This section is intended for those very new to the hobby and are just looking to get started without being overwhelmed by the rest of the information contained in this wiki. Maybe you're looking to get started for yourself or maybe you're just looking for a gift idea. Sometimes you just want to dive in and figure out for yourself what you like and dislike without having to spend days or weeks researching. Either way, I hope this page is helpful.
TL;DR, track down a Game Boy Advance SP (AGS-001) and a few games of your choosing and decide from there if you want to fall deeper into the rabbit hole. More info (but hopefully not too much) below.
Let's get started with some basics, Game Boy consoles. There are three generations of Game Boy (some would argue two but for the purposes of this article, three is fine) and there are some big differences between each of these generations.
The reason for mentioning generations is that each new generation introduced new, more complex games and each generation is fully backwards compatible. For example, a Game Boy Advance can play Game Boy Advance games as well as Game Boy Color games and original Game Boy Games. A Game Boy Color may play Game Boy Color games and original Game Boy games. A Game Boy Pocket may only play original Game Boy games.
One significant exception to this rule is the Game Boy Micro, which will only run Game Boy Advance games. There are also handful of per-game exceptions which will be addressed further down.
|Game Boy Games||Game Boy Color Games||Game Boy Advance Games|
|Super Game Boy||x|
|Game Boy Pocket||x|
|Game Boy Light||x|
|Game Boy Color||x||x|
|Game Boy Advance||x||x||x|
|Game Boy Player||x||x||x|
|Game Boy Advance SP (AGS-001)||x||x||x|
|Game Boy Advance SP (AGS-101)||x||x||x|
|Game Boy Micro||x|
x = game plays on console
The consoles are pretty unique as far as identification goes but the games are pretty easy too as long as you know what to look for.
Game Boy consoles are completely region free. You can play any Game Boy game from any region on any console from any other region. Cross region multiplayer generally does not work though. The region for the Game Boy does not matter at all but, for example, Pokemon Red may only link with other Pokemon games from the same region. The language for the game is built into the game itself and not the Game Boy.
So hopefully that narrows down what you might be interested in. If not, lets cover a few more topics, starting with price.
First, there are several models that are basically collectors pieces at this point due to limited avaialability or poor timing during their release. The Game Boy Light, Game Boy Advance SP (AGS-101), and Game Boy Micro all sold very poorly compared to the rest of the models here. For example, the Game Boy Light came out less than a year before the Game Boy Color and was ONLY available in Japan. The Game Boy Micro came out AFTER the Nintendo DS and for largely the same price. Unless you're looking to start a collection, don't bother trying to find one of these for a good price.
What should you look for? Well, that would be a Game Boy Advance SP (AGS-001). There are a lot of reasons that I will get into in just a moment but right now lets just say it's because it is the absolutely best price/performance model available right now. The AGS-001 is one of the cheaper models available right now, has the best game compatibility (works with all generations), and has the best aftermarket.
Ok, what else is there? Let's discuss the screens used in these consoles. LCD technology has come a long way in the past 30 years (the past 10 especially so thanks to smartphones). Aside from the Game Boy Light, the Game Boy Advance SP (AGS-001) was the first Game Boy made with a light inside the screen itself. Previous models required that you angle the screen to reflect passive light or use a bulky and inconvenient light addon if there was not enough natural light available. Regardless of what you think of frontlights, this was revolutionary at the time. Gone were the days of having to hold your console at a really uncomfortable angle just to play while sitting on the couch. Gone were the days of only being able to play for the brief second while the car passed under a street lamp. Any other console is going to be difficult to use due to this unless you also purchase a mod kit for that console. This is much more expensive than just getting an AGS-001 console to begin with.
Now, I'm not saying the AGS-001 has a good screen in it. It's definitely not going to blow your mind. Smartphones these days spoil us. I'm just saying the console has a way better screen than every model before it. Besides, even if you end up hating the front lit screen in the AGS-001, there are mod kits available for that too and you didn't have to spend that money up front just to try it out.
Due to the relatively low complexity of Game Boy hardware, usually there are very few issues. There are some common problems with all models and unfortunately, the AGS-001 is no exception. The biggest issue these days is the console's rechargeable battery. The OEM cell in the console is going to be nearing two decades old and likely only holds a fraction of its total charge, if at all. You can skim the common issues page for some more info and some ideas on what issues these consoles have. It's up to you if you want to spend less now and buy a fixer upper or spend more and get a better condition or previously repaired console. Most of the vendors linked in the main wiki page will carry SP batteries though not all batteries are created equal.
You may want to download save files from the Internet to unlock things like characters or levels, or you may want to transfer save files to or from other devices like the MiSTer, flash carts, emulators, or the Retron 5.
You'll also want some games to go along with it. There are thousands out there so there is very likely something for you. If you have no idea what to look for, there are plenty of guides out there or you can even visit some illicit software sites and sort by most downloaded to see what other people are currently checking out. For getting started, it's best to just pick up a few games to play rather than getting a flash cart. If you think you'd like to play more, then you can look into getting a flash cart.
There are plenty of rare or desirable games out there that make a good argument for flash carts. If those games are what you're interested in for playing, then a flash cart is your best option.
So if you're just getting started, it's probably worth starting there. Time to play your new console. If you hate the console, you can sell it for another model (or just to get out of the hobby completely) or try your hand at modding it to make it better. Or you can start with another console entirely. If you hate the games, well, get more or start looking at a flash cart. If you're a tinkerer or the DIY type, maybe start looking into making your own games or mods.
But whatever you do HAVE FUN!