The Game Boy Advance Turns 20

Happy 20th anniversary to the Game Boy Advance! Nintendo officially made the ordinary Game Boy obsolete on March 21, 2001 with a new gadget that played all the old games, plus a slew of fancy new ones. – Retronauts via Twitter, March 21, 2021

Thanks to a thread of tweets from John Ricciardi and the celebratory tweet above from Retronauts, it has come to my attention that today is the 20th anniversary of the Game Boy Advance in Japan!

The GBA came out in the prime time of my youth. I was 7-years-old when it hit the US. I vividly remember going to Best Buy and covetously looking at the console on the shelf and my parents surprising me with one. Later, I’d save up and get a GBA SP in red when that iteration launched. I poured hundreds of hours into the GBA line. It was the perfect companion in the car, at home, at restaurants, and the list just goes on.

There were accessories out the wazoo, but my favorite was using the GameCube cable to use a GBA as a Tingle Tuner in The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. Part me still wants to get four GBAs and cables together to play Four Swords Adventures together. The GBA was more than just a portable console.

I remember that I got the Game Boy Player for GameCube for my 10th birthday because both my parents were out of the country when I hit double digits. I got exactly what I wanted that year and still use it to this day. It fused my favorite home console with my favorite handheld, putting some of my favorite games on the big screen. When I reviewed the GCHD-MKII for DualShockers, I took that opportunity to finally set-up homebrew on my GameCube to upgrade from the official Nintendo Game Boy Player software to the far superior Game Boy Interface (GBI). The results were like putting on glasses for the first time; the games were sharper and more in-focus than I had ever seen them before.

Now the Analogue Pocket is on the horizon, launching in just 1-2 months. I was fortunate enough to snag a pre-order and have been eagerly awaiting its arrival to play my small Game Boy collection in high quality, both on-the-go and on my television. And even though I just assembled a MiSTer this weekend (more on that in the future), which is giving me crispy 1080p60 GBA games and simultaneous YPbPr component output on my CRT, I am even more excited to have this capability in my hands with the real cartridges. All I am really missing is a GBA Consolizer from Woozle to give me real hardware in 720p.

There is a certain magic in the tangibility of the Game Boy Advance line. From the numerous form factors to the perfectly sized cartridges, it always delights me to think of the games, stories, worlds, and adventures the library has taken me on over these past 20 years. The GBA has been a constant for most of my life. For years,  I even carried my Game Boy Micro with one or two games in my backpack every day. With the right hardware, the GBA is essentially a Nintendo Switch with its cartridges and numerous ways to play them on televisions. It’s was, has been, and will continue to be a top tier platform with some of the finest games made.