The Game Boy line of handheld gaming consoles by Nintendo is iconic and beloved by many gamers. Since its debut in 1989, there have been several different Game Boy models released over the years, each with their own enhancements and capabilities. One of the most desired features for Game Boy fans is a backlit screen, which allows you to play games even in low light conditions.
A Brief History of the Game Boy
The original Game Boy was released in 1989 and featured a non-backlit monochrome LCD screen and 8-bit processor. It was an instant hit and dominated the handheld gaming market, selling over 118 million units in its lifetime. In 1996, Nintendo released the Game Boy Pocket, which was smaller and lighter but still had no backlight. The Game Boy Color arrived in 1998 and brought color graphics to the Game Boy for the first time, but maintained the non-backlit screen. In 2001, Nintendo dropped the Game Boy name and released the Game Boy Advance, which featured a 32-bit processor and larger screen but no backlight.
Later Game Boy Models With Backlit Screens
It wasn’t until 2003 that a Game Boy system with a built-in backlit screen was released. This first backlit Game Boy was the Game Boy Advance SP (Special Edition). It featured a revolutionary clamshell design, rechargeable battery, and frontlit and backlit screen options. The frontlit model provided some extra screen illumination, while the backlit version fully illuminated the screen evenly. This made the Game Boy Advance SP very popular and the preferred Game Boy system for playing in low light. The backlit Game Boy Advance SP is still highly sought after by collectors and gaming enthusiasts today.
After the Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo’s next major Game Boy release was the Game Boy Micro in 2005. The Game Boy Micro had a backlit screen measuring just 2-inches but featured a high pixel density for crisp graphics. Being so compact, the Game Boy Micro is the smallest Game Boy ever released. The Game Boy Micro only played Game Boy Advance games and was not compatible with the original Game Boy games.
In 2006, Nintendo released the Game Boy Advance SP Mark II, which featured a few updates over the original GBA SP, most notably an improved backlit screen. This updated backlit LCD provided even lighting with adjusted brightness levels. The Mark II continued production until 2008 and was the final Game Boy system to include a backlit screen.
Game Boy Models Without a Backlit Screen
Now let’s look at the Game Boy models that did not come with an integrated backlit screen:
- Original Game Boy (1989)
- Game Boy Pocket (1996)
- Game Boy Color (1998)
- Game Boy Advance (2001)
- Game Boy Player (2003)
- Game Boy Advance SP Frontlit edition (2003)
As we can see, most of the original Game Boy models featured the classic non-backlit LCD screen. This included the first Game Boy Advance in 2001. Backlit screens didn’t become standard for Game Boys until the release of the Advance SP in 2003.
Using a Light or Backlight Mod
While the original Game Boy models did not come with a built-in backlight, there are some ways to modify them to add a backlight:
- Worm light – These LED light attachments plug into the Game Boy’s link port to cast light over the screen. Popular options are from Pelican Accessories and Nyko.
- ProSound mod – The ProSound backlight mod involves installing a small LED board into the Game Boy’s case that lights up the screen. Soldering is required.
- Backlight DIY kits – Companies like Hand Held Legend sell backlight DIY kits with all parts needed to add a backlight to a Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Color, or Game Boy Advance.
While not as seamless as a built-in backlit display, these mods can greatly enhance playability for original Game Boys when lighting isn’t ideal. Just be prepared for some disassembly and soldering!
Game Boy Models Comparison Table
Here is a helpful comparison table summarizing the key specs and features of each Game Boy model, including whether or not a backlit screen was included:
|Game Boy Model
|Original Game Boy
|Game Boy Pocket
|Game Boy Color
|Game Boy Advance
|Game Boy Advance SP (Frontlit)
|Game Boy Advance SP (Backlit)
|Game Boy Micro
|Game Boy Advance SP Mark II
In summary, the Game Boy Advance SP released in 2003 was the first Game Boy to feature a built-in backlit screen, followed by the Game Boy Micro and Game Boy Advance SP Mark II models. All original Game Boys through the Game Boy Advance had non-backlit screens, requiring add-on lights or backlight mods for illumination. When choosing a Game Boy system, the backlit GBA SP, Micro, and SP Mark II models are great choices if lighting flexibility is important to you. Otherwise, the earlier models can provide that classic Game Boy experience, albeit with some limitations in low light.