Game Boy: 23 years on

This April has been a big month for Nintendo anniversaries – Pokemon turned 15, we're on the eve of Kirby's 20th anniversary, and yesterday the Game Boy turned 23. To celebrate, we thought we'd take a look back at some of the highlights of the first generation Game Boy's 14 year reign.

Released on April 21st, 1989 in Japan, the original Game Boy was a groundbreaking piece of hardware for its time, redefining what was expected from mobile gaming at the time. The Game Boy and its successors managed to pretty much obliterate the competition well into the next millennium, to the point of almost becoming a generic name for handheld game systems in general.

Far from being Nintendo's first foray into handheld gaming, it was the culmination of a long line of dedicated hardware in the form of the Game & Watch series. But whereas Game & Watch systems could only play one built in game, the Game Boy was extensible, and far, far more powerful – though the Game & Watch's dual screen form factor would rise again, in the form of the Nintendo DS.

With an addictive title like Tetris bundled in, Game Boy was a sure fire success, if only because of the prospect of shutting up junior on the way to grandma's. Of course, the system also inspired some pretty amazing games, like Super Mario Land and Link's Awakening, which would become classics in their own right.

Even in the face of arguably more powerful hardware like the Atari Lynx and Sega's Game Gear, the Game Boy held its own, thanks to a great price point (it went for $89.99 in the US0 and battery life (the Atari Lynx only lasted around 4 hours on 6 AA batteries) that blew the competition out of the water.

The Game Boy might be 23 years old, but the games it ran, and more importantly, the whole idea of portable gaming, are alive and well. Classics like Link's Awakening have been re-released and enhanced countless times, living on today in the 3DS' Virtual Console. The franchises it launched, most notably Pokemon, are still around, and still put handheld gaming first and foremost.

There probably aren't too many people toting first generation Game Boys around these days, but rest assured, its spirit lives on in every smartphone, 3DS, and PlayStation Vita. That's a pretty nice legacy, don't you think? Check out an early commercial below:

Image via ICHEG

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