Gameboy Micro: The Best Nintendo Machine Ever

This isn't a story that starts in all that exciting a fashion. Over the weekend, I went searching for a USB cable. See, I told you it didn't start well. However, it ends well, with the single best bit of gaming hardware Nintendo ever released.

On a shelf, I thought I saw the end of a USB cable, just underneath a small stack of loose Lynx games, which I cautiously lifted. Yes, I need to organise my stuff a whole lot better, but past mistakes have taught me that stuff will come crashing down at a second's notice if I'm not careful.

Underneath the Lynx games, wasn't a USB cable.

It was something better.

It was the the Gameboy Micro, arguably the best piece of console hardware that Nintendo's ever made.

I've just spent most of the free time I had over the weekend proving this true (to myself), but I realise that this is a big call, and I probably do have to justify it to you as well, especially as, with the possible exception of the Virtual Boy, the Micro's probably the worst selling bit of console hardware Nintendo ever produced. Heck, I can't lay claim to having purchased one at full retail price; my own Blue Micro came from a Gametraders that was shutting down in Glenelg, and was purchased mostly on a whim, given I've already got a few other devices that'll play GBA games.

The Gameboy Micro excels above the rest of Nintendo's fare simply because it's simple.

There's just about nothing wrong with the device, and I can't entirely say that about any other bit of Nintendo hardware. Leaving aside the obvious duffers such as the Virtual Boy or Gameboy Printer, even the "big" consoles have their issues. The Wii U lacks games. The Wii's full of waggleware. The 'Cube is lovely, but the library is small. The 3DS' 3D gimmick is just that — a gimmick. The DS family comes close — and obviously some models can play the same GBA games that run on the Micro — but they're bulky compared to the Micro, which just slips into a pocket. I did have a moment's pause for thought around the Super Nintendo… until I realised that many of the games I'd spent the weekend playing on the Micro were indeed SNES games. So it's a SNES… but better. The PAL NES is an ugly toaster of a box, whereas the Micro is incredibly precisely built and designed. Everything works, nothing is excess... it's just simple gaming in all its glory.

Why point out how good the Micro is on the eve of E3? Largely because I think it's a great subject lesson in simplicity, and why that can be the best thing about a games machine. As the XBox One, PS4 and Wii U vie for supremacy, they're largely getting away from the things that make them games machines in the first place. The Gameboy Micro is so particularly awesome because it get absolutely nothing wrong.

Well, maybe just one thing.


    It dropped the gameboy and gameboy colour backwards compatability of the Gameboy Advance. The GBA SP has the backwards compatability and is backlit - making it the better product IMO.

      SP is only frontlit. Yes, there was a variant of it later on that was actually backlit, but as far as I'm aware it was released in Japan only.

      Also the Micro is indeed backlit, and you even have a number of brightnesses to choose from.

        The backlit version was available in North America and had a limited release in Europe. I realise the micro is backlit :-) I am just saying why the GBA SP is better.

          I love that the both of them have a hardware button for controlling the backlight actually - one of the only things I didn't like about the DS is that you could only control the backlight from within the software, usually the system menu, and too bad if you wanted to change it mid-game. Though some games allowed you to turn it off from the game's main menu, but that was mostly the earlier titles.

          Still, the backwards compatibility isn't that great a deal for me, since to use them means you've got big chunky cards sticking awkwardly out of your hardware, though there weren't all that many older games that were worth the hassle anyway. More of a benefit in my eyes was the SP's clamshell design, protecting your precious screen once it was packed away. If I had to choose one piece of portable hardware, it'd be the original DS. Still feels the best, has both the DS and GBA libraries, plus the full-sized GBA slot is far better for peripherals than the truncated one of the Lite. Far too easy to dislodge your guitar grip from that one. Plus GBA games sticking out of there are ugly :P

            I seem to play all my GBA games on a DS lite and all my GB and GBC on GBA SP. I occasionally get the GB games out. I played some of the game and watch galleries a few weeks ago :-)

      Yep I have an SP and it will be in my collection long after the DS, N64, PS2 et al have shuffled off to the great Cash Converters in the sky.

    with the possible exception of the Virtual Boy, the Micro’s probably the worst selling bit of console hardware Nintendo ever produced
    Not *entirely* certain, but I think the 64DD might possibly have been worse. But then I guess that's more peripheral than standard hardware, though the Micro is yet another redesign so... eh.

    I will have to strongly disagree about the Micro being flawless though. It is indeed a very cool piece of kit, and to date would still have one of the best screens on a Nintendo machine. But the design of it isn't perfect. The shoulder buttons just aren't very usable at all, particularly in a fast-paced/reaction-reliant game like Mario Kart. I don't know if it's maybe because my hands are too big (not that they're particularly large compared to the usual sort to complain about such a thing) but I just find that it's incredibly hard to even try and hold onto the unit while playing a game like Mario Kart. Slower-paced stuff like Advance Wars or something, sure. But Mario Kart, the Metroid games, anything like that... it's a struggle.

      Oh and you know what else is a little awkward?

      There's plenty of Nintendo hardware that quietly sold worse. Just off the top of my head: the GBA card reader, the Game Boy Printer, the Wii Speak, etc.

    It may be simple, but personally i thought it was...
    - overpriced
    - uncomfortable
    - too small
    - hurt to game on (my eyes!)
    - ugly

    Last edited 10/06/13 4:07 pm

    I bought the original non-backlit GBA so now I play my GBA games on my DSLite.

    Yeah, the Micro was cool, but by taking away half of the GBA's features, it just fell flat for me. Not only were old GameBoy games no longer playable, but the whole GameCube connectivity thing that Nintendo had been actively pushing during the year leading up to the Micro's release... doesn't work on Micro. My bro-in-law bought one, all excited that he could use it to play Four Swords and FF Crystal Chronicles. Nope, there's nowhere to stick the connector cable. Therefore, in my books, it's a nerfed produced and not as good as the SP. (The tiny little screen sure looked great though!)

      Oh, totally forgot about that part.

      There was some kind of adapter for the link cable. I tried looking into it to see whether it was worth getting one, but I think rather than being a converter from the Micro's port to the regular link cable port, it was actually something different? I can't remember what now though.

    It was small and hurt my hands after about 15 minutes of gameplay. And that screen, it was bright, but dayum ain't was tiny.

    I think the SP was better

    I've always been one for pixel-dense screens, but I had to draw the line here. I'd have happily taken a larger screen with poorer density than one the size of a postage stamp.

    So you're saying the Gameboy Micro is the best console that Nintendo ever produced, and that the Wii U/PS4/Xbox One should be more like it, even though no-one bought it???

      Well, the fact that no one bought it was more circumstantial than anything else. It was released just before the DS came out so was already obsolete, plus everyone already had a GBA and/or SP already so there was little incentive to grab one. I think what he was more getting at was that the Micro is an example of doing one thing and doing it well, as opposed to modern machines which take more of a "jack of all trades, master of none" approach.


    On the right is Fire Pro Wrestling 7, the front is Mario Kart Super Circuit. That green one on the left looks like Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga. Not sure what the purply one at the back is. The red one in front of it is Minish Cap, and that blue one to the right looks liiiike... Astro Boy: Omega Factor? Or is it possibly Gunstar Heroes Advance?

      Minish Cap and Fire Pro are in there -- 1 onscreen, 2 is the cart to the right. But that's not Super Circuit -- it's Mario Vs Donkey Kong. Also pictured: The criminally overlooked Pac-Man Collection and Game & Watch Gallery Advance.

        Oh derp, of course it's MvDK. I am covered in shame now :P

        You'd be right on the Pac Man Collection. I don't remember hearing anything about it ever before.

    GBA SP2 (AGS-101) is better. The Micro is way too small to play games on properly.

    And it requires an impossible to buy cable to connect to the GCN or another GBA -

    The wireless adapters are easy enough to buy, but you can't connect to the GCN or the regular GBA wireless adapters! And half these accessories were never available in stores. Like the GCN component cable, you had to buy it through Nintendo directly. Ugh. The GCN era accessories are rubbish, much like the "features" built in to games to take advantage of them.

    I actually agree that the GB Micro is the greatest invention ever made but it's completely circumstantial I suppose -

    I had one of these in high school and just about every single Assembly I would crack this badboy out and play it, my mate tried playing his GBA and always got caught, I never ever did because its just so small and the screens so clear you can play it like a ninja, I played all of Pokemon Sapphire and Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga some of my best gaming memories

    I'd have to agree it's the most useful Gameboy I've ever owned. I've got 2 of the original (one was my sisters), a GBC, a GBA SP, an original DS and my gameboy Micro. Originally when I bought it I was a bit annoyed as it wasn't getting used too often, nowhere near as many hours as my GBA SP. Then i went to Japan 6 years ago to work at a ski resort and took my PSP, and my GB Micro. Bought a charger over there, finally clocked FF Tactics Advanced, re-clocked FF1&2, Sword of Mana, and a bucketload of other games. I think in numbers of pure hours played it's outclocked every console I've ever owned by a massive margin. As for those who say it's unplayable, I'm not sure I agree. I've started playing it for hours again this year as everyone kept asking me to have New Year's resolution. So I said I'd finally catch 'em all and have been re-clocking Pokemon Fire-Red & Leaf-Green. Such a rad little console and it really defines what a mobile gaming platform should be :)

    The Gameboy Micro is easily my favourite handheld. So sexy and functional with an amazing screen despite it's size. I still play Astroboy on it frequently and Gunstar Heroes, such an amazing piece of hardware but Nintendo just got the timing wrong on this one :(

    If it played original gameboy games I'd say it's the best device ever built, but despite its shortcomings it's easily the best nintendo console ever. I'm just mad I scratched mines faceplate. Dem things be expensive nowdays.

    Micro all the way. The buttons the micro uses much better than SP. plus it's wider and feels better holding it. SP hands get all cramped up. Much better portable with its size. Great custom faceplates. Has the mic input which SP lacks. Also with flash cards u can play older games on the micro

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