We’re certain that most of you are familiar with seeing that rapscallion stick figure renaissance man Mr. Game & Watch while marathoning rounds in any variation of Super Smash Bros. (post-dating Melee.) While Nintendo loves to warmly nod back to their own history and roots, Mr. Game & Watch is no exception; in fact, he is the Grandfather to the rise of gaming handhelds!
Now days it’d be hard to imagine how anyone could battle boredom without our smartphone that are packed with games and apps to kill time between real-life engagements, but back in 1979, even basic cellphones had yet to make their big debut on the market (they came out in 1983!)
Gunpei Yokoi (or Gumpei Yokoi) was the genius behind Game & Watch, and a major contributor to what made Nintendo so successful in its early days on the electric avenue. Legend tells that Gunpei got the idea for Game & Watch while observing a businessman on a train ride passing time playing with an LCD calculator by pressing the buttons. Gunpei came up with an idea to make a watch that included a game to play. What is really interesting about the creation of the Game & Watch handhelds is that during the creation of Game & Watch: Donkey Kong, Gunpei came up with the patent for the original D-pad, which lives on even today. Game & Watches came in many designs, some even incorporating dual screen, over two decades before we’d see the original Nintendo DS released!
While maybe some of us only remember Game & Watch as an obscure piece of Nintendo history, while some can claim to be first-hand owners of one of these archaic gaming systems; after all, Nintendo sold a total of over 43 Million Game & Watches, giving them a huge head start in the handheld market. Nintendo only stopped production shortly after releasing the Game Boy. In the late 90s a short lived throwback to the original classics of Game & Watches were released under the name ‘Mini Classics’ designed to look like small Game Boys. There has also been collections released for both the original Game Boy and Nintendo DS of the various games for Game & Watch so if you want to experience a classic among classics, it might be worth a rummage through your local retro gaming shop or a sleuth through online auction sites.
At the end of the day, it really makes you appreciate that our 2D hero still has a slot in Nintendo’s roster, because if it wasn’t for Game & Watch, Nintendo wouldn’t be where it is today.