3DS vs Gameboy – Modern and Retro Compared

I have two consoles. A twenty year old Gameboy and from this week, a 3DS. Both Nintendo handhelds. Now do not get me wrong, I am no Nintendo fanboy. Nintendo are famed for robustly built but notoriously underpowered consoles and I think this is a rip off for gamers. Usually, with each of their systems, there is a fundamental flaw with them. The Gameboy (vs the Sega Gamegear) was monochrome, not colour. The SNES had a slower processor than the Sega Megadrive, the N64 was cartridge based while the PS1 was disc based. Even the Wii is just a hyped up Gamecube, seriously underpowered compared to the other consoles in the current generation. Even the 3DS has a major flaw, its awful battery life.

But I love Nintendo’s cartoony games. Yes, I know not every gamer likes these, that some prefer the realistic games of the other systems, but I really do love cartoon fun! It entertains the child inside of me.

For some reason, since the earliest days of Game and Watch, Nintendo have dominated the handheld market. A phenomena that continues to this day, although its main rivals are no longer other Video Game manufacturers but Smartphones.

So, with my Ninteodo tirade over and done, let me compare the two handhelds that I own.


Similar and different. That is what I can say. Let us be honest, how much can you change a handheld console around. It has to have some sort of D-Pad, and some sort of buttons to press. Yes, there are more on the 3DS, but that is to be expected.

Game Format:

Again, similar and different. Nintendo still loves to use a cartridge based format for their games, but do remember that in the late 1980’s when the Gameboy was first released, this was revolutionary. It was the first mainstream handheld to feature this.

However, Nintendo are slowly embracing internet downloads for their games and there is also an App mentality to the 3DS’ design. But that come under…


The Gameboy has one screen. Monochrome. Without a backlight. Which means you could not play in bed as a kid, you needed a light source to see the damn screen. Plus, let us be honest, the graphics sucked.

However, the Gameboy is simple. Put in a cartrdige, switch on, play. Easy, quick and simple.

The 3DS is much more like a laptop. It boots up, it has a sleep mode. You can chose to play the game in the cartridge slot, or a game on the SD Card or you can take photos or make a nice cup of tea with it. Plus it has two screens, a 3-D screen and a touch screen. And yes, the 3DS is all very nice and lovely and the 3-D is amazing.

And complex if you are used to a one screen, one cartridge mentality.

Yes, as I have been away from the gaming world for that long, it is all still new and exciting for me…

Battery Life:

Portable systems depend on battery for their life source. As, they are…portable!

And the 3DS, well, sucks. Figure on charging the system daily. For someone that does not have a smartphone, this has come as a shock to me.

The four AA batteries on my Gameboy can go for eons before needing to be recharged. In one way, technology has taken one hell of a backwards step.

Build Quality:

The Gameboy screams toughness. Hell, I have dropped it a ton of times, and the bugger just does not die, despite the obvious scars that it has. Plus, at twenty years old, it still plays games. Let us be blunt here, do you have a twenty year old computer still in perfect working order after dropping the hell out of it?

The 3DS screams like a little child. A flip screen that you know could be snapped in one deft movement. Dainty buttons and a 3D slider that you know is asking to be broken.

I wonder if my 3DS will be playable in 20 years time. You know, the sad thing is that I reckon the Gameboy will still be playable in 2031. I do not know if I can say that with any confidence about my 3DS.


The Gameboy has an esrtablished reputation and still, very playable games (as can be evidenced by the amount of time I have spent on it this last year).

The 3DS started poorly, but now has four killer games (Zelda, Marioland 3D, Mariokart 7 and Starfox), plus it has the awesome back-catalogue of the DS (which is why I bought it, for access to those games). It looks like a promising 2012 as well for the system. This is one place where Nintendo have succeeded. Their software. Everyone knows it is games that make or break a gaming system, and so far, it looks like my 3DS has been a wise buy…


For a long time, I have resisted gaming systems, because of life being too busy. It is a reason why I do not have a Wii or PS3 or XBOX because of the time hassle. But, after finding my Gameboy in 2010 and playing like crazy on it, I have begun to appreciate and miss the gaming lifestyle.

As a result, when the price dropped, I made the jump back into gaming and got a 3DS. That portable ability, to pick up and stop playing at a moments notice is important for time. But also, it is a great way to spend some leisure time.

I am from the generation that grew up with games. They are fun to play, normal for us to use, and just like reading a book or watching the idiot box, a part and parcel of leisure time in the home.

I do have a laundry list of games that I want to buy, and with more disposable income than when I was a kid, in one year I may well own more games for my 3DS then I have for my Gameboy. Back in the day, it was a game at Christmas, and one for my birthday. That was it.

Now, it is a game when I feel like treating myself 🙂 Ad let the gaming fun commence…once my battery is recharged 😦


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