Retro Review - Sega Game Gear

In 1991, Sega released the Game Gear. A technically superior handheld system that was supposed to go toe-to-toe with the immensely popular Nintendo Game Boy, the Game Gear was unable to beat its competitor due to several flaws and problems that impeded sales. While its historical impact isn’t quite as expansive as the Game Boy, this was still one of the best handheld systems at the time.

Historical Impact

Though the Game Gear was unable to beat Game Boy in terms of sales, it did mark a few firsts for Sega and for gaming in general.

This was one of the first handheld systems with a color screen. Game Boy just had a tiny black and green screen with poor contrast that was often difficult to see. Game Gear, on the other hand, had a full-color, backlit screen that was incredibly easy to see.

This was also one of Sega’s first romps with accessories. As with their Master System (which was soon completed with the 32X, Sega CD system, and other accessories), the Game Gear had a lot of accessories that other systems weren’t offering. These included the Super Wide Gear magnified the screen, a TV tuner, and Gear to Gear cabling for two-player action.

The last accessory, and probably the most useful one, was the Master Gear. This was an adapter that allowed players to play Master System cartridges on the Game Gear. This also almost doubled the number of available games from 250 to 469.


The backlit color screen was a novelty, and one of the Game Gear’s main strengths. The 3.2-inch screen was larger than the Game Boy, and the color definitely beat the four shades of gray that the Game Boy was capable of displaying.

This was one of the first systems that was ergonomically designed for real use. The Game Boy was very narrow, but the Game Gear was wide enough so that you could easily use both hands. Nintendo would later use a similar design with their Game Boy Advance.

Sound was also much better. This offered full stereo sound with more than the simple “beeps” and “boops” that the Game Boy supported.

The last strength was that most games, like the early Sonic franchise, were made to be picked up and played without any complicated controls. You could easily get into the game without any instructions.


The biggest weakness that kept people from buying it was the battery power. Aside from being the first time that Sega introduced a lot of accessories for a system, this was their first system where Sega used technology that was too advanced for the time, which led to technical problems. For example, the Sega CD had a very hard time working with CDs and the Dreamcast was rife with technical problems and was very loud loading.

The Sega Game Gear required six AA batteries and only lasted two hours, which was nothing compared to the Game Boy’s four AA batteries and six to ten hours of battery life.

Inexpensive capacitors were used in the sound system, which led them to fail after extensive playing.

The screen refresh rate was rather low. This caused some fast-paced games to stall, and it also caused the resolution to significantly drop if you moved too quickly.


While technically superior in almost every way, the Game Gear failed to evenly compete with the Game Boy due to some major issues, with the two biggest being price and battery life. Though this system wasn’t as popular at the time, it has become a major piece for collectors due to its expansive library and place in gaming history.


About the author - James Reynolds writes on various tech issues, including gaming, cell phones, cell phone accessories, computer software and hardware and other assorted topics. Those interested in learning about keyboards should view the kensington bluetooth keyboards available at