Play Nintendo's Hated Virtual Boy Games on Gear VR and Google Cardboard

Now with less nausea and headaches.

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May 8 2016, 7:53pm

Image: The-King-of-Spain

Ah, the poor Nintendo Virtual Boy. Over two decades ago its stereoscopic imagery presaged the virtual reality headsets of today, although it was limited to monochromatic graphics and your neck inevitably ached while leaning down to play it on the awkward tripod of sorts the device sat on. It bombed horribly, lasting a mere six months on the market. By 2010 TIME was (a little hyperbolically, perhaps) calling it one of the worst inventions ever.

Today, though, its games are finding a bit of redemption from a Reddit user calling himself "The King of Spain" in the form of a modified emulator for the Samsung Gear virtual reality headset or Google Cardboard. To make it work, all you'll need is a Android phone, either of the above virtual reality devices, a ROM file for the Virtual Boy game you want to play, and the RetroArch emulation app (where you illegally acquire a ROM is none of our business but let's just say it's not hard). From there it gets slightly more complicated in that you'll need to download and create a folder for the "video shader" the good king has provided in order to render the gameplay as a "VR-friendly side-by-side image." Further tweaks allow for the same blood-red ("headache-inducing," to use The King's words) visuals we saw back in 1995.

If you don't want to go through all that trouble and yet you still want to see what all the fuss is about (or you're a iPhone user like me), you can still experience the final effect with the help of Mr. Spain's test video on YouTube above. Just start the video, pop your phone into a Google Cardboard device, and boom, there's a grayscale version of Virtual Boy Wario Land in all its forgotten glory. I find the experience is actually better, in part because the device is attached to my head this time around, but also because, as Mr. Spain says, "I'm not experiencing any of the Virtual Boy's trademark motion sickness."

But don't expect a Virtual Boy renaissance. As The King of Spain decrees, "the added depth doesn't seem to add much value gameplay-wise," although it's "pretty cool to see Virtual Boy games in their full stereoscopic glory." For the most part Wario Land plays much like 1989's Super Mario Land for the original GameBoy, although there are some cool effects included for its platforming design, such as pendulums that swing toward the camera and teleporters that zap Wario off to ledges on the far wall.

It works so well, in fact, that I like to entertain the thought that Nintendo could bring these games back for the virtual reality headsets. Considering that Nintendo seems most interested in using its first mobile game as a data mining tool, though, that might not be the case.