DIY Game Boy arcade blows up classic titles with a giant screen, giant controls

We have seen no shortage of retro designs that try to recreate the glory of old product designs, especially in the gaming world. Many of these try to be as faithful as they can to the original, but some are content to add a few interesting twists like sticking to the spirit of the design and the experience. A Game Boy, for example, was one of the earliest handheld gaming devices to gain international fame, but that doesn’t mean it has to stick to that petite size today. In fact, this DIY retro project goes in the opposite direction and brings the green-tinted monochrome display of the OG Game Boy to an extra large arcade cabinet screen, complete with a joystick and buttons that could feel more satisfying to mash to quickly get through dialogues.

Designer: Shaun Campbell (didsomebodysayretro)

Compared even to its colorful successor, the original Game Boy felt a bit underwhelming. Despite that, it opened gamers of the past generations to a world of gaming that they can take anywhere with them. In addition to special features that allowed them to link up with other Game Boy devices, the gaming handheld embodied a kind of freedom that was revolutionary in an age of home consoles. It’s almost ironic, then, that the WoodBoy project removes that portable design but exchanges it with another of the Game Boy’s popular traits: pure gaming fun.

In a nutshell, WoodBoy shoves the original Game Boy, not the Game Boy Color, into a handmade wooden arcade cabinet. This gives it a much larger screen than the minuscule 2.5-inch screen of the handheld original, something a bit better for today’s more discerning eyes. In fact, everything about the arcade is an upscaled version of the Game Boy, redefined for, well, arcade play. Instead of a gigantic D-pad, for example, you get a more satisfying joystick for directional control.

Curiously, WoodBoy eschews the traditional 2×2 button arrangement you might find on most arcades for two red buttons at the top and two black buttons on the front edge of the cabinet. This mimics the separation of the A, B, Start, and Select buttons on the Game Boy and minimizes the potential for confusion or erroneous presses. At the same time, however, that might make it harder to hit pause quickly with either of your hands if it has to travel to the front.

What makes WoodBoy different from many DIY retro projects is that it runs actual original Game Boy cartridges rather than using emulation. It utilizes a kit that mods the original Game Boy device into a console, making it compatible with authentic cartridges and games. That, of course, makes it dependent on owning said cartridges, but WoodBoy is definitely a collector’s product anyway.