Nintendo's Revolutionary Game Boy Handheld Gaming Console Just Turned 30

Game Boy
Long before anyone played Angry Birds and Temple Run on a tablet or smartphone, and way before the Switch dazzled us with Breath of the Wild, there was an 8-bit handheld console called the Game Boy. Perhaps you remember playing it when you were a kid. If so, welcome to middle age. Time sure does fly, and though it's hard to fathom, your memories of sticking cartridges into the original Game Boy are now up to three decades old.

The original Game Boy debuted in Japan on April 21, 1989, meaning the handheld just celebrated its 30th anniversary. Its birth in North America came shortly after, on July 31 of the same year, while a European launch did not happen until a year later, on September 28, 1990.

It was not the first handheld game console, nor even Nintendo's first one—the Game & Watch came out 9 years before it, by the same design team that helped conceive the Game Boy. While not the first, however, the Game Boy might as well have been, because it popularized the concept of mobile gaming to a much greater extent than any other handheld at the time.

Critics pointed to the Game Boy's tiny display and monochrome graphics as potential downsides, and of course it relied on batteries, which added to the cost of continued use. But it was also revolutionary in a sense, and it took the market by storm. In the US, Nintendo sold more than a million Game Boy consoles by the end of 1989. Combined with the Game Boy color, Nintendo has sold a staggering 118.69 million units to date.

As with any game system, it was never just about the hardware, but also the games. Nintendo bundled Tetris with the Game Boy, and later on (1996), Pokemon would prove a huge hit for the handheld, selling over 3 million copies in the first five months after release.

A lot has changed in gaming since 1989, and in some respects, it has not changed at all. While the original Game Boy is now a dated piece of technology, the idea of gaming on the go is alive and well, and still being capitalized by Nintendo, only now with the Switch and games like Super Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart Deluxe.