I recently found myself in the position of getting married (more on this another time). In the course of being in this position, I was reminded that tradition dictated that I present my 3 groomsmen with a token of appreciation. I appreciated the heck out of these guys, so I wanted to do something really special for them that wasn't a tie clip or cufflinks. So naturally, I decided to build a customized original Gameboy (often referred to as “DMG” or “Dot Matrix Gameboy”, to distinguish from later models) for each of them.

groomsmen custom gameboys 1
groomsmen custom gameboys 2
groomsmen custom gameboys 3
groomsmen custom gameboys 4
groomsmen custom gameboys 5
groomsmen custom gameboys 6
groomsmen custom gameboys 7
groomsmen custom gameboys 8
groomsmen custom gameboys 9
groomsmen custom gameboys 10
groomsmen custom gameboys 11
groomsmen custom gameboys 12
groomsmen custom gameboys 13

I got all of my parts from ASM Retro; these awesome folks patiently answered my many many questions over email and got my items shipped quickly and safely, all during a busy holiday season. In the end, I had 3 amazing custom backlit Gameboys with custom power LEDs (except the red one), each themed after one of the original Pokemon colors.


Each of the Gameboys used the following parts:

An important thing to note – when buying original Gameboys ($15-35), there's a lot you can do to bring a “broken” machine back to life; of the ones I worked with, 2 had a bunch of dead pixel lines (fixable with a little solder), 1 had a dead speaker (switched out with a good speaker from a Gameboy with other problems), and all three no longer had their plastic screen shield/covers (microfiber cloth and isopropyl alcohol works wonders on dirty screens). All this to say: consider bringing new life to “old and busted” Gameboys for these projects – let the “mint condition” systems retire with grace.

The Build Process

The advantage of working with the original Gameboy is that the board layout is pretty spread out, and is very forgiving to less-than-perfect soldering (like mine).

inside back board of DMG
inside front board of DMG
outside front board of DMG
DMG screen with dead lines
DMG screen with backlight installed

Since there are already some really good walkthroughs  of this process , I'll just cover the things I noticed that weren't covered in these guides:

Shell Assembly/Disassembly

Screen reflector and film removal

Backlight installation

Power LED replacements

Speaker Replacement

All in all, this was an incredibly satisfying project, and would definitely do it again. So much so, I also decided to build a “Hot Neon of the 80s Edition” Gameboy for myself (here I used an original black “Play it Loud” case in conjunction with a Lime Green case from ASM Retro.

Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 1
Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 2
Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 3
Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 4
Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 5
Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 6
Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 7
Hot Neon of the 80s custom gameboy 8