In this new renaissance of Game Boy developers and gamers, there are now more options than ever to choose how you want to play your games. From the scarce Analogue Pocket to the newest products from FunnyPlaying, I’ll discuss what kind of gaming experience you can expect and which options stand out from the crowd.

Before choosing your hardware, you have to answer the question of what medium of games you are looking to play. Do you prefer the ease of access and the ability to carry hundreds of games in your pocket with emulation and ROMs? Or do you want as authentic an experience as you can get while using physical cartridges? The answer to this question will help you begin to narrow down the options.

While I know this is a great topic for debate within the community and has been since the introduction of widespread emulation, how you play is entirely up to you and should be focused solely on what will make your own experience the most enjoyable. I already know I have my own bias for the physical aspect of the medium, but that doesn’t mean it lacks issues or that one way to play is right or wrong.

Another option to consider is if you own or are interested in owning a flash cart. These let you load up ROMs all on a single cartridge, giving you the physical experience of original hardware while being able to carry all your games with you on the go. A few options are the EverDrive and the EZ-Flash.

Now that you’ve thought about these initial decisions let’s discuss some of the options to play physical cartridges and then talk more about software emulation.

Original Hardware

The tried and true method of playing your physical games! Whether you want to experience an old classic along the lines of a mainline Zelda or Pok√©mon, or if you are looking for the newest experiences, you can’t go wrong here. If you don’t already have an old handheld kicking around, you can generally find original hardware in good condition for a reasonable price (At the time of writing, between $60 and $80). While the experience may be authentic, your choice of platform between the original Game Boy, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance will matter. An original Game Boy or Game Boy Color will lack a lit screen, so you may have to play under a bright light or get yourself the classic worm light!

If you opt for the Game Boy Advance platform, you’ll unlock a new generation of games to play but may still have screen light issues if you don’t opt for a more expensive SP variant with a front light or backlight, depending on the model.

Of course, there are less widely known parts of the platform, such as the Game Boy Light, but it offers a lesser experience for a higher cost.

Widely available and cost-effective, if you’re looking for an authentic experience as you can get, an original piece of Game Boy hardware is an easy choice.

Modified Hardware

Looking to stay with the original hardware but want something better than a worm light? There are a plethora of options to explore when it comes to modified original hardware. From backlight mods to USB-C charging and rechargeable batteries, you can make your favorite variant of the Game Boy family into a modern handheld!

Sellers like Retro Modding and Hand Held Legends offer a great variety of products along with the ability to customize your console’s shell, buttons, and even add LED lights! This option does require some technical ability, as usually the parts are sold separately and often need to be soldered in place. However, the good news is that some screen mods do not require this, and if you’re looking for something more complex, these sellers offer pre-built modified handhelds at a premium. You may be able to go to smaller modders who create customized handhelds, usually through social media, if you’re looking for a more cost-effective method.

Eventually, you’ll have obtained something that gives you a very authentic experience with a lot of modern amenities that enhance the overall experience, but at a greater cost than simply using the original hardware.

FunnyPlaying FPGBC

If you’re unfamiliar, FunnyPlaying is a designer and supplier of retro video game console parts for the modding community. They now also offer their FPBGC Kit, which simulates a real Game Boy Color utilizing FPGA, Field Programmable Gate Arrays. All you need to know about this technology is that it allows hardware developers to recreate the exact processes that make other types of hardware work. In this case, it allows FunnyPlaying to recreate how the Game Boy Color works down to the processor’s instruction set. It essentially allows for an authentic experience as possible by functioning exactly like the original thing.

At $70 for the kit plus additional costs to get a case, buttons, and membranes, this is a strong contender if you’re fine with some assembly that doesn’t require technical knowledge.

With this option, you are stuck without playing GBA games, but at a price comparable to the original hardware, it offers more features including a backlit screen, USB-C charging, and a rechargeable battery.

You can learn more about this option here.

Analogue Pocket

Widely popular and already with a lot of praise, the Analogue Pocket offers an exceptional experience but at an exceptional cost of $220. And that’s if you can find a way to purchase one. They are often sold out at Analogue’s official store, so those looking to obtain one through other means find themselves on 3rd party sites and paying exorbitant prices beyond the manufacturer’s price.

What you get in the end is another system designed around FPGA but this time compatible with all generations of Game Boy with potentially the best screen on the retro handheld market. It’s a perfect 10x scale of the original Game Boy resolution!

Not only can the Analogue Pocket play your cartridges, but you can also load ROMs onto it utilizing the SD card slot. This means you don’t need a 3rd party flash cartridge, but you can also play games outside the scope of the Game Boy line, as the Pocket allows you to download emulation cores for other systems.

While many people’s vote would go to the Analogue Pocket, it is a luxury item. You can get the same gameplay experience for less money in some of the other options if you are focusing on cartridges or if your preference lies in software emulation.

The Device You’re Reading On

Retro gaming is more accessible than ever with the ability to emulate your games on almost any of the devices you already have. Not only are emulators widely available for your PC, but they are also available on Android and recently iOS devices. ROMs for newly released games are often the default way to play as physical releases are less common, meaning you could head over to mGBA, SameBoy, or your phone’s app store to grab your emulator and then find a list of free and paid games on Itch! If you’re looking to play some classics, you can also grab a ROM dumper from BennVenn or Inside Gadgets to bring cartridges you already own to your device.

Software emulation on devices you already own has the lowest barrier to entry and lowest cost. You may not get a perfectly authentic experience, but those who aren’t looking for that will find they have everything they need.

Relatively new to the market are devices created specifically for emulation. Instead of playing on your PC or phone, these are 3rd-party devices that have similar control schemes to the original hardware while running a software emulator. They don’t play cartridges but instead allow you to add ROMs to an SD card or internal storage. Some of these devices will already come with a host of ROMs if you aren’t looking to find your own.

This category of devices has many options with new devices coming out almost every month and all of them offering different features and emulation. Most of the devices don’t just emulate the Game Boy family and can get up to Playstation 2 games depending on the hardware.

As far as recommendations go, there is a whole category of YouTube videos trying to figure out the best value, performance, and feature sets while comparing products. The Miyoo Mini is a popular option with a great Game Boy aesthetic. You can pick it up on Amazon for $80. I would recommend checking out the brands Anbernic and Retroid for other devices in various price ranges before deciding on a particular product.

Time To Play

The best way to play is what’s most fun for you. If you have a bunch of physical cartridges already, you could find yourself with one of the hardware options, but then again picking up a cart dumper and being able to carry all your games on your phone sounds like a great option too.

If you have a preferred way to play, even if it’s not on this list, let us know down in the comments! We’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you in the next post.

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