Original Game Boy Backlight Mod

Following my Game Boy Advance screen mod, I decided to try modding an original Game Boy.

There are several screen mods available for the original Game Boy1. Just like with the Game Boy Advance there are IPS screens available, which give you the best image quality. You can also keep the original screen but add a backlight to it, which is what I opted to do. This is much cheaper, and also gives a result closer to the look of the original display.


The first thing I needed was a Game Boy! My brother and I had a yellow ‘Play It Loud’ edition when we were younger, which came bundled with a yellow Donkey Kong Land game cartridge. Unfortunately while I have our original games, I’ve been unable to find the Game Boy itself – so I bought another on eBay:

Except for needing a bit of a clean and having a few small scratches on the screen, it was in very good condition.

Next, I picked up a ‘lemon yellow’ backlight kit from Deadpan Robot, as well as a bivert chip. Just adding a backlight makes the screen brighter, but it also washes out the picture. A bivert chip inverts the pixels and in turn increases the contrast. It’s recommended to install one if you’re adding a backlight.

The Mod

The first step was to disassemble the unit. I also washed the casing, buttons, and silicon pads with mild soapy water.

And here’s the screen itself:

To install the backlight unit, you first need to remove the existing reflective backing and polarizer from the screen. This proved to be quite tricky. At first I was just scraping the foil off, nervous of damaging the screen, but then I got more confident and managed to get a craft knife underneath the polarizer layer. This made it easier to peel the whole thing off in one go.

The thing that makes it particularly difficult is that the screen remains attached by a very delicate ribbon cable, so access is tricky. After peeling the polarizer off, I cleaned off the remaining glue with some isopropyl alcohol.

The new backlight panel (a piece of plastic with some LEDs attached to the bottom) slides in behind the LCD, and the polarizer goes in between. You have to make sure the polarizer is rotated the right way so that the pixels will be visible. The guide I was following also recommended lightly dusting the polarizer with baby powder or diatomaceous earth to avoid it sticking to the screen.

Finally, the two wires coming from the backlight panel needed soldering to the main board along with a resistor.

Next, I installed the bivert chip. To do this, you need to desolder and disconnect two pins on the screen cable connector, insert the board underneath, and resolder it. At first I miscounted and lifted the wrong pin, so I tried resoldering it as best I could, crossed my fingers, and finished the installation.

I powered it up and there was light! But no picture 😬


I knew the Game Boy as a whole was still working correctly, as I could hear the audio for the game. I guessed that the culprit was either my shoddy soldering on the bivert chip (turns out soldering is harder than I remember!), or I didn’t repair the damage correctly when I lifted the wrong pin.

It turned out to be a combination of both. After some testing with a multimeter (and a lot of help from @SofaRacing and @elsmorian), I discovered that one of the solder connections on the bivert board wasn’t making contact properly (so I re-did it), and also that there was no connection between the pin I lifted and its intended destination.

To work around this I added a new wire that ran from the pin, over the top of the board, to the other side. I couldn’t help but think about the similarities with writing software as I was debugging the issue and fitting my workaround.

I turned the unit back on, and there was a picture! Tetris looked great with the backlight:

Wrapping up

I finished things up with a new glass screen lens, and new start and select buttons to match the cyan border around the screen.

It wasn’t the neatest installation, but I was pretty happy for my first attempt. The finished device looks great.

  1. Also known as the DMG because of its model number: DMG-01. DMG stands for Dot Matrix Game. 

Game Boy Advance Screen Upgrade

I recently picked up a new screen and outer shell for my original Game Boy Advance.

The original Game Boy Advance screen is so dim that it’s hard to see it property even in a brightly lit room. I remember as a kid mostly playing with a special external light that clipped around the case. It had two arms that shone light down onto the display. Even with that, it still wasn’t great!

It also has a kind of ‘screen door effect’ between the pixels, so it looks pretty grainy.

I still love playing retro games from time to time, so I recently kitted out my Advance with an upgrade.

There have been a number of screen mods available for the GBA over the years. For a long time, the best improvement was to switch the screen out for the backlit screen that’s used in the Game Boy Advance SP. More recently, a better alternative has emerged: a large, even brighter IPS LCD panel.

The larger LCD requires some areas of the inner case to be cut out to make space for it. I didn’t fancy trying to do that, so I ordered a special pre-trimmed shell from RetroSix, along with the screen kit. RetroSix manufacture their own GBA shells ready for the new LCD (they said most aftermarket shells aren’t very high quality), along with optional modifications to fit a USB-C battery pack. If you’re in the US, I’ve heard that Retro Modding are a good parts supplier.


Installation involved opening up the Game Boy, disconnecting the screen and discarding the old shell, connecting the new screen, mounting it with adhesive and a 3D printed bracket (to get the correct positioning), screwing it all back together, and installing a new glass lens over the top.

RetroSix’s own instructions were fairly barebones, but I found a couple of different tutorials online that helped to guide me through it. The most problematic parts were:

  • Correctly aligning the screen when installing it. Now that it’s complete, I can’t help noticing that it’s a fraction of a millimetre down on one side.
  • Installing both the screen and the glass lens without getting any dust in between them. I did a decent job, but I can see one tiny speck under there. I think compressed air could help here.
  • The 3D printed bracket wasn’t super precise. I had to file down some parts of it, and I ended up removing one piece altogether as it was pressing into the back of the screen and causing a light area to appear.

Overall though, I’m very happy with the outcome!


The screen is just in a different class to the original. It’s really bright, very clear, and has nice vibrant colours. The RetroSix shell is also very good, although I wouldn’t say quite the same quality of the original – it doesn’t feel as solid, perhaps. I love the gold holographic detail on the screen lens.

Here’s some very short videos showing each screen in action:

And after!

It’s also possible to solder in a couple of extra wires to allow for setting the brightness level of the screen by holding a couple of buttons down. I don’t currently own a soldering iron, so I’m saving this for another day!