Release Date: 11/18/1998
Colors: Atomic Purple, Berry, Grape, Kiwi, Dandelion, Teal
The GameBoy Color wasn’t something I had growing up. My parents couldn’t afford one. I had the DMB GameBoy, but that was it until the GBA SP was out. I did play some classmates’ GBC in school here and there and did experience Pokemon Blue a few times, but my GBC experience has mostly been as an adult, and mostly as of the last few years. See, the GBA SP could play GameBoy games, but I always felt they were “old and dumb” being 8-bit titles. I had very little money growing up and I didn’t want to waste it on older titles. I only owned a single GBC game and it was The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX which I never finished.
Fast forward over a decade later and I appreciate the system a lot more. While I have a modded GBC with a backlight modern LCD, RGB buttons, and USB-C charging, I still remember what the system was like as stock. One thing that kept me from wanting one was the lack of a backlight. The GameBoy Lite had a backlight why couldn’t the GBC? I understand it was a budget system as the hardware inside was dirt cheap at this point to produce, but come on Nintendo! You still needed a worm light or had to play with a flashlight under the blankets. This makes playing today nearly impossible and unbearable with all of the modern LCD display techs we have today. Some like this and get a more nostalgic feeling from it, but I didn’t play my original DMB Gameboy much because of this when I got it for my 7th birthday back in 1997.
Not much else is improved over the original model. The Gameboy Pocket had already been out at this point, but it did feel lighter and was slimmer than the original model. However, the screen was smaller at 2.3″ compared to the DMG 2.6″, but it was in color so there was a trade-off. It did have more RAM which was needed for the wider color palette, and the sound was slightly improved, but we still had the same 10-year-old processor. We got square wave channels which made the system less “bleepy” than the original model but not by much. The only other I/O was an infrared receiver which could be used to beam digital data across to other consoles. The battery life was also cut back by 1/3 due to the color screen.
Some might say there are more drawbacks and improvements, but just being color alone was incredible. Many later DMB games were released with GBC compatibility and later there were hundreds of GBC-only games released. The system still feels great to play to this day. It’s clearly the best Gameboy to have as it can play original games with a slightly better screen. However, if you own both the slightly larger screen for the original games might be preferred. It’s all down to personal taste, to be honest. We mostly judge these older systems on their libraries and the Gameboy and GBC libraries are some of the best. Classics like Tetris, Wario Land II, Pokemon, Metal Gear Solid, Super Mario Land, and many more are engrained into millions of people’s minds. As for the original hardware, the only setback is that screen. I wish it had more improvements, and it feels like it could have had more, but at this point, the GBA was probably deep in R&D and only a few years away.
If you get one today I suggest getting an LCD upgrade at the bare minimum. USB-C and any other mods are optional and not really needed because the system has great battery life already. You can do the mod yourself or buy one custom-built from many shops online. There are so many aftermarket shells, buttons, silicone pads, and even sound mods for these handhelds that have blown up over the last 5 years. It will get to a point where you will have trouble finding someone with an unmodded Gameboy.