Was I... Read All Recently I picked up Metroid II: The Return of Samus from a local game convention. Metroid II is one of my favorite Metroid games as, for me, it really started my love for the franchise. Metroid II really gets the dark lonely vibe the series is known for and draws this out even more with the monochrome aspect of the Gameboy visuals. That said, when I booted it up on my GBA after about an hour play through I noticed something. Saving didn't work. I tried it a few more times and yeah, I can't save a game to the game cart. Zelda Link's Awakening is another Gameboy title I have that saves and I tried it out too and yeah, the saves no longer stuck on the game cart.
Was I the only one that experienced this? Clearly these games don't last forever but maybe I bought a bad game? Come to find out my game wasn't alone but that the original method for saving games on old game carts is slowly dying. Here is what I found from a very informative Atari Age post about this very subject(i'll clip out the relevant parts but I recommend you read the whole thing):
"In the case with NES games, the battery usually only powers a low-power (or a very-low-power) SRAM chip... Dividing the charge on the drain therefore tells us that the average lifetime of a typically battery-backed NES cartridge is around 70 years (+/- 10)
The other class of cartridge systems I have looked at is Gameboy games. After examining quite a lot of those, I see that two different batteries were used. Older games, usually from 2000 and earlier, uses a whimpy CR1616 battery cell with only about 55mAh (200C). Later cartridges has the CR2025 cell, with 150mAh (540C)... Old MCB1 games with the CR1616 are expected to retain data for 15 years +/- 5 years. About now, in other words."
That post was in 2012 so we are long past the expected battery life of all Gameboy games made in the pre 2000 era. I find this fact a bit depressing as the only way to now play certain games with a save is to emulate them or re-purchase them on a modern system. I still enjoy having the original carts for collecting and they still work I just can no longer save them, which is extremely unfortunate.