Game Boy versus Arduboy (Similarities & Dissimilarities)

To set the tone in advanced, this isn’t a competitive topic. There are a lot of angles to view this from. There are a lot of similarities between the Game Boy and the Arduboy along with a lot of differences. I will make a separate comment about my own opinions to keep things neutral. This is mostly about personal feelings because there are too many angles to look at this. What do you think the Arduboy and the Game Boy have, or don’t have, in common?

My take on the Arduboy versus Game Boy comparison is a bit more spiritual than technical. You can certainly make the technical distinctions between the two. My first introduction to Arduboy deserves some context. I was introduced via the Micro Arcade games. I saw Pac-Man and Tetris at Walmart. I researched online and tracked down the Tetris “Micro Card” (not to be confused with the Micro Arcade). I saw a video on This Does Not Computer stating that the Arduboy Micro Card was essentially the definitive version. I agree. I have been playing the Micro Card variant a lot.

Since Tetris was originally packed with the Game Boy, it is easy to see me make this jump in conclusions. I have found sprite work to be easier than the Game Boy so far by limiting it to two color choices instead of 3-4 shades of gray(green). Considering I am starting with a name badge project and an RPG, the screen crunch feels less consequential to me. This is until you consider the Yoshi’s Cookie clone I want to make. I do feel the screen crunch there.

For me, it boils down to this. I do not feel like the Nintendo Switch Lite is a Game Boy HD. I feel like it is a Nintendo DS with one screen. If I were to choose a modern day spiritual successor to the Game Boy, I would pick the Arduboy boy. Sure, there are technical differences. There are some people out there using this to only play the free games with no intentions of developing for their own purpose. Downloading new games is almost simple to the layman, and steps have been taken to see it so. To the person who isn’t making games for this device, it’s a credit card sized Game Boy.

Besides the physical similarities I think the Arduboy is more a descendant of a C64 than a gameboy.

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Arduboy is much faster with CPU than a Game Boy, but it suffers from having no hardware support for sprites. In that sense, it’s more like an Apple II, with everything bring done by directly manipulating the screen bitmap. The speaker hardware is also similar to what the Apple II could do, although it has the advantage of a hardware timer. RAM is very limited compared to the home computers of the 80s, but you don’t need the overhead of an OS which helps.

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Interesting. I feel that way about the Pocket CHIP.

Blockquote Besides the physical similarities I think the Arduboy is more a descendant of a C64 than a gameboy.

I was under the impression it had a faster CPU just by seeing Catacombs of the Damned versus Face Ball running on the respective systems. The way it draws sprites with a screen bitmap is indeed a paradigm shift for me there. I wasn’t immediately getting the information given to me in another thread about this topic, but I think your wording made me understand it better. The graphics they gave me make more sense now about how it renders graphics. I wonder if anyone bothered with an Oregon Trail game given your Apple II comments.

See Cascade Path: Wagon Train

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I literally went through the whole list of games to see what would catch my eye and never saw this one. Diligence isn’t always enough. Thanks for narrowing me in on this one. (Cascade Path)

I think I’ve done something like this before somewhere else on the forum,
but here’s a rough spec comparison:

Specifications Arduboy Game Boy
CPU ATmega32u4 Sharp LR35902
Instruction Set AVR Modified Z80
Clock Speed 16MHz 4.19 MHz
Screen Dimensions 128x64 160x144
Screen Depth 2 colours 4 colours
Buttons 6 8
RAM 2560 Bytes 8KB
ROM 32KB 32KB to 8MB*
EEPROM 1KB Varies**
Width 54mm 90mm
Height 86mm 148mm
Depth 5mm 32mm

* Specifically one of: 32KB, 64KB, 128KB, 256KB, 512KB, 1MB, 2MB, 4MB or 8MB
** Couldn’t find any figures on Wikipedia

Shape aside they are drastically different beasts.


To those more technically inclined, yes. Everyone I show this to at work instantly says something like, “It’s a tiny Game Boy.”

I’m pretty sure the EEPROM was just battery backed RAM on Game Boy Game Paks. I can’t remember what it was called. I keep thinking echo RAM, but that is for level data. I will have to find the answer again to speak confidently.

Sprite data also had three colors with the fourth color set for the transparency.

Also, a coworker is supposed to bring colored transparency film. We are wondering if it is thin enough to put under the polycarbonate front, but on top of the screen, so that the screen could be the same color as the Game Boy or an amber CRT monitor.

The default size of a Game Boy Game Pak is 32KB and publishers had to order ones with a larger size. It used memory banking technology. In a sense, the Game Boy had no ROM except for the boot ROM since it used interchangeable Game Paks. The ROM on the Arduboy is onboard.

It think it boils down to whether you are looking at the device as a developer/programmer or as a consumer. To many consumers, it represents simplified gameplay and good battery life for something of it’s size. You can also charge it through Android OTG and load games on it that way. If that is how people feel about it, then I will be making it my goal to make sure my games have that Game Boy charm.

I feel like something else worth mentioning is the library of games itself. I had Tetris, Dr. Mario, Mario Picross, Donkey Kong Land, Microsoft Game Collection (forgot exact name, but it had Minesweeper @Pharap) and Jurassic Park 2: The Chaos Continues. I have the Tetris Micro Card. Picross is on the Arduboy. Castle Boy is a worthy mention. Castle of Damned reminds me of a buffed up Face Ball. Ardudriving had similarly styled racing games on both the Game Boy and Game Boy Color. I have to say the Arduboy and Game Boy have a lot of overlap in their game libraries.

That’s what the Game Boy Advance did, so it’s almost certainly what the Game Boy did too.

I’m not quite sure how the EEPROM used on AVR chips works.

Echo RAM is the name some people give to the address ranges that redirect to a different area of RAM. Some people say that the addresses ‘mirror’ another area of RAM, but technically it’s not a copy, it’s the exact same block of memory accessed through a different address - multiple addresses are mapped to the same physical block of memory.

Aside from being unable to present a third colour there’s nothing stopping the Arduboy following that model. The system it does actually use isn’t a million miles away, they both involve using 2 bits per pixel.

If you’re feeling really daring and know someone with good hardware skills you could probably swap the screen out for a colourised version.


Don’t quote me on that though, I don’t know enough about how the Arduboy is actually put together to know if swapping the screen is possible or how difficult it would be. All I know is that compatible screens that illuminate in a colour other than white exist.

For a more low-tech option, there’s a thread somewhere about people dying their Arduboy’s front panels with some kind of coloured paint/dye, but I can’t remember quite where.

The end effect is similar though.
On a Game Boy you swap a cartridge.
On an Arduboy you upload different software.

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The 0.96 inch compatible (SSD1306 based) displays are available in white, blue, and yellow top row with blue for the rest.

I don’t think I’ve seen any colour other than white for the 1.3 inch SSD1306 displays.

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I appreciate your contradictions on the Game Boy versus Arduboy debate, by the way. Especially since I am switching development of one of my Game Boy game to Arduboy. The truth lies in who you are and what you plan to get out of it. I am actively playing games on it and starting active development for it, so I appreciate all sides of this topic.

This image makes me come back around to @unwiredben mention of Cascade Path: Wagon Trail with the green tinting. Now, we just need Number Munchers to round things out.