Extra life for my Game Boy

Rooting around in boxes in our storage unit, I came across the Nintendo Game Boy I bought new in 1990. The plastic covering the green LCD was missing, but it was otherwise intact. The box even contained a few game cartridges. I popped it in my pocket and took it home.

With four fresh AA batteries in the back, I flipped the on-switch and “ping,” that familiar start-up chime. Even after 30-plus years, the little box of gaming magic still worked.

I played Super Mario Land and Tetris for a couple of days and then decided the Game Boy deserved a new lease of life. Most obvious was the yellowing of its grey plastic shell, worn buttons, and that missing LCD cover.

New screen covers are available for just a few pounds. There are replacement buttons and rubbers, and plenty of third-party replacement shells in different colours. I plumped for a grey shell and purple buttons because I wanted my Game Boy to look as original as possible.

Cosmetic upgrades

Swapping the old case for a new one is easy as the new case I bought even came with cheap tri-wing and cross-wing screwdrivers. Inside the Game Boy are a front and back circuit board, plus a small board for the speaker amplifier, and the LCD screen. The rubbers behind the buttons hadn’t perished, so didn’t need replacing.

I unscrewed the boards and screen from the original shell and moved them to the new one. After screwing the Game Boy back and front together, I stuck the tougher new glass LCD screen cover to the front, reinstalled the batteries and “ping,” my original Game Boy looked and played like new.

Installing a new screen

The original Game Boy green LCD wasn’t backlit and often suffered from blurring. After a few weeks of playing with the green screen, I decided to upgrade to a much brighter backlit IPS screen. Fitting the new screen wasn’t complicated. I opened the Game Boy case, removed the screen and boards, then cut away a couple of the screw posts to make room for the new screen.

This replacement screen is a major upgrade from the original. It’s bright, clear, and has the option to change the base colour from green. I like playing with a white background which looks sharp and matches the case.

Now to play some more games. I had a half-dozen original game cartridges and plenty of games are available to buy secondhand on eBay. If you’re less fussy about where your games come from, sites like Emulator Games also have ROMs to download.

Adding SD card storage

To load new games, I bought an EZ Flash Junior SD card adapter which looks like a Nintendo Gamepak but includes a holder for an SD card and firmware to run game ROMS. I fitted it with 16Gb card which cost less than £5 from Amazon and which can hold as many games as I’ll ever want to play.

I’ve played my Game Boy almost every day since I revamped it and the only gripe I had was that the bright new IPS screen chomped through batteries faster than Donkey Kong chomps bananas.

Upgrading to a USB C rechargeable battery

On Friday I ordered a CleanJuice XL USB C battery pack from Retrosix. I installed it on Saturday along with a new battery cover which has a hole for the USB C charging cable. Installing this rechargeable battery involved only removing the bottom battery contact springs and slotting in the battery and its board. Now I can play my Game Boy for over a day and don’t need to spend a small fortune on batteries again.

What it all cost

So far, revamping my old Game Boy has cost about the same as I paid for the original. I could’ve bought a refurbished console with the same upgrades from eBay or Retosix but this would’ve cost over £200 and I wouldn’t have had the satisfaction of upgrading it myself. Here’s what I bought to revamp my Game Boy:

The experience of pounding those plastic buttons is so much nicer than playing games on a phone. If you’ve got an old Game Boy (Advance, Color, DMG, or Pocket) lying around and you love a bit of casual gaming like I do, I thoroughly recommend revamping it and getting your thumbs busy again.


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