What Happens When You Turn On A Gameboy With No Game?

Old game consoles are quite fascinating from a technological as well as historical perspective. Back in the 8 and 16-bit era, developers used to write games in assembly language so cartridges could fit them despite having very limited space. Being in assembly meant that the CPU could directly read from the cartridge without the need for an operating system.

Since it has no operating system, what happens when you turn on a Gameboy with no game? Depending on the Gameboy variant, you will get a startup screen that either contains the Game Boy phrase or some kind of logo. Even though the Gameboy has no OS, it contains a tiny ROM chip that checks each cartridge to see if it’s genuine and properly inserted into the console.

If you’re booting up a regular Game Boy, you get a black rectangle in the middle of the screen with a ® (registered trademark) symbol at the end. Game Boy Pocket has a very similar startup screen, but there is a dividing line in the middle of the black rectangle. A sound is played during startup, which is a modified version of the Mario coin sound.

The Various Gameboy Startup Screens

If it’s a Game Boy or Game Boy Pocket, you’ll see a black rectangle scrolling in from the top of the screen. It has a ® symbol next to it and stops in the middle of the screen. Right before it stops, you hear the startup “jingle” sound which is derived from the Mario coin sound.

Game Boy Pocket has a thin gap dividing the solid black rectangle through the middle. That’s the only difference between its startup screen and the regular Game Boy startup screen. These logos and symbols are contained within the Gameboy’s ROM, which acts like a bootloader.

It checks the game cartridge to see if the code has a Nintendo trademark. Then it would do a checksum on the ROM header to ensure the cartridge is working properly. With a cartridge inserted, logos and startup screens are provided by the game ROM rather than the Gameboy’s own ROM.

The startup screen is slightly different on a Game Boy Color. You get the black rectangle like before, but it’s smaller and says Game Boy on the top. The words “Game Boy” are animated in color.

With the Game Boy Advance and Game Boy Advance SP, you just get the phrase “Game Boy” animated in color. There is no black rectangle or copyright symbol. And with all Game Boy variants, this startup screen remains until you switch the console off.

What Happens If You Put A Gameboy Color Game In A Gameboy?

Depending on the game, it can work on your regular Gameboy. You see, the Game Boy Color also uses a Sharp LR35902 processor like its predecessor. It just has a higher clock speed of 8.38MHz, as opposed to 4.19MHz on the original Game Boy (so exactly twice as fast).

However, not all games use this extra clock speed. Some were just ports of existing Game Boy titles with added color palettes and bonus content. These didn’t require the extra processing power and would operate in the 4.19MHz mode.

If you’ve got a Game Boy Color cartridge that doesn’t say “only for Game Boy Color” it can work on your regular Game Boy. However, a Game Boy Color exclusive won’t even fit into the cartridge slot of your regular Game Boy unless you remove the plastic tab that prevents it from going in. So check what type of GBC game you have to know whether it will work on a regular Game Boy.

How Do You Turn On A Gameboy?

First, make sure you’ve got 4 AA batteries inserted into the back of your Game Boy. Insert the game cartridge you wish to play.

Then, look for the power button at the top of the console.  Slide it to the right for ON (now the status LED next to your Game Boy display should be glowing red).

When Was Gameboy Discontinued?

Nintendo released six different Game Boy models between 1989 and 2005. It started with the original Game Boy and ended with the Game Boy Micro which was a miniaturized version of the GBA SP. The Micro was discontinued in 2007, 18 years after the release of the original Game Boy in 1989.

Why Is It Called Game Boy?

The name was inspired by Sony’s Walkman portable music player. Back in 1979, Sony released this brand-new portable cassette player that let you take your favorite songs with you wherever you went. Nintendo wanted to revolutionize video games the same way Sony revolutionized music, so they went with the name “Game Boy” and marketed it to the youth.

How Many Game Boy Games Exist?

There are over 1000 games on the original Game Boy, including every genre from RPGs to action platformers and shooters. The most popular of these include legendary games like Zelda, Mario, Donkey Kong, Tetris, and Pokémon. Game Boy Color has 918 games, of which 145 are exclusive.


I hope this article helped you understand more about how Game Boy consoles behave when you start them up without inserting a cartridge. If your Game Boy’s display is stuck on a black rectangle or Game Boy logo, don’t worry- that’s normal. Just switch off your console and start it back up with a game cartridge inserted into the slot.

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As long as I can remember myself I always enjoyed video games. I had amazing moments playing them and that's why I became a game developer, to create amazing experiences for the players. Read More About Me

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