Game Boy Color
Game Boy Color logo
Atomic Purple version of the Game Boy Color
Manufacturer Nintendo
Product family Game Boy line
Type Handheld game console
Generation Fifth generation
Release date
Retail availability 1998–2003
Discontinued May 30, 2003
Units sold Worldwide: 118.69 million,[1] including Game Boy units[2]
Media ROM cartridge
CPU Sharp LR35902 core @ 4.19/8.38 MHz
Display LCD 160 x 144 pixels, 44x40 mm[3]
Online services Mobile System GB[4]
Best-selling game Pokémon Gold and Silver, approximately 14.51 million combined (in Japan and the USA) (details).[5][6]
Game Boy
Predecessor Game Boy[7]
Successor Game Boy Advance[7]

The Game Boy Color[lower-alpha 1] (abbreviated as GBC) is a handheld game console manufactured by Nintendo, which was released on October 21, 1998 in Japan[8] and was released in November of the same year in international markets. It is the successor of the Game Boy.

The Game Boy Color features a color screen. It is slightly thicker and taller and features a slightly smaller screen than the Game Boy Pocket, its predecessor. 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.[9] The spelling of the systems name, Game Boy Color, remains consistent throughout the world with its American English spelling of color.

The Game Boy Color's primary competitors in Japan were the grayscale 16-bit handhelds Neo Geo Pocket and the WonderSwan, though the Game Boy Color outsold these 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 August of 1999. The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide making it the 3rd best selling system of all time.[1][2] It was discontinued in 2003, shortly after the release of the Game Boy Advance SP.


The Game Boy Color was a response to pressure from game developers for a more sophisticated handheld platform, as they felt that the Game Boy, even in its latest incarnation, the Game Boy Pocket, was insufficient.[citation needed]

The resultant product was backward compatible, a first for a handheld system, and leveraged the large library of games and installed base of the predecessor system. This became a major feature of the Game Boy line, since it allowed each new launch to begin with a significantly larger library than any of its competitors.

Launch titlesEdit


Main article: Comparison of Nintendo portable consoles



The Game Boy Color motherboard

The technical details for the console are as follows:[10]

  • Main processor: Sharp Corporation LR35902 (based on the 8-bit Zilog Z80)
  • Processor speed: 4.194 or 8.388 MHz (two processor modes)
  • Resolution: 160 × 144 pixels (10:9 aspect ratio, same aspect ratio and resolution as the original Game Boy)
  • Palette colors available: 32,768 (15-bit)
  • Colors on screen: Supports 10, 32 or 56
  • 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)
  • Audio: 2 square wave channels, 1 wave channel, 1 noise channel, mono speaker, stereo headphone jack
  • ROM: 8 MB maximum
  • RAM: 32 kB
  • VRAM: 16 kB
  • Cartridge RAM: 128 kB
  • Power:
    • internal: 2 AA batteries, 30+ hours of gameplay
    • external: 3V DC 0.6W (2.35mm × 0.75mm)
    • indicator: Red LED
  • Input:
    • 8-way D-pad
    • 4 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
  • Dimensions:
    • Metric: 75 mm × 27 mm × 133 mm
    • Imperial: 2.95 in × 1.06 in × 5.24 in

The processor, which is a 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 also has three times as much memory as the original (32 kilobytes system RAM, 16 kilobytes video RAM). The screen resolution was the same as the original Game Boy, which is 160×144 pixels.

The Game Boy Color also featured an infrared communications port for wireless linking. The feature was 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 (using Wi-Fi) would return in the Nintendo DS line. The console was capable of showing up to 56 different colors simultaneously on screen from its palette of 32,768 (8×4 color background palettes, 8x3+transparent sprite palettes), and could 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 were given separate color schemes, and in the 10-color modes the sprites were 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 was that of 4, 6 or 8 colors. This method of upgrading the color count resulted in graphic artifacts in certain games; for example, a sprite that was supposed to meld into the background would sometimes be colored separately, making it easily noticeable. The system also featured a rarely used "high color mode", capable of displaying more than 2,000 colors on the screen simultaneously.[11]

Color palettes used for original Game Boy gamesEdit

Alternate Color Palettes
Directional pad Action button
None (default) A B
Up Brown Red Dark brown
Down Pastel mix Orange Yellow
Left Blue Dark blue Grayscale
Right Green Dark green Inverted

For dozens of popular Game Boy titles, 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. [12] 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, when the user turns on the system, they may choose one of 12 built in color palettes by pressing certain button combinations (namely a direction key and optionally A or B) while the Game Boy logo is present on the screen.

These palettes each contain up to ten colors.[13] In most games, the four shades displayed on the original Game Boy would translate to different subsets of this 10-color palette, such as by displaying movable sprites in one subset and backgrounds, etc. in another. The grayscale (Left + B) palette produces an appearance similar to that experienced on the original Game Boy.

GBC keypad palettes

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.



The clear cartridge for exclusive Game Boy Color games.


The black cartridge was for Game Boy games that took advantage of the Game Boy Color's increased palette but not the increased memory or processor speed. These games can be played original Game Boys in grayscale.

Game Boy Color exclusive games are housed in clear-colored cartridges, referred to as "Game Pak" cartidges.[14] They are shaped differently from original Game Boy games. When inserted into an original Game Boy, these translucent cartridges prevent the system from turning on due to a missing notch present in original Game Boy cartridges that prevent the cartridge from being removed once powered on. While the Game Boy Pocket and Super Game Boy do power on with a Game Boy Color exclusive cartridge inserted, these games display a warning message stating that a Game Boy Color system is required and refuse to play. Games that are designed for the Game Boy Color, but which also include backward compatibility with the Game Boy and Game Boy Pocket, use the same cartridge shape as original Game Boy games, but are typically black and never gray.

Colors producedEdit

The logo for Game Boy Color spelled out the word "COLOR" in the five original colors in which the unit was manufactured. They were named:

  • Berry (C)
  • Grape (O)
  • Kiwi (L)
  • Dandelion (O)
  • Teal (R)

Another color released at the same time was "Atomic Purple", made of a transparent purple plastic that was also used on the color-respective Nintendo 64 controller.

Other colors were sold as limited editions or in specific countries.


Main article: List of Game Boy Color games

Due to its backwards compatibility with Game Boy games, the Game Boy Color had a large playable library at launch. The system amassed an impressive library of 576 Game Boy Color games over a four-year period. While the majority of the games were Game Boy Color exclusive, approximately 30% of the titles released were backwards compatible with the original Game Boy.

While Tetris for the original Game Boy was the best selling game compatible with the system, Pokémon Gold and Silver were the best selling games developed for the Game Boy Color. The best selling Game Boy Color exclusive game was Pokémon Crystal.

The last Game Boy Color game ever released was the Japanese exclusive Doraemon no Study Boy : Kanji Yomikaki Master, which was released in Japan on July 18, 2003. In North America and Europe, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, released in November of 2002, was the last game released.


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.[1][2]

In 2003, when the Game Boy Color was discontinued, the pair was the best selling gaming console of all time. Both the Nintendo DS and PlayStation 2 would go on to outsell the pair and the Game Boy/Game Boy Color is now the third best selling system of all time and the second best selling handheld.

See also Edit

Notes Edit

  1. ゲームボーイカラー (Gēmu Bōi Karā?) in Japan

References Edit

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Consolidated Sales Transition by Region" (PDF). Nintendo. 2016-04-26. Archived from the original on 2016-05-01. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "A Brief History of Game Console Warfare: Game Boy". BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill. Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  4. "モバイルシステムGB" (in Japanese). Retrieved 23 September 2015. 
  5. "Japan Platinum Game Chart". The Magic Box. Archived from the original on 2007-12-13. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  6. "US Platinum Videogame Chart". The Magic Box. Archived from the original on 2007-04-21. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 Script error
  8. – Game Boy Color
  9. "The Nintendo® Game Boy™, Part 1: The Intel 8080 and the Zilog Z80.". RealBoy. Retrieved 2017-08-29. 
  10. "Nintendo Game Boy Color Console Information – Console Database". Retrieved 2011-02-19. 
  11. "First Alone in the Dark Screenshots for Game Boy Color". IGN. 4 August 2000. Retrieved 24 March 2015. 
  12. Disassembling the GBC Boot ROM
  13. "Changing the Color Palette on Game Boy Advance Systems". Customer Service. Nintendo. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  14. "Game Pak Troubleshooting - All Game Boy Systems". Nintendo of America customer support. Retrieved 2017-09-27. 

External links Edit

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