Game Boy Color

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Game Boy Color
Game Boy Color logo.svg
The Atomic Purple version of the Game Boy Color
Also known asGBC / CGB-001
Developer Nintendo Research & Engineering
Manufacturer Nintendo
Product family Game Boy family
Type Handheld game console
Generation Fifth generation
Release date
  • JP: October 21, 1998
  • NA: November 18, 1998
  • EU: November 23, 1998
  • AU: November 27, 1998
Introductory price US$69.99 [1]
DiscontinuedMarch 23, 2003;18 years ago (2003-03-23)
Units shipped118.69 million (including the Game Boy)
Media Game Boy Color Game Pak
CPU Sharp LR35902 core @ 4.19/8.38 MHz
Display TFT LCD 160 (w) x 144 (h) pixels, 44x40 mm [2]
Online servicesMobile System GB [3]
Best-selling game Pokémon Gold and Silver, approximately 23 million units
Game Boy
PredecessorGame Boy
Successor Game Boy Advance [4]

The Game Boy Color [lower-alpha 1] (commonly abbreviated as GBC) is a handheld game console, manufactured by Nintendo, which was released in Japan on October 21, 1998 [5] and to international markets that November. It is the successor to the Game Boy and is part of the Game Boy family. [4]


The GBC features a color screen rather than monochrome, but it is not backlit. It is slightly thicker and taller and features a slightly smaller screen than the Game Boy Pocket, its immediate predecessor in the Game Boy line. As with the original Game Boy, it has a custom 8-bit processor made by Sharp that is considered a hybrid between the Intel 8080 and the Zilog Z80. [6] The American English spelling of the system's name, Game Boy Color, remains consistent throughout the world.

The Game Boy Color is part of the fifth generation of video game consoles. The GBC's primary competitors in Japan were the grayscale 16-bit handhelds, SNK's Neo Geo Pocket and Bandai's WonderSwan, though the Game Boy Color outsold them by a wide margin. SNK and Bandai countered with the Neo Geo Pocket Color and the WonderSwan Color, respectively, but this did little to change Nintendo's sales dominance. With Sega discontinuing the Game Gear in 1997, the Game Boy Color's only competitor in the United States was its predecessor, the Game Boy, until the short-lived Neo Geo Pocket Color was released in North America in August 1999. The Game Boy and the Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide making them the third-best-selling system of all time. [7] [8]

On March 23, 2003, the Game Boy Color was discontinued, shortly after the release of the Game Boy Advance SP. Its best-selling game is Pokémon Gold and Silver, which shipped 23 million units worldwide. [9] [10]


Development for the Game Boy Color began in 1996, when Nintendo received requests from game developers for a more sophisticated handheld platform, who said that even the latest iteration of the original system, the Game Boy Pocket, had insufficient hardware.[ citation needed ] [11] Nintendo developed the console concurrently with its successor, the Game Boy Advance (which was codenamed “Atlantis” at the time). The resultant product was backward compatible with all existing Game Boy software, a first for a handheld system, allowing each new Game Boy family launch to begin with a significantly larger game library than any of its competitors.

On March 23, 2003, the Game Boy Color was discontinued. [7]


Technical specifications

The technical specifications for the console are as follows: [12]

Sizeapproximately 78 mm (3.1 in) x 133.5 mm (5.26 in) x 27.4 mm (1.08 in) (WxHxD)
Weightapproximately 138 g (4.9 oz) [13]
Screen2.3 inch reflective thin-film transistor (TFT) color liquid-crystal display (LCD)
  • Maximum sprites: 40 total, 10 per line, 4 colors per sprite (one of which being transparent)
  • Sprite size: 8×8 or 8×16
  • Tiles on screen: 512 (360~399 visible, the rest are drawn off screen as a scrolling buffer)
Display size 43 mm (1.7 in) by 41 mm (1.6 in) [13]
Framerate 59.727500569606 Hz [14]
Powerinternal: 2× AA batteries
external: 3V DC 0.6W (2.35mm × 0.75mm)
red LED indicator
Battery lifeup to 10 hours of gameplay
CPU4.194304/8.388608 MHz (effective speed 1.0485 (speed of original Game Boy) or 2.097 MHz) Sharp Corporation LR35902 (based on the 8-bit Zilog Z80)
Memory32 KB RAM; 16 KBVRAM
Resolution 160 (w) × 144 (h) pixels (10:9 aspect ratio; same aspect ratio and resolution as the original Game Boy)
Color supportPalette colors available: 32,768 (15-bit)
Colors on screen: Supports 10, 32 or 56
Sound2 square wave channels, 1 wave channel, 1 noise channel, mono speaker, stereo headphone jack
  • Eight-way control pad
  • Four action buttons (A, B, Start, Select)
  • Volume potentiometer
  • Power switch
  • Serial I/O ("Link cable"): 512 kbit/s with up to 4 connections in serial
  • Infra-red I/O: less than 2 m distance at 45°
  • Cartridge I/O

Game Paks manufactured by Nintendo have the following specifications:

Without additional mapper hardware, the maximum ROM size is 32kiB/256kib.

The Game Boy Color motherboard Nintendo-Game-Boy-Color-Motherboard-Bottom.jpg
The Game Boy Color motherboard

The processor, which is a Zilog Z80 workalike made by Sharp with a few extra (bit manipulation) instructions, has a clock speed of approximately 8 MHz, twice as fast as that of the original Game Boy. The Game Boy Color has three times as much memory as the original (32 kilobytes system RAM, 16 kilobytes video RAM). The screen resolution is the same as the original Game Boy at 160×144 pixels.

The Game Boy Color features an infrared communications port for wireless linking. The feature is only supported in a small number of games, so the infrared port was dropped from the Game Boy Advance line, to be later reintroduced with the Nintendo 3DS, though wireless linking would return in the Nintendo DS line using Wi-Fi. The console is capable of displaying up to 56 different colors simultaneously on screen from its palette of 32,768 (8×4 color background palettes, 8x3+transparent sprite palettes), and can add basic four-, seven- or ten-color shading to games that had been developed for the original 4-shades-of-grey Game Boy. In the 7-color modes, the sprites and backgrounds are given separate color schemes, and in the 10-color modes the sprites are further split into two differently-colored groups; however, as flat black (or white) was a shared fourth color in all but one (7-color) palette, the overall effect is that of 4, 6, or 8 colors. This method of upgrading the color count results in graphic artifacts in certain games; for example, a sprite that is supposed to meld into the background is sometimes colored separately, making it easily noticeable. Manipulation of palette registers during display allows for a rarely used high color mode, capable of displaying more than 2,000 colors on the screen simultaneously. [15]

Color palettes

Color palettes used for Game Boy games

Alternate color palettes
Directional padAction button
None (default)AB
UpBrownRedDark brown
DownPastel mixOrangeYellow
LeftBlueDark blueGrayscale
RightGreenDark greenInverted

For dozens of select Game Boy games, the Game Boy Color has an enhanced palette built-in featuring up to 16 colors—four colors for each of the Game Boy's four layers. [16] If the system does not have a palette stored for a game, it defaults to a palette of green, blue, salmon, black, and white. However, at power-up, one of 12 built-in color palettes is selectable by pressing a directional button and optionally A or B while the Game Boy logo is present on the screen.

These palettes each contain up to ten colors. [17] In most games, the four shades displayed on the original Game Boy translate to different subsets of this 10-color palette, such as by displaying movable sprites in one subset and backgrounds in another. The grayscale (Left + B) palette produces an appearance similar to that experienced on the original Game Boy, Game Boy Pocket, or Game Boy Light.

Illustrated color-samples of the palettes for the different key combinations. Any color crossed out will be present in palette RAM, but rendered as transparent. GBC keypad palettes.png
Illustrated color-samples of the palettes for the different key combinations. Any color crossed out will be present in palette RAM, but rendered as transparent.

Partial list of games with special palettes

Game Boy Color color palette reference

Hi-Color Mode

A few games used a scan-line color switch technique to increase the number of colors available on-screen to more than 2,000. This "Hi-Color mode" was used by licensed developers including 7th Sense. Some examples of games using this technique are The Fish Files, The New Addams Family Series, and Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare. [15] Cannon Fodder uses this technique to render full motion video segments in the introduction sequence, ending, and main menu screen. [18]


The clear cartridge for exclusive Game Boy Color games. Nintendo-Game-Boy-Color-Cartridge.jpg
The clear cartridge for exclusive Game Boy Color games.
The black cartridge is for Game Boy games that takes advantage of the Game Boy Color's increased palette, but not the increased memory or processor speed. These games can be played on the original Game Boy in grayscale. Nintendo-Game-Boy-Cartridge-Black.jpg
The black cartridge is for Game Boy games that takes advantage of the Game Boy Color's increased palette, but not the increased memory or processor speed. These games can be played on the original Game Boy in grayscale.

Game Boy Color exclusive games are housed in clear-colored Game Pak cartridges. [19] They are shaped differently than original Game Boy Game Paks. Notably, these cartridges lack a notch that prevented the original Game Paks from being removed while the original Game Boy was powered on due to a plastic piece attached to the power switch, which would slide over the notch, locking a cartridge inside the system during gameplay (although some special cartridges like Kirby Tilt 'n' Tumble [20] do include this notch). The lack of this notch keeps original Game Boy systems loaded with Game Boy Color cartridges from powering on. Similarly, Game Boy Pocket, Super Game Boy, Super Game Boy 2, and Game Boy Light will power on when loaded with a Game Boy Color cartridge but will refuse to load the game and will display a warning message stating that a Game Boy Color system is required. This same warning message can be viewed on an original Game Boy as well if the piece that slides into the notch is cut out of the Game Boy. Some Game Boy cartridges such as Chee-Chai Alien [21] [22] and Pocket Music [23] cannot be played on Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP systems. When inserted and powered on, these systems will exhibit a similar error message and will not load the game.

Model colors

The logo for Game Boy Color spells out the word "COLOR" in the five original colors in which the unit was manufactured: Berry (C), Grape (O), Kiwi (L), Dandelion (O), and Teal (R).

Another color released at the same time was "Atomic Purple", made of a translucent purple plastic similar to the color available for the Nintendo 64 controller. Other colors were sold as limited editions or in specific countries.


Due to its backward compatibility with Game Boy games, the Game Boy Color's launch period had a large playable library. The system amassed a library of 576 Game Boy Color games over a four-year period. While the majority of the games are Game Boy Color exclusive, approximately 30% of the games released are compatible with the original Game Boy.

Tetris for the original Game Boy is the best-selling game compatible with Game Boy Color, and Pokémon Gold and Silver are the best-selling games developed primarily for it. The best-selling Game Boy Color exclusive game is Pokémon Crystal .

The last Game Boy Color game ever released is the Japanese exclusive Doraemon no Study Boy: Kanji Yomikaki Master, on July 18, 2003. The last game released in North America is Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets , released on November 15, 2002. In Europe the last game released for the system is Hamtaro: Ham-Hams Unite! , on January 10, 2003.

Launch games

Title JP NA EU Notes
Centipede Dark Red x.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgMonochrome game made by Accolade
Dragon Warrior Monsters Green check.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgPortable role-playing game in the Dragon Quest series
Game & Watch Gallery 2 Dark Red x.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgSequel to the 1997 game, Game & Watch Gallery for the original Game Boy
HexciteGreen check.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svg Puzzle game
Pocket Bomberman Dark Red x.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svg Platform game in the Bomberman series
Pocket BowlingGreen check.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svg Sports game
Tetris DX Green check.svgGreen check.svgGreen check.svgColor remake of the 1989 Game Boy puzzle game, Tetris
Wario Land II Green check.svgDark Red x.svgDark Red x.svgSequel to the 1994 platform game, Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3


The Game Boy and Game Boy Color were both commercially successful, selling a combined 32.47 million units in Japan, 44.06 million in the Americas, and 42.16 million in other regions. [7] [8]

In 2003, when the Game Boy Color was discontinued, the pair was the best-selling game console of all time. Both the Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2 have since outsold the Game Boy and Game Boy Color, and thus the pair are now the third-best-selling console and the second-best-selling handheld of all time.

See also


  1. Japanese: ゲームボーイカラー

Related Research Articles

The Game Boy family is a line of cartridge-based handheld video game consoles developed, manufactured, released and marketed by Nintendo. It comprises three sub families: Classic Game Boy, Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance.

Game Boy Advance Handheld game console by Nintendo

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Handheld game console Small, portable video game console

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Neo Geo Pocket Handheld game console

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Game Gear Handheld game console by Sega

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WonderSwan Handheld game console

The WonderSwan is a handheld game console released in Japan by Bandai. It was developed by Gunpei Yokoi's company Koto Laboratory and Bandai, and was the last piece of hardware Yokoi developed before his death in 1997. Released in 1999 in the fifth generation of video game consoles, the WonderSwan and its two later models, the WonderSwan Color and SwanCrystal were officially supported until being discontinued by Bandai in 2003. During its lifespan, no variation of the WonderSwan was released outside of Japan.

Game Boy Advance SP Handheld game console by Nintendo

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Neo Geo Pocket Color Handheld video game console

The Neo Geo Pocket Color is a 16-bit color handheld video game console manufactured by SNK. It is a successor to SNK's monochrome Neo Geo Pocket handheld which debuted in 1998 in Japan, with the Color being fully backward compatible. The Neo Geo Pocket Color was released on March 16, 1999 in Japan, August 6, 1999 in North America, and on October 1, 1999 in Europe, entering markets all dominated by Nintendo, competing with Nintendo's Game Boy Color.

Super Game Boy Accessory for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System

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Nintendo DS Nintendo handheld game console

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Game Boy Micro Handheld game console developed by Nintendo

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Game Boy 1989 portable video game console

The Game Boy is an 8-bit handheld game console developed and manufactured by Nintendo. The first handheld in the Game Boy family, it was first released in Japan on April 21, 1989, then North America, three months later, and lastly in Europe, more than one year later. It was designed by the same team that developed the Game & Watch series of handheld electronic games and several Nintendo Entertainment System games: Satoru Okada, Gunpei Yokoi, and Nintendo Research & Development 1.

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Nintendo 2DS Handheld game console by Nintendo

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The Game Boy Advance family of battery-powered handheld game consoles by Nintendo consists of the Game Boy Advance and its revisions. As of June 30, 2010, 81.51 million units have been sold worldwide. Part of the Game Boy line, it was succeeded by the Nintendo DS line in 2004.

The Nintendo DS family is a family of handheld game consoles developed, manufactured, released and marketed by Nintendo.


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