The Many Faces Of The Video Game Handheld

by Kyle Hilliard on Mar 15, 2014 at 02:10 PM

After the age of the original Game Boy and Game Gear came to a close, handhelds began branching off into colors beyond grey and black. After that, they started getting fancy logos, special editions, bizarre colors, and in some cases, images of a Pikachu trying to give you a hug. We still don't see as many special edition handhelds as Japan, but we have a few interesting ones. And if recent models of 3DS are any indication, it looks like we'll see more in the future. Here are some of the ones we've seen in North America.

NES and Famicom GBA SP and GBA Micro
I saved the best for first with the NES-themed Game Boy Advance SP and the Famincom themed Game Boy Advance Micro you see above. The former was released alongside a number of NES classics released for the Game Boy Advance a few years into its life. The latter is the coolest version of what may be Nintendo's most underrated redesign. I don't know who the Micro was for from a marketing perspective, especially considering Nintendo released a version modeled after a console design that never released in North America, but it was awesome. It had a fantastic battery life, and the smaller screen condensed the visuals for Game Boy Advance games so they looked super sharp.

Pikachu Nintendo 3DS XL and Game Boy Color
Pikachu's recent 3DS model with the oddly placed cameras was not the first time the yellow mouse was prominently featured on a Nintendo handheld. The yellow Game Boy Color released around the same time as Pokémon Yellow, which was arguably the height of Pikachu's popularity, and as a result I remember seeing these everywhere. The battery indicator light appearing in the middle of the Pokéball was a nice touch.

Kratos and Darth Vader PSPs
Sony never played around much with special editions of its handhelds, and the Vita seems to be continuing this lack of a trend. There was a time though, briefly, during the the life of the PSP where Sony thought, "You know what would be awesome? Putting faces on the back of the left sides of PSPs." The result of that thought was Kratos' face and Drath Vader's helmeted head showing up on the back of two special editions PSPs. The nice thing about these special editions, is you could remove the panel with the faces (it was the battery pack panel) and buy a cheap replacement battery cover of the same color if you just wanted a white or red PSP.

The Zelda DS collection
Nintendo must have had good sales with its Zelda DS Lite, because it has followed up with two other Zelda specific models of DS and 3DS. I particularly like the latest model, which appears on the lower vertex of the Zelda DS triangle above. It's thematically appropriate for The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (which was included in its box), and it also looks super sharp.

The New 3DS XL collection
Nintendo has recently, more than ever, embraced the special edition handheld. Japan still gets some of the coolest special edition handhelds, like this upcoming Persona Q 3DS, but our North American collection is looking pretty formidable. I particularly like the new Yoshi model, as opposed to the Pokémon X & Y models, which just place an image on a pre-existing 3DS model/color. I am a sucker for brand new colors.

This is far from a comprehensive list, even when just looking at North America. There are retailer specific models that disappear immediately after the Christmas season, and some that are incredibly limited – even if they are sold everywhere. What are some of your favorite special edition handhelds?

For a similar feature on the many faces of the Xbox 360 controller, head here.