Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a nice summer (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere) (I’m not, it’s searing hot in here!) or a nice winter if you’re in the south. Thanks for passing by my blog!
Today I wanted to write about something very dear to me, which has sparked my interest again in the last few months: my Nintendo handheld collection! I’m a huge Game Boy nerd, I love these tiny things and I’ve been amassing a fair amount of them during the last few years. So I’d love to show my collection to you and talk a bit about it.
In this post I’m going to focus on the consoles themselves. Later on I’ll write a part 2 about the games, and a part 3 about modding and other “extra” stuff.
Are you ready? 🎮 Let’s goooo.
My collection and what it means to me
I have been collecting Nintendo handheld consoles since 2016. This what my collection looks like right now (August 2022):
(TL;DR: I’m going to talk about some personal history now. If you just want the pretty pictures, scroll past the wall of text!)
I will always remember my first experience with a Game Boy. It must have been 1997 or 1998, I was 4 or 5 years old and I was spending time in my family’s hardware store, one of those typical local stores which sold TVs, consoles, batteries, small appliances, etc. and also repaired them. My father let me try Super Mario Land on a Game Boy (a Pocket, I assume) for a few minutes. I remember him telling me how small the screen was, that it was bad for my eyesight, uncomfortable to play, etc. in hopes of me forgetting about it, but I was enthralled. Even after he took it out of my hands, I never forgot it.
That’s the first videogame I remember playing. Perhaps it’s not true: after all, the first (and only) console my parents have ever owned is a NES clone, they already owned it back then and I had probably seen them play it, perhaps even tried it myself. But that Game Boy Pocket is truly my first gaming memory.
However, I didn’t own a single Game Boy handheld until I started collecting them in 2016. There’s many reasons for that, the main one being that my parents didn’t want me to own a handheld because they suspected that I would spend the entire day playing it and sneak around with it all the time (which is probably true, but I guess that’s what children do).
Not too long after that, in late 1999, the Pokémon show finally arrived in Spain. I was 7 at the time, and soon became a number one fan. It was a true obsession – waking up willingly at 7 PM on the weekends to watch Pokémon on TV levels of obsession, and it lasted for many years. Back then, I didn’t even know that Pokémon games existed, so picture my surprise when I found out that they were actually older than the show! However, my parents still refused to let me own a console, so I was left reading my Nintendo magazines and staring at all the pretty game pictures wistfully.
We were some of the first homes in Europe to have their own personal computer, back in the late nineties/early 2000s. Since my father was a tinkerer, he soon found the “perfect” solution for my Pokémon obsession: emulating the Game Boy and Game Boy Color games on PC! That way I could play the games AND they could control my screen-time, which back then was just an hour a day, sometimes a little more if I really begged. Score!
Playing the games was great. Pokémon Crystal, when it came out, was my main favorite, followed by a Super Mario Land hacked game called Super Pika Land, which starred Pikachu as a protagonist instead of Mario. I played some amazing games over the years, like Medabot for the GBA, A Link to the Past, Super Mario Advance, Metroid, etc.
However, I was always disappointed that I couldn’t play Pokémon games in the original hardware. My friends brought their Game Boys to school, hidden from the teachers, of course, and I would drool over them. When my uncle or my best friend at the time let me touch and use their Game Boy, I just didn’t want to let it go. It didn’t help that, in the early 2000s, your regular PC screen actually looked much worse than the screen of a Game Boy Pocket or a Game Boy Color, all blurry and with the wrong colors, compared to the console’s crispy LCD screens. At first I also played the games on a keyboard, as far as I can remember, which wasn’t exactly comfortable.
This emulating handheld consoles thing lasted for many years. I didn’t even question it, and admit to playing a fair amount of Nintendo DS games on my PC as well, back when it came out. At one point I even had a two screen layout for DS games on my PC. I was never really that interested in emulating games from other consoles, not even the SNES or the Nintendo 64. My “thing” were handheld games, but played on a PC. Very peculiar, but that was my gaming life for more than a decade.
At a certain point, though, when I finally started earning my own money and had some to spare, I found out something very interesting: Game Boys and games were still around, and people would sell them for very cheap! This was 2016 and the prices were not nearly as inflated as they are nowadays. You could easily get a console + 4 or 5 games for less than 100 euros. So, after thinking about it for a while, I finally decided on buying my first console ever, a green Game Boy Color, and some games to go with it. And all the rest followed suit.
In conclusion: this entire collection has been built as an adult with my own money and a lot of child-like wonder. In a way, sometimes I feel like I’m doing it for past me. They’d have loved it.
My collection: overview
Let’s have another look at my collection. As you can see, my main focus are Game Boys (as I said, I’m a Game Boy nerd 😛), but I also have several Nintendo DS and other stuff, which we’ll get to shortly. I also have collected a few accessories: a Game Boy official backpack (which I use to store game manuals), a Game Boy Pocket plastic display case and an (unofficial) light player and lens for the Game Boy DMG.
I have a Super Game Boy as well. For those who don’t know, it’s a peripheral that came out for the Super Nintendo which let you play Game Boy games on a TV. I have recently sold my Super Nintendo (the main reason being that Super Nintendo games are absurdly expensive and I can’t be bothered tbh), but I kept the Super Game Boy because… well, it’s a Game Boy, and I’m a Game Boy collector. Even if I can’t use it, it’s still nice to have it.
Now… let’s have a closer look! We’ll start with Game Boys, then move on to the more “modern” consoles.
Game Boys! Game Boys everywhere!
As you can see, I own a fair amount of them: 4 DMGs, 3 Pockets, 8 Colors, 2 Advance, 2 Advance SP and 2 Game Boy Micro (there’s also an intruder here… can you spot it? 👀). However, I started with only one: a green Game Boy Color, which isn’t actually in the photo because I kind of destroyed the case trying to do a DIY project years ago (whoops).
I started my collection with Game Boy Colors, which are my childhood console, I guess, and I love them. I own all basic colors, plus atomic purple, plus a special Pokémon console that came out as well (this is an original Pokémon Game Boy, not a replacement case, which I was fortunate enough to get for a ridiculously low price a few years ago). Very neat! The one with white buttons is modded and I use it to play games. I hope to eventually replace its screen with a modern backlit LCD.
(Actually, now that I think of it, my first Game Boy Color IS in the photo: it’s the modded one, it just has a different case.)
I recently had to replace the screens of two of these Game Boy Colors because they had self-destructed (?) while in storage for some reason. I’m not sure if they will pass the test of time, but I try to maintain them in good shape, and I will keep replacing their parts for as long as they’re available.
Secondly, let’s talk about the Game Boy classic. There’s the DMG or Dot-Matrix Game, the original Game Boy that came in 1989 and was revised in 1995 with the Play It Loud! series; and the Game Boy Pocket, which came out in 1996 and was discontinued in 1998. Here’s what my Game Boy classic collection looks like:
I own an original grey DMG, plus a Play It Loud! red DMG and a Play It Loud! transparent one, as well as a modded DMG with a backlit screen, which I use for making music and I’ll talk about in another occasion (it’s really amazing though). They all work well, although the red one is a bit weird and sometimes glitches the graphics of certain games. I give it a 100/100 in creepypasta vibes though.
Regarding Pockets, I have them in three colors: silver, blue and green. The silver one is an older model, without a LED light. The green one’s screen is gradually “burning” over time and will need a replacement sooner or later, so perhaps I’ll eventually mod it, I’m not sure… Either way, the Pocket is by far the hardest classic Game Boy to come by (counting the DMG, Color and Advance) because it was discontinued so soon. I’d love to have all Pocket colors, but they’re getting harder and harder to find.
Lastly, there’s the Game Boy Advance! An absolutely amazing handheld, many of my favorites of all time come from this console. Sadly I don’t have that many because they’re really popular so there aren’t many of them in the wild. People are unwilling to part with them!
Regarding the original Game Boy Advance model, which is a 10 for ergonomics but a 4 for aesthetics (seriously, it’s ugly, no question about it…), I only own 2 of them because they’re practically impossible to find for a reasonable price. Now much more so. The two I own are the same model, but one of them has a more “yellowed” case, so I will probably use it for a mod.
Then there’s the Game Boy Advance SP, which must be the most truly portable handheld of history! Ergonomics aren’t as good, but I seriously love this model and I often use the black one to play. I used to have a silver Game Boy Advance SP as well, but I sold it because I already have a silver Nintendo DS and my collection was a bit redundant (I wouldn’t make the same decision today, but back then I was a bit overwhelmed and also needed the money to buy a 3DS). To be honest, though, besides the Game Boy Colors, I don’t really want or need to have “all models” of everything, I am content with a select few that I can actually use. Also note that these two SP are the “cheaper” frontlit version instead of the rarer and more expensive “backlit” one.
Finally, there’s the Game Boy Micro. This is a very peculiar console, very small, to the point of being unplayable basically, but apparently people really like them and they sell for exorbitant prices, probably because there aren’t that many of them and they’re very fragile. I got them for cheap in a bulk a few years ago and find them a nice and cute addition for my collection.
My next goal for Game Boy Advance consoles would be to get one or two more color variants of the original model. At least I’d like to get a black and dark blue one, because I like them much more than this “cloudy” purple version.
Nintendo DS and other “modern” handhelds
Finally, let’s talk about all the rest of the handhelds that aren’t part of the Game Boy line!
Back when I started collecting, Nintendo DS consoles were absolutely everywhere in second-hand stores, flea markets and the like, so it was very easy and cheap to get a hand on them. At one point, I probably had around 10 different Nintendo DS consoles, including a white DS Lite, two Silver DS Lites and a couple of DSi.
However, in the end I got rid of most of them and just kept the two classic models, which are great for playing Game Boy Advance games, as well as the black DS Lite (because it looks nice) and a yellow DSi XL, which is the one that I actually use for playing DS games.
The Blue DSi XL I got recently in bulk with a game that I wanted, and will probably keep in case the other one breaks or something.
Finally, my “newest” owned consoles (in general, not just talking about handhelds) are my Nintendo New 3DS XL, which I got second-hand a couple of years ago and use to play 3DS games, and the two modern Game and Watch consoles, that I found for cheap and bought because they’re cute. 🤷
My relationship with the DS/3DS line isn’t as sentimental as the one I have with Game Boys, since I got into them when I was older, but I still find them to be excellent consoles with a really interesting catalogue. The dual screen concept was really unique but worked extremely well. Sadly, though, these consoles aren’t built as solidly as the oldest models, so they easily break, particularly at the hinges. So, unlike the Game Boys, I keep them all in separate cases and I’m VERY careful when opening and closing them. Hopefully they’ll last a long time.
So, here ends the tour through my Nintendo handheld collection! I hope you enjoyed it. I’ve had a lot of fun over the years with these consoles: finding them, putting them back into shape, using them to play some amazing games. I’m looking forward to part 2 of this blog series, in which I’ll talk about the games I own and highlight my favorites (and despair over my lengthy backlog).
See you then, and thanks for reading!