The Game Boy has seen off competition from the likes of Sega, Nokia, Neo Geo and Atari, and has made Tetris and Pokémon household names.
Today, Nintendo may have dropped the Game Boy name, but its DS still holds the same principles and has managed to revolutionise the sector yet again, attracting even more new consumers into gaming.
But the platform holder’s dominance of the handheld market started much earlier, with its unique Game & Watch systems. MCV takes a closer look at 29 years of Nintendo handhelds, from Game & Watch to DSi…
April 28th, 1980: Nintendo launched Ball, it’s first Game & Watch title. The series, which ran until 1990, consisted mostly of single-game handhelds that used an LCD screen and featured a clock and alarm.
April 21st, 1989: Original Game Boy launches in Japan. As the first console in the Game Boy line it featured a single cartridge slot, a two button control set-up, mono screen and could last for up to 35 hours on four AA batteries. Almost all Game Boys came with Tetris bundled in, and subsequently it is one of the best selling games of all time.
1996: The Game Boy Pocket launches, shrinking the dimensions of the first console in the Game Boy Line. The system also introduced Nintendo’s tendency to update its handhelds before releasing completely new versions.
February 27th, 1996: Pokémon launches on the Game Boy, creating a branding sensation and one of the most popular games of all time, rivaling the likes of Mario.
1997: The Game Boy Light launches, offering a smaller version of the original with a backlit screen.
October 21st, 1998: The Game Boy Color launches in Japan, and features a colour screen and smaller body size than the original Nintendo handheld. It is often claimed that together the original Game Boy and Game Boy Color have together sold 118.69 million units.
March 21st, 2001: Nintendo launches the most significant update to the Game Boy line at the time in the form of the Game Boy Advance. Considerably more powerful than its predecessors, the GBA added extra buttons, changed the shape of the system, and introduced a new cartridge shape. 81.44 million units are reported to have sold.
February 14th, 2003: Nintendo launches the Game Boy Advance SP, which introduced a clamshell design, rechargeable battery and a front-lit screen. The SP has shipped 43.52 million units.
November 21st, 2004: The Nintendo DS debuts in North America, introducing another completely new addition to the handheld line. Actually not a Game Boy branded product, the DS introduced a touch screen, new cartridge technology, backwards compatibility for GBA games, and most importantly, a dual screen design similar to some mid-1980s Game & Watch titles
May 19th, 2005: Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day!, otherwise known as Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? Launches. While not the first casual game, it is hugely influential in introducing handheld gaming to non-traditional markets.
September 13th, 2005: The Game Boy Micro is released, giving the public the smallest Game Boy machine ever release. Offering everything featured in the SP including the backlight of the SP II, the Micro is just over 10cm long.
March 2nd, 2006: The release of the DS Lite in 2006 delivered a smaller, sleeker version of the previous DS unit, which many deemed as an attempt to broaden the appeal of the handheld and give it the feel of a gadget. The Lite improved on the original DS in many ways, offering a more ergonomic stylus, brighter, more durable screens, and longer battery life.
October 2nd, 2008: At the Nintendo Conference the DSi is announced, with the official slogan ‘what will i do’.
November 1st, 2008: The DSi launches in Japan, and includes two digital cameras, larger screens, a subtle design makeover, an SD slot for storage of music, images and games, and most significantly, access to the DSiWare store. Similar to the WiiWare shop, DSiWare allows users to download games to the handheld’s internal memory or an SD card. Games will be free, or purchasable via Nintendo Points, previously known as Wii Points. While the DSi does not feature the GBA slot of its predecessor, the system will be able to play both DS and DSi games.
March 20th, 2009: Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is due to hit retail in the UK, bringing the DS its first BBFC 18-rated game.
April 3rd, 2009: The DSi will launch in Europe, priced £149.99, in either black or white.