History of video games/Platforms/Virtual Boy


Virtual Boy logotype.

The Virtual Boy was Nintendo's first attempt at semi-portable virtual reality.



A company in Cambridge, Massachusetts had come up with an inexpensive heads up display that they tried to pitch to several gaming companies, including Sega and Mattel, but only Nintendo took serious interest in the technology.[1] Following a 1991 pitch, Gunpei Yokoi, the head of Nintendo's R&D1 division, took interest in the technology and put his retirement plans on hold.[1]



Concern about liability from people moving without awareness of their surroundings caused the concept for a wearable virtual boy to be abandoned in favor of a tabletop unit.[1]

Hardware testing reportedly involved testers placing their heads in a vice grip, and then undergo pupil dilation and air puffs[note 1] to the eye to then stare unblinkingly for a minute with plastic rods sitting in front of their eyes in addition to a light source.[2]



The Virtual Boy launched in Japan in July of 1995 and in North America on August 21st, 1995[1] at a price of $179.99 with the game Mario Tennis included.[3] On October 18th, 1995 the price of the Virtual Boy was lowered to $159.95. By May 1996 Nintendo dropped the price of the Virtual Boy to $99.[3]


The Virtual Boy being shown at E3 2006.

The console was discontinued in August 1996.[1] Lasting about a year on the market before being pulled, the Virtual Boy was significant as one of the first major game console by Nintendo to fail on the market.[3]

The Virtual Boy only sold 770,000 units worldwide.[1]

Critics of the Virtual Boy, including founder of Oculus Palmer Luckey, claim it damaged the VR industry in the long term.[4]

Following the failure of the Virtual Boy, Gunpei worked on the redesigned GameBoy Pocket, then resigned from Nintendo in August of 1996 surprising many in the industry.[1] Gunpei stated that his resignation was not due to the Virtual Boy, but rather to go independent.[5] While his independent work would later become the WonderSwan, Gunpei himself died in 1997 from an automobile accident.[5]





The Virtual Boy used a NEC V810 32 bit RISC CPU with additional instructions clocked at 20MHz.[6][7] The CPU was capable of 18 MIPS.[8]

The system had 128kb of DRAM and 64kb of WRAM.[6] For graphics there was 128kb of VRAM.[6][9]


The color spectrum of the Virtual Boy.

The Virtual Boy used an oscillating mirror display using red LEDs, similar to the Entex Adventure Vision an earlier and more primitive tabletop console without stereoscopic capabilities.

Each eyepiece had a resolution of 384 by 224 and operated at 50 hertz.[6] The display could output black and three hues of red at 128 different intensities.[9][6] Mirrors were placed at a 45 degree angle.[10] The LEDs used by the Virtual Boy gave it very good contrast, especially compared to other contemporary display technologies.[4]

User specific calibration is important for displays of this form, and the Virtual Boy is no exception. The console had controls for adjusting focus, as well as a dial for adjusting inter-pupillary distance.[11]



The Virtual Boy supported 16 bit sound.[9]

Cartridges can have between 512 kilobytes and 2 megabytes (2048 kilobytes) of ROM for game data and can have up to eight kilobytes of battery backed RAM for game saves.[12][13][8]



The decision to use two D-Pads was said to be spurred by Gunpei Yokoi.[14]


Virtual Boy Game Paks.

About 30,000 lines of assembly code is used in the Virtual Boy game Mario Tennis.[15]



The Virtual Boy only saw 22 games released across all regions during its production.[16]





A well received boxing game.

Read more about Teleroboxer on Wikipedia.

Virtual Boy Wario Land


Often regarded as the best game for the system.

Read more about Virtual Boy Wario Land on Wikipedia.



This game was considered among the most notable third party titles for the Virtual Boy.[17]

This game supported single console multiplayer, which was done by having users play compete in individual sessions.[18]

This game received poor to mediocre reception.[18][19]

Read more about Waterworld on Wikipedia.

Galactic Pinball


The performance of the announcer in this game led the voice actor to strive for a more energetic performance in the later Nintendo 64 game F-Zero X.[20]

Read more about Galactic Pinball on Wikipedia.

Jack Bros


A well received Halloween themed action game. This game featured the Jack Bros from the Megami Tensei series, and was the first entry of the series to have an international release.[21][22]

Read more about Jack Bros. on Wikipedia.

Red Alarm


An ambitious and technically impressive flight combat game. The game did not receive a great critical reception, in part due to a lack of shading making gameplay difficult.

Developers of Red Alarm had to contend with the then new idea of 3D console gaming, and how such a game could be easily controlled by the player.[14]

Read more about Red Alarm on Wikipedia.



Nester's Funky Bowling


A tie in with the magazine Nintendo Power.

Read more about Nester's Funky Bowling on Wikipedia.

Canceled and Unreleased


Star Fox


Tech demo at the Winter Consumer Electronics Show of 1995 and E3 1995.[23]

Zero Racers/G-Racers


F-Zero game said to be completed but unreleased.[24]

Read more about Zero Racers on Wikipedia.


Virtual Boy






Display Output


Virtual Boy usage


Console Internals



  1. a b c d e f g Edwards, Benj (21 August 2015). "Unraveling The Enigma Of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy, 20 Years Later". Fast Company. https://www.fastcompany.com/3050016/unraveling-the-enigma-of-nintendos-virtual-boy-20-years-later. Retrieved 21 October 2020. 
  2. McFerran, Damien (28 February 2022). "Nintendo's "Inhumane" Virtual Boy Testing Process Likened To 'A Clockwork Orange'". Nintendo Life. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2022/02/nintendos-inhumane-virtual-boy-testing-process-likened-to-a-clockwork-orange. 
  3. a b c Flanagan, Graham (March 26th, 2018). "The incredible story of the 'Virtual Boy' — Nintendo's VR headset from 1995 that failed spectacularly". Business Insider. https://www.businessinsider.com/nintendo-virtual-boy-reality-3d-video-games-super-mario-2018-3. Retrieved 21 October 2020. 
  4. a b Whitehead, Thomas (11 January 2016). "Oculus Founder Palmer Luckey Believes Virtual Boy "Hurt" the VR Industry, But It's Not All Bad". Nintendo Life. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2016/01/oculus_founder_palmer_luckey_believes_virtual_boy_hurt_the_vr_industry_but_its_not_all_bad. Retrieved 21 October 2020. 
  5. a b Ashcraft, Brian (May 7th, 2018). "Game Boy Creator Said He Didn't Leave Nintendo Because Of The Virtual Boy" (in en-us). Kotaku. https://kotaku.com/game-boy-creator-explains-why-he-left-nintendo-1825818754. Retrieved 21 October 2020. 
  6. a b c d e "Virtual Reality Then: A Look Back at the Nintendo Virtual Boy". TechSpot. https://www.techspot.com/article/1085-nintendo-virtual-boy/. Retrieved 25 October 2020. 
  7. "VB Programmer's Documentation". www.goliathindustries.com. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  8. a b "Virtual Boy Specifications". www.goliathindustries.com. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  9. a b c "Nintendo Virtual Boy Teardown". iFixit. 3 September 2010. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
  10. "Nintendo Virtual Boy Teardown". iFixit. 3 September 2010. Retrieved 29 October 2020.
  11. "| Nintendo - Customer Service | Virtual Boy Image Troubleshooting |". web.archive.org. 2002-12-20. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  12. "Virtual Boy System Info". www.vgmuseum.com. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  13. "Miscellaneous Attributes : Battery Backed RAM". MobyGames. Retrieved 17 November 2020.
  14. a b "Feature: The Making Of Red Alarm, The Virtual Boy's Answer To Star Fox". Nintendo Life. 2015-12-03. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2015/12/feature_the_making_of_red_alarm_the_virtual_boys_answer_to_star_fox. 
  15. "A Modder Brings Multiplayer to the Virtual Boy, Nintendo's Most Anti-Social Console". www.vice.com. Retrieved 28 November 2020.
  16. "Feature: Every Virtual Boy Game Ranked". Nintendo Life. 25 August 2020. https://www.nintendolife.com/guides/feature-every-virtual-boy-game-ranked. Retrieved 20 October 2020. 
  17. Greenwald, Will. "The worst game console(s) ever" (in en). CNET. https://www.cnet.com/culture/the-worst-game-consoles-ever/. 
  18. a b Frear, Dave (22 June 2009). "Review: Waterworld (Virtual Boy)". Nintendo Life. https://www.nintendolife.com/reviews/2009/06/waterworld_retro. 
  19. "Waterworld Virtual Boy Review". Pop Culture Maven. 4 November 2015. https://www.popculturemaven.com/games/waterworld-virtual-boy-review/. 
  20. Hagues, Alana (3 May 2022). "Random: The F-Zero X Announcer's Voice Was Inspired By Ridge Racer". Nintendo Life. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2022/05/random-the-f-zero-x-announcers-voice-was-inspired-by-ridge-racer. 
  21. "Eight Attempts To Take Gaming Into the Third Dimension". The Escapist. 30 September 2015. https://www.escapistmagazine.com/eight-attempts-to-take-gaming-into-the-third-dimension/. 
  22. "Shin Megami Tensei's First US Release Is the Rarest Game on Nintendo's Worst Console". CBR. 12 August 2021. https://www.cbr.com/smt-virtual-boy-jack-bros/. 
  23. "StarFox [Virtual Boy - Cancelled - Unseen64"]. Unseen64: Beta, Cancelled & Unseen Videogames!. 2008-05-18. https://www.unseen64.net/2008/05/18/star-fox-virtual-boy/. 
  24. McFerran, Damien (28 February 2022). "Mythical Virtual Boy F-Zero Spin-Off Was 100% Complete, According To Former NOA Staffer". Nintendo Life. https://www.nintendolife.com/news/2022/02/mythical-virtual-boy-f-zero-spin-off-was-100percent-complete-according-to-former-noa-staffer. 


  1. Perhaps referring to non-contact tonometry?