Fans of retro Nintendo games have enjoyed a rare golden age over the last two years. First, the company unveiled a pint-sized version of the Nintendo Classic (and announced a second run slated for next year). Then, Nintendo revealed that a miniaturized version of the Super Nintendo Classic will hit stores by the end of this month. Throw in third-party retro consoles like the Analogue NT Mini that can play over 2,000 games, and there’s no shortage of ways to relive old memories or introduce your kids to the Legend of Zelda.
Until now, though, there’s been no way to get all nostalgic with Nintendo’s popular handheld console of yesteryear, the Game Boy ⏤ even if this Belgian student did set a world record building the largest one ever last week. That just changed with the release of Hyperkin’s SmartBoy: a $50 case that turns an ordinary smartphone into an old-school gaming console.
Designed to look like the bottom half of an original Game Boy, the Hyperkin SmartBoy accommodates select Android smartphones with a USB Type-C jack (iPhones need not apply) and features extendable sides to ensure wider handsets still fit (from 5.2 to 6.4 inches). The tactile buttons all look and work the same, and it’s built to feel like you’re playing an original console ⏤ but with a much nicer screen ⏤ right down to using original Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges that plug into the back of the unit. Yes, the Hyperkin SmartBoy plays all the classic cartridges still sitting in your parent’s basement. That said, if you dumped those at Goodwill ages ago, it doesn’t come with video games ⏤ so keep that in mind. You’ll likely have to hit eBay.
That said, while the Hyperkin SmartBoy needs cartridges to work, it doesn’t actually play the games from them. Instead, it requires users download both the SmartBoy app and MyOldBoy, a preexisting Game Boy emulator. From there, it downloads the games to the phone and runs them directly from the memory. Once the cartridge is ejected, the game is automatically deleted from the phone. Early reviews suggest that the startup process is a complete pain but once everything’s installed, play is relatively simple.
For $50 (or cheaper on Amazon) the Hyperkin SmartBoy a pretty cool way to play some old games without investing in another system. Whether your memories of Super Mario Land on the small screen are as fond as the current reality, however, is to be determined.