Game Gear ROMs

Console History: Sega Game Gear

As mobile gaming was taking off in the early nineties, Sega was playing catch-up to Nintendo’s Game Boy. Released in 1990, a year after the Game Boy, the Sega Game Gear packed all the specs to be a monster of mobile gaming console, but it just couldn’t beat out the Game Boy.

Today, the Game Gear is emulated on Android devices and other modern systems out of a feel for nostalgia. Despite being discontinued in 1996, never to see a proper successor (unless you count the awkward, short-lived, North America-only Sega Nomad), the Game Gear garnered a legion of dedicated fans within the 11 million units it sold. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that it had some really great games.

When competing against the Game Boy, Sega marketed it as the cooler and technologically superior product. This was actually pretty true. It was essentially a handheld Sega Master System, packing all the power of that gaming system into a handheld device. Not to mention that it had a beautiful, backlit color screen that blew the Game Boy’s grayscale screen out of the water.

Still, those specs came at a price. Even though it was more expensive than the Game Boy, its battery didn’t last nearly as long. The Game Boy could go over thirty hours on four AA batteries, but the Game Gear required six AA batteries to make it only 5 hours at the most. That would burn through a lot of batteries quickly, and almost defeats the purpose of a mobile device if you need to carry around a bag full of batteries.

The advantage of emulation, however, is that batteries are no longer a problem. Now you can get the full power of the Game Gear with none of the drawbacks. Plus, with games designed for a mobile device, the games are generally easier to handle than Master System games while using an Android device. Many Game Gear titles were actually just Master System ports, but they accounted for the smaller screen size and button layout. The Game Gear actually retained a horizontal gamepad which was easier to hold than Nintendo’s Game Boy.

As far as games are concerned, the Game Boy got over 1,000 titles in its lifetime, while the Game Gear got just over 300. But don’t let the quantity fool you, the Game Gear’s titles were nothing to laugh at. Classic titles like Land of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, Prince of Persia, Sonic the Hedgehog, Dragon Crystal, Street Rage 2, and more all brought out the best in the Game Gear. You haven’t truly experienced Sonic the Hedgehog until you play this classic.

It’s only successor, if you could call it that, was the Sega Nomad — a North America-only handset that was essentially a mobile Sega Genesis. The Game Gear was Sega’s last worldwide handheld gaming device, and with only two buttons compared to the six buttons on Nomad, it is simpler to emulate on modern devices. The console itself had a few optional and strange peripherals including a TV tuner that allowed users to watch TV on the tiny 3.2 inch screen. An unusual addition, no doubt, but one that separated it even more from the Game Boy. Also available was an accessory that magnified the screen to make it appear bigger for those who disliked squinting at the tiny screen. You could even connect two Game Gears with a cable for multiplayer action.

If you’ve never stepped outside of the Nintendo bubble, give it a try. Nintendo has some great games and devices, but give the Game Gear and some of its unique games a try and you won’t regret it. This device sold 11 million units for a reason. It may have lost to the Game Boy in the long run, but it had a great run for a while and will continue to live on in emulators for years to come.