The Game Boy’s pixel-perfect art and our obsession with reclaiming it

Similar pocket monitor
Image: Nintendo Life / Damien McFerran

The Game Boy is an iconic piece of gaming hardware, but its quest to elevate and celebrate games has continued throughout more than 30 years. Backward compatibility with the later Game Boy series allows us all to replay the OG library on updated, improved screens, and the quest to present the best 8-bit classics continues. until today.

The Man Who Is Hunted Similar bags is the latest all-singing, dancing handheld that wows nostalgic gamers with its adorable display – it’s astounding the difference a good console can make to a person. mobile games, so today we’re looking back and remembering the different ways we’ve viewed the Game Boy’s library of classics over the years…

[Not So] Humble beginnings

Nintendo’s original Game Boy was – miraculously – an instant hit and will continue to sell out sixty four million units worldwide. To put that in context, the Game Boy modestly outsold the NES, SNES, N64, GameCube, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive, Xbox One, and more. And it is only counting the sales that it has resounded around the world before birth of the larger Game Boy Color family, long before the end of handheld support.

Not bad for a device with a low resolution 160×144 dot matrix display capable of displaying only four shades of gray/green and only 6cm across the diagonal, right?

Zelda Links Awakening Backlit
Image: Nintendo Life

The greatness of green

The phenomenal success of the handheld naturally encouraged developers large and small not only to board the Nintendo ship, but to stay there. Talented artists and programmers spend a lot of time working within the confines of the hardware, creating performances that defy the glorious technology that has driven the Game Boy to turn what was once the unthinkable. Statues made easy, from the huge and intricate pixel art bosses found in Gradius: Interstellar Attack into Google’s sci-fi 3D wireframe X.

As Game Boy titles push the envelope with graphics, they explode with dramatic characters and detail, whether they’re taking Link on a dreamy adventure around Koholint Island in Wake up linkor used as part of a remake (or dedo, if you like) port of the classic Neo Geo video game Samurai Shodown.

Regardless of its age, the prettiest Game Boy art still looks good.


The slightest movement in the game also causes green streaks to slide around the screen, making the launch platform challenges of Super Mario Land much harder than they actually are.

Unfortunately, while the developers are working hard to make the little miracles happen, Nintendo is… not. Considering the original Game Boy’s advanced age – it will turn thirty three this year – and its utter dominance over advertising and cultural aspects of mobile games since ages, it’s easy to assume that the technology found in the familiar gray brick is the best late 80’s technology can offer; that, for all its faults, asking for anything better would be foolish. And that is simply not true.

Both Atari’s Lynx and Sega’s Game Gear were released shortly after Nintendo’s portable release, both had full color backlit displays, and both performed better than the Game Boy without much effort; previously strong enough to handle scale sprite right out of the box (the year before the SNES was released), and the latter was pretty much the portable Master System – an 8-bit console that was likely only a few years old at the time. With a simple store-bought adapter, Game Gear owners can even play home cartridges directly on it. To be fair, images on Sega’s handset were still very blurry in motion, but the backlighting and colors were easier on the eyes.

For comparison, the Game Boy has two main strengths. It’s cheap to run thanks to the extended life of four AA batteries, and it’s also (relatively) cheap to buy. It’s cheap to buy because it’s cheap to make.

And you can tell, even at the time. The original screen, so as not to put a too nice spot on it, is a dirty mess – that is, when the room is bright enough to be able to see it. The smallest movement in the game sent green streaks sliding around the screen, creating platform challenges in the launch title Super Mario Land much harder than it actually is.

It is said to have ruined many good action games and in an odd twist perhaps even helped those who enjoyed Pokémon well done, if just because the combat graphics are mostly static means people can really Have you seen it? it. Forgotten drawers and neon-colored bags (known as ‘fanny packs’ in some parts of the world) are still stuffed with the worm lights and magnifying glasses we needed to play on the old Game Boys that had Acceptable.

Modern solutions to classical problems

For a long time, the only solutions were to grin and bear it, upgrading your Game Boy to a newer model – although even then the Game Boy’s front and backlit variants Advance SPs all come with their new set of cons and compromises – or give up and play through an emulator, which looks fine but isn’t very enjoyable.

Until relatively recently, that is. New ports of old games (think of Konami Castlevania and Opposite package, as well as Square-Enix’s Mana Collection) now tend to come with optional high-quality screen filters that give us the Game Boy look we’ve always wanted. The sharp olive grids with well-defined pixels used to make the artwork – once hidden behind vintage-style ‘opacity’ – now look as great as they should be. do for the first time.

liberated from its original limitations, the Game Boy’s unmistakable 8-bit style was not only ‘acceptable’, but beautiful

But even if they look as good as they can, these filters are at best just scratching the surface, and it’s up to the developer to have the time, money, and technology to make the magic happen. Why wait for someone else to create a portal (and then hope it’s a good one), when you can create the Game Boy experience you’ve always wanted for yourself? The original hardware is now easily modifiable and comes equipped with a bright IPS display to deliver an incredible viewing experience with minimal fuss (and cost).

For those who want to go even further, the sharpest pixels and multiple display modes are present on the FPGA display-enabled (and wallet-blocking) LTPS LCD monitor, equipped with Similar bags lets you pick and choose exactly how you want your game to look, on more emulated hardware than any officially supported Game Boy. It may have been decades, but we finally have devices that really do justice to the art that has always been there.

When liberated from its original limitations, the Game Boy’s unmistakable 8-bit style was not only ‘acceptable’, but beautiful, and can be clearly seen repeated in brand new releases such as Lightning striker and the rest of the Pixel Game Maker Series ‘Game Buddy’ products – and are also found in new games actually for old hardware, such as Tales Of Monsterland. In both of these cases, style is not only appreciated but also selected, strict limitations challenge creativity to thrive in tightly focused circumstances. You always see it with modern 8-bit NES-style backtracking features like Shovel Knight or coming soon Infernaxbut it’s less common with the OG Game Boy aesthetic, and we’re pleased to see these projects retain this style.

Devices like Analogue Pocket and modified hardware that convert Game Boy titles
Devices like Analogue Pocket and modified hardware that convert Game Boy titles (Photo: Nintendo Life)

Thanks to new approaches to legacy hardware, plus easy access to the full spectrum of Game Boy-compatible devices and technical modifications that are likely to make the experience sweeter than ever. At the end of the day, there’s still plenty of player life and interest in the Nintendo company’s frugal handheld and its catalog of classics. It could be 2022, but somehow the future – and the screen – has never been brighter for Nintendo’s oldest handheld.

Green or gray, smudged or sharp – how do you like your Game Boy games to look and what games do you like to play them on? Let us know in the usual place.

Read more: The Game Boy’s pixel-perfect art and our obsession with reclaiming it

James Brien

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