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Status Symbols: Game Boy Micro

Status Symbols: Game Boy Micro


Nintendo's smallest handheld was also its most stylish

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Status Symbols are devices that transcend their specs and features, and become something beautiful and luxurious in their own right. They're things that live on after the megapixel and megahertz wars move past them, beacons of timeless design and innovation.

2005 was a good year for Nintendo handhelds. The original DS was on its way to becoming the most successful portable device of all time, while the Game Boy Advance SP let you play your entire Game Boy library — dating back to the monochromatic original — on one, handy machine. So it was a bit curious, then, when the company decided to release the $99 Game Boy Micro, a small, streamlined version of the handheld that could only play GBA games. It improved form at the expense of functionality, creating a device that wasn't strictly necessary, but was amazing anyways.

The most important thing about the Micro was its size — it was downright miniscule. The screen was only two inches across and the entire thing weighed just 0.18 pounds. That's less than half the weight of the original Game Boy (0.49 pounds) and a drop even from the ultralight iPhone 5's 0.25 pounds. It was so small and light you could leave it in a bag — or even your pocket! — and forget it was there. But it wasn't just that the Micro was small, it was also stylish in a way no Nintendo device had ever been. Unlike the clunky DS or any version of the Game Boy or GBA, the Micro wasn't something you'd be embarrassed to pull out in public. It felt like a gadget, not a toy. The 20th anniversary edition was particularly lovely, with a gold and red color scheme reminiscent of the original Famicom controller (the Japanese version of the NES).

It was stylish in a way no Nintendo device had ever been

While its size made it an ideal companion for just about any trip — I particularly enjoyed using it for grinding through Final Fantasy V levels in between, and occasionally during, university classes — the screen is what made the Micro a great game system. It was small, but it was beautiful. Shrinking down games made them appear crisper, and the brilliant backlight made older games pop with new life and color. You haven't played The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap until you've played it on a Micro with the brightness cranked up to 11. And if you wanted to feel extra cool, the Micro was ideal for playing the Japan-exclusive Bit Generations line of GBA games — sleek, minimalist games in sleek, minimalist packaging, just begging to be played on a sleek, minimalist Game Boy.

Game Boy Micro hands-on photos


Like many beautiful devices, the Micro also had its share of problems. The smaller screen wasn't ideal for text-heavy games, the faceplate was prone to scratches, and the ergonomics could feel a tad cramped after lengthy sessions. But sometimes you have to make sacrifices, and with the Micro it was more than worth it. The combination of its size, style, and screen made it the first machine from Nintendo that looked as good as it played. And unlike later releases, like the iPod-influenced DS Lite, the Micro had a look all its own, and one that has yet to be duplicated. It was the last device to feature the Game Boy name, and though it was far from the most popular, it was definitely the coolest.