It’s a rare thing for a hardware developer to release a peripheral at launch that sees use throughout the entire life of a system. But perhaps even rarer still is for such an accessory to see even more use at the end of its respective system’s lifespan.
Enter the Game Boy’s Game Link Cable. In a world of wireless communication, it may surprise some younger gamers that this sort of connectivity wasn’t always available. With the release of Nintendo’s Game Boy in 1989, those who wished to play 2-player games together would have to connect their devices through the use of a cable that was around five feet in length, plugged into the upper-right side of their respective units. Fortunately, the pack-in game of Tetris (unlike its Nintendo-published counterpart for the Nintendo Entertainment System) supported two-player simultaneous play, encouraging use of the Game Link feature from the word go.
For whatever reason, inclusion of multiplayer capability seemed sporadic at best. Games known for their multiplayer capabilities on the NES, such as Super Mario Bros. or Contra, were typically done without on the smaller platform (though in Super Mario Land‘s case, the most likely explanation is that Mario‘s multiplayer was typically turn-based). Fortunately, there were the occasional sports, puzzle, and even scaled-down versions of popular arcade fighting games that would employ the accessory — provided you knew someone else with a copy of the same game, of course.
All that changed in 1996 in Japan with the release of Pocket Monsters, renamed Pokémon for its 1998 Western release. The availability of different versions of the game containing different contents that could be traded and competed between players not only reignited use of the Game Link Cable, but extended the lifespan of the Game Boy itself to 2003 — a long time for any gaming platform.