Nintendo Virtual Boy
Type Console Developer Nintendo
Release Date 1995-Jul-21 Region(s) Japan, North America
Initial Price $179 USD Games Released 22
     by Marriott_Guy and Ferry Groenendijk (Special Guest Contributor)
With the release of their highly successful Super Famicom (SNES) console, Nintendo firmly cemented its place as one of the top hardware developers in the world.  Never one to rest on its laurels, Nintendo was eager to start development on their next project.  They turned to one of their most successful designers, Gunpei Yokoi, to lead this project.

At the time, Mr. Yokoi was already a legend within the company.  In addition to being an integral part of the development teams for both the Famicom and Super Famicom, he was also the creator of their Game & Watch series and the handheld giant Game Boy.  Based upon his impressive resume, Nintendo empowered Mr. Yokoi with full control over the development process of their next console.  Armed with this creative license, he set to work on his vision in early 1992, codenamed VR-32.

According to the late Mr. Yokoi, his goal for this new system was to provide an entirely unique gaming experience rather than an updated version of the standard gaming consoles that had flooded the market.  When Nintendo acquired exclusive rights to the innovative display technology developed by Reflection Technologies, Mr. Yokoi had just the right tool to turn his vision into 'virtual reality'.  By utilizing dual displays, his team was able to create a simulated 3D gaming experience.  After two years of development, VR-32, now officially named Virtual Boy, was ready to be unveiled to the gaming community.

On November 15, 1994, Nintendo proudly displayed their upcoming new hardware in Japan at the Shoshinkai Exhibition (Famicom Space World '94).  The impressions by the gaming pundits in attendance were less than favorable.  While impressive graphics could be produced by the 32-bit based Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation systems, the red and black visuals of the Virtual Boy paled in comparison.  Though this negative reaction was discouraging to say the least, Mr. Yokoi was intent on using the feedback to further tweak his 3D gaming machine.  The top brass at Nintendo thought otherwise.

Having already invested millions, Nintendo was fervent to bring the Virtual Boy to market and realize a return on their investment.  In spite of Mr. Yokoi's urgings that the system required further refinements, Nintendo proceeded to release the Virtual Boy in Japan on July 15, 1995, with the console debuting in the United States shortly thereafter (August 14).  Mario's Tennis, Red Alarm, Galactic Pinball and Teleroboxer were the four games available at launch.

Soon after its release, the Virtual Boy faced stiff competition with the aforementioned Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn.  While these two gaming giants could easily market the graphical capabilities of their respective systems through screen shots and video, the 3D experience of the Virtual Boy was not easily communicated through traditional media.  Nintendo had to rely upon more text heavy print advertisements to promote their fledgling console.  This proved to be a severe disadvantage, but was its sole encumbrance.

Developing software for this new 3D technology was not an easy task.  Being completely aware of this fact, Nintendo severely limited third party game development in an attempt to only release titles that truly made the Virtual Boy console shine.  This strategy proved to be unwise, resulting in a severely limited game library.  Concerns were also mounting regarding eye strain and associated long term damage to the gamer's vision (primarily increased myopia).  When combined with ineffective marketing strategies, the Virtual Boy struggled mightily and missed their 1995 sales goal by nearly 50%.  770K total units were sold (140K in Japan, 630K on North America) versus a 1.5M target.

In an attempt to revitalize their innovative yet floundering system, Nintendo initially planned a re-launch of the Virtual Boy in 1996.  Dragon Hopper, Zero Racer and Bound High were completed and ready to be released.  With over 30 other titles in development which included ports of the highly popular Golden 007 and Mario Land, the Virtual Boy team was optimistic that this expanded library would significantly increase market share.  In contrast, the top level decision makers at Nintendo were extremely skeptical.

With the majority of their resources being deployed on the development of a new project (Nintendo 64), Nintendo had no interest in further investment into what they considered an underperforming system.  They officially pulled the plug on the Virtual Boy in late 1995, just five months after its initial release.  Only 22 games would end up being officially released, with another 34 left on the cutting room floor.

The Virtual Boy has garnered a cult-like following throughout the years.  Many homebrew games have been developed for the system and are freely distributed within the Virtual Boy community.  Though generally considered to be a huge failure for Nintendo, the Virtual Boy is definitely one of the most innovative consoles that has ever been released.

     Officially licensed releases
Nintendo Virtual Boy (North America)
Nintendo Virtual Boy (Japan)

     Non-licensed hardware releases
No clones were released for this system.
     Interesting facts on software for this system
Software for the Nintendo Virtual Boy was primarily distributed in the ROM cartridge format, which are approximately the same size as those utilized in their successful line of GameBoy handheld systems.

The launch line-up was less than spectacular, featuring only three titles (Galactic Pinball, Red Alarm, Teleroboxer) in addition to the pack-in game Mario's Tennis.

applemctom's Games that Defined Compiliation

Nintendo Virtual Boy Game Library

     Captured in-game images
3D Tetris
Galactic Pinball
Innsmouth no Yakata
Jack Bros.
Mario Clash
Mario's Tennis
Nester's Funky Bowling
Panic Bomber
Red Alarm
SD Gundam Dimension War
Space Invaders: Virtual Collection
Space Squash
Vertical Force
Virtual Bowling
Virtual Boy Wario Land
Virtual Fishing
Virtual Lab
Virtual League Baseball

     First and third party system emulators
Reality Boy

This is an great emulator for Windows. Shown with the Reality Launcher.
     For the hardware enthusiasts out there - all the detail you\we love.
Processor Type  Processor Speed  Other Processor Information RAM \ Video RAM
32-bit RISC CPU NEC V810 20 MHz Reflection Technologies Inc. (RTI) Scanning LED Array 1 MB DRAM \ 512 KB P-SRAM
Screen Resolution Color Palette Polygons \ Sprites Audio
384 x 224 Black + 4 variations of red (32 levels of Intensity for each) 50.2 Hz Horizontal Scan Rate Digital Stereo Sound (16-bit)
Media Format Media Capacity Games Released Other Supported Formats
Cartridge 16 MB 22 None
Internal Storage External \ Removable Storage Game Controllers Other Game \ Peripheral Devices
None None (battery Dual D-Pads, Six (6) Action Buttons Carrying Case
Controller Ports Network Ports Other Ports Audio \ Video
One (1) None Headphone jack, Volume dial, GameLink socket, IPD Dial, Focus Slider, Serial Port (8 pin) N\A (built-in display & stereo speakers)
Power Supply - External Other Outputs  Other Details \ Notes
Input: AC 100\110V, 50 Hz
Output: DC 10V, 350mA
Six (6) AA Batteries
None None
Nintendo Virtual Boy Owners Manual (PDF) - 1.97 MB

     Peripherals, Promotions, Commercials, Brochures, Etc.
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     Visitor insights and feedback
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