Not only does June 2019 mark the 35th anniversary of Tetris, but by amazing coincidence, it also marks the 25th anniversary of another significant piece of Nintendo’s Game Boy legacy: The Super Game Boy!
Despite sharing a prefix with Nintendo’s 16-bit juggernaut, the Super Game Boy does not play 16-bit games (as some have confusingly thought). Rather, it’s an adapter that acts as a passthrough so that Game Boy games can be played on a television set using the Super Nintendo Entertainment System’s controller and audio/video display functionality.
What’s more, the device can also add color to those old black-and-white games. This can occur by either converting the four black/white/grey hues to four different colors, or making use of a further enhanced palette for specially compatible games. Other enhancements found include additional sounds, multiplayer through a single cartridge, bonus game features and modes, and custom borders.
It’s that last one that’s the key talking point today. For many games designed to be specially compatible with the Super Game Boy, a special border would be featured as an option for players to use in order to spice up the dead space surrounding the playing area. A few titles featuring Mario and Mario-adjacent characters can be found to contain these unique displays:
These border images, and so, so many more, can be found at VG Museum.
The highlight for this article, however, actually comes from within the Super Game Boy itself. A total of nine different borders can be found pre-programmed into the device (one of which you can draw on yourself using the controller or the Super NES Mouse), for all of those titles which came out before the Super Game Boy (or just didn’t care to add them).
Several of those borders will come to life in something of a “screen saver” mode when the game is left alone for several moments (or by pressing L four times, then R). As you might expect, one of those features Mario and friends engaging in a little bit of high jinks, which you can see here for yourself:
This is a fun little device, and was especially handy for those whose parents might not have been into the whole idea of “portable gaming” at the time, as it allowed those of us with Super NES consoles to finally enjoy some of the best games that our respective favorite series of the day had to offer.What’s more, it’s really the only way to play Donkey Kong on the Game Boy. After enjoying the enhancements employed by the Super Game Boy, it’s hard to go back to the plain black-and-white version Nintendo has on their Nintendo 3DS Virtual Console.
Fortunately, getting your hands on one doesn’t cost too much now, seemingly averaging at around $20 USD on eBay if you’re just interested in the cartridge. If you’re worried about boxes featuring Mario, the PAL version appears to be the only one with any artwork; the two North American versions just have screens from Donkey Kong on them, plus a picture of the cartridge in the case of the latter release. Likewise, the manual only features Mario in a Game Over screen from Donkey Kong.
Finally, so you can experience the full degree of “Mario Mania” surrounding the device, here are two commercials from Japan prominently featuring the plucky plumbing protagonist: