It was 25 years ago today that Nintendo released the original Game Boy in Japan. It wasn’t the first handheld game console to market nor was it the most successful product to ever come out of Nintendo but it has no doubt cemented a place as one of the most iconic handhelds in video game history.
After single-handedly revitalizing the video gaming industry in the mid-1980s with the Nintendo Entertainment System (and some help from Mario), the world’s largest video game company turned its attention to portable gaming with the launch of the Game Boy on April 21, 1989.
The handheld arrived in North America a few months later bundled with puzzle game Tetris, selling over a million units within weeks of its launch. That may not be too terribly impressive by today’s standards but at the time, it was unheard of.
The chunky system featured basic controls – two action buttons, a directional pad and start / select buttons – as well as a volume dial on the right and a contrast dial on the opposite side. Power was supplied via four AA batteries while on the go or an AC adapter when you were near a power source.
The Game Boy accepted cartridge-style games that slid into the top of the unit and even featured an auxiliary port that allowed for multiplayer action using a link cable.
Powered by an 8-bit CPU clocked at 4.19MHz with 8kb of video RAM and a 2.6-inch screen with only four color shades, the Game Boy was outclassed by rival handhelds like the Game Gear from Sega. Even still, Nintendo managed to come out on top in early handheld console wars with a rock-solid system and a stable of quality titles.