Codex Gamicus

Game Boy
Game Boy logo.gif
Basic Information
Handheld Console
Game Boy Pocket
United States American Release
August 1989
Japan Japanese Release
April 211989
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The Game Boy (ゲームボーイ Gēmu Bōi?) is a series of battery powered handheld game consoles sold by Nintendo. It is the best selling game system to date. The Game Boy was the second portable system created by Nintendo (the first being the Game & Watch series starting in 1980).

The Nintendo Game Boy was arguably the most widespread portable gaming handheld. Released in 1989, and created by Gunpei Yokoi, the Game Boy, for its time, had impressive resilience.


The Game Boy console went through several design iterations, without significant changes to its computing power, since its initial release in 1989.

Game Boy[]

The original Game Boy (often referred to retroactively as The Brick) was released on April 21, 1989 in Japan and in August 1989 in the United States. Based around a Z80 processor, it had a tiny black and green reflective LCD screen capable of displaying 4 shades from green to black, an eight-way directional pad, and two action buttons. It played games from ROM-based media contained in small plastic detachable units called cartridges (sometimes abbreviated as carts). The game that really pushed it into the upper reaches of success was Tetris. The various generations of Game Boy

  • CPU: Custom 8-bit Sharp Z80 at 4.194304 MHz
    (has a slightly different instruction set than a standard Z80, and integrated sound generation)
  • RAM: 8 kByte internal SRAM
  • ROM: 256 kbit, 512 kbit, 1 Mbit, 2 Mbit and 4 Mbit and 8 Mbit cartridges
  • Video RAM: 8 kByte internal
  • Sound: 4 channel stereo sound. The unit only has one speaker, but headphones provide stereo sound
  • Display: Reflective LCD 160 x 144 pixels
  • Screen Size: 66 mm (2.6 in) diagonal
  • Color Palette: 4 shades of "gray" (green to black)
  • Communication: Up to 4 Game Boys can be linked together via serial ports
  • Power: 6 V, 0.7 W (4 x AA batteries provide ~35 hours)

Game Boy Play It Loud![]

In 1995, Nintendo released the Game Boy Play It Loud!, a unit featuring a more powerful internal speaker and several external case colors. It was not commercially successful compared to the Game Boy Pocket.

Game Boy Pocket[]

In 1996 Nintendo released the Game Boy Pocket, a smaller, lighter unit that required fewer batteries. It had space for 2 AAA batteries, which would provide roughly 10 hours of game play. The Game Boy Pocket has a smaller link port, requiring an adapter for linkage with the older Game Boy. The port's design was carried on to all later GB models. The screen was changed to a true black-and-white display, rather than the "pea soup" monochromatic display of the original Game Boy.

Game Boy Light[]

The Game Boy Light emits a green glow when the light is turned on

Only available in Japan, the Game Boy Light was about the same size as the Pocket and has a backlit screen for improved visibility. It uses 2 AA batteries which give it approximately 20 hours with the light off and 12 with it on.

The Game Boy Light is the rarest variant. Due to its rarity, it often sells for hundreds of dollars to collectors.

Game Boy Color[]

Released in November of 1998, the Game Boy Color (also referred to as GBC) added a color screen to a form factor slightly larger than the Game Boy Pocket. It also has double the processor speed, twice as much memory, and an infrared communications port. A major draw of the Game Boy Color was its backward compatibility (that is, a Game Boy Color is able to read older Game Boy cartridges). This became a major feature of the Game Boy line, since it allowed each new launch to begin with a significantly larger library than any of its competitors.

Game Boy Advance[]

In 2001, Nintendo finally released a significant upgrade to the Game Boy line. The Game Boy Advance features a 32 bit 16.8 MHz ARM processor, along with a Z80 processor to support original Game Boy games. Technically likened to the Super Nintendo and backed up with superior ports of classics such as Super Mario Bros. 2, alongside new titles such as Mario Kart Super Circuit, F-Zero Maximum Velocity, and Kuru Kuru Kururin. Often referred to as GBA.

Game Boy Advance SP[]

The SP version (launched in early 2003) featured a new smaller "clamshell" design with a flip-up screen, an internal frontlight (not a backlight), and rechargeable battery, but was otherwise unchanged. The SP stands for Special [1]

Game Boy micro[]

A second Game Boy Advance redesign(third design), the Game Boy Micro is four inches wide, two inches tall and less than an inch deep and weighs 2.8 ounces. It was released in the fall of 2005.


Game Boy Camera and Game Boy Printer[]

The Game Boy Camera was a rudimentary digital camera, while the the Game Boy Printer was a rudimentary printer.

The Game Boy Camera & Printer ware accessories for the Game Boy handheld gaming console, released in 1998. They marked the beginning of a mostly unsuccessful attempt by Nintendo to expand the Game Boy from merely a gaming device into a rudimentary PDA.

Super Game Boy[]

The Super Game Boy was a plugin cartridge for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, allowing Game Boy games to be played on a television screen. The black-and-white games could be colorized by mapping colors to each of the four grays.

Game Boy Player[]

Similar to the Super Game Boy, the Game Boy Player allowed Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games to be played on the GameCube. It used the same color palette as built into the cart instead of colorizing the games.

Game Boy ExChanger (GBX)[]

The (unofficial and unlicensed) GBX, produced by Bung Enterprises Ltd was the best-known backup unit for Game Boy and Game Boy Color games. The device plugged into the parallel port of a PC and allowed dumping the cartridge ROM data to PC as well as rewriting flashcarts to play copies of Game Boy games.


Game Boy Cartridges[]

Each video game is contained in a small plastic cartridge (or "cart"). Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges measure 5.8 cm by 6.5 cm. The software contained within provides the data, logic, and rules of the game, accepts input from the console controls or buttons, and outputs the results to the screen display and speaker. Game data can be saved so that the game can be continued at a later time.

The game cart is inserted into the console cart slot. If the game cart is pulled out while the power is on, the Game Boy will exhibit undefined behaviour. This will freeze the game and may cause weird occurrences, such as rows of zeros appearing on the screen and the sound remaining at the same pitch as was emitted the instant the game was pulled out. Pulling a cart out of the Game Boy while the power is on may cause saved data or hardware to be damaged. This applies to all video game consoles, especially those using cartridges.

The original Game Boy power switch was designed in such a way that it prevented the cart from being removed while powered on. Cartridges intended only for Game Boy Color (and not for the original Game Boy) use the space intended for the locking mechanism to prevent insertion into the original Game Boy.


Most game consoles become obsolete as newer systems become available. The Game Boy is unique in its stamina. 2004 brought about its 15th anniversary and in this time it has seen off many (often technically superior) rivals; most notably the Game Gear and the Lynx. The Game Boy Advance was backward-compatible, and was able to play cartridges created for the original Game Boy in 1989.

Thousands of games are available for the Game Boy, which can be attributed in part to its sales in the amounts of millions, a well-documented design, and a typically short development cycle.

The Nintendo DS was able to play Game Boy Advance games, but did not have support for Game Boy or game Boy Color games due to the lack of a Z80 CPU. However, the Game Boy Advance it cannot make use of the multi-player feature in Game Boy Advance games that make use of it, not can it link up to the GameCube. Nintendo stated that the Nintendo DS is not a "new Game Boy" but rather a new type of handheld, and is thus a "third pillar" for the company, with the TV consoles and the Game Boys as the other two pillars.

Hardware specs[]

  • CPU: 8-bit Z-80 running at 4.194304 MHz
  • ROM: 256 kB, 512 kB, 1 mB, 2 mB and 4 mB
  • VRAM: 8 kB internal
  • Sound: 4 channels each of which can be mapped either to the left or to the right or to both speakers.
  • Display: Reflective LCD 160x144 dots
  • Colors: 4 shades of gray
  • Sprites: 40 sprites of either 8x8 or 8x16 [switchable]
  • Serial Port: Can link up to 16 Game Boys
  • Batteries: 4 x AA - approximately 30 hours of runtime

See also[]