Thursday, 29 October 2015

Remembering… Nintendo Game & Watch

Nintendo Game & Watch

David Hayward recalls why his thumbs now hurt when the weather gets a little cold

Prior to having elaborate handheld consoles or even the smartest of smartphones and tablets, kids of the early 80s, because they were hip, could instead be seen strutting their stuff with a Game & Watch in hand.

The Game & Watch was an incredible device, one we look back at with great fondness. The tiny LCD screen, the directional D-pad arrangement, the Game A, Game B and action buttons too. There were also other buttons, depending on the model, such as the time button and those annoying pin-hole like buttons to set the alarm and alter the time. Considering its size and age, it was quite an intricate little device.

Of course, it was nothing much more than a toy, compared to the handheld phones, tablets and consoles we have today, but back then, there was still a certain innocence about the whole electronics industry – at least from the point of view of a seven-year-old-child.

Nintendo Game & Watch

Its History

The Game & Watch was invented and developed by Nintendo technician Gunpei Yokoi, towards the end of the 70s, when the company decided to wind down its card games in favour of electronics.

The company needed something to help turn in a profit for it, and thanks to a combination of timing (with LCD screens suddenly becoming cheap enough to use), an amazing skill base with its engineers, and Yokoi himself, the Nintendo Game & Watch was born.

Rumour has it that Yokoi came up with the idea while on the train to work one day. He saw an extremely bored-looking, young Japanese businessman toying with his calculator in an effort to make it do something other than display numbers. With this in mind, Yokoi sat in his lab that day and started to jot down some initial concepts, which finally became the Game & Watch.

The first Nintendo Game & Watch was Ball, which appeared in April 1980. These Silver series Game & Watch models lasted well until the entire line died off in favour of the Game Boy, sometime in 1991. What followed were the Gold, Multi-Screen, Widescreen, Grandstand, Sunwing Wide Screen and Mini-Arcade models, all of which offering a slight advantage over or addition to the other models. There was even a model that came out in the mid to late 80s called the Radio Game & Watch, complete with a pair of dials to one side to tune into a local station – the game was Barrier, if anyone can remember it.

Sadly, as we said, the Game & Watch made way for the more dedicated and advanced Game Boy handheld console, which eventually turned into the Nintendo DS. So to all those kids now playing with their 3DS consoles, your handheld has quite the history behind it.

Nintendo Game & Watch

The Good

Gaming on the go, two-player tournaments in the playground, and it could wake you up with its little ‘beep beep, beep beep’ alarm in the morning.


Getting caught with one in class when you should be working, the alarm going off during a lesson, and those annoying pinhole alarm and clock reset buttons – which always ended up being filled with lead from your pencil.


The Nintendo Game & Watch was a fantastic gadget and quite possibly one of the first ‘smart’ handheld multi-function products ever. We salute you, Nintendo and Gunpei Yokoi.

Did You Know?

• The Game A and Game B buttons usually made the game go faster, for a harder level. But on some games it initiated a two-player mode or even changed the game completely. 
• You can play a range of Game & Watch models online, at
• The D-Pad was specifically invented for the Game & Watch.
• Yokoi also invented the Game Boy and a robot arm to help him work when he was on the assembly line in his early days at Nintendo.
• There was a Vs. series that allowed you to attach a wired D-pad and buttons, for two players.