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When Will We get Game Boy on Nintendo Switch Online?

With the Nintendo 64 catalog being drip-fed onto the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack, a lot of people are already chomping at the bit to see the next Nintendo platform on Switch. Some are hoping for GameCube games, for example, but the biggest buzz is surrounding rumors and speculation around Nintendo adding the Game Boy library to Nintendo Switch Online. But two questions commonly come up: when will it arrive, and what will it be like?

Release date rumors

Over the years, rumors have existed pointing out a potential Game Boy library release on the Nintendo Switch. However, as this video’s existence implies, none of these rumors have been shown to be true. This does not necessarily mean that they are hoaxes, or even speculation. For example, it is possible that a rumor or alleged leak was based on real information, at least in part. They may have gotten some information wrong, or the information may have changed since they originally learned the information.

Looking back, the earliest major rumor I could see was back in September 2021, although it is highly likely that both rumors and speculation predate this date. The rumor had confirmation from sources for both Nintendo Life and Eurogamer, which claimed that Nintendo was about to add a new library, and that it would be Game Boy and Game Boy Color games specifically. The first thing actually came true, suggesting that the sources had some info, but it was Nintendo 64 and Genesis games instead.

The next big rumor came in April 2022, when official Game Boy Advance and Game Boy (presumably also Game Boy Color) emulators were allegedly leaked and posted on 4chan. This may be an elaborate hoax, but hey, it’s nice to dream, right?

Why does the Nintendo 64 library on Nintendo Switch suggest Game Boy releases?

There has been a lot of rumbling surrounding the idea of a Game Boy library on the Switch ever since certain games were confirmed to be released on the Nintendo Switch in the future. Namely, Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Stadium 2. These games, if nothing else, are known for their compatibility with the Game Boy Pokemon mainline games. Red, Blue, Yellow, and Green for Pokemon Stadium and Gold, Silver, and Crystal for Pokemon Stadium 2. Thus, it is perfectly understandable that people would expect Game Boy games to eventually come. But is that the case?

The first argument in support of an eventual Game Boy release – at least of the Pokemon games – is the fact that the benefit of connecting Stadium and Stadium 2 to these games is significant. In fact, I’d argue that if you play these games without Game Boy compatibility, it can be incredibly difficult to actually complete the game. Sure, you can play a fair bit of it, especially the fan-favorite mini-games found in both games. Plus, there’s a lot of personality involved in being able to import the Pokemon you raised!

However, there are reasons to believe that this may not indicate Game Boy games on the Switch. Namely, the fact that both Pokemon Stadium 1 and 2 include an advisory that notes that they do not support transfers. Thus, at least for now, these games are not designed with the idea of Game Boy games on the Nintendo Switch in mind. However, it is not at all out of the question that Nintendo may retroactively add the feature in, or that they are just covering their butts in case they don’t get Game Boy games on NSO in time.

What Nintendo 64 games support the N64 Transfer Pak?

While Pokemon Stadiums 1 and 2 are easily the most well-known examples of this, there are actually numerous games on the N64 that are able to connect to a Game Boy or Game Boy Color game. Most of these games are Japanese-only, though there are two notable exceptions: Mario Golf and Mario Tennis.

The Game Boy Color and Nintendo 64 got one of each of these two series, and each had their own merits. The GBC games actually use original characters (in addition to Mario characters), which are used in the game’s RPG mode. In this mode, they build stats, and you can transfer these characters from the GBC to N64 and back. Honestly, aside from being able to gain experience, there’s not much lost by no connectivity. All they’d really have to do is make it so that you can get them normally instead.

The way the N64 Transfer Pak worked was that you would plug it into the back of the controller. Here, however, they would need to do some modifications to make an N64 game detect a save file of a GB or GBC game. That said, I doubt it would be any great feat, though I am not a programmer, so take that with a grain of salt.

What kind of Game Boy games might we get?

The term Game Boy is often used to refer to all three Game Boy platforms’ libraries – Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance – and as a result, people’s understanding of what such an online platform would be like varies. In general, the two most common assumptions regarding a potential Game Boy library either involves:

  • Just the Game Boy and Game Boy Color libraries
  • All three platforms

Granted, there are probably people who think that there will only be Game Boy or Game Boy Color games, but these are anomalies, especially the latter. Similarly, some may just expect the Game Boy Advance library, if only because it is a more popular platform for people to go back to, due to its comparable power to the similarly popular Super NES.

What past re-releases have Game Boy games had on other platforms?

If Game Boy games (GB, GBC, or GBA) came to the Nintendo Switch, it would not be the first time they came to another platform. Besides individual re-releases of Game Boy games, the Nintendo 3DS notably had both the Game Boy and Game Boy Color Virtual Console libraries on it. If you are not familiar with the Virtual Console pricing model, unlike with Nintendo Switch Online, the Virtual Console titles were sold individually on their respective shops (Wii Shop Channel, Wii U eShop, and/or 3DS eShop).

These two pricing models have their pros and cons, with the biggest con of the model used for Nintendo Switch Online is that it’s subscription instead of purchases. Not only does a subscription model involve losing access to the games once it runs out, but in the case of the Nintendo Switch, players are pretty limited in terms of playability options. You have to first access the library while connected to the Internet, which is not very convenient for a portable device.

How much of the library will be available?

Whenever Nintendo adds a new set of retro games to the Nintendo Switch, there is only a limited number of titles available. It may be nice to have all the games available at launch, but there are actually multiple benefits to structuring releases in this way. For one, having all the games available at the start may make it feel overwhelming. For another, a lot of games for the Game Boy would require licensing agreements (mainly third-party titles). Finally, Nintendo likely wants to make sure that people will stay subscribed to see more games released.

Nintendo Switch Online has partial NES, SNES, N64, and Genesis libraries available, so if a Game Boy library is added, we should likely see the library start out with a modest selection and slowly be expanded over time. We’d likely get a sampling of a game or two from multiple franchises. For example, The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX and Super Mario Land were particularly early games on the Nintendo 3DS’ Virtual Console library.

What other Game Boy features might we expect if it comes to the Nintendo Switch Online?

One criticism that Nintendo received over the Game Boy library on 3DS is that there were some limited features. For example, the game The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX was originally released for the Game Boy in black and white, but only the Game Boy Color DX re-release is available. Not only might someone prefer this older version, but the design is actually slightly different. Similarly, some Game Boy games have borders that only appear when played on Super Game Boy, like Pokemon Red and Blue, and cannot be played with certain color schemes available through the SNES-compatible Super Game Boy.

Meanwhile, there are some features that, understandably, could not possibly be reproduced. For example, motion control is going to be difficult to do, especially considering the fact that not all motion-controlled games do motion in the same way. Kirby’s Tilt ‘n’ Tumble for the GBC and WarioWare: Twisted! for the GBA are two motion-controlled games that have different technology involved in their gameplay.

When will Game Boy come to Nintendo Switch Online?

As of this video, there is nothing concrete to say about the release date, as well as whether we will get it at all. I think it would be strange if it never showed up at all, considering the work they did on a Game Boy emulator, and the idea of a Game Boy library on the Switch is popular enough that I’m sure Nintendo is giving it some thought. However, it wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo did or did not do something that went against fans’ wishes or expectations. Nevertheless, we will keep an eye out for more news, so subscribe to keep up to date yourself!

Steven Carr

Steven is a certified IT professional and gaming enthusiast. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years, and specializes in all things Tech-related. When he's not geeking out over the latest hardware or software release, he can be found testing out the latest video game.

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