Game Boy Color
Game Boy Color logo.svg
The Atomic Purple version
Also known asGBC / CGB-001
DeveloperNintendo Research & Engineering
Product familyGame Boy family[1]
TypeHandheld game console
Release date
  • JP: October 21, 1998
  • NA: November 18, 1998
  • EU: November 23, 1998
  • AU: November 27, 1998
Introductory priceUS$69.99[2]
DiscontinuedMarch 23, 2003; 19 years ago (2003-03-23)
Units shipped118.69 million (including the Game Boy)
MediaGame Boy Game Pak
Game Boy Color Game Pak
CPUSharp LR35902 core @ 4.19/8.38 MHz
Memory32 KB RAM
DisplayTFT LCD 160 (w) x 144 (h) pixels, 44x40 mm[3]
Online servicesMobile System GB[4]
Best-selling gamePokémon Gold and Silver, approximately 23 million units
Game Boy
PredecessorGame Boy[5]
SuccessorGame Boy Advance[5]

The Game Boy Color[a] (commonly abbreviated as GBC) is a handheld game console, manufactured by Nintendo, which was released in Japan on October 21, 1998[6] and to international markets that November. It is the successor to the Game Boy and is part of the Game Boy product line.

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.[7] 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.[8][9]

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.[10][11]


Development for the Game Boy Color began in 1996,[12] 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] 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 product launch to begin with a significantly larger game library than any of its competitors.

On March 23, 2003, the Game Boy Color was discontinued.[8]


Technical specifications

The technical specifications for the console are as follows:[13]

Size Approximately 78 mm (3.1 in) x 133.5 mm (5.26 in) x 27.4 mm (1.08 in) (WxHxD)
Weight Approximately 138 g (4.9 oz)[14]
Screen 2.3 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 44 mm (1.7 in) by 40 mm (1.6 in)[14]
Framerate 59.727500569606 Hz[15]
Power Internal: 2× AA batteries
External: 3V DC 0.6W (2.35mm × 0.75mm)
Red LED indicator
Battery life Up to 10 hours of gameplay
CPU 4.194304/8.388608 MHz (effective speed 1.0485 (speed of original Game Boy) or 2.097 MHz) Sharp Corporation LR35902 (based on the 8-bit Zilog Z80)
Memory 32 KB RAM; 16 KB VRAM
Resolution 160 (w) × 144 (h) pixels (10:9 aspect ratio; same aspect ratio and resolution as the original Game Boy)
Color support Palette colors available: 32,768 (15-bit)
Colors on screen: Supports 10, 32 or 56
Sound 2 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 32 KB (256 kbit).

The Game Boy Color motherboard
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 KB system RAM, 16 KB 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.[16]

Color palettes

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 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.[17] 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.[18] 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.
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.

Games with special palettes include:

Game Boy Color color palette reference
0x00 0x10
0x01 0x11
0x02 0x12
0x03 0x13
0x04 0x14
0x05 0x15
0x06 0x16
0x07 0x17
0x08 0x18
0x09 0x19
0x0A 0x1A
0x0B 0x1B
0x0C 0x1C
0x0D 0x1D
0x0E 0x1E
0x0F 0x1F

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.[16] Cannon Fodder uses this technique to render full motion video segments in the introduction sequence, ending, and main menu screen.[19]


The clear cartridge for exclusive Game Boy Color games
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.
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.[20] 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[21] 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[22][23] and Pocket Music[24] 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. Black cartridges are backwards compatible, playable on the original Game Boy.

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.


Main articles: List of Game Boy Color games and List of Game Boy games

See also: List of cancelled Game Boy Color games

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 No Yes Yes Monochrome game made by Accolade
Dragon Warrior Monsters Yes No No Portable role-playing game in the Dragon Quest series
Game & Watch Gallery 2 No Yes Yes Sequel to the 1997 game, Game & Watch Gallery for the original Game Boy
Hexcite Yes No No Puzzle game
Pocket Bomberman No Yes Yes Platform game in the Bomberman series
Pocket Bowling Yes No No Sports game
Tetris DX Yes Yes Yes Color remake of the 1989 Game Boy puzzle game, Tetris
Wario Land II Yes No No Sequel 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.[8][9]

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, Hepburn: Gēmubōi Karā


  1. ^ "Iwata Asks".
  2. ^ "The Real Cost of Gaming: Inflation, Time, and Purchasing Power". October 15, 2013. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  3. ^ "Technical data". Nintendo of Europe GmbH.
  4. ^ "モバイルシステムGB". Nintendo (in Japanese). Retrieved September 23, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Umezu; Sugino. "Nintendo 3DS (Volume 3 – Nintendo 3DS Hardware Concept)". Iwata Asks (Interview: Transcript). Interviewed by Satoru Iwata. Nintendo. Archived from the original on July 25, 2015. Retrieved March 20, 2013.
  6. ^ "Game Boy Color hardware".
  7. ^ "The Nintendo® Game Boy™, Part 1: The Intel 8080 and the Zilog Z80". RealBoy. January 2, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2017.
  8. ^ a b c "Consolidated Sales Transition by Region" (PDF). Nintendo. April 26, 2016. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 11, 2016. Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  9. ^ a b "A Brief History of Game Console Warfare: Game Boy". BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill. Archived from the original on May 9, 2007. Retrieved March 28, 2008.
  10. ^ "Japan Platinum Game Chart". The Magic Box. Archived from the original on December 13, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2007.
  11. ^ "US Platinum Videogame Chart". The Magic Box. Archived from the original on April 21, 2007. Retrieved September 27, 2007.
  12. ^ Fahs, Travis (July 27, 2009). "IGN Presents the History of Game Boy". IGN. Retrieved August 6, 2022.
  13. ^ "Nintendo Game Boy Color Console Information – Console Database". Archived from the original on July 2, 2011. Retrieved February 19, 2011.
  14. ^ a b "Technical data". Nintendo of Europe GmbH. Retrieved February 4, 2018.
  15. ^ "TASVideos / Platform Framerates". Retrieved February 29, 2020.
  16. ^ a b "First Alone in the Dark Screenshots for Game Boy Color". IGN. August 4, 2000. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  17. ^ "Disassembling the GBC Boot ROM".
  18. ^ "Changing the Color Palette on Game Boy Advance Systems". Customer Service. Nintendo. Retrieved January 4, 2009.
  19. ^ Albatross, Zen (November 18, 2011). "Game Boy Games That Pushed The Limits of Graphics & Sound". Racketboy. Retrieved March 24, 2015.
  20. ^ "Game Pak Troubleshooting - All Game Boy Systems". Nintendo of America customer support. Retrieved September 27, 2017.
  21. ^ "Kirby Tilt & Tumble - Cartridge". Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  22. ^ "プレイ日記 ゲームボーイ最強伝説 ちっちゃいエイリアン 近所のオバチャンに聞いたら「あのメグ・ライアンが絶賛した」とか言っていた!??". Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  23. ^ "中古 [ゲーム/GB] ちっちゃいエイリアン (ゲーム... - ヤフオク!". ヤフオク! (in Japanese). Archived from the original on February 24, 2021. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  24. ^ "Gameboy Genius » Blog Archive » Pocket Music GBC version GBA fix". Retrieved June 28, 2018.