Image 1 of 39
To say that technology has changed in the last 20-30 years is really nothing short of an understatement.
Those of us who remember rotary phones and three television channels, frequently receive blank stares and down-turned mouths when we refer to those things in the presence of our younger co-workers.
It is important to remember that it was right about the time of Tron, and the advent of cable-tv, that computer technology really started to become mainstream.
Remembering these things is more than just entertainment, it is also a useful reminder about how far we’ve come technologically, and maybe a good sounding board to ask ourselves how this has affected us as a society. – But I digress.
I love the nostalgia of old games, mainly because they were the mainstream manifestations of major technological advancements.
I asked to do a series on vintage handheld games, and our intrepid editor came across a website that had them all.
It was called Handheld Museum and is maintained soley by a man we know as Rik M. There seem to be thousands of different handheld games on the page from the 70’s on.
Instead of a series, we decided to do a single large gallery that highlighted a number of the handhelds.
All of the images are taken from Riks site and 90 percent the captions too. I have put my own comments in at the end, preceded by “**”. Some of the games have more pictures on the website with boxes and some instruction manuals, even movie clips from when the games appeared in movies.
If you want to find more info or pictures of a particular item, Rik has the items nicely cataloged by manufacturer, by item title.
I sorted the gallery here in this order:1 – watch games2 – Sports games3 – All of the others
I tried to keep similar genres together as well.
I found that the watch games had a lot of sales images for the Sears catalogs and the like. The Sears catalog, kiddies, was all we had for browsing “back in the day”.
So without any additional delay – we give you – The Handheld Museum: A tribute to the early history of Handheld gaming.
Be sure to visit Riks site when you are done here.
Alba Baseball (19??, LCD, Watch batteries, Model
Imado Clown - QBert at arms length
Imado Clown (19??, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# ??)
Battery type: LR41 (or equivalent)
Obviously it’s Q*Bert (and I believe it’s Neslonic’s Q*Bert watch just re-labeled, but I’m not sure if it’s an official license or a ‘bootleg’). Cresta released a handheld Clown game that is exactly the same thing (even the same characters and text font).
rn** Have a look at the “real” Q-Bert watch under Nelsonic and Q-bert – it does not list it as a watch game, though it is indeed.
Tomy Martian Wars
Tomy Martian Wars (19xx, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# ?)
**Now THIS one I had myself. It was very sweet for 198x and I was indeed the envy of the dork patrol in school. It didn’t take long before I realized that I had to take it off to work the controls.
Casio Scramble Fighter - Top Gun
Casio Scramble Fighter (19??, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# GF-2)
Jet fighting game watch.
** I like this one because it shows your fuel level, and it features a fairly realistic cockpit viewfinder. 10 on the coolness scale.
Casio HustleMonira - Falling Debris
Casio Hustle Monira (1984, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# GM-5)
**Looks like this – something – Monira – catches apples?
Casio Game 401- OR Pyramid of triangles?
Casio Game 401 (19??, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# GM-401)
** Don’t have any idea what this game is, but it intrigues me…
The Casio Game301- Depth Charge!
Casio Game 301 (19??, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# GM-301)
This is similar to Game 10 and Game 20, but it’s vertical instead of horizontal. It’s a submarine/battleship game. This is the same game as Game-30 but in a steel case.
** Another in the series of Casio games. I like this one – kind of a battleship/depth-charge type of game.
Casio FootballWatch - And by Football we mean....
(19??, LCD, Watch batteries, Model# GS-1Casio Football2)
Casio Game 20
Casio Game 20 (19??, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# GM-20)
Looks like a newer version of Game 10, probably plays almost the same.
Tomy Monster Hero Watch -- aka Pac-Man Monster
Tomy Monster Hero (19xx, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# ?)
Pac Man clone. Handheld and watch versions (Gameplay may be a little different):
** What I like about this one is the little joystick instead of the impossible buttons that most have.
Casio Cosmo Flight
Casio Cosmo-Flight (19xx, LCD, Watch batteries, Model# GC-7)
** Cool thing here is the little gauges and simulated cockpit stuff. Not as cool, however, as the “ScrambleFigher” a few frames back.
Casio Aero Batics Watch
Casio Aero Batics (1987, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# GA-7)
** This one might have benefited from a joystick, but very cool nonetheless.
Casio CA-90 -- The Geek Standard
Casio CA-90 (19xx, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# CA-90)
Calculator watch that also features a game… From what I’m told, not a very exciting game though. I believe it’s something along these lines: a number will scroll across the screen, and you have to press that number on the keypad.
** Any dork worth his/her salt had one of these.
Armitron Saturn1 - Fit for the Sears catalog
Armitron Saturn I Watch (19??, LCD, Watch Battery, Model# ??)
** Not too many Armitron watch games on the website. I know that Armitron was a fairly well-known cheapie watch maker ( and still is ?), but they must not have made many games, as I’m sure that HandheldMuseum would have it if it was made.
Mattel Classic Football - The handheld Alpha Dog
Mattel’s Football (I) (1977, LED, 9 Volt, Model# 2024)
U. S. Patent # 4,162,792 (game) and 4,344,622 (display technology)
Invented by: George Klose and Richard Chang (according to the patent)
Programmed by: Mark Lesser
View Manual / View 1st Football game, plated in 24k gold!
Football was released in 1977. It was labelled either Football or Football I depending on the date the game was released. I guess Mattel continued to make (or at least ship remaining stock of) the original Football even after Football 2 came out, thus the change to the game’s title. Both the game and the box reflect the addition of the roman numeral I (and the box for Football I is smaller than the original as the game is packed in a plastic bubble-wrap bag instead of the styrofoam blocks). The font style used on the pre-I version is also different. Also, early models of Football had an AC Adapter jack which was removed on later models (which would only run on batteries). (I recently found an interesting variation on this game: A Football that I recently received (that just says Football, older version), has little round blips instead of the tiny horizontal lines that usually make up the blips on these games. Never seen one like that before. I’ve been told by a Mattel employee that these diodes where never changed in production, so this must be a foreign market version to have the different diodes. It also has a slightly different sticker on the back: the ‘Try Fresh batteries’ text is written in a black bar on the sticker, not just normal text like most of the Football games.)
A little game history: This was released in June of 1977 as the second game released by Mattel (Auto Race was the first) and sold through Sears. After less than 100,000 were made, Sears (using a computer model based on initial sales figures) determined that the games would not be big sellers, and most of the production for Football and Auto Race was stopped. Within 6 months, it became obvious to Sears that their prediction was wrong, and production was started up again and reached previously unknown levels! (Reaching as many as 500,000 units a week by mid-February, 1978). Check out the Mattel trivia section for several more interesting stories about this and other Mattel games (like why the playing field only has 9 yards… 🙂 Thanks to Howard Cohen (ex-Mattel employee) for these great stories!
This game wins my vote for most cloned/pirated of the handheld games. 🙂 They even cloned it themselves! Mattel has done a re-release of this game recently (Dec, 2000), check out Classic Football! And now they’ve released a tiny Football Keychain version of it! (April, 2001).
Coleco Electronic Quarterback - Beta Dog
Coleco Electronic Quarterback (1978, LED, 9 Volt, Model# 2020)
U. S. Patent #s 4,249,735 (game) and 4,327,915 (display)
Invented by: Eric Bromley (according to the patent)
There appears to be some color variations here- 1st one is ‘normal,’ 2nd one has black directional buttons (I suspect the overlay sticker is just faded, that would explaind the light blue and white word ‘Electronic,’ but maybe it was printed this way), the third one has yet another color of buttons, as well as featuring the newer Coleco logo (I think that was the newer one…) THe first version also changed in that the earliest models ((C) 1978 on the box) have an A/C adapter port on the top of the game, later models ((C) 1980 on the box) no longer have this. Also licensed to Sears as Electronic Touchdown.
Electronic Quarterback has been found in Disney’s movie ‘Tron.’ When they are at Flynn’s arcade in his apartment, he picks it up and starts playing it for a few seconds. You never see the front of the game, but it’s obvious what it is… 🙂 See screen shot at bottom of page.rnrn
** Though I call this “Beta Dog” I remember a lot of kids had this.
Coleco H2H Football
Coleco Head to Head Footall (1980, LED, 9 Volt, Model# 2140)
U. S. Patent # 4,249,734
Invented by: Eric Bromley (according to the patent)
Also licensed to Sears as Team Play Football. At least 5 different variations are known for this game. They all have the same body style, but have differences in colors (sometimes on buttons) or locations of words. There’s is a 6th type in a different body, but this is technically Soccer (U.S. Soccer), it’s just the European release, thus it’s called Football (last picture).
** Personally, I never liked this game. I didn’t like “sharing” the game. Looking back, it seems counter-intuitive to have kids share control of a single unit, but that is what technology gave us then. Two units, connected by a 10′ cable would have been better (with quick release, as we know the cable would have been brokenmany times over). I wonder if that was ever tested durig design…?
Coleco H2H Baseball
Coleco Head to Head Baseball (1982, LED/VFD, 2 9 Volts, Model# 2180)
U. S. Patent # 4,381,864
Invented by: Eric Bromley and Thomas Helmer (according to the patent)
** Never playedt his, but did see it around. I feel the same way about this as I do about H2H football…
Mattel’s Baseball (1978, LED, 9 Volt, Model# 2942)
U. S. Patent # 4,324,402
Invented by: George Klose (according to the patent)
Programmed by: Mark Lesser
Baseball was released in two different box styles: The older (original) box was significantly larger than the second (smaller) version, and had a large flap that folded out from the left side of the box. The large version had the game packed in styrofoam blocks, where the smaller version had the game packed in a plastic bubble-wrap bag. (Several of Mattel’s earlier handhelds went through this change.)
Mattel’s Basketball (1978, LED, 9 Volt, Model# 2437)
U. S. Design Patent # D261,402 (patent on the look of the game housing)
View Manual / View the 1,000,000the Basketball, plated in 24k gold!
Basketball was released in two different box styles: The older (original) box was significantly larger than the second (smaller) version, and had a large flap that folded out from the left side of the box. The large version had the game packed in styrofoam blocks, where the smaller version had the game packed in a plastic bubble-wrap bag. (Several of Mattel’s earlier handhelds went through this change.) An original price: $31.99 (dated Oct 9th, 1980) Mattel has recently re-released this game as Classic Basketball, and they’ve added a 3-point shot!
** I’m not sure if this one ever really took off…
Coleco Donkey Kong - Who doesn't kow this one?
Coleco Donkey Kong (1982, VFD, 4 C Batteries, Model
** You were a bad mamma-jamma if you had a tabletop one of these. The only thing better was the arcade game itself. There are a number of other tabletop games ( not really handheld according to Rik )on the Handheld Museum website.
Bandai Rush Hour - REALLY original game
Bandai Rush Hour (1982, LCD, 2 LR44’s, Model# 16263)
** This looks like it could be a really cool game! There isn’t much out there on the gameplay, but it LOOKS like you have to beat other passengers onto the train and that you COULD end up squashed and dead on the other set of tracks. AWESOME!
Actronics Cosmic Free Fire - A look into the screen
Actronics Cosmic Free Fire (1983, VFD, 4 C batteries, Model# 3301)
Licensed game from Hanzawa, plays like Super Cobra.
Was also sold by CGL as Cosmic Free Fire and Cosmic Scramble,
Lansay as Super Cobra 2 and by Ludotronic as Raid Cosmique.
** The only reason I included this – other than its relative obscurity – is that you can see the led’s and display layout. Reminding us how “static” the gameplay back then really was.
Atari Cosmos - An Interesting history
Atari Cosmos (1981, LED, AC only, Model# EG500)
U. S. Patent # 4,421,317
Invented by: Roger Hector and Harry Jenkins, Jr. (according to the patent)
Atari Cosmos is a prototype game that was pretty much finished, but Atari decided to scrap at the last minute. (Partly (if not mainly) due to the fact that it really does suck as far as a game is concerned. 🙂 They claimed it was 3-D or holographic, when in reality it was just a small grid of LEDs (7×6) with a dual-image hologram used as a background. There were two lights inside of the game shining on the hologram at different angles, and that would cause one of two images to light up (in the case of the Space Invader game, there was a constant background, and when you died an image of an alien shooting you would appear). Eight games were developed (along with the holograms), and all of them were programmed into the base unit. A series of tabs on the ‘cartridge’ told the base unit which games to play. 5 Cosmos units are known to exist today, and 3 of those 5 are only empty shell mock-ups (although Atari made hundreds of the empty shells, it isn’t currently known if these were destroyed/thrown away, or if they are waiting to be in a warehouse or garage somewhere…). One of the two working prototypes (and at least one of the mock-ups) belongs to Curt Vendel of the Atari Historical Society (these are his pictured, photographs taken during Philly Classic 2001, thanks again Curt for letting us play with this elusive game!). The only other known working prototype is still in the hands of a former Atari employee. If you want more info on this system, check out the Atari Historical Society at www.atari-history.com.
BambinoSpace Laser Fight - Don't judge a book - or box - by....
Bambino Space Laser Fight (1980, VFD, 4 C Batteries, Model# ET-1201)
Two player shot-em up type game, made with either green or blue display plastics. From the box: “The world’s smallest graphic color display with revolutionary computer-game functions and sounds! You can see the space robot’s arms move to fire a laser beam, legs move to stoop and body falll apart due to laser destruction. Over 100 million computerized plays – a constantly challenging game.” An original price: $38.96 at Toys R Us.
** Looked kind of boring at first ( the fault of the box ), but after the description, seems interesting.
Bandai FriskyTom - Its all in the name
Bandai Frisky Tom (1982, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# ??)
Based on the arcade game Frisky Tom by Nichibutsu. Also released in France as Pipe Line.
** Had to put this in because of the name…Really…that was the only reason. Forgive me, editor.
Bandai Ghost House - Gaudy Ghost
Bandai Ghost House (1985, LCD, Watch batteries, Model# 0202009 6500)
** The case on this game was way over the top, I thought, but some might like it. Also a Japanese label. There are a LOT of those on the website.
Bandai Missile Invader - NOT a Space Invader
Bandai Missile Invader (1980, LED, 9 Volt, Model# 8002)
Space Invaders clone. See also Weltraumspiel (German version) and Missile Vader (Japanese version).
** A Space Invaders clone, yes, but not a very good one. I had this game and did not like it very much. Lots of similar designs on the HandheldMusem.com, so someone must have liked them.
Bandai Terror House - Multi layered Terror
Bandai Akuryo No Yakata or Terror House (1982, LCD, Solar, Model# 16814)
Solar powered double panel LCD game (it has two LCDs on top of each other to enable much more impressive scene changes and possibly 3D like effects). Called Akuryo No Yakata in Japan, Terror House in other parts of the worl. Neat design, I know of these Double-panel games: Airport Panic, Frankenstein (or Mr. Franken), Hikyo Amazon (or Amazone), Terror House (or Akuryo No Yakata), Zaxxon. All but Zaxxon are solar powered games.
** I included this because I thought it addressed the need back then for more dynamic screenplay, and layered lcds were just the thing then. Also I liked it because the name was so clearly an English interpretation of a Japanese/Asian game.
Casio Astro Chicken - May the Fowl be with you
Casio Astro Chicken (1983, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# CG-130)
** Another that I had to include because of the name. Sorry.
Casio Cave Adventure - Mazes and caves for everyone
Casio Cave Adventure (19xx, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# CG-124(A))
** The next few are fine specimens of Maze/Adventure games.
Casio Cross Fighter - Cross Fighter
Casio Cross Fighter (1984, LCD, Watch Batteries, Model# CG-87)rnrn
rnrn** …Not sure what the cross fighter thing means – another badly translated title?
Epoch Gorgon - Gorgon says what...?
Epoch Gorgon / Le Heros Grec (1983, LCD, Watch battery, Model# ?)
Released in France as Le Heros Grec. Also released in Germany by Schuco as Perseu
Grandstand Thunderbirds - For Thunderbirds fans
Grandstand Thunderbirds Series (1991, LCD, 1 LR-44)
View Manual for Danger at Ocean Deep (.PDF file, more info here: Manual Index)
Thunderbirds series, I know of four: Brink of Disaster, Blast into Outer Space, Danger at Ocean Deep (Model# 4179-1) and Pit of Peril. There could be more.
Mattel Dungeons & Dragons - need I say more?
Mattel’s Dungeons and Dragons (1981, LCD, 2 Watch batteries (A76), Model# 5409)
Programmed by: Peter Oliphant
This is one of Mattel’s small handheld LCD games (similar to the Nintendo Game & Watch games), based on the popular role playing games. Game play is essentially exactly the same as Masters of the Universe, just a different LCD.
** I had this one and loved it. Easy to beat/complete, though, as I remember.
Sears 3 in 1 Sports - Dissociative Identity Disorder
3 in 1 Sports (19xx, LED, 3 AA batteries, Model# ??)
This is interesting, it was licensed from Entex (it’s just Entex’s Hockey with the Am/Pro switch), but SearsSears decided to create two extra overlays for it to play Basketball and Soccer (but there’s no settings for actually changing the game play, they all play exactly the same…).
Texas Instruments Dataman
Texas Instruments- Dataman (1977, VFD, 9 Volt, Model# ??)
Math learning tool, not a calculator as it appears. You would type in a math formula and what you thought was the answer, and it would tell you if you got it correct or not. It also included several games
Tandy Shooting Gallery - They've come a long way...
Tandy Shooting Gallery (1981, LED, 9 Volt, Model# 60-2155)
Multiple target type game, has 3 different overlays for 3 different events (Animal Hunt, Space Fire and Bulls Eye). The game just randomly turns on one of 6 LEDs. The player has to manually keep score by turning the little dials at the bottom of the game. (Original price: $12.95)
** A LOT has changed in 27 years, eh?
Tomy Tron - See through Tron
Tomy Tron (1981, VFD, 4 C Batteries, Model# 7601)
Tomy’s Tron, based on the Bally/Midway Tron arcade game (which is based on the Disney movie Tron). Cool game, the entire case is made of a smoked clear plastic so you can see the inside of the game (and it has some large, simulated circuitry in the back, to make it look even cooler…) Released by Grandstand in the U.K.