Nintendo innovated mobile gaming in the 1980s with the Game Boy, and today they add to their legacy with the release of the New Nintendo 3DS. Nintendo’s handhelds are some of the most successful videogame systems of all time, and for many the term “Game Boy” became as synonymous with handheld systems as Kleenex did with tissue paper. Let’s take a look back at Nintendo’s 35 year history of handheld gaming, and wonder how exactly we became so old
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Game & Watch, 1980. Game & Watch was a series of individually sold handheld games and not a system like the Game Boy. Still, it was Nintendo's start in the handheld market, a first step that led to the Game Boy, DS and 3DS.
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Game Boy, 1989. The Game Boy wasn't the first handheld system to use interchangeable cartridges, but it was the first to be a smash success. The Game Boy basically created the handheld market as we know it today.
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Game Boy Pocket, 1996. Nintendo squeezed almost seven years of juice out of the original Game Boy before releasing the slimmer and less battery intensive Game Boy Pocket. The Pocket played the same games as the Game Boy.
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Game Boy Light, 1998. The Game Boy Light still played the same games as the original Game Boy, but it had a built-in backlight that made it easier to see. If you ever played the original Game Boy, you know why that's important. The Light was only released in Japan, though.
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Game Boy Color, 1998. The Color was the first Nintendo handheld that actually used color. It could play older Game Boy games, but the real draw were the new games that could only be played on the Color. And the unit itself also came in a variety of colors.
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Game Boy Advance, 2001. Nintendo's first handheld of the 21st century was significantly more powerful than any Game Boy model. It could also link up to the Nintendo GameCube, letting you unlock special features or even use the Advance as an extra controller in a few GameCube games.
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Game Boy Advance SP, 2003. The SP introduced a new design for the Advance--it folds up like a laptop. It also had a brighter screen and was more comfortable to hold and play for long periods of time than the standard Advance.
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Nintendo DS, 2004. DS stands for "dual screen." It felt weird at first but using two screens to play through games quickly became second nature. The DS introduced touch-sensitive gaming before touchscreen smartphones became common. It was also the first Nintendo handheld to let players go online.
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Game Boy Micro, 2005. The last handheld to bear the Game Boy name was a tiny redesign of the Game Boy Advance. It could play every Game Boy Advance game and fit comfortably in the palm of your hand.
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DS Lite, 2006. The original DS was fat and clunky, so in 2006 Nintendo replaced it with the streamlined DS Lite. It did everything the DS did, but took up less space, and also had brighter screens.