An epic quest to build the ultimate Game Boy

An epic quest to build the ultimate Game Boy

If you didn’t grow up with Nintendo’s original DMG-01 Game Boy, it might be hard to see its appeal in 2023. It had the ergonomics of a brick, the system’s unlit LCD screen used a somewhat nauseating green color palette, and compared to its modern competition that Sega Game Gear or Atari Lynx, it seems to be the inferior platform. But despite its faults, there was just something magical about the machine, and those with a soft spot for the iconic handheld are always eager to relive those glory days.

Now, thanks to the incredible work of [Bucket Mouse], playing the old “brick” Game Boy doesn’t have to be nearly as rigorous an experience as it was in 1989. That’s because he’s developed a set of replacement PCBs for the handheld that not only implement all the features to the later game. Boy Color, but sprinkle in some modern finesse as well. The result is a handheld device that looks like the original on the outside, but plays all your favorite games even better than you remember them.

[Bucket Mouse] has put together some superb documentation for this project, and the design files are released under the Creative Commons license for anyone who wants to spin up their own copies. He even sells boards for those who don’t want to go through the time and trouble of having them manufactured. But be warned – this is no weekend project.

To begin with, you need to salvage several key components (such as the CPU and SRAM) from a sacrificial Game Boy Color, and pull the external connectors off the Game Boy’s original PCB. Then you’ll need to buy a third-party LCD screen and lens as an absolute minimum, but you might as well go all in and get a custom, newly manufactured case and button set while you’re at it.

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Beyond the ability to play Game Boy Color games, the new internals offer a number of improvements over the stock hardware. For example, there’s an integrated navigation switch (mounted where the contrast dial used to be) that lets you scroll through the settings menu of the upgraded IPS LCD panel. The audio hardware has also been upgraded for better sound, and a modern switch mode power supply should get you a few more hours without the AA batteries than before. You also have the option of swapping out the face buttons for the more tactile versions used in the Game Boy Advance SP, and if you really want to show off the aftermarket transparent cover, add some RGB LED lighting to the reborn handheld.

As you might expect, this project has been a long-term labor of love. [Bucket Mouse] has been releasing sporadic updates on the Hackaday Discord server for several months now, and it’s been fascinating to watch the progression. You may remember that we covered an earlier version of the concept, where he literally stuffed a Game Boy Color motherboard into the DMG-01 case, but this new approach allows for a much more professional and reliable installation – befitting the legendary the reliability of Nintendo and Gunpei Yokoi’s portable brainchild.

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