Game & Watch Primer, Part 1

by Clint Dyer

1980 is the year. Nintendo, a company primarily known for its arcade games (Donkey Kong, etc.) releases this line of Game & Watches. And the world of handhelds would never be the same! Being a handheld collector for a long time, I’ve seen several hundred handhelds and heard of even more. The Game & Watch line really has no equal. These units, despite their LCD screens (a death sentence in terms of handhelds) remain among the most popular and sought after handhelds there are. Why? A few reasons that I can think of. First, the line of handhelds in general plays better than any other line of handhelds. The games are simply more fun to play and have the best replay value of any handhelds. In addition, the line has a certain un-measurable charm that is missing in most other LCD games. The cases are compact and arguably, cooler than any other handhelds. The most important of those reasons is the gameplay, but without all those factors combined, these handhelds wouldn’t be nearly as popular.

The following information was gathered from several different sources. Camiel Dobbelaar ( was the one who really got me started on the idea of doing this when he combined information taken from the July/August issue of Retrogames, a foreign fanzine. He noticed several different things, but the most interesting is that Nintendo used a very specific numbering system with it’s games. You’ll notice that the original silvers start with 01 and it goes up from there, with each variety of G&W having a new starting point. What’s most interesting about that is that there is plenty of room for more in almost all the categories. One thing that doesn’t make sense about their numbering scheme is the first initials before the numbers. Some titles, it’s easy to tell why they were named that way. FL for Flagman, MH for Manhole, etc. Others, the letters don’t make any sense. AC for Ball, RC for Fire, etc. Good work Camiel, I knew that college degree was good for something! ;-) The reviews and descriptions of the types were all written by me, with help from Michael Davidson ( and Camiel on some that I don’t have.

Original Silver G&W’s are among the smallest LCD handhelds made in terms of unit size. The screen, however, is fairly large for it’s compact size. The screen is surrounded by a silver metal plate, which gives these versions of G&W’s their name. In terms of rarity, these are pretty hard to come by, my guess is because they were the first of the line and probably didn’t get the advertising that the later titles did.

Original Gold G&W’s are exactly the same as the silver line, except (surprise) they have a gold metal plate around the screen. They are not quite as hard to find as their Original Silver counterparts, but still darned hard to find.

Original Silver (01-05):

A juggling game where you must keep balls from falling, just like real life juggling. The gameplay is simple. Move left and right to automatically catch the balls and throw them into the air again. Mego, another well-known handheld company had an exact copy of this game made for them with the same name and everything!

This is a memory game, roughly equivalent to Simon, a matching game where you have to match certain sequences of patterns. It reminds me a lot of Milton Bradley's Simon handheld, except that it uses numbers (1, 2, 3 & 4) instead of colors. Mego, another well-known handheld company had an exact copy of this game made for them, with the same name and everything!

This is one of the few G&W’s to use raw violence (Popeye - all types - is another)! The object here is to pound the heads of poor moles before they have a chance to eat your cabbage. It’s a simple “Whack-a-Mole” game in handheld form. Mego, another well-known handheld company had an exact copy of this game made for them. The only difference in the two games is the title, Exterminator.

People are jumping out of the building and your job is to get them to the ambulance without letting them splat on the pavement. To accomplish this job, you are armed with only a trampoline and when someone hits it, they will bounce to the next spot on the pavement, where you have to “catch” them again. Continue this all the way to the right and they will bounce into the ambulance (wouldn’t that hurt as well, though?) and you get to do it all over again. Mego, another well-known handheld company had an exact copy of this game made for them. The only difference in the two games is the title, Fireman, Fireman.

This is probably one of the most bizarre G&W's, in that it seems to have almost no play value. The object is to hit your opponent over the head with your mallet before he hits you. Unfortunately, I've not been able to figure out how to hit first or avoid the opponents shots. A stinker of a game to be sure.

Original Gold (06-08 or more):

There are 4 holes in the two levels of the street. You have to use a manhole cover to fill the holes before the people fall into the holes and into the water below. This is the same as the Wide Screen version with the same name.

Run your guy along the bottom of the screen while avoiding falling objects. Get hit by the falling objects, and you lose a life. This seems to be a very common theme to older LCD games. I’m not sure which came first the G&W version or the rest, but my guess would be that Nintendo was the original inventor.

Ever want to be a lion tamer? This is the game for you. Keep the lions in check by shoving a chair in their faces. The lions come from 6 different positions in the cage (3 on the left and 3 on the right) and you have to move our hero to meet the lion before it gets out of the cage. If one gets out, you lose a life and start over again.

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Last updated: Saturday, April 23, 2005 07:48 AM