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1. Streets of Rage Games
With the success of the Genesis, many gamers hoped the Game Gear would recreate those fun home console experiences. And with the Streets of Rage ports, that is exactly what happened.
While the game made a few sacrifices (such as no Adam character in the first game), these titles were shockingly faithful to the originals. And if you had a buddy with the link cable, you can take one of the world’s best co-op beat’em ups wherever you wanted to go.
2. Fun Variations
When it comes to variant game systems, there is a “sweet spot” companies tried to aim for. In that sweet spot, players have a few great choices without getting overwhelmed.
There were a handful of different-colored models and a few fun promotional models (including a Coca-Cola Game Gear and even a Virtua Fighter version. There were also later models that improved on the original design, but Sega never copied Nintendo’s model of trying to get you to buy the same system three times or more.
3. Car Adapter
Arguably, the biggest strike against the Game Gear is the short battery life. But Sega came through with this car adapter accessory.
It relied on the cigarette lighter port in the car to keep the system charged. Not only did this let you play for the entirety of your road trip, but it provided gamers with something the Game Boy didn’t have.
4. Super Wide Gear
Once you get your mind out of the gutter, it’s easy to acknowledge a simple truth. With portable gaming, bigger really is better.
That’s why we loved the Super Wide Gear so much. It was an elegant screen magnifier that instantly made the Game Gear screen easier to view. It was better and easier to use than Game Boy magnifiers, and the magnified full-color screen looked much better.
5. Ruthless Advertising
Younger gamers may not remember this, but one of Sega’s weirder qualities was its aggressive advertising. They weren’t afraid to mercilessly mock Nintendo, and that happened a lot with Game Gear advertisements.
Their TV ads implied that Game Boy fans were colorblind idiots who drank from the toilet. Other commercials showed desperate Game Boy fans beating themselves on the head with dead animals in an attempt to see colors that their system couldn’t provide.
Was it juvenile? Absolutely. But at the time, Sega helped cement the Game Gear as the system for older and more discerning players.
6. System Aesthetic
As much as the feel of a console is important, the look is equally important. Who wants an awesome handheld game system if you cringe every time you look at it?
And while it’s a matter of taste, the Game Gear is just a better-looking system than the Game Boy. It’s wide, dark, and covered in sleek curves. Sega gave us a glimpse of what future game consoles would look like while Nintendo couldn’t do more than just give us a fat white rectangle to play on.
7. The Sonic Games
It took Sega a hot minute to find a good mascot. And early attempts such as Alex Kidd weren’t exactly captivating gamers.
Sonic the Hedgehog ended up breathing new life into the Sega Genesis. And the Sonic games for Game Gear looked and played absolutely great. In fact, it’s an open secret that the Sonic Game Gear games were much more faithful adaptations than the Mario Game Boy games.
8. Sweet Ports
Most handheld gamers in the early ’90s had a simple goal: they wanted a handheld experience that felt like a home gaming experience. And that’s another area where Game Gear excelled.
Simply put, the system had plenty of killer ports from the Sega Master System. These ports looked and played almost just like the original games. That is more than we can say for the various ports and sequels on the Game Boy which were usually nothing like what we got with the NES.
9. Master Gear Converter
It may sound shallow, but the “coolness” of a system is often measured in the coolness of its accessories. And the Game Gear arguably had one of the coolest accessories ever made.
The humbly-named Master Gear converter allowed gamers to play Master System games on their Game Gear. Not only did this instantly expand the Game Gear’s functional library, but it represented the first time players could take a true home console experience on the road.
10. Mortal Kombat II
Ok, real talk: there aren’t really any truly great handheld ports of Mortal Kombat 2. But in terms of graphics and performance, the Game Gear version really dances circles around the Game Boy one.
The Game Gear title gives us full-color graphics and blood. While the Game Boy version technically had gory fatalities, it was pretty much impossible to see what was going on, unlike with Sega’s port.
11. Comfortable to Hold
While it’s largely a matter of taste, the original Game Boy wasn’t that comfortable to hold. The blocky design is iconic and portable, but it can easily hurt your hands after a while.
However, the Game Gear offers a wide design complete with some sexy curves. While this resulted in a bigger system, that larger design was also much more ergonomic.
12. Better Graphics
Why else is the Game Gear better than the Game Boy? It all comes down to two words: “better graphics.”
Even though these were both 8-bit systems, the Game Boy had a “less is more” approach that made all their black and white games overly simplistic. That’s why fans were so excited to colorize those titles with a Super Game Boy. By contrast, the Game Gear boasted killer graphics in full color right out of the box.
13. Backlit Screen
In addition to the color screen, Game Gear had another major advantage over the Game Boy. The screen was backlit!
Game Boy products were notoriously difficult to see in the dark, requiring players to buy various lighting attachments until the Gameboy Advance SP came out in 2003. Meanwhile, Game Gear was showing us how great a backlit screen could be 13 years before that.
14. Color Screen
Perhaps the most obvious reason why the Game Gear was better than the Game Boy is simple. Sega actually managed to give us a color screen!
Nintendo didn’t add color to their handhelds until the Game Boy Color in 1998. Meanwhile, the Game Gear was rocking a very colorful screen way back in 1990.