Sega’s foray into the space of handheld gaming wasn’t nearly as successful as Nintendo’s. The Game Boy outsold the Game Gear by a large margin thanks in part to it’s less than stellar battery life. Even as a kid when I was supposed to be naive and oblivious to such things, I understood that I would be asking for double-A batteries more times than my mom would be willing to buy them for me, so I skipped out on its initial first few years of launch. At some random point, one of my friends just straight up gave me his Game Gear for something insignificant I had. I think it was a sandwich or something.
Even today, many people have not been as keen to collect for this system. The battery issues are still a big problem, the screens are really bad and blurry by today’s standards, and the capacitors are failing left and right on these things, causing them to not function anymore. Meanwhile, original DMG Game Boys are still going strong. With all this bad history and problems, the Game Gear shouldn’t be worth collecting for, right?
Well, I am happy to report that there are options. Right out of the gate, I do need to mention that the easiest way to enjoy physical Game Gear cartridges is on the Retron 5 using the 3-in-1 Game Gear, Master System, and Master System card adapter. If you don’t care that you are just dumping the ROMs from the cartridges onto the system and running them through emulation, this is a great way to get a crystal clear image from your Game Gear games on an HD TV.
Another option is to get the McWill LCD mod and either install it and recap your system yourself or buy a system on eBay that’s already had the LCD mod installed and recapped. This option is a bit pricey though and if you do it yourself, it’s not a beginner project. There are quite a few pieces that you have to de-solder from the motherboard before you even start to solder on the tiny wires and components.
Or you can do what I did for now and find yourself a Majesco Game Gear which tends to have white ovals on the front screen instead of the original red, green, and blue ovals. These Game Gears were manufactured in the early 2000s by Majesco and do not seem to have the capacitor issues that the original Game Gears seem to have now. They also have a slightly better screen than the original as screen technology had improved slightly by then. It’s still a bit washed out and blurry, but it kind of hides the imperfections in these old games anyway. One thing that you may have to do is replace the front screen on any Majesco Game Gear you may find. The plastic on these screens tends to scratch more easily than the originals. Luckily, Handheld Legend sells new glass screens in the Majesco black style.
There are some differences between the Sega released Game Gear and the Majesco released Game Gear.
There’s another solution but unfortunately, I can’t recommend it. Sega released Sega Game Gear Micro’s in Japan only but at fifty dollars for only 4 games per unit, the cost is just not worth it. Not to mention, the screen is just way too small from what I’ve seen in videos. They just don’t seem to be worth the hassle of importing.
What really makes the Game Gear great even today is it’s shockingly large library of quality games. There are 368 of them. Despite the system not being as popular as the Game Boy, it did have a fairly long shelf life and has more Sonic The Hedgehog games than the Genesis/Mega Drive. Since the Game Gear hardware was based on the Master System, there are plenty of great Master System ports. Also, you can get yourself a Master Gear converter which gives you access to the Master System library. What’s even better is that many great Game Gear games are cheap as dirt and many of them won’t run you more than five dollars. Another great thing about the Game Gear library is that the system is region free and some Japanese games even translate themselves to English on American systems.
The Real Reason
Finally, owning a Game Gear is just cool in a retro aesthetic sort of way. It’s big and bulky and will be compatible with any retro headphones you throw at it. It makes for a great conversation piece at parties. Some may scoff, but that’s just their jealousy. You will be unique and different in any setting with a Game Gear. . . Alright, so you can enjoy it in the comfort and privacy of your own home as well. The real reason is that it’s fun and a great nostalgia trip for those ready to give it a shot. So go out there and get yourself a Game Gear. There’s never been a better time.