Now blow out your candles and make a wish, you old fart.
Today marks the 25th birthday of one of gaming’s most impressionable and remarkable inventions, the Nintendo Game Boy. Without it, many of us would have faced a very dark and very bland childhood, stark of joy and wonder. Yeah, sure — we had a few consoles. But it was the Game Boy that really set our hearts into motion. Whether you sat down for a quick Tetris session, or you decided to go pokeballs deep in a game Pokemon, the Game Boy opened our eyes to a new way of gaming — one that’s continued on for 25 years.
Introduced on April 21st, 1989, Nintendo’s Game Boy went on to become the best-selling system of the 20th century. Starting in Japan, the Game Boy soon became an international staple for any gamer. The chunky, grey-white handheld was loved time and time again as you were dragged on road trips to grandma’s house, and the carrying case that housed your favorite games has seen more miles than most Delta Platinum members.
In honor of Game Boy’s big 25, let’s take a minute to look back upon a few nostalgic games.
Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
I have to have this on my list, mainly because it’s a game I’m still proud to have in my collection. SML2 introduced the world to Mario’s most beloved brother, Wario (Sorry, Luigi). The freedom of being able to choose what levels you wanted to play introduced a new way to experience Super Mario, and the introduction of the ever-popular Bunny suit showed us that Mario could cosplay and still kick goomba butt.
These games need not an introduction — just a heart-felt thank you. I don’t want to get punny, but I like to believe that the Pokemon games taught us how to be the very best; that you can succeed with endless perseverance, a kind heart, and wild animals you ruthlessly stole from their natural environments. You go, Pokemon trainer! Also, let’s not forget the ability to choose your preferred gender, as well as the freedom to name not only your character, but your nemesis as well. 5 points if you went with Red and Blue, 1,000 points if you chose something involving poop.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
Released in a time where Ubisoft was Ubi Soft, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was actually a semi-terrible game. But hey — we’re not here to judge. Save the galaxy, decide who shot first, and try not to makeout with your sister. The first level of the game spits you out as Luke Skywalker, and you’re tenderly riding a tauntaun into the unknown. My description actually makes it seem a little romantic, but trust me — it’s just extremely annoying. Terrible mechanics aside, this game has to be on the list simply because I spent a large majority of my childhood playing dying in the exact same spot. I have it sitting in my Game Boy right now, and I gotta say… I’m annoyed as hell playing it. Oops, I died again.
Guys, please tell me you’ve now got the theme song stuck in your head. Who would have though that such simple mechanics could become the bestselling game of all time, huh? Tetris eventually came bundled with the Game Boy itself, so it was pretty hard to completely ignore this classic puzzle game. It was also the first game to use the link cable, instigating even more sibling rivalry (don’t worry, you’re still mom’s favorite). Tetris is fantastic, but it’s a game I have absolutely zero patience for. I’ll fit those pieces wherever I damn well please, thank you very much.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
Link has been around for quite some time, and the dude hasn’t aged a bit — I suppose that’s exactly why he’s our favorite Hero of Time. Packed with dungeons upon dungeons, petty theft, and an extremely memorable storyline, Link’s Awakening is one of the most beloved Zelda games in the franchise; its greatness is only matched by Ocarina of Time and Skyward Sword. One of those is a joke, by the way.
Paging Dr. Mario! Here’s another puzzle game I’m absolutely terrible at, but the replay value is so infinitely high that I don’t even care. You’re Mario, tasked with eradicating a series of deadly viruses. If the falling block puzzler wasn’t hard enough, the colored capsules on the famed creamed spinach-colored screen made the game so ridiculously difficult for me that I once threw my Game Boy at the wall in pure frustration. On the bright side, the game taught a valuable life lesson: you can go from useless plumber to useless doctor if you just try. Sadly, I think our Dr. Mario was just as licensed as Dr. Dre. Wahoo!
Metroid II: Return of Samus
Samus Aran came here to do two things: chew bubblegum and kick ass… and she’s all out of bubblegum. It’s also really hard to chew bubblegum in a helmet. Metroid II: Return of Samus was Samus Aran’s only appearance on the Game Boy, but don’t let that deter you — it was a damn good game. From blowing up metroids to fighting some crazy boss battles, the game paired great mechanics with a fun storyline to create a beautifully classic game. We also shouldn’t forget the fact that depending on how fast you completed the game, you may or may not have gotten to see Samus in a bikini. Hubba bubba.
Truthfully, the list could go on for days. With over 700 releases, it’s hard to pick and choose the cream of the crop. While the Game Boy underwent a series of drastic transformations, from chunky rectangle to the now foldable 3D-enabled rectangle, there’s no doubt that Nintendo will never be topped when it comes to providing quality handheld entertainment. The Game Boy, and it’s predecessor the Game Boy Color, collectively sold over 118 units worldwide and revolutionized the industry, paving way for the PlayStation Vita and this generation’s smartphone gaming obsession.
So here’s to you, Game Boy. We here at Max Level give you all our praise, adoration, and thanks. Not only did you teach us how to game, you taught us that we could take that passion with us everywhere—literally—and ignore our parents in the process.
Here’s to another 25 years, Nintendo. May your handhelds continue to rule the world.