The world has been embraced in the bosom of Nintendo for over 100 years apparently (at one time…. Literally!) And more recently the past 50 years of the Nintendo we know today! That’s right, 50 years. To this day. Actually probably not, and no I’m not looking it up… … … ah… ok…. Ok 47 years. 47 years ago they released the legendary, mythical, super sexy COLOR TV-GAME which put many hairs up on the chests of men, women, and children alike probably. Idk. It was also the year STAR WARS released. Remember kids, only one of these properties were sold to Disney. With such an attractive and totally real sounding name, it was no wonder the video games industry crashed in 1983 (which is also when Return of the Jedi released, so make of that what you will). Yeah, games kind of sucked then, or at least didn’t appeal to enough yapping grandkids. Anyways, Nintendo was always one of those companies that reinvented the wheel to run over the hard-working middle class citizen’s finances and a chance to escape from the inevitable and bleak void of life’s entropy, if only for a moment of distraction… and it wasn’t truly until their handheld line took off where they spread their wings as a global phenomenon…. I mean it. The sales of the Game Boy and its viral nature on a time without the internet is kind of cathartic, like a large-scale group think where playing outside and trading Pokemon coexisted with no social media, no tethers to reality beyond what we saw in front of us. Before the inevitably of progress that brought us together, only to separate us from those nearby. What was once a journey of mystery and wonder through the greater cosmos of discovery has left us coasting along a great black expanse, only to forever lurch forward into uncertainty. Hello Darkness, my old friend.

Anyways here is “Nintendo handhelds as Subway sandwiches”, with clear bias and tastes from yours truly.

Ok look, let’s be honest. This is stupid. It’ll be a good time though, great for work time poop break.



1980 saw the birth of Nintendo’s handheld line with Gunpai Yokoi’s genre defining nugget the Game and Watch, where you can game AND tell time so that you can write it off as a business expense at tax time. It was one of those devices that existed and was a neat novelty. It showcased that fun and exciting LCD displays taken for granted by cursed/blessed McDonalds happy meal toys and… literal nuggets. I love the Game and Watch, and by that, I mean I love the idea of the Game and Watch. Inventing the D-pad is cool, special themed games are cool, and the design set the stage for what becomes the DS. And for that, the Game and Watch is the Subway Melt. Objectively kinda meh, but a classic nonetheless.

The Subway Melt



For all intents and purposes, this includes the Pocket and Light models. It wasn’t until 1989 before Ninty came up with another brick to sell to children en-masse, so I consider this a sort of soft reset of their handheld line. This hefty 2 button dingus with a barely visible screen was Nintendo’s magnum opus of the 80s, so much so that everything similar to it became synonymous with being a “Game Boy”. Game Gear? Nah fam, Game Boy. Atari Lynx? Game Boy. Plastic Bubble, water, hoop game? Game Boy. Nintendo Switch? Game Boy. PS Vita? Dead. Steam Deck? Game Boy. The Game Boy has transcended to this sort of mythical, timeless reminder of an era that the internet won’t let you forget, for better or worse. And for that, the Game Boy line is the Philly Cheese steak. Looks good, tastes good at first, and the effects of it…. Erm…. Linger. Its thicc, its beefy, and you need to add a bunch of crap to it to make the experience better.

The Philly Cheesteak


Purple Boy

In every way except officially, I consider the Game Boy Color a true successor and a new console entirely. It retains its own identity, library of games, different classic colors, and its own community well beyond its initial release in 1998 (I think about 10 years past the Game Boys release is reasonable enough to call it…. New ya know). This console improved the Game Boy line in every way except for having an actual way to view the damn screen without buying a worm light. It gave us the eternally blessed “Atomic Purple” colorway and has some of the most versatile and fun hardware mods to make this guy anywhere from tolerable to a Frankensteined monstrosity to the ultimate vertical handheld Game Boy machine thing and is the last Nintendo handheld in this form factor. And for that, we at Retro Handhelds deem the Gameboy Color the Subway Club: Pretty good on its own, but plenty of room for improving it to perfection.

The Subway Club


Best Boy

Having only the power of hindsight and Google, it’s really jarring exactly how much of an upgrade the Game Boy Advance was over its predecessor with only 3 years of development past the release of the Game Boy Color as well as Nintendo not even wanting to make it. Like dude, what the Hell? To just nonchalantly release what is essentially a portable SNES that actually feels good to hold and retain backwards compatibility was a big power move for them. Like okay sure, the library was smaller and there were a ton of ports… But I’ll be damned before I deny that nearly every first party release was an absolute banger and contains some of the best original titles in their respective franchises as well as the most competent home console ports to a mobile device. But, and it’s a big but, a big donker of a caveat for this one. No backlight. Why. Nintendo, it’s 2001. Batteries? Fine. No sleep mode? Also …. fine. But the absence of a backlight was a sin. This was fixed by the SP models with a frontlight, and we saw the return of the Game and Watch hinged design, but for some reason we needed a revision of a revision with a backlight since its as apparently difficult to fathom why anyone would want to see all these beautiful 2D graphics and colors. And we STILL never got an original model with a proper screen on it. Well… until we had hardware mods… in the late 2010s…. Yeah. After mods, this console is by far one of the best to return to for some quality 2D Nintendo games and really warrants an article of its own. And for that, this console is the Italian BMT. An easy ole-reliable to return to and get some quality enjoyment out of it, beyond just simple nostalgia. Also the Game Boy Micro exists.

Behold. The Italian BMT


Oh Okay.

Going to have to cap it off here nerds. A fantastic climax as we sunset the glory that is the Game Boy era, which is now long dead. RIP(?) In the 2020s, the Game Boy line is now extremely dated, but the community kept it alive with hardware mods up the ass, ranging from better screens to aluminum shells to entirely different form factors, and sometimes even tables. The Game Boy line was versatile and a good baseline for any additive you like. Like sandwiches. Yeah. Those again. That’s the point of this. Sure, let’s go with that.

Anyways, catch Nintendo’s answer to the growing popularity of cell phones in Part II (they had a lot of responses).

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