Anniversary: The Game Boy Is 35 Years Old Today 1
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

The Nintendo Game Boy turns 35 today.

Released in Japan on April 21st, 1989, this monochrome handheld would quickly become one of the hottest consumer products of the early '90s; a famous anecdote claims that a Sony executive was furious with his designers and stated that the Game Boy should have been a Sony product, given the company's dominance of the portable music industry with its Walkman range.

Designed by Nintendo's chief engineer Gunpei Yokoi and its R&D1 team, the Game Boy famously shunned cutting-edge colour display technology in favour of a monochrome screen that was less demanding in terms of power.

Yokoi's philosophy of "lateral thinking of withered technology" – which he had honed with the Game & Watch range – was once again in evidence here; while its rivals, the Atari Lynx and Sega Game Gear, were more powerful, they drained batteries far too quickly.

The Game Boy had a surprisingly long lifespan, thanks in no small part to the arrival of Pokémon in 1996, a franchise which revived interest in the handheld and encouraged Nintendo to release the Game Boy Pocket hardware refresh.

Anniversary: The Game Boy Is 35 Years Old Today 2
Image: Damien McFerran / Time Extension

Even when Nintendo released its successor, the Game Boy Color, it was seen by many as an iteration rather than a totally new system; backwards compatibility with existing monochrome software was built-in, and a handful of existing Game Boy games were given colourised 'DX' makeovers.

While Nintendo hasn't released individual sales figures for the monochrome Game Boy line, it has previously revealed that combined sales of the original model, Game Boy Pocket, Game Boy Light and Game Boy Color total 118.69 million units – a staggering amount when you consider that consoles like the NES (61.91 million) and SNES (49.10 million) didn't shift that kind of number.

The Game Boy line would be extended with the GBA in 2001 before Nintendo finally retired it following the launch of the commercially disappointing Game Boy Micro. Since then, the brand has been retired, but we're hopeful that Nintendo will one day revive it; after all, it's one of the most famous product names in the history of consumer electronics.

Let us know your memories of the Game Boy by posting a comment below.