With sales of the Classic consoles reaching over two million units, it wouldn’t be the most surprising thing in the world if Nintendo announced the release of a Game Boy Classic. These tiny preloaded consoles have been a huge financial shot in the arm for the Japanese giants since their inception, flooding a new generation of gamers with pure unadulterated Nintendo-ness with classic games from their frontrunner IPs like Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Metroid. I believe that we’ll see a Nintendo 64 Classic in the not too distant future before we get this portable pleasurebox, and if you haven’t read my world class pedigree article on that very subject, you should go and check it out the moment that you finish this world class pedigree article, but for now, let’s ponder on what a potential Game Boy Classic could or should include.
I feel like I should get this all out of the way now: I don’t think this should happen. I’m not saying it won’t happen, I just don’t think it should. The way I view the Game Boy is that it was a less powerful but portable NES. There weren’t that many great original games on the Gameboy—most were low quality ports of NES games with resources removed or made without the use of color. I think it would be a much smarter idea to do a combined Game Boy and Game Boy Color Classic; that way you could have a mix of great games from both consoles. Also, Nintendo basically already owns the portable gaming market with their range of DSes. All of the DS units have sold a combined total of over 150 million units worldwide and the eShop has a library of past titles that can be downloaded for a fair price. So why Nintendo would funnel money into the production and manufacture of a dedicated machine when it already has a platform to release these games just doesn’t make sense to me. They have a range of DS options with a huge back catalog of amazing games. The framework is there—they literally already have it. Putting focus on how to improve eShop functionality in whatever way or to expand their virtual library would be a stronger and more sensible move.
Now disregard everything I just said. Just because I think a Game Boy Classic wouldn’t be a profitable venture by no means equals that Nintendo will take heed of my words and stave off making it. To be fair, it will probably do well for them, especially as they have a knack for giving their products limited availability, which makes collectors go crazy for things like their mini throwback consoles. On to thinking what features the console would have, anyone who remembers the original Game Boy will know that the focus should really be on the “mini” part of this nostalgic recreation. To say the Game Boy was a portable gaming device is true. To say it was a handheld gaming device is a much grayer area. I was pretty young when the Game Boy came out, but I have fond and also kind of terrifying memories of playing Tetris while realizing the “A” button was as big as my own face. The Game Boy Pocket was released not long after the Game Boy, showing Nintendo knows how to package on a smaller scale, so I hope they don’t try to construct the machine to the original specification and give us a more pint sized iteration.
Next up would be a backlight. This is pretty standard across most devices now, but came to be with the release of the Game Boy Advance SP and was a godsend to players everywhere. I honestly don’t know how I ever played without a backlight enabled. I’m sure Nintendo will just fit this as standard instead of including something like the magnifier accessory or the Game Boy Printer. Remember the magnifier thing? The portable gaming equivalent of an iron lung? Including that would either be a giant sarcastic middle finger or proof that Nintendo have truly gone bat poop crazy.
I’m interested to see if and how Nintendo incorporates modern features in to this machine to create synergy between their products, as they’ve made the cautious and probably correct decision economically to disable Internet access and thus block downloading any games other than what’s on the console. I know their consoles have been hacked (almost inevitably) but the point remains that they aren’t supporting it. As the Game Boy will be a portable device, it just feels more natural that there would be a more liberal stance on the accessibility side. On the game selection home page, could you use your Nintendo ID to play the games, tracking stats and having your Mii with you? Could there even be functionality that works with the Switch/Wii U like the amiibo has? Say if you use your ID to play the Game Boy Classic games, the next time you log on to your Switch, you have special unlock features so you can play Super Mario Odyssey in 8-bit retro mode because you completed Super Mario Land or maybe you unlock a secret dungeon in Breath of the Wild because you’ve played Link’s Awakening? Nintendo have got a really interesting gimmick with what the amiibo do with their unique unlockable features, and I think it would really resonate with fans if they did something like this with the Game Boy Classic.
Carrying on from this idea of modern elements on a Classic console, would they enable any multiplayer play? Japanese culture lends itself to more social gaming experiences and Nintendo really gets behind the multiplayer aspects of their games; you only have to look at series like Mario Party, Mario Kart and Smash Brothers to get a sense of this. It would be awesome if they did, but realistically I don’t think this is likely to make the list as pretty much no games on the Game Boy have a multiplayer component as the tech at the time just wasn’t that way inclined, and I just don’t think Nintendo would consider it a priority. It would be nice to be able to trade Pokemon though. If anyone still has a link cable…
The big ol’ question is what bountiful childhood gems would be shipped on the device. As I did when I hazarded a guess at what would come on a N64 Classic (remember that world class article I mentioned earlier?), this is a very rough shot in the dark. I’m thinking from the mindset of Nintendo wanting to expose people to their own branded games and what they can realistically use in regards to licensing. In most cases the publisher or developer doesn’t exist any more. Also, the fact that even though there were over one thousand games for the Game Boy, a large portion of those were Japanese games that probably wouldn’t translate to a global audience. I’ve also gone for twenty games as I feel that’s a fair amount but that number could go up to twenty-five, maybe even thirty.
- Balloon Kid
- Castlevania II: Belmont’s Revenge
- Donkey Kong Land
- Game and Watch Gallery
- Harvest Moon
- Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters
- Kirby’s Dream Land
- Kirby’s Dream Land 2
- Metroid II: Return of Samus
- Pokemon Yellow
- Super Mario Land
- Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
- Wario Land
- Wario Land 2
- Wave Race
As you can see, there’s a large focus on platformers in there. Super Mario Land 1 and 2, both Wario Land games, Donkey Kong Land, and even Castlevania II and Metroid II to a lesser extent all tick the boxes of being great games and being strong Nintendo titles. Tetris is a legendary classic and almost defined the console entirely. Pokemon started its video game journey on the Game Boy and I couldn’t decide between Red and Blue (even though Red is better…) so I settled on Yellow. Link’s Awakening is widely regarding as one of the best Game Boy games ever, so that was a clear cut choice, although if they waited for a GB Color Classic they could use the DX version, which I think would be better, but regardless it has to be in there. I think Kirby is an underrated IP of Nintendo’s, so he deserves to have his two main games in there over the pinball themed titles he also stars in. Then finally you have a few extra not as high profile games but still valid titles like Kid Icarus, Harvest Moon, two arcade retro games of Defender and Galaga, and a compilation of games from the original portable gaming grand-daddy, the Game and Watch.
As much as there are some cherished diamonds among the rough, and I mean rough, terrain that the Game Boy resides in, I just don’t think it’s worth Nintendo taking the development time to create a console that logically doesn’t make sense for them. So many games were made by either now defunct developers or were wholly created for a Japanese market and just wouldn’t translate well to a younger generation or bring back nostalgic joy for older gamers. Now the Game Boy Color or Advance, that’s an entirely different story. That would make sense for them to do as the jump in quality between the original Game Boy and the Game Boy Color, in terms of both graphics and overall game quality, was gargantuan. With all of that said, I’m sure Nintendo will release one, it’ll do well, and I’ll look like a madman. I just believe it would be a much better move to incorporate Game Boy games in with a Game Boy Color classic and get all the Nintendo goodness in one complete package.
Are you hoping for a Game Boy Classic? Let us know in the comments.