15 Things You Didn't Know About the Game Boy

By Spencer Hart on at

The Game Boy was 25 years old on Monday, an anniversary which will probably make some Giz readers feel very old. To celebrate the birthday of the greatest handheld gaming console ever, this week's factmodo explores 15 things you didn't know about the legendary pocket pal -- prepare to get nostalgic.


1.) The Game Boy might be old but Nintendo is ancient

While the Game 'Boy' might technically be a 'man' now, Nintendo is downright elderly at 124 years old. Fusajiro Yamauchi founded Nintendo on 23rd September, 1889, with the company originally producing handmade Japanese playing cards. Since 1889 it has explored several niche business ventures, such as a love hotel in the 1960s -- the details of which have since been lost (or covered up). [Image Credit: Before Mario]


2.) The Game Boy was built with a design philosophy of 'Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology'

While competitors such as the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear boasted expensive hardware, the Game Boy was dirt cheap thanks to its dated Z80-based CPU and 2.5 inch greyscale screen. This philosophy was later revived for the Wii which outsold the technically superior PS3 and Xbox 360. [Image Credit: Singapore Hardware Zone]


3.) It's not just used for gaming

There are several peripherals for the Game Boy which turn it into much more than just a gaming device. In 1992 Fabtek developed the Work Boy, a personalised digital assistant accessory. The plan was to ship it with productivity apps and a keyboard, but unfortunately it never made it to retail. In 1998 Bandai released the Game Boy Pocket Sonar, a gadget which allowed fishers to spot fish at depths of 20 metres and display their location on screen. In 2000 Singer created the IZEK sewing machine which saw users choosing from and create dozens of stitch designs. Finally Game Boys are still being used as a cheap engine diagnostic tool. [Image Credit: 8-Bit Central]


4.) The Game Boy was popular with Friends

In 2000 Lisa Kudrow (Phoebe) revealed in Cosmopolitan that she didn't leave the house without her Game Boy, but it's not just popular with those friends. In 1991 Faceball 2000 was released, allowing 16 players to play simultaneously via a tangle of Game Link cables. [Image Credit: Media Society]


5.) Game Boy inventor, Gunpei Yokoi, began work at Nintendo as a maintenance guy

Gunpei Yokoi was originally employed by Nintendo to perform maintenance on assembly-line machines. During a factory visit, president of the company Hiroshi Yamauchi saw a desk toy which was made by Yokoi in his spare time. Yamauchi was so impressed by the toy he ordered Yokoi to develop more toys for the company. [Image Credit: Wikipedia]


6.) Game Boy was popular with the girls

Despite its name, the Game Boy was one of the first successful gaming devices to target female players, with 46 per cent of users being female in 1995.


7.) The inventor of Pokemon was inspired by his childhood love of insect collecting

Satoshi Tajiri combined his love of insect collecting and the gaming community to develop Pokemon Red and Blue, the first titles in the Pokemon franchise. The games were released in 1996 and went on to become one of the largest gaming franchises in history. [Image Credit: Vamers]


8.) The Game Boy Camera was a precursor to Instagram

Low resolution? Check. Strange colour filter? Check. Square photo format? Yep, the Game Boy Camera has it all. In 1998, Nintendo launched the Game Boy Camera which at the time was the world's smallest digital camera. It allowed users to take selfies, customise the images and print them on the compatible Game Boy Printer. [Image Credit: T3]


9.) What does 'Nintendo' mean?

Well, no one's exactly sure -- not even Hiroshi Yamauchi, the great-grandson of Nintendo's founder. A common interpretation is, "leave luck to heaven," but The History of Nintendo suggests it could in fact mean, "the temple of free hanafuda." ('Hanafuda' being the type of playing cards Nintendo originally produced.) [Image Credit: J Popcon]


10.) Are you sitting on a Game Boy gold mine?

The Game Boy has been released in a variety of colours and variations throughout its lifetime, but some are rarer than others. The rarest edition is the "Tezuka Osamu World Shop" (Pictured above), with examples currently on eBay priced around £300. Another rare edition is the Manchester United Game Boy which is red and features the team's logo. The most expensive Game Boy was offered by Aspreys of London; it featured 18k gold plate and a diamond encrusted screen -- your's for £15,000. [Image Credit: eBay]


11.) The Mario theme tune was top of the ringtone charts for 125 weeks

The Super Mario Bros. theme music, known as the Ground Theme, topped the Billboard ringtone charts for 125 weeks. The song was composed by Koji Kondo, who said it was the game's most difficult track to compose. It has since been performed by a very cool live orchestra. [Image Credit: TopHostGames]


12.) It's the third best-selling game console ever (or highest if you include the Game Boy Advance)

Released in March 2000, the PS2 has sold around 155 million consoles and the Nintendo DS has sold 153.98 million. Together, the Game Boy and Game Boy Colour have sold around 118m units, making it the third best selling game console of all time. However the Game Boy Advance, which arrived in 2001 and was backwards compatible, sold 81 million units. This creates a total number of 199 million Game Boy titled consoles sold. [Image Credit: Game Boy Wikia]


13.) Demos for Game & Watch games were made using paper

Game development certainly has evolved a lot since the early days of gaming -- Nintendo development teams would build models out of paper and light bulbs to test the game mechanics. [Image Credit: Fruitfly]


14.) Mobile Phone Gaming? That's so 2000-and-late

Nintendo filed a patent in 2001 for an "electronic apparatus having game and telephone functions." From the diagram it would appear that it's simply a mobile phone which plays Game Boy games -- so it's pretty much my childhood dream. Nintendo actively developed the phone and began talks with Nokia to manufacture it.


15.) A Game Boy is the perfect travel companion -- in space

In 1993, Russian astronaut Aleksandr A. Serebrov (pictured right), took his Game Boy to keep him amused during a journey to space. The console travelled on the Soyuz TM-17 mission to the Mir Station, where it orbited the Earth 3000 times before returning safely. It was the first console in space and was sold at a Bonhams auction for $1220 (£725). [Image Credit: NY Times]

[Featured Image: Specky Boy]