Once upon a time, handheld games reigned supreme in the electronic toy market. While there are still some sold today at many major retail stores and toy stores, the time before cell phones, ipods, and other mobile devices was a time for a different kind of portable gaming, many of which had the Liquid Crystal Display, commonly known as LCD, requiring either simple AA or AAA batteries, or a small special kind, often needed for reference for purchase and replacement. Just recently, for fun, I went into my garage and found a box of handheld games among a cache of old video game systems. For as long as I can remember, I have always loved playing handhelds. While considerably much less expensive than a traditional video game system, or even a Game Boy, they can still be enjoyed for their simple fun. These are the handheld games I remember playing as a kid and have enjoyed again as an adult.
This is one of the first games I had ever owned as a kid from that once dominating handheld toy maker known as Tiger, which sadly I don't think exists anymore. There were many racing games that came out in the 80s, most of which weren't really about placing first, second, or third, but rather being able to finish the race through a time limit and advance to the next level. Adding to the challenge is dodging opponent's cars and watching the gas gauge before it goes empty, or else you get hit from behind, causing you to crash. While Road Race is a ton of fun, it often has to be played in silence as the sounds are very grating to one's ears.
It is considered the ultimate exercise for one's brain, which still continues to thrive in multiple game systems, and mobile phone and ipod apps. Much like the classic Nintendo game, it has the world famous Russian folk song "Korobeiniki", though it can be turned off as well as the sound at any time. The handheld electronic version of Tetris has three different modes, A for traditional classic game, clearing as many lines as possible, with endless levels, each increasing in difficulty until the player loses; B for time limit at either 2, 3 or 5 minutes at any level; and C for a set number of lines to be cleared at the fastest time, at 25 or 40 lines. I've often played this game at breakfast in the mornings before going to school or work, or on the weekends just for fun. The highest level I have been able to personally achieve is 60, usually playing in the mornings while eating breakfast. My mom and I each have our own games, though mine has a more circular directional pad allowing for quicker movements of the blocks.
It's just like the traditional game where you can arrange the vessels the way you want and pick coordinates on the matrix at random to fire at your opponent, hoping to hit a carrier, destroyer, battleship, patrol boat, or submarine, ultimately sinking it. Cheating is absolutely impossible for any electronic Battleship game when playing against the computer, and in the handheld version, it is impossible to hit the same coordinate twice as the game would always indicate where you hit or miss. While the one I have is not that old, I've played this game a lot while on my break from work, usually playing the best 2 out of 3 games with the computer.
Simon and Copy Cat Jr.
The premise is simple, repeating the patterns of lights as commanded, as it gets more difficult every step of the way until you slip up and miss. While I never had the original black model from the 70s, I have it in a miniature travel size, as well as a knockoff version, both of which can't be turned off in sound.
Sports Feel Tennis
This is a much different type of handheld game, as it involves more hand motions than utilization of thumbs, much like today's Nintendo Wii. Muting is not an option as sound is vital in serving and hitting the ball and knowing whether you are to hit forehand, backhand, or lob. A low sound indicates the computer scored a point on you and clapping indicates that you have scored on the computer.
Super Mario Bros Game & Watch
This game, or Game and Watch device as it is known (something Nintendo was once known for manufacturing many years ago) was released in two different versions, Crystal Screen Series, and later in Wide Screen, which I played a lot as a kid. Mario must go through eight levels, navigate on a scrolling platform in an allotted distance, avoid getting trapped behind walls, clear jumps over water, and save Princess Toadstool at the end of every level. Like the classic NES game, Super Mario Bros Game & Watch features the first six chords of the world famous theme song in its intro, 1 Up mushrooms, stars and enemies like Bullet Bill, Lakitu, and the evil King Koopa.
From the late 70s into the 80s, Mattel had released a great number of sports-themed handheld games, including Auto Race, Football, Bowling, Basketball, Soccer, and Hockey. As the pitch is activated, the batter must hit the ball at just the right moment to get a good hit as the light approaches the home base. The number of bases one can run is determined by the number of beeps the game gives off, whether single, double, triple, or homerun. A low beep indicates a strike or ball, depending on the pitch, and a descending noise indicates an out. What makes Baseball fun is the device allows for two player action, taking turns pitching and hitting the ball and running bases.
Another handheld Baseball game I remember playing as a kid also allowed for two player action, with controls for the pitcher opposite those of the batter, as players could rotate the device whenever changing sides. The pitcher controls were actually attached to a cable so that the player could remove them from a compartment, and stretch out further from the device, adding to the challenge of the game so that the batter would have no knowledge of the pitch with which he is dealt. While I remember playing that version a lot, sadly, I could not find that one in my box of video games as it may be lost.
The last two games, I sadly could not find in my box of electronics as I don't know if they were thrown out, lost, or stashed elsewhere, but I remember playing them a lot as a kid.
Blades of Steel
Unlike the popular Konami game for Nintendo, you didn't have to worry about the opposing team stealing the puck and scoring a goal on you. It was all about going around other players, and getting the puck into the goal, timing it just right so that it successfully goes past the goal tender, otherwise it is returned to you from where you are or to the start of the half rink.
The Lion King
Like every popular movie of the 90s for kids, animated or otherwise, there would be a great deal of merchandise to be sold, including portable LCD games. In The Lion King handheld adventure, you play as the almighty Simba, first as a cub, dodging wildebeest, pouncing on hyenas, and eating bugs, then grow into an adult, reunite with childhood friend Nala, and defeat the evil Uncle Scar to become king. While the game was a more abridged version of the classic Disney flick, with only four levels, it was still pretty enjoyable to play both as a kid and adult.
Handheld games were a lot of fun to play as a kid, and are just as fun to play as an adult, if not more so. Even though I have a few more games in my box, some of which sadly are inoperable due to circuit malfunctioning or battery acid corrosion, the ones I mentioned above all still operate well as of 2012 and most are now extremely rare and hard to find today. However, the replacing of new batteries will always be available for purchase at all major stores.