I bought every Nintendo Handheld EVER.
Table of Contents
1989 GAME BOY
This is the first time we started to see significant accessories in the box, tons of tutorials, which I guess developers of nowadays just got smarter at integrating gradually into the games themselves. Oh, free Tetris. Man, I used to have so many of these game cases back in the day. You get earphones, which look pretty cheap and cheerful, a link cable, which is how you would play multiplayer games, and then the Game Boy itself. Now, while it's very hard to exactly compare the power of these two consoles, because, you know, the Game Boy is a proper video game console that's rendering real graphics and outputting them to its LCD display, whereas the Game & Watch was just basically lighting up pre-drawn segments on screen. Just to give you an idea, the 8-bit processor in the Game Boy is very approximately 40 times more powerful. And this extra power means that it can run games at up to, no joke, 60 frames per second in not just one color, but four different shades of gray, which would help developers build objects with texture and depth. Okay, so, you turn it on from the top. Oh my God, everything moves so slowly. Listen to the quality of the audio. That's the Zelda tune in the most retro way that I've ever heard it. And then you've got a contrast slider on the side, which allows you to kind of tweak it for the environment you're viewing it in. I'm getting like palpitations right now. The things that a song can do to a grown man. It's really hard to see exactly what's happening on this. The brightness is so low. Kind of have to tilt it at just the right angle.
But when you do that, this is miles ahead of what the Game & Watch could do. The buttons have a little bit more of a springiness to them. I guess what strikes me the most about this is the potential scope of the games. You know when you're lighting up like pre-drawn sections on an LCD screen, that's all that's ever gonna be. But it suddenly feels like the possibilities are limitless. You could live out your wildest fantasies. You could have any adventure that you could think of on this console. And it's kind of beautiful. But none of this was the most revolutionary part of the Game Boy. What truly promoted this console to legendary status, the reason why even now the term Game Boy is still practically just shorthand for games device for a lot of confused but well-meaning parents is that this was the device that popularized the interchangeable cartridges. You literally pull one game out and you stick a new one in. And this seemingly simple feat on its own meant that this one console had more capability than the entire collection of 60 different Game & Watches. The only thing the Game Boy was missing is color, which is why nine years later, Nintendo knew exactly what they needed to do.
1998 GAME BOY COLOUR
They released a hardware revision so massive that most people consider it a separate console entirely. This is the Game Boy Color. Probably also where Nintendo peaked when it comes to the volume of manuals. It's like an encyclopedia inside this box. And then the console. The Game Boy Color was basically the Game Boy of the future. It was the first console that I ever got as a kid. And I remember pining over this thing for years, literally drooling as I walked past it in store cabinets up until the day it happened. And that's because compared to the Game Boy, this thing is more compact in every dimension, barely half the weight, but somehow with two times the CPU power and three times the RAM, which all makes it about 80 times more powerful than the original Game & Watch. Oh boy, I can feel my nostalgia meter rising. It's a little bit rattly as a piece of hardware, but when I was a kid, this was the sexiest piece of tech that you could own. It's actually insane the difference that the gift of color can make. It's almost like I've just unlocked a whole other sense. It's not very often that a gaming console gets to do that. Plus, Nintendo has mastered the buttons this time around. The D-pad is kind of soft and quiet, but then the A and B buttons are responsive and snappy. I have a whole other appreciation for the Game Boy Color now. This is insane. While there are some exclusive games that do take advantage of the extra power the color has, it largely plays basically the exact same library of games as the Game Boy, with the extra power being used to either add some color shading to original Game Boy games that were designed without color, or for the color exclusive games, render them in up to 56 different colors at any one time.
And then the cherry on top for the Game Boys was that they were also basically uncontested. Like, there were other handhelds, the Atari Lynx, the Neo Geo Pocket, the Bandai Wonderswan, whatever that is, but none of them had this magic combo of color display, interchangeable games, and, well, Pokemon, which led these consoles to take the world by storm, selling a total of 119 million units, which is so many units that by the time it came around to the next console, there was a lot of genuine excitement for it.
2001 GAME BOY ADVANCE
So Nintendo did what anyone would do in their situation. They kept the core Game Boy DNA for their next Game Boy Advance, but they also made sure that everything else about this just screamed, " I am a true next-gen monster", apart from the fact that they're still wrapping their consoles like a bag of crisps. Now, unlike the Game Boy Color, which was kind of like a halfway upgrade, the Advance was built from the ground up as a true successor. And what really strikes me about it is just how much of a shockingly generous offering it is. For starters, it comes with not one, but two CPUs, one next-generation ARM processor to play proper meaty GBA games, but then also a last-gen chip, which is added just to make the console completely backwards compatible with both Game Boy Color and original Game Boy games. I know it looks completely ridiculous, but who does that? And there's more. The Game Boy Advance added two shoulder buttons, expanding the possibilities for game complexity. And the fact that it's also ballooned in width makes it, well, nicer to grip with two hands. And it somehow did all of that while being cheaper than the original Game Boy, launching at around $170 in today's money versus $217. All right, it's definitely a meaner-looking piece of tech than the Game Boy Color. It inspires confidence in its power. This is gonna be a very memorable startup screen. Oh my God. So many hours, so many days, so many years I've spent listening to that. Oh, there's so much more motion going on. His hair actually bobbles as I'm walking around with him. They've also managed to add some of the UI that was previously buried away in menus on screen in the corner there, which is just a very simple quality of life improvement you can now do because of this extra space on the screen. You can feel the further refinement of the controls here as well. They've noticeably tightened up the D-pad. It doesn't feel mushy anymore. It actually feels quite nimble and reactive. Yeah, and the other thing you can notice is the amount of different shades of color available. Like just within this one frame, there's like 45 different shades of green, and it really adds to the detail of individual objects. Excuse the pun, but this does feel way more advanced.
It's so weird that I'm absolutely gushing over 20-year-old technology, but this is what happens when you start from the beginning and work your way forward. You get to appreciate decades of progression happening in like 10 minutes. Only problem was, because the display wasn't backlit, we went to great lengths to try and make sure we could still see the thing at night. Which brings us to the Game Boy Advance SP. Where Nintendo fixed that problem. I'm just remembering how quickly my smugness when I had the Game Boy Advance turned to jealousy when my brother got one of these bad boys. 'Cause honestly, this was the most stylish way to play Game Boy Advance games. The SP was colorful, fully rechargeable for the first time ever. It had a backlit display that you didn't have to worry about, and it was foldable, which was not just awesome, but it also gave you a more natural angle to see your games from. Considering that this was just a refresh and not even a new platform in of itself, the SP sold phenomenally well. Actually, embarrassingly, slightly more than the normal GBA. I guess the design and the quality of life improvements here just allowed it to hit a market that the original didn't.
Which pushed the overall sales of the platform to 82 million. But it's really the Nintendo DS where things properly started to kick off for this company. Oh, by the way, side note, pay attention to just how much hardware is being pumped out by them at this point. The DS came just one year after the GBA SP, which came just two years after the GBA. There is a lot of progression happening very quickly. And this is also by far the company's most premium unboxing experience. You've got manuals, the full Super Mario 64 DS game. I guess Nintendo's way of shifting units fast from the very beginning. A charger, because at this point it's just a given that every handheld would have rechargeable batteries. Two more games, as this is the VIP launch pack. Even a spare stylus in case, I don't know, your kid accidentally ingests your first one. Ooh, something about this clean metal and black look, it makes us feel quite futuristic compared to where we've just come from. Now, if we read between the lines of this packaging, when a company gives you this much stuff for free, the reason why is because they're not confident that it's going to sell well. It's them trying to treat people at the start of its launch cycle, making sure they have absolutely everything they could possibly want and that the reviews are as good as possible. And you can see why. The term DS stands for dual screen. And this whole concept was a bit of a shock when it was first revealed. I mean, if you asked Game Boy Advance users what they wanted to see on their next console, I can't imagine more screens was very high on their list. And given that the closest looking console so far to this was those funky Game & Watches that were no more than toys in these days, it was very easy to see the DS's design as a useless gimmick. So what was Nintendo thinking? Why didn't they just play it safe and release another Game Boy? Well, Nintendo foresaw that the touchscreen was about to become a huge part of how people interacted with their devices. They realised ahead of even the very first iPhone that having touchscreen controls offered a level of intuitiveness that anyone could understand, broadening the appeal far beyond the traditional button mashing gamer. And when they followed up this hardware with games that actually took advantage of it, like Nintendogs that let you interact with these adorable puppies, and Dr. Koashima's brain training, which tested your entire family's reflexes and mental math, it genuinely did find itself in the hands of many first time console owners. But what really sealed the Nintendo DS's fate was that they managed to do this while not just appealing to casuals. Just like their last console, the DS was equipped with a whole separate CPU just to be able to play previous gen games and even a completely separate slot to be able to insert them into, which because the Game Boy Advance lifecycle was so short, this console was many people's first chance to experience those games too. But then also when it came to the next gen DS games, the new processor in this was blindingly fast, between five and 10 times faster in terms of raw number crunching, putting us already 3,200 times more capable than the Game & Watch. But an even bigger jump in the sense that this was really the first time that you could even think about playing proper 3D games on the go. And the fact that this thing has 125 times the amount of RAM as the GBA allowed you to have a full home system too.
This is such an iconic piece of kit. Many, many, many good times were had on this machine right here. I also remember the fact that it folded was a very cool feature back then. Although, while the hinge does feel pretty solid now, for anyone who's used one of these for seven years straight, not so much. It's the one weird console where there's no power switch, but in fact a power button. Oh, yes. They've definitely played into the fact that this is a sophisticated console for people who wanna have a proper home screen experience. PictoChat, ha-ha.
To be fair though, even though this is not modern tech, it does actually feel surprisingly responsive. Like genuinely not far off Samsung's most recent flagship phones. And this right here was the first time I'd ever seen emojis. Remember I felt so smart with my DS UI. And every time you wanna go back home, the system shuts down. Oh, wow. This is a full on 3D adventure. This definitely feels like a generational leap from the Game Boy Advance. I don't know why they assume that touchscreen control was the best way to do this. It's actually so nice not having to angle the console perfectly just so I can see the screens now.
And then they refreshed it. Starting with the DS Lite, which wasn't as revolutionary as the Game Boy Color or the Game Boy Advance SP, but still it had up to twice the battery life and also a design and colors that appealed to way more people. Leading this to actually be by far the best selling model of the DS. And then because the DS was just such a hit and because console makers tend to make more and more money the longer they can stretch out the life cycle of that platform. As the core hardware becomes cheaper over time, Nintendo made a third major revision with the DSi and the DSi XL. Three years later, you'll notice that compared to how packed the original launch DS box was, this thing only comes with a spare stylus, a charger and the console. Nintendo isn't too worried about making a good impression at this stage, more just trying to find ways to whittle down the costs and make as much profit as possible. And you saw this in the console's features too. The DSi finally ditched the Game Boy game slot that Nintendo had held for so long. And it also introduced DSiWare, which kind of sounds like a virus, but was basically games and apps that you could download directly through the Nintendo DSi shop and give more money directly to them. That said, given that this is now 2009 and smartphones were a thing, the DSi did do a good job at helping the DS keep up. It had an overclock chip, it had two cameras, could take and edit photos, support SD cards up to 32 gigs, and play music and even browse the internet. And probably the most significant, it introduced the idea of an XL model, which would stick for the entirety of the next generation of consoles.
And so if we total up these three DS models, you've got the DSi, the DS Lite, and the base DS, their combined sales total was an absolutely astronomical 154.2 million units, making the DS the second best-selling console platform of all time at this point. And also nearly double of what Sony managed with the PSP, which was arguably the only real handheld threat Nintendo ever faced. But then from these dizzying heights, Nintendo fumbled. Their next console, the 3DS, was similar to the DS in that it also delivered something that no one was really asking for. But this time they placed their bets in the wrong place. Glasses-free 3D technology. You can really tell that Nintendo are trying everything here. They're almost going for a scattergun approach to try and accidentally land on what the DS of the future should actually be like. You've got code cards, because this is the first Nintendo handheld to launch with a proper online store. Augmented reality cards. I guess Nintendo were just trying to make sure their console could do this, just in case AR suddenly became the new standard in gaming. But it ended up becoming one of the 3DS' many gimmicks. It even comes with a full-on charging dock. And then as for the console itself, it's like a DS, but I would say even more modern with this metallic gradient finish and two-tone colouring on the inside. Now, to get one thing out of the way, I thought the 3DS was mind-blowing when it launched. It was around the time where 3D movies were peaking, with the first Avatar film even becoming the biggest box office hit of all time. And so the idea that not just 3D movies, but also full-on 3D games were all possible without big chunky glasses on this tiny little thing, it was revolutionary. And a sub to the channel would be... I mean, 10 out of 10.
See, the 3DS's top screen uses something called a parallax barrier to separate the image that it shows to each one of your eyes. It shows one eye one thing, and the other eye the exact same scene, but from a slightly different perspective. And this recreates our normal three-dimensional vision, which works in the exact same way. Each of your eyes sees the same thing from slightly different viewpoints. So I remember not actually getting one of these 3DSs until quite a long time after it launched. And then when I got it I was like " Oh my god, I've been missing out on so much"! Power it on. Ooooooh, this is my first time seeing the 3D effect in a long time. There's still nothing else like it. It really is a magical effect. Oh, the user interface feels significantly more fluid. Every icon has its accompanying sound effect and animation, and it all runs at 60 frames per second. It definitely builds upon the base that the DS established. Oh, the music! Wow. It runs like butter. Not to mention that the game has far more polygons on screen, as well as running at a higher resolution. The other thing, which I think is quite subtle but is just kind of the nature of where games are going, is that the character actually moves faster in this one. People have got very used to the idea of having a sprint button. Oh my god, I completely forgot! And you've got a joystick! That's probably a big part of why it also feels more fluid. The other cool thing is that because both of these screens are higher resolution than last generation, you can see maps with much more detail than you used to be able to. I should probably mention, there was also a Nintendo 3DS XL, which is the one that I personally bought and used. And honestly, this is a big, bitter kit. They really weren't kidding with the word XL. And for scale, the 3DS is around 5 times more powerful than the DS, with 32 times the amount of RAM. So comparing all the way back to the beginning, we've never seen a 16,000 times improvement. These specs make it much more powerful than most people expected. But this is also kind of the big problem. With the 3DS, Nintendo fell into the classic new console trap. See, whenever a company makes a console that does well, that console becomes a brand. The Nintendo DS in this case. And that brand, because people have such fond associations with it, is worth a lot of money. And so with the 3DS, Nintendo did exactly what you would assume you should do with that information. Retain as much of that valuable DS brand identity as possible in this new product. However, they didn't separate it enough. In terms of the way it looks, the way it functions, and the way it's named, the 3DS doesn't come across like the 5 times more powerful, completely new platform that it is. If you were a casual Nintendo DS user and you see this new 3DS on the shelf, what are you going to think? You're going to think, well it looks like a DS that can do 3D. I'm not going to pay today's equivalent of $330 just to do that. This is around the time that Nintendo also launched the Wii U, which suffered from the exact same problem, and both of these consoles had a very rough start because of it. Plus, while the 3D itself was a technical marvel, the fact that you had to sit at the exact right angle if you didn't want the parallax barrier effect to mess up meant that no one used it beyond a party trick. And for many it was just headache inducing.
Which is why Nintendo made the 2DS, a console that fixed the price, launching at just $165 in today's money, and fixed the 3D by removing it. Wow. This might actually be the ugliest console I've ever held in my hands. And then not too long after, the new 3DS. Which is terrible naming, because what do you call it when it's not new anymore? But yeah, this was the console that actually fixed the 3D aspect, by adding a front camera that could track the position of your eyes, to then make sure that it was feeding each eye those two separate perspectives. Not to mention an even faster processor, and a second little joystick. I remember I was playing a lot of a game called Monster Hunter at the time when this came out, and this tiddly little stick was an absolute game changer. So these console revisions did somewhat help to turn the 3DS story around, but to be honest it was mostly when they started releasing exclusive games like Pokemon X and Y and Animal Crossing that required people to have a 3DS to play, that Nintendo managed to pull up the console sales to a very respectable 76 million. But then all of a sudden with their next console, Nintendo just got it. The Switch is the biggest upgrade they've ever made. So we had the original Switch in 2017. You've probably seen this one. It was most people's first time ever witnessing Nintendo games in full HD. It's both a home console and a handheld. It had controllers built inside of it that can be used by either one person or two. It's got a kickstand to play multiplayer on the go. It's got the Wii's motion controls baked into these controllers. And the icing on the cake is that it's relatively free from expensive to make gimmicks. There's no double screen. There's no 3D. Woah. There is absolutely no competition between the quality of the gaming experience now versus last year. Wow. I don't know if I'm just biased by the consoles I've just looked at, but this looks photorealistic to me right now. It's got incredible depth of field. Everything's got so much texture and the lighting is gorgeous. And it's actually really nice to be able to have one big screen to enjoy that content on as opposed to two little screens. You wanna know why? Well, the Nintendo Switch is not 5 times faster or 10 times faster, but actually 106 times more powerful than the 3DS. Which when you compare it to our lowly Game & Watch from the beginning, gives us a figure that's basically impossible to comprehend. A 1.7 million times improvement.
2021 OLED SWITCH
They then perfected this with the OLED Switch, which again has tons of stuff in the box.
I guess due to the complex nature of having a hybrid console. Two controllers in a premium matte white finish. Love this. I think these are awesome. An AC adapter, HDMI cable, controller attachments to turn each half controller into its own full controller, the joiner to turn two halves into one full one, the dock to connect to the TV, and then the console itself. Goodness me. Even though this is not like a higher resolution screen or a more powerful console, just having this OLED tech, which means that each pixel is individually lit as opposed to having one big backlight, it makes so much difference. I'm fully immersed.
2019 SWITCH LITE
But then also Nintendo, realising that they could save a lot of this faff by just making a Switch solely for use as a normal handheld, created the Switch Lite. It's kinda crazy, this thing requires basically nothing in the box. But to be fair, the fact that this thing can still deliver the same games for half the price is nothing to be sniffed at. And so this trifecta together, when paired with games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Animal Crossing New Horizons, and Super Smash Bros, have already managed to sell 120 million pieces. So the Switch might well be about to become the best selling console of all time. Right, let's get them together into one big shot. And this video took so much time and money to make. Literally shopping within the deepest depths of the internet to find this stuff. The only thing that does make that process less painful is PayPal hunting. So I was searching for games for each of these consoles, right? And obviously trying to get those games for as low a price as possible, because you have to buy like 10 different copies for a video like this. Well, if I just tap this one Honey button on my browser, it will automatically scan through every single coupon code available for that website and just apply the one that saves me the most money. And on average, when it finds you a coupon code, it's saving you 18% on sites that you're already shopping on. It doesn't make sense to not be using this. So just add it to your browser now at joinhoney.com/boss. What a thing of beauty.