC. Like the Game Boy Camera, it slotted into the cartridge slot of the GBA, and would read specially designed cards, like these little beasties here:
With the Game Boy being ideal for pick up and put down gaming, the scale of Link's Awakening was a surprise. The system had launched with Tetris and Super Mario Land, both of which could be played in short bursts, divided up as they were by natural level progression, or the moment when you lobbed your console out of the window because that sodding long piece didn't go in the exact right place. Link's Awakening was big and sprawling and played just like it would on bigger consoles. It was fantastic. There was no Hyrule this time, Link was stranded on Koholint Island and the mysterious Wind Fish was the McGuffin. True to LoZ form, it was full of memorable characters, cruel dungeons, and the game would change your name to THIEF if you nicked anything from the shop (and everyone had to try it at least once). Link's Awakening is probably still the best use of AA batteries ever invented.