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The Game Boy Color (Japanese: ゲームボーイカラー, Hepburn: Gēmu Bōi Karā) (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.

Game Boy Color
Game Boy Color logo.svg
Atomic Purple version of the Game Boy Color
Manufacturer Nintendo
Product family Game Boy line
Type Handheld game console
Generation Fifth generation
Release date
  • JP: October 21, 1998
  • NA: November 18, 1998
  • PAL: November 23, 1998
  • AU: November 27, 1998
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, as suggested by the name, features a color screen, but no backlight. It is slightly thicker and taller than the Game Boy Pocket, which is a redesigned Game Boy released in 1996. As with the original Game Boy, it has a custom 8-bit processor somewhat related to a Zilog Z80 central processing unit (CPU).[9] The original name – with its American English spelling of "color" – remained unchanged even in markets where "colour" was the accepted English spelling.

The Game Boy Color's primary competitors were the much more advanced Neo Geo Pocket by SNK and the WonderSwan by Bandai (both released in Japan only), though the Game Boy Color outsold these by a wide margin. The Game Boy and Game Boy Color combined have sold 118.69 million units worldwide.[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



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 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.

Hi-Color ModeEdit

A few games used "Hi-Color mode" to increase the number of colors available on-screen. This is a mode used most notably by Italian company 7th Sense s.r.l., and can display more than 2000 different colors on the screen. Some examples of games using this method are The Fish Files, The New Addams Family Series and Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare.[11][12]

Color palettes used for original Game Boy gamesEdit

Note: Default is Green, Blue, Salmon/Pink, Black and White.

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

When playing an original Game Boy game on a later system, the user can choose which color palette is used. This is achieved by pressing certain button combinations, namely either A or B (or neither) and a direction key while the Game Boy logo is displayed 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 identical to that experienced on the original Game Boy; the inverted colors palette (Right + B) inverts the colors from the Game Boy Color's color 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.

In addition, some Game Boy games have a special palette that is enabled when no buttons are pressed. Any game that does not have a special palette will default to the dark green palette. The default palettes are stored in a database within the internal boot ROM of the system, and not the game cartridge itself.[14]

Titles that have color palettes on Super Game Boy will usually default to a similar palette when played on a Game Boy Color.


The clear cartridge for exclusive Game Boy Color games.
The black cartridge was for Game Boy games that took advantage of Game Boy Color features, but could still be played on original Game Boys.

Game Boy Color games are housed in clear-colored cartridges and are shaped differently from original Game Boy games. On the original Game Boy, Game Boy Color games that aren't backwards compatible are in cartridges that prevent the system from turning on due to a missing notch present in original Game Boy catridges, which prevents the cartridge from being removed while the power is on. On the Game Boy Pocket these games would display a warning message and refuse to play. Games that are designed for the Game Boy Color, but which also include backward compatibility with the previous Game Boy systems, are shaped like original Game Boy games, but usually have black cartridges. Pokémon Gold and Silver are also examples of Game Boy Color games that work on an original Game Boy system. The clear-colored Game Boy Color cartridges will function correctly only when used in a Game Boy Color or a later model (a Game Boy Advance, Game Boy Advance SP, or Game Boy Player).

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.


The last Game Boy Color game released in Japan (which was also compatible with the Game Boy and Super Game Boy) was From TV Animation – One Piece: Maboroshi no Grand Line Boukenhen! (July 2002). The last Game Boy and Super Game Boy compatible game released there was Dragon Warrior Monsters 2 (September 2001). The last North American Game Boy Color-exclusive game, however, was Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Although it was released on different consoles, the Game Boy Color featured an exclusive version.

With the release of the Nintendo 3DS, the Virtual Console service is also available for the 3DS. This allows players to play games from the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. More games for both systems are planned for release.


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]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "Consolidated Sales Transition by Region" (PDF). Nintendo. 2016-04-26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-05-01. Retrieved 2016-10-23. 
  2. ^ a b c "A Brief History of Game Console Warfare: Game Boy". BusinessWeek. McGraw-Hill. Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2008-03-28. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ "モバイルシステムGB". Nintendo (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. ^ a b Umezu; Sugino. "Nintendo 3DS (Volume 3 – Nintendo 3DS Hardware Concept)". Iwata Asks (Interview: Transcript). Interview with Satoru Iwata. Nintendo. Retrieved 2011-03-07. 
  8. ^ – Game Boy Color
  9. ^ "GBC Hardware Info". The Internet. Retrieved 2007-09-27. 
  10. ^ "Nintendo GameBoy 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. ^ Albatross, Zen. "Game Boy Games That Pushed The Limits of Graphics & Sound". Racketboy. Retrieved 24 March 2015. 
  13. ^ "Changing the Color Palette on Game Boy Advance Systems". Customer Service. Nintendo. Retrieved 2009-01-04. 
  14. ^ Disassembling the GBC Boot ROM

External linksEdit