In retrospect, it’s a miracle how long Nintendo managed to milk the shelf life of the original Game Boy handheld. Released in 1989, the system revolutionized handheld gaming, even though it was in black and white and had less processing power than even the NES at the time. One of the best-selling gaming consoles of all time, it ended up having much more popularity than its competitors in the Sega Game Gear, despite that system having a color screen.
However, the Game Boy Advance, which launched in North America in June 2001, was a real revolution in handheld technology. Able to play much more powerful games (and somewhat derisively considered a portable SNES), the system also became one of the most beloved portable systems ever.
With Super Mario Advance and F-Zero games available right at launch, the system still had a few drawbacks – a lack of a backlit screen worked against the GBA – but made up for it with a massive library of amazing games across all genres. From RPGs like Golden Sun and the third generation of Pokemon to original Zelda adventures that helped sell the system, there were plenty of reasons to make the GBA a hot ticket item. The cheap price helped too, of course.
The GBA had plenty of ports, sure. From multiple Mario 2D adventures to Legend Of Zelda: LTTP, the GBA could rightfully be seen as one that relied on ports. However, with the amount of original titles available (seriously, have you played Riviera: The Promised Land?), the Game Boy Advance’s technology and gaming variety helped kill off most competitors in the handheld market.