What Would A Game Boy Classic Look Like?

To the surprise of absolutely no one, the NES Classic has quickly become a massive hit for Nintendo (and also to the surprise of absolutely no one, it’s almost impossible to find on store shelves). The overnight success of the Classic has people salivating over what Nintendo could do with classic versions of its other consoles, such as the Super Nintendo.

Given the prominence of mobile gaming, however, one idea that isn’t getting a lot of attention might be worth considering: Releasing a ‘Game Boy Classic’ that pays homage to the system that laid the foundation for Nintendo’s portable console dominance. While it may not evoke the level of nostalgia that the NES or SNES does, the Game Boy still holds a special place in the hearts of gamers who grew up with the device, and has its share of classic titles that every gamer should experience. As the NES Classic has proven, great games and a form factor dripping in nostalgia translate into oodles of cash in Nintendo’s pockets.

So what would a Game Boy Classic actually include? Let’s start with the hardware:

  • The Game Boy Classic should be styled in the same manner as the original Game Boy (except smaller, of course). As cool as my translucent purple Game Boy Color was, when I thin of the Game Boy, I think of the iconic gray box that I first got my hands on in the early 90s. While one of the biggest complaints about the Game Boy was that its size made it really hard to fit into your pocket, which makes the inevitable shrinking of the classic device an even bigger benefit.
  • The Game Boy Classic should support games from both the Game Boy and the Game Boy Color. This probably means going with the black-and-white screen setup of the Color rather than the “green screen” of the original.
  • The Game Boy Classic needs to be backlit. All right, who else had a massive add-on that attached to their Game Boy and lit up the screen? People won’t put up with that kind of limitation today, and it seems like an easy problem to fix.
  • The Game Boy Classic needs a game state-saving mechanism like the one included in the NES Classic. Much like the NES, a lot of games did not include the ability to save, which is crucial for allowing mobile gamers to play at their own pace.
  • The Game Boy Classic should have wireless capabilities that mimic the Game Boy’s Link Cable functionality. No one’s going to want to browse the Web on something like this, but if the Classic had some short-range wireless connection setup to allow players to, say, trade things between games… 😉
  • The Game Boy Classic should have (but doesn’t need) a video output port. Leaving this out isn’t going to affect 99% of the people who would buy the Classic, but it would be awfully convenient for people who might want to stream some of these games on YouTube or Twitch. Right now, DSes and 3DSes require a special capture card (and thus an expensive hardware modification) to accomplish, so having native support for HDMI or some other output would be a welcome addition.
  • Finally, the Classic needs to be tough. This thing needs to be able to survive years of wear and tear inside a third grader’s backpack. I once dropped my Game Boy in a river, lost a single row of pixels on the screen, and continued playing it for years afterward without a hitch. I expect nothing less from the Classic. (In contrast, the touchscreen on my DS died after just a few years.)

Of course, hardware is nothing without software, which brings us to the bigger question: What games should a Game Boy Classic include? Let’s start with the obvious candidates:

  • Tetris

This was the console-mover back in the day, and the primary reason a lot of people originally bought the Game Boy. It has to be on the list.

  • Super Mario Land
  • Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins
  • Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

Leaving Mario Land and Mario Land 2 off of the Game Boy Classic would be like leaving Mario Bros. and Mario Bros. 2 off of the NES Classic; they’re practically synonymous with the device. Wario Land is not quite the must-have that the first two games are, but it’s a fun, quirky platformer that at least deserves to be considered.

  • Kirby’s Dream Land
  • Kirby’s Dream Land 2

Kirby’s Dream Land was the world’s introduction to everyone’s second-favorite flying pink ball (first is Jigglypuff, of course), and has to be here for historical purposes if nothing else. Dream Land 2 isn’t as essential, but it was the first time Kirby’s patented copying ability appeared on a handheld.

  • Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge
  • Mega Man V

I’m not terribly familiar with the Mega Man series, and you could probably pick any two or three from Mega Man I – V and satisfy fans of the series. I chose I (Dr. Wily’s Revenge) and V to give gamers a taste of Mega Man’s debut on the Game Boy, and because V seemed to be the most beloved series in my brief scouring of the Internet.

  • The Legend Of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
  • Metroid II

These two are here because a) you can’t (or at least you shouldn’t) release a Nintendo console without a Zelda or Metroid game, and b) both games are well-respected additions to their series (although Metroid II isn’t quite the critical darling that Link’s Awakening is).

  • Donkey Kong Land
  • Donkey Kong Land 2
  • Donkey Kong Land 3

No, the DKL graphics aren’t as mind-blowing as their SNES counterparts, but they’re still pretty darn impressive by the Game Boy’s standards. My only experience is with DKL 2 (Diddy Kong FTW), but I enjoyed it enough to consider the entire series for inclusion on the Game Boy Classic.

  • Pokémon Red, Blue, or Yellow
  • Pokémon Gold, Silver, or Crystal

Including Pokémon is an obvious choice, but exactly which versions to include is a bit of a challenge. Given that trading and version exclusives are longstanding pieces of the Pokémon ecosystem, perhaps Nintendo could take the same approach as they did with their 3DS Virtual Console releases, and have different versions of Red, Blue, and Yellow on different versions of the Classic. Including the Gen 2 Pokémon releases, however, make this a cumbersome proposition (does Nintendo really want to release nine different versions of the Game Boy Classic?), so another idea may be to compromise by only including Yellow and Crystal as the included versions. (Even better, they could make the Classic compatible with the 3DS re-releases!)

  • Shantae

Wait, Shantae had a Game Boy game? According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, the game received positive reviews but was lost in the transition from the Game Boy Color to the Game Boy Advance (consider this a cautionary tale, Yooka-Laylee). The Shantae series has gained a ton more traction and notoriety since then, however, and her presence here is sure to sell some Classic units.

  • Battletoads

This is here because a) if any game would benefit from save states, it would be this one, and b) everyone deserves to suffer like us 90s children at least once.

Add 10-15 more games to this core (Harvest Moon, Dr. Mario, Dragon Warrior I and II, etc.), and Nintendo would have a pretty darn good system on their hands.

So when Nintendo starts to think about the successor to the NES Classic, I hope they don’t just focus on their home consoles. The Game Boy was a successful, long-running system with a massive library of great games, and a Game Boy Classic would only add to that legacy, not to mention Nintendo’s bottom line.

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