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Home / Features / Playing my Game Boy Micro again was a reality check about old games consoles – and getting older myself

Playing my Game Boy Micro again was a reality check about old games consoles – and getting older myself

Fed up with mobile hardware getting bigger? You might think otherwise on revisiting the Game Boy Micro

Game Boy Micro and ruler
Game Boy Micro image: Evan-Amos

I recently thought it would be a wheeze to transform a 12.9in iPad Pro into a monstrous handheld games console. With the help of a GameSir X2s, I concocted an impressively unwieldy set-up that made even a Steam Deck look svelte by comparison. For added ‘little and large’ larks, I snapped a photo of it next to my Game Boy Micro. Less sensibly, I then decided to play something on the Micro. And, boy, was that a reality check about old handhelds – and getting old myself.

This experience was a rarity for me. (As in, the playing original hardware thing. Not the regular reminder I’m getting older thing.) I adore old games. I wouldn’t argue gaming was better back then – and I actively explore the latest titles on console and mobile. But it’s a joy to revisit gaming’s formative years. Not least since I lived through most of them myself. 

However, I rarely use original hardware when I need a blast of nostalgia. Years ago, I sold or gave away most of what I owned. While I sometimes regret that, I then remember I wouldn’t use it much. Time is always a factor, and emulation is amazingly convenient.

Plug and pray

A ZX Spectrum on the wall
Honestly, the best place for Horace Goes Skiing.

Why would I spend ages hooking up a C64 to a TV, battling with a tape deck to load a game over the course of ten minutes, when I can revisit any title instantly on a TV box or handheld emulation system? I had enough of Martin Galway’s loading music back in the 1980s, thanks. And, sure, there are SD card reader mods for retro systems, but they add another layer of complexity and are just more things to go wrong. Besides, if you’re already deviating from full authenticity, why not go the whole hog? Hence: a paucity of original hardware. And, ironically, boxes full of games with nothing to play them on.

There are systems I can’t bring myself to part with, though. There’s a ZX Spectrum on my office wall. (For now. I’ve had a couple of ‘incidents’ with 3M velcro that raise questions about its long-term residency.) I also have two Dreamcasts and an original Xbox in the loft. My handhelds, like the Game Boy Micro, are the exception, due to that convenience factor. In other words, they fit in a drawer and are pick-up-and-play, with no dependencies. Well, assuming you haven’t lost the charger.

Just Nintendon’t

A Game Boy Micro on top of an iPhone
And this isn’t even one of the big iPhones.

The Game Boy Micro was always an oddball among them, though. It’s as if Nintendo misunderstood which pocket people meant when someone suggested making a Game Boy more ‘pocketable’. It fits into a coin pocket. The thing weighs a ridiculously tiny 80g. It’s the antithesis of modern mobile hardware trends, which favour surfboard-sized phones and shoehorning entire PCs into a case that’s at best luggable – and then claiming that’s a handheld. (Which, of course, is what I was mocking with the whole iPad thing.)

Think I’m exaggerating? The Steam Deck is bigger and weighs more than the ZX Spectrum, let alone the Game Boy Micro – although it does at least have a lovely 7in display. The Game Boy Micro, by contrast, has a miserly 2in. 240x160px! And as I settled down to a bout of WarioWare, my ageing eyes and hands quickly protested. They were begging me for something bigger and more comfortable.

Perhaps modern hardware has it right after all. One thing’s for sure: if the rumoured Xbox handheld arrives, a giant-sized creation dwarfing even the Steam Deck and equipped with fans strong enough to launch you into orbit, I’ll only have one thought: at least I’ll be able to see what’s happening on the screen.

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.