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Nintendo's Game Boy, the Handheld Console That Started It All, Turns 25

The handheld gaming console that started it all, Game Boy, turned 25 years old Thursday, as difficult as that may be to believe.
Image: The original Nintendo Game Boy in 1989
A Tokyo toy store salesperson shows how to play Nintendo's latest computer game, "Game Boy", July 1989.Tsugufumi Matsumoto / AP file

The handheld gaming console that started it all, Game Boy, turned 25 years old Thursday. Nintendo's breakthrough portable device was first made available in North America on July 31, 1989. Its green-tinted, monochrome screen, four AA batteries, and chunky appearance may not post much of a threat to today's svelte, high-resolution gaming machines, but it was this grey brick that originally brought handheld gaming into the mainstream.

Part of the allure was the inclusion of "Tetris" in the box with the device — it wasn't the first version of the game, which recently turned 30, but is one of the best-remembered, and certainly among the best-selling: 35 million copies were sold or bundled with Game Boy systems. The handheld was also the home of what would turn out to be yet another worldwide phenomenon: Pokemon. Its various versions would eventually sell over 80 million copies before moving on to other consoles — including the Game Boy's many successors, down to today's most popular handheld, the Nintendo 3DS. Handhelds, combined with smartphones and tablets, make it clear that portable gaming is one of the biggest platforms on earth — and the Game Boy is the grand-daddy of it all.



— Devin Coldewey, NBC News