11+ of the Strangest Game Boy Peripherals | How to Find Fish With Your Game Boy
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Make great album covers with your Game Boy
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- Part 1: Game Boy Family Mega Round-Up - Lights, Magnifiers, and Amplifiers
- The Game Boy was like playing a game covered in pea soup
- Lighting Accessories
- Playing with the Big Boys
- Part 2: The (OG) Game Boy
- Game Boy Camera and Printer
- Game Boy Pocket Sonar
- Work Boy
- Gameboy Solar Charger
- Part 3: Game Boy Lineage
- Game Boy Color
- Sewing Machine
- Game Boy Platform Shoes
- Game Boy PediSedate
- Game Boy Advance
- Farewell, My Boy
- Relevant Articles of 256KB
The Gameboy family was Nintendo’s first true line of handheld game consoles, featuring the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance as the three primary iterations, as well as variations of each like the Game Boy Light and Game Boy Advance SP. The line of handhelds had its own impressive list of peripherals and add-ons.
Some peripherals, such as the classic Game Boy link cable, worked great and were mainstays for the entire the Game Boy line. Some accessories, however, were either ahead of their time or downright ridiculous.
Part 1: Game Boy Family Mega Round-Up - Lights, Magnifiers, and Amplifiers
The Game Boy was like playing a game covered in pea soup
Though we take them for granted now, back in the day handheld consoles didn’t come with backlit screens. The damn things were nearly impossible to see at the best of times when ambient light glared off the screen and allowed you to barely see what was happening in the game. You usually had to turn the screen to be at the perfect angle, and if you were playing on a road trip the inconsistent lighting required constant adjustment.
The original Game Boy, which had the muddiest-looking screen already, was by far the most difficult to see. However, Japan saw the release of the Game Boy Light, an updated version of the original Game Boy, in 1998, nearly 10 years later. This edition ran on AA batteries and had a backlit screen that looked great but was never released outside of Japan. Furthermore, the backlit screen was not included in either the Game Boy Color (1998) or Game Boy Advance (2001) despite the technology obviously existing.
Front-lighting would not be included on a Nintendo handheld again until the release of the Game Boy Advance SP (model number AGS-001, 2003), which was powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery. The superior backlit GBA SP (model number AGS-101) was released in 2005. Presumably, backlighting was excluded from previous releases because it represented a huge drain on battery life, and would not be feasible until rechargeable batteries came along.
Therefore, in order to prevent players from losing their eyesight and going crazy, lighting the Game Boy screen was delegated to accessories, many of which had their own battery compartments.
These add-ons came in many forms and sizes. One was the Game Light by Nuby which fit over the top of your Game Boy, and required a whopping 4 AA batteries to power it. Other companies produced light add-ons that included a screen magnifier as well, such as the Light Boy, which was released by Vic Tokai Inc. but licensed by Nintendo, and the very similar Light Magic, produced by Innovation.
There were many similar products with only slight differences, and some for the Game Boy Color and Advance as well. My personal favorite was the Pelican Flip-n-Light, simply because that’s the one I had. There was also the very humble Nyko Worm Light available for Game Boy Color and Advance, which worked fine but sometimes obstructed the screen a bit.
All of these light add-ons looked silly but were pretty much required to play the Game Boy in anything other optimal lighting conditions.
Playing with the Big Boys
However, some companies took things way too far, doing their best to take away the portability aspect of the Gameboy with add-ons that doubled its weight and made it look outright ridiculous. One such device was the Handy Boy, produced by STD (not a joke), and it is a monstrosity.
The Handy Boy is sort of like when you beat one stage of a boss, and it suddenly transforms into an even more terrifying form. The chunky peripheral included a light, magnifier, stereo amplifier, and a small plate that slid over the regular Game Boy controllers, providing larger A and B buttons and a joystick.
Other companies included similar button add-ons and stereo enhancements and they were pretty much universally terrible, clunky, or unnecessary. Unlike the Game Boy’s screen, the controls really didn’t need any enhancements and putting extra buttons over them just cheapened the whole set-up. Joystick add-ons were just a farce, as they only served to press the D-Pad beneath it anyway. The stereo amplifiers, while usually functional, were not necessary -- internal Game Boy speakers are plenty loud enough generally not too far from your ears to begin with.
Though the Handy Boy was a gargantuan and unsightly accessory, as Qui-Gon Jinn would say, “There’s always a bigger fish.” In this case, this colossal fish is the Booster Boy.
You need some serious man hands for this boy.
Featuring everything awful that we’ve already discussed, the Booster Boy was the Game Boy equivalent of using your giant mecha suit to pilot an even bigger mecha suit. This frightful behemoth required four D batteries to work, but at least allowed the Game Boy to run off those batteries as well. It also included a compartment in the back that was supposed to hold four Game Boy games, but would only shut with two inside.
Finally, we have the Shock ‘n’ Rock for the Game Boy Color, released by Nyko. It featured a rechargeable battery, external speakers, and, most notably, a rumble pack. However, it was one of the few that didn’t include a screen light, so you still wouldn’t be able to see the damn thing.
Part 2: The (OG) Game Boy
Out of Nintendo’s consoles and handhelds, the original Game Boy, released in 1989, may have the only list of accessories bizarre enough to go up against the NES.
Many of these, such as the various lights and magnifiers, were cumbersome, transforming what was supposed to be a mobile gaming device into a clunky, weighty contraption. Another example was the handheld’s edition of Game Genie. Game Genie was a cheat cartridge that was essentially expected on any major console. The only issue was that it was huge and seriously cut down on the convenience of the Game Boy. We’ll see below that there were many other peripherals that had this issue as well.
Others accessories had virtually nothing to do with video games and were developed by third parties in order to capitalize on the Game Boy’s success. One of these was the GameTunes Stereo FM Tuner, by Beeshu. You know, just in case you want to listen to the radio through your Game Boy speakers.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some of the weirdest Game Boy accessories ever developed.
Game Boy Camera and Printer
The Game Boy Camera allowed you to take selfies back in 1998, four years before cell phones with built-in cameras would become commercially available. Granted, the picture quality was not great, especially on the aforementioned pea soup original Game Boy screen, but the novelty was what counted.
The camera slid into the Game Boy like an ordinary cartridge and came with simple games built-in and basic tools for drawing over pictures that you take. You could even use the associated Game Boy Printer to print photos you took. Rather than using ink, the printer used thermal paper to print the images.
The Game Boy Camera and Printer were developed by Game Freak, best known for developing Pokémon games, and this shows in the Pokémon-like menu. When you played around with this menu, there were some extremely creepy easter eggs you could run across.
I’m...not really sure what the intention of including these was, but they're scary AF.
The Game Boy Camera definitely had its fans. Musician Neil Young was apparently fond of the peripheral, as he used a picture taken by his daughter with the Game Boy Camera for his 2000 album Silver & Gold. Although terrible quality, this picture captured a unique aesthetic that would not have been possible with a “good” camera.
Game Boy Pocket Sonar
The Pocket Sonar was one of those strange accessories that actually worked, but doesn’t have a real reason for existing. Developed by Bandai, it was a functioning sonar device that could be used to locate fish in bodies of water up to 65 feet deep.
The device was released in 1998 in Japan but never released internationally.
Because fishing isn’t always the most fun, the Pocket Sonar even had a fishing minigame built-in so you could LARP as a fisherman when you got bored.
If you want an in-depth look at the Pocket Sonar and how it works, check out this very nice article.
Have you ever needed a word processor but there is no computer in sight? With the Work Boy, a tiny keyboard that plugged right into your Game Boy, this would never be an issue, as it could essentially transform your Game Boy into a PDA. Aside from the keyboard, the Work Boy also consisted of a stand that held the Game Boy upward like a monitor.
The Work Boy had a ton of features built in, including the ability to type small documents, a clock, a calculator, conversions for currency, temperature, and other measurements, and more. The infographic below covers more of the Work Boy’s many uses.
The peripheral was expected to be released in June of 1992 and retail for about $79. There were plans to create a PC link cable that would give you the ability to download Work Boy documents to your computer. However, the project was scrapped shortly before release for seemingly unknown reasons.
Advertisement for the Work Boy:
Apparently, the development team had plans to create a Work Boy 2 as well, which would be a more competent word processor. They also had ideas for text-based games that could make use of the Work Boy’s keyboard. Unfortunately, none of these plans ever came to fruition.
Gameboy Solar Charger
The Game Boy had a first party rechargeable battery pak (and I’m sure several third party ones as well), but more importantly, it also had a Solar Charger, developed by Innovation.
The solar charger took up to eight hours of lying in the sunlight to get a full charge, after which you could pop your Game Boy inside and play it until the charge ran down again. Though it might test your patience while it was charging, the Solar Charger worked pretty well, and a pretty nice happy sun logo as well.
Part 3: Game Boy Lineage
Compared to the original, the rest of the Game Boy family didn’t have anywhere near as many odd peripherals, though they did have some odd ones like the Mobile Phone Adapter. What was this used for? I don’t know or care, but it did exist.
What other wacky and (often) poorly thought out peripherals did the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance have?
Game Boy Color
The Game Boy Color had mostly reasonable accessories that you would expect it to have, and out of the strangest peripherals that were designed, some of them were never actually produced for mainstream sale.
That’s right, the Game Boy Color had a compatible sewing machine accessory--essentially just a normal sewing machine that could be plugged into the GBC with a link cable. It was the Jaguar Nu-Yell Sewing Machine, released in 2000.
The sewing machine came bundled with an instructional VHS and the operation software, which was stored on a Game Boy cartridge. This software was used to tell the machine what stitches or patterns to make. Unlike the Game Boy Camera or Pocket Sonar, it didn’t include any neat minigames.
The Sewing Machine came in two models. The first was the Jaguar JN-100, which was released in Japan. The second model, the Singer Izek Model 1500, was the exact same as Jaguar’s machine but licensed to Singer for US release.
Although it seems like this sewing machine has no good reason to exist, its origin actually makes some amount of sense. At the time, digital interfaces for sewing machines were still new and generally expensive. It was tough to make a computer small enough to fit on a sewing machine, and those that did exist were sold for thousands of dollars. By making an interface that took advantage of existing hardware (the Game Boy Color), this product could be sold for a comparatively reasonable $600.
Though the software that came with the machine was fairly basic, a new “game” called Mario Family was released in 2001 (exclusively in Japan) that was compatible with the Nu-Yell and allowed you to stitch designs of Mario characters.
Apparently, there was a Kirby Family title as well that is even more obscure, and seemingly for the Jaguar Nuotto, the company’s follow-up to the New-Yell. The peripheral did so well in Japan that they made a second one.
If you want to learn way more about the Game Boy’s sewing machine, this video has a ton of background and information that I did not include here.
Game Boy Platform Shoes
Though they were never intended for mainstream production, designer Helen Red Richards created several designs for platform shoes with working Game Boy Colors embedded into the soles. They were created for Nintendo’s 2001 style campaign. This page claims that they can be ordered through Nintendo, though I’m not sure if that is for purchase or for renting the prototypes for display.
These shoes were created in five different wonderful styles, such as pink shoes:
And don’t forget the special Pikachu yellow edition:
Although these were never intended to be sold, it is fun to imagine an alternate dystopian future where people traipse around with ridiculous Game Boy-themed footwear.
Game Boy PediSedate
Undoubtedly the creepiest item on the list, the PediSedate was essentially a pair of headphones that plugged into a Game Boy Color. Oh, and it also had a fucking thing that goes over your nose and pumps you full of Nitrous Oxide.
The idea was that kids who are having medical procedures done will feel more at ease playing a game and can be sedated without any issue. While this isn’t a terrible idea, the PediSedate still looks scary AF and the unfriendly name really doesn’t help at all. What about the Sedate Boy? That at least sounds kind of nice. You could probably just use a regular Game Boy and sedate the child normally.
Informational video about the PediSedate, by the developers:
The PediSedate was patented, developed, and went through clinical trials, but at some point was shut down and never released for use. It’s too bad because I know there are plenty of people out there that would like to be sedated with a Game Boy.
Game Boy Advance
Compared to the earlier Game Boy models, the GBA really didn’t have anything too outlandish.
One of the weirder ones was the Pelican TV Tuner, which turned the Game Boy Advance into a portable TV. Quite cute! Unfortunately, the device has an analog receiver and can no longer be used in the US.
The Game Boy Advance also had the Play-Yan multimedia device which can be plugged into the cartridge slot and can play music and video clips off of SD cards.
The Wireless Adapter meanwhile, provided an alternative to the tried-and-true Game Boy link cable that had existed for every generation of the system but wasn’t widely supported by games.
Lastly, there was the Nintendo e-Reader, which once again plugged into the cartridge slot and contained an LED scanner that could read special e-Reader cards and unlock bonus content, such as items, levels, or minigames. These e-Reader cards were kind of like precursors to DLC, except the content wasn’t what mattered--the novelty did.
The thing that all these GBA peripherals had in common was that while they seemed to work okay, there was really no point to them. The Wireless Adapter and e-Reader also suffered from a lack of support so even if you had the device you probably wouldn’t get that much use out of it.
Farewell, My Boy
Although strange peripherals are a mainstay for Nintendo’s consoles, the Game Boy family had more than their fair share. The original Game Boy in particular probably had the most far-out accessories of any Nintendo console, save perhaps the NES.
Although the Game Boy family has been discontinued (RIP) and replaced with the DS family (which is now being discontinued in favor of the Switch, Press F), it’s consoles, games, and peripherals will stay with us, no matter how bad or dumb they may be.
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