Tomorrow, April 21, 2019, the Game Boy turns 30 years old. The handheld console that paved the way for the Switch is still beloved by almost anyone who’s ever laid hands on it, and for all its shortcomings, it’s still one of the most memorable gaming devices of all time. So why is there no sign of Nintendo releasing a Game Boy Classic Edition handheld?
Retro gaming is more popular than ever, and Nintendo is partly responsible for its resurgence. The NES and SNES Classic Edition consoles reminded players that despite being graphically limited, many 2D games still hold up quite well against modern 3D titles when it comes to gameplay, and straight up fun. The Classic Editions opened the floodgates for other retro consoles—some great, some awful—but Nintendo has yet to resurrect the Game Boy. And no matter how many times we ask, Nintendo isn’t giving us any info on a planned release for the future.
Nostalgic gamers can certainly get their Game Boy fix via other Nintendo systems. Many of the over 1,000 games that were ultimately released on the Game Boy platform can be downloaded and enjoyed on the 3DS or 2DS handhelds. Eventually, they might even show up for the Switch, and be playable through a TV in the way that the Super Game Boy adapter cart facilitated for the SNES. That would be neat, but as I’ve said before, I don’t actually find the Switch to be portable enough for my tastes—it rarely leaves the house.
So what do I want to see in a Game Boy Classic Edition? You can fit the entire Game Boy library on a cheap flash card these days, so for starters, I’d definitely like to see a healthy selection of games bundled. Here are 25 suggestions to get us going, but I’d have no complaints if Nintendo included even more. (Although I’d be equally content if it only included a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. But that might conflict with that game’s upcoming Switch remake.) And why not toss in a few bonus apps like an alarm clock, or even a Chiptune composer, for fun?
As for its size, a Game Boy Classic Edition would definitely need to be smaller and thinner than the original Game Boy—but not as tiny as the Game Boy Micro, which I adore, but find just a little too small for my hands. We’re all used to carrying a smartphone-sized device wherever we go now, so a handheld that falls somewhere between the iPhone 4 and Kevin Bates’ Arduboy would be ideal. If it has to be a little thicker to accommodate a beefy battery, I’m OK with that.
Physical button controls are a must. I’ve tried playing emulated Game Boy titles on a smartphone with touchscreen controls several times and it’s awful. As for the screen? The Game Boy was notorious for its lack of back or side light that made gaming at night, or even in poorly lit rooms, a big challenge. An LCD display would be fine, but it would have to emulate the Game Boy’s 2-bit grayscale color palette, as well as the original’s signature green tint. And throw in a little simulated ghosting and smearing for authenticity.
Perhaps the most surprising feature I’d want to be built right into the Game Boy Classic Edition is the Game Boy Camera, limited to snapping just 128×112 pixel images like the original was. You can still find people tinkering with that accessory, including Neil Young whose daughter snapped the cover art for his Silver & Gold album with one. Yes, my smartphone’s camera is infinitely superior in every way, but some of my best Game Boy memories come from that chunky lens hanging off the top. For a lot of us, that was our first taste of photography as kids, and definitely our first digital cameras.
Multi-player gaming I can take or leave. I know the Game Boy had a link cable, and playing Tetris against a friend made the game even more enjoyable. But part of what made the Game Boy so popular was that it gave you the opportunity to escape to your own little world wherever you were, be it an island in Hyrule, a land overrun with Koopas, or a gym where pocketable monsters could battle it out. And now more than ever, I need a quick place to escape to every once in a while, stashed away in my back pocket.