Decades before smartphones, the Nintendo Game Boy was the closest thing we had to an affordable pocket computer.
Granted, it wasn't a very good one. After all, the two-color, 160x144-pixel LCD screen and its whopping four operational buttons don't exactly scream "productivity tool".
Yet somehow, none of that could stop people from trying to turn Nintendo's portable console into anything but a machine for playing games. Here are a few of our favorite non-games from the Game Boy library.
King James Bible
The word of God comes to the Game Boy in what is literally a text dump of the King James Bible onto a GB cartridge.
Clearly some out-of-touch but well-intentioned grandparent tried to get kids into scripture via their new-fangled gaming machine. Ironically, we can imagine no greater sacrilege than reducing the Game Boy to a glorified text reader. The few half-baked mini games somehow make it all worse.
Also, you should know that the first version of the King James Bible GB released in 1994; that's the same year Contra: The Alien Wars came out. Think of the disappointment some kid felt unwrapping this that Christmas.
The SongPro was a clever little add-on that turned the Game Boy into a portable digital music player. Announced just before digital distribution took off, the timing was perfect for the SongPro to be a true music industry disruptor.
Unfortunately, in a shining example of Murphy's Law at work, everything that could go wrong with the SongPro's launch did. You can read the whole crazy story in our feature Remembering the Songpro Gameboy Mp3 player. Things eventually got so bad that Jesse Jackson, of all people, had to step in to mediate.
The SongPro did finally see the light of day in fall of 2002, but by that point it was too little, too late; Apple's iPods had an iron grip on the market. Today, the SongPro is a bit of a collector's item, though you can still find a few floating around on Reddit or eBay.
Mary Kate and Ashley: Pocket Planner
Mary Kate and Ashley Olson were the tween queens of the late '90s and 2000s. Naturally, this meant their faces were plastered all over various products of questionable quality. There's no questioning the quality of this "pocket planner", though.
You spend the first ten minutes of it filling in all sorts of very specific private information. Even knowing the Game Boy had no internet connectivity, it still feels sketchy that this kid's app is so intent on knowing your address.
After struggling with the cluttered interface and silly questions (why do the Olson Twins™ need to know my favorite animal?) you're into the planner proper and... there really isn't much to do. You can add friends to your friends list, configure a calendar, and set up a to-do list. There's even a "mail" system called G-Mail which occasionally receives messages from MK and Ashley themselves. Neat-o!
Shout out to LongPlay Universe for their longplay on YouTube (at 4K, no less). You saved me from having to sully my Steam Deck with this shovelware.
The Game Boy Camera
Last—but certainly not least—is the Game Boy Camera. This is easily the most successful add-on in the Game Boy's library, though it helps that it was officially licensed, produced, and distributed by Nintendo.
Honestly, the picture quality isn't that bad considering the year the Game Boy Camera was released. Remember: this wasn't just before phone cameras; this was before most people even had cellphones. Sure, they're black and white and hopelessly pixelated, but the retro look is charming. There's even a guy who runs an Instagram account dedicated to photos captured with the Game Boy Camera.
The Game Boy Camera also came with a suite of games that showcased the camera's functionality. They're not particularly fun, but the devs clearly put some care into them. Considering the state of the pack-in mini games found in the other titles in this list... A for effort to the Game Boy Camera software team.