A $30 GBA Knockoff Surprisingly Helped Me Relive My Childhood

Who needs the Game Boy when you've got the Gamebox?

We live in such a blessed era for handheld gaming, but sometimes, nothing beats the classics. Growing up with the original DMG Game Boy model, it was absolutely nutty when the Game Boy Advance came out, even if the original model didn’t have the backlit screen we now can hardly live without. However, the industry was flipped on its head when the Game Boy Advance SP came out, featuring a unique clamshell design that not only made it even more portable but gave us a backlight to play during the night.

I never got my hands on one of these when I was younger, but I did purchase one from a friend when I got older and cherished it. While it wasn’t the coveted AGS-101 model, the ability to use a backlight to play through my old favorites once again was a great way to breathe some new life into my favorite games. Now, you can’t even look in the direction of a Game Boy Advance SP without plopping down a solid $100… or, can you?

Enter The Gamebox

While doing my typical browsing through slightly shady websites like AliExpress, I stumbled across something rather interesting; a device called the EXEQ Gamebox. It looks suspiciously close to a Game Boy Advance SP, and the screenshots they had showed a gorgeous screen, poping to life in vibrant color. The thing that shocked me the most wasn’t the blatant inspiration, but the price of this particular device. With shipping, getting my hands on one would run me around $35 total, so I did what anybody craving a hit of nostalgia would do and ordered one, alongside some replica copies of some of my favorite games when I was growing up. Don’t judge me, I’m not about to drop silly amounts of cash to get Boktai again.

Image by Prima Games

After about a week of waiting, I received a package in the mail that looked more than a little terrifying. I’m slightly surprised that I didn’t receive a call from my post office about this particular package, since it does look a little bit like a weapon of mass destruction, but I’m glad that it showed up. Armed with little more than a pair of scissors in my hands, I got to work trying to free my new toy from its prison.

After plenty of hacking and slashing, I finally got it pried open. There was more tape on here than what would normally show up on a roll of packaging tape, but we made it through unscathed. While the outer packaging was rather hilarious, what lay waiting for me inside was a treat that I never expected.

For once, I was surprised. While the interior packaging wasn’t exactly the greatest, being essentially wrapped within a few plastic bags, I was able to see what was waiting for me and my excitement levels grew to a fever pitch. A vibrant, purple Game Boy Advance SP lookalike, much like the shade of a certain purple mascot from Mcdonald’s, waited for me to get cracking into it.

The build quality overall doesn’t feel as premium as an official Nintendo system, but it feels nice to hold in the hands. The shoulder buttons have a satisfying amount of clickiness to them, something that the SP from my adult years no longer possesses. A very bright and vibrant screen is inside, and to my surprise, it read my childhood GBA games without any issues.

Related: Best GBA Games That Will Take You On a Nostalgia Trip

Sadly, this console is not capable of playing Game Boy or Game Boy Color games, likely due to some hardware limitations, but my time spent playing different Game Boy Advance games, both legitimate and replica, felt astounding. I did notice, however, that the screen ratio is not exactly as it was originally, but that doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it might.

Shortly, I plan on tearing this puppy apart to see if it’s running authentic Game Boy hardware inside of a knockoff shell, or what the deal is here. It’s interesting to see that it can run Game Boy cartridges with no issue, but cannot play original Game Boy games. No matter how you look at it, however, it’s a great bang for the buck and a great way to stick it to resellers that are trying to rob you for a taste of childhood fun once again.

Overall, I was incredibly surprised and rather impressed by this bit of clone hardware. For the price you pay, it’s a trip down memory lane for certain, but purists may hate the idea of something beyond original hardware being able to play their original cartridges and totally understand that aspect as well. There’s a good chance that this could fry some of my favorite games, so I suggest you purchase at your own risk, but if you don’t mind, I’m ready to jump back into some more Golden Sun and finally start progressing through the story.

About the Author

Shaun Cichacki

As a fan of RPGs, Action & Retro titles, Shaun has been gaming since he was a young boy. With an overwhelming obsession involving Metal Gear Solid and Pizza Tower, you know you're in for a wild ride when it comes to things he's writing about.