I grew up in a technology-forward household. My dad started building computers in the 1980s, and my mom loved going to the arcade. I was lucky to have pinball machines and home consoles at my disposal growing up, but for long car rides to the beach or even the grocery store? Well, I had comics to read, but I craved more. Ads for the Nintendo Game Boy were everywhere growing up, and I begged my parents for one for my birthday. When March 14 rolled around, I was given the gift of portable video games. I was given a Sega Game Gear.
I wasn’t entirely disappointed — after all, I loved Sonic the Hedgehog and now I would play it on the road. At the time, this 8-bit handheld console did impress me more than the Game Boy. The graphics were slightly better, the design — while big — was pretty cool, and the games were in full color.
The biggest downside was the battery life. The console required 6 AA batteries, and the unit would only last up to five hours. This frustrated my parents to no end, as they had to replace batteries at an alarming rate.
Pricing for the Game Gear was slightly more aggressive than for the Game Boy.
The Game Boy console cost $89.99 in 1990, while the Game Gear cost $149.99 in 1991. Games for the consoles were similarly priced — Game Gear games hovered around $25, while Game Boy games were anywhere from $20 – $30. Game Gear had a total of 365 games total — but that number fluctuates depending on which country you lived in. The Game Boy had over 1,000, which also fluctuated depending on where you lived. But the Game Gear was able to play Master System games with an adaptor, which added an additional 312 titles to the console.
The Sega Game Gear was the only real competitor to the Game Boy
While there have been other handheld devices, none have truly come close to the Game Boy. The Game Gear was sadly discontinued in 1997 over in Japan, and then in 2000 in North America. The console still lives on as an important part of video game history and has become somewhat of a novel collectible.
What’s it worth these days?
In January of 2022, Heritage sold a sealed, new-in-box Game Gear for $5160. On eBay, lose Game Gears in working order routinely sell for $100. A complete in-box console sold for $499 in August of 2022, a steady price hike from a similar item selling for $329 in July of 2022.
While this may not be as collectible as a Game Boy, there is a market for them. Sonic is still a video game icon, and the console wars are still talked about today. The Game Boy did outlast the Game Gear, but for many of us, it was the only portable console we had as a kid.
I still have my original one, though it is long dead. Since then, I’ve bought a gently used one, and have rediscovered just how much I genuinely enjoyed the Sega Game Gear.