Game & Watch

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Game & Watch
Game and watch logo.svg
Game & Watch.png
Mr. Game & Watch as he appears in Game & Watch Ball, the first title in the series
Also known asG&W, Tricotronic (West Germany, Austria), Time-Out (North America)
DeveloperNintendo R&D1
TypeSeries of handheld electronic games
Release dateApril 28, 1980 (1980-04-28) (Ball)
  • Original series:
  • 1980–1991
  • Ball (reissue):
  • 2010
  • Color Screen:
  • 2020–2021
Units soldc. 43.6 million
CPUSharp SM5xx family
DisplayLiquid-crystal display
ConnectivityColor Screen: USB Type-C
PowerOriginal series:

Button cell

Color Screen:

1000 mAh Li-Ion
Best-selling gameDonkey Kong (8 million)[1]
SuccessorGame Boy

The Game & Watch brand (Japanese: ゲーム&ウオッチ Gēmu & Uotchi; called Tricotronic in West Germany and Austria, abbreviated as G&W) is a series of handheld electronic games developed, manufactured, released, and marketed by Nintendo from 1980 to 1991. Created by game designer Gunpei Yokoi, the product derived its name from it featuring a single game as well as a clock on an LCD screen.[2][3] The models from 1981 onwards featured an alarm in addition.[4]

The series sold a combined 43.4 million units worldwide, including 12.87 million units in Japan and 30.53 million overseas.[5] It was the earliest Nintendo video game product to gain major worldwide success.[6]

The units are based on a 4-bit CPU from the Sharp SM5xx family that include a small ROM and RAM area and an LCD screen driver circuit.[7]

Origin and design[edit]

Mario Bros.
The back, front, left, right view drawings of a two screen folding handheld
The patented design of a Multi Screen Game & Watch

Game designer Gunpei Yokoi had been head of Nintendo's Research & Development division in the 1970s, designing physical toys and games until the 1973 oil crisis, after which the market waned for these products. At the same time, the first arcade and home video game consoles had been developed in the United States, and Nintendo had quickly caught onto this wave in Japan.[8] While traveling on a Shinkansen (bullet train), Yokoi saw a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator by pressing the buttons. Yokoi then thought of an idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature game machine for killing time.[9] Later, he had been able to pitch the idea to Nintendo's president, Hiroshi Yamauchi, when Yamauchi requested him to chauffeur him to a business meeting. Though Yamauchi had not said anything during the drive, the meeting he was at included the CEO of Sharp Corporation, and the two discussed Yokoi's idea. Within the week, Yokoi was invited to a meeting between Nintendo and Sharp, giving him the go-ahead to develop his concept.[8]

Yokoi designed the controls for this portable system based on the success of Nintendo's arcade game Donkey Kong incorporating a single button along with a d-pad for movement.[10] This led up to the creation of Ball, which became one of Nintendo's first major hits. After its success, multiple variations of the console were released and developed, and was also the main inspiration for the Game Boy, a console Yokoi later created.[11][dead link] The series was discontinued in 1991 with the console game "Mario the Juggler".[12]

The units use LR4x/SR4x "button-cell" batteries, which Yokoi opted for because they were small and inexpensive.[10] Different models were manufactured, with some having two screens and a clamshell design (the Multi Screen Series). The Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS later reused this design.[13]

Titles available in Game & Watch form vary from Mickey Mouse to Balloon Fight, including Nintendo staples such as Donkey Kong, The Legend of Zelda, and Mario Bros..

The modern "cross" D-pad design was developed in 1982 by Yokoi for the Donkey Kong handheld game. The design proved to be popular for subsequent Game & Watch titles. This particular design was patented and later earned a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award.[14][15]

Game A and Game B[edit]

Most of the titles have a "GAME A" and a "GAME B" button. Game B is generally a faster, more difficult version of Game A, although exceptions do exist:

  • In Squish, Game B is radically different from Game A—the player must touch aliens to eliminate them as opposed to avoiding moving walls.[16]
  • In Flagman, Game B is a mode where the player has to press the right button within a certain amount of time, not memorize patterns.
  • In Judge, Boxing, Donkey Kong 3, and Donkey Kong Hockey, Game B is a two-player version of Game A.[17]
  • In Climber,[18] Balloon Fight,[19] and Super Mario Bros.,[20][21] there is no Game B button.

In most cases, both Game A and Game B would increase in speed and/or difficulty as the player progressed, with Game B starting at the level that Game A would reach at 200 points.


Game & Watch Wide Screen series; Super Mario Bros and Parachute
  • Silver (1980)
  • Gold (1981)
  • Wide Screen (1981–1982)
  • Multi Screen (1982–1989)
  • New Wide Screen (1982–1991)
  • Tabletop (1983)
  • Panorama (1983–1984)
  • Super Color (1984)
  • Micro Vs System (1984)
  • Crystal Screen (1986)
  • Ball (reissue) (2010)
  • Color Screen (2020–2021)

There were 60 different Game & Watch games produced for sale, one that is still for sale, and one that was only available as a contest prize, making 62 in all.[22] The prize game was given to winners of Nintendo's F-1 Grand Prix tournament, a yellow-cased version of Super Mario Bros. that came in a plastic box modeled after the Disk-kun character Nintendo used to advertise their Famicom Disk System.[21] As only 10,000 units were produced and it was never available for retail sale, the yellow version is considered rare.[22]

The Game & Watch series sold 14 million units worldwide during its first year of release by 1981.[23] The Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong released in 1982 sold 8 million units.[1]

Mario the Juggler, released in 1991, was the last game created in the Game & Watch series.[24]

Headache, released in 1981, is the UK version of Helmet, devoid of the vulgar connotations of the word in Europe. This title is hard to find due to its region isolation and was released under CGL (UK). Headache could arguably be the rarest Game & Watch game.

Judge, released in 1980, features two different colour schemes (purple and green).


Donkey Kong

The Game & Watch games were renewed between 1995 and 2002 with the Game & Watch Gallery series, five Game & Watch collections released for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance. They feature the original ports, as well as new, modernized versions starring the Mario series cast.

From 1998 onward, a number of third-party distributors have been licensed to re-release smaller LCD versions of ten separate Game & Watch games which together compose the Nintendo Mini Classics series.

In 2001, Nintendo released Manhole-e bundled with its Nintendo e-Reader systems.[25] Although an entire line of Game & Watch e-Reader cards were planned, they were never released.

Between July 2006 and March 2010, Nintendo produced two Game & Watch Collection cartridges for the Nintendo DS to be released exclusively for Club Nintendo members. The first cartridge featured three games from the Game & Watch Multi Screen series: Oil Panic, Donkey Kong, and Green House. The second compilation, Game & Watch Collection 2, contained Parachute, Octopus, and a new dual-screen game with Parachute on the top screen and Octopus on the bottom. Both cartridges are now available to the general public.

Between July 2009 and April 2010 Nintendo released nine separate Game & Watch ports for DSiWare including remakes of Ball (called Game & Watch: Ball),[26] Flagman (called Game & Watch: Flagman), Manhole (called Game & Watch: Manhole),[27] and Mario's Cement Factory (called Game & Watch: Mario's Cement Factory) among others.[28][29]

In March 2010, Takara Tomy released officially licensed Game & Watch-styled keychains, based on the Wide Screen series editions of Octopus, Parachute, and Chef. They do not actually run the games, instead just display a demo screen. While the game cannot be played, the speed at which the demo runs can be adjusted. The batteries are recharged with solar panels on the unit.[30]

Ball was rereleased exclusively via Club Nintendo, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Game & Watch, with the Club Nintendo logo on the back. Unlike the original release, this version includes a mute switch.[31] For members of the Japanese Club Nintendo, it was shipped in April 2010 to Platinum members.[32][33] For members of the North American Club Nintendo, it was available for 1200 coins from February 2011.[34][35] For members of the European Club Nintendo, it was available for 7500 stars from November 2011.[36][37]

In 2020, Nintendo published a limited run Game & Watch system containing the full NES versions of Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels (known in Japan as Super Mario Bros. 2), along with a variant of Ball with Mario's head (or Luigi's head, with a cheat code) replacing the original character's head, named Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. It was released on November 13.[38] Unlike the classic Game & Watch consoles that used disposable batteries, the console instead has a built-in rechargeable battery that charges by a USB-C cable.[39]

In 2021, Nintendo revealed a similar new Game & Watch system, Game & Watch: The Legend of Zelda, which was released in celebration of the franchise's 35th anniversary. The system contains four games; The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and a variant of Vermin with Link replacing the original character's head. It was released on November 12.[40]


The Game & Watch made handheld video game consoles vastly popular. Many toy companies followed in the footsteps of Game & Watch, such as Tiger Electronics and their Star Wars themed games. Elektronika released a line of Game & Watch clones in the Soviet Union.[41]

Nintendo's Game & Watch units were eventually superseded by the original Game Boy. Each Game & Watch was only able to play one game, due to the use of a segmented LCD display being pre-printed with an overlay. The speed and responsiveness of the games was also limited by the time it took the LCD to change state. The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) controllers were based on the controls in Game & Watch, and Game & Watch Multi Screen version became the model on which the Nintendo DS was based.

The Game & Watch Gallery series recreates the Game & Watch games in video game form, with modes that imitate the LCD displays and modes that modernise the graphics and include Mario characters. Game & Watch games have also been released through DSiWare.

The DS release Cooking Guide: Can't Decide What to Eat?, the player can unlock both A and B versions of the game Chef if they use the timer function.[42]

Nintendo Land for the Wii U has a mini-game named Octopus Dance that is based on the Game & Watch game Octopus.[43]

Game & Wario for the Wii U, a play-on-words of the Game & Watch, heavily references the Game & Watch line, including the ability to play a virtual Game & Watch version of Pyoro, called Bird.

Mr. Game & Watch[edit]

The Game & Watch brand is represented in Nintendo's Super Smash Bros. series with the character Mr. Game & Watch.[a] First appearing in Super Smash Bros. Melee, the character was redefined and designed to match his presentation as a generic stick figure-styled silhouette in the Game & Watch devices: he moves with limited animation, he is purely two dimensional, his noises only consist of beeps, and his abilities correlate to the presentation in the Game & Watch games. Beyond Super Smash Bros., Mr. Game & Watch has also appeared in Game & Watch Gallery 4, wherein he is the manager of the "classic games" area alongside Mario. He also makes a cameo appearances in Donkey Kong Country Returns and Rhythm Heaven Fever.

In September 2015, Nintendo released a Mr. Game & Watch Amiibo collectible.[44] The design also comes with 3 additional detachable alternatives of the character in different positions and moves. The Amiibo can be scanned into Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS and Wii U and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, where it can be used to create a personal CPU that can train and fight using artificial intelligence. The Amiibo can also be used to unlock a cosmetic option for Super Mario Maker.[45][46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Japanese: ゲーム&ウォッチ


  1. ^ a b Epstein, David (27 June 2019). "Chapter 9: Lateral Thinking with Withered Technology". Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World. Pan Macmillan. p. 196. ISBN 978-1-5098-4351-0. The Donkey Kong Game & Watch was released in 1982 and alone sold eight million units.
  2. ^ cary (2013-05-16). "Digital game + digital clock = Game & Watch!". Recollections of Play. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  3. ^ "Game & Watch (Franchise)". Giant Bomb. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  4. ^ "Feature: The History of the Nintendo Game & Watch". Nintendo Life. 2010-02-24. Retrieved 2020-06-15.
  5. ^ "Iwata Asks: Game & Watch: 4. Absorbed in Development". Nintendo of America. Archived from the original on May 18, 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-23.
  6. ^ " - Iwata Asks: Super Mario Bros. 25th Anniversary". Archived from the original on 2011-12-31. Retrieved 2011-03-23.
  7. ^ MAME emulator source code
  8. ^ a b Alt, Matt (November 12, 2020). "How Gunpei Yokoi Reinvented Nintendo". Vice. Retrieved November 12, 2020.
  9. ^ "Searching for Gunpei Yokoi | The Rainmakers | The Escapist". Archived from the original on 2021-02-24. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  10. ^ a b Goodall, Reece (2020-06-13). "Concept to Console: Game & Watch".
  11. ^ Rawda, Odel (2020-04-24). "Game & Watch Turns 40: A Look Back at Nintendo's First Gaming Success". CBR.[dead link]
  12. ^ Cheeseman, Ian (2020-08-17). "Ranking Every Nintendo Handheld from Worst to Best". Game Rant.
  13. ^ "Feature: How Nintendo's Game & Watch Took "Withered Technology" And Turned It Into A Million-Seller". Nintendo Life. 2020-09-08. Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  14. ^ "Nintendo Wins Emmy For DS And Wii Engineering | Technology | Sky News". 2008-01-09. Archived from the original on 2012-07-11. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  15. ^ Magrino, Tom (2008-01-08). "CES '08: Nintendo wins second Emmy - News at GameSpot". Archived from the original on 2013-01-02. Retrieved 2010-08-30.
  16. ^ "gw / squish". Archived from the original on 2009-06-25. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  17. ^ van Spanje, Martin. "#026: Judge - a Nintendo Game & Watch collection". Archived from the original on 2009-07-15. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  18. ^ "gw / climber". Archived from the original on 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  19. ^ "gw / balloon fight". Archived from the original on 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  20. ^ "gw / super mario bros". Archived from the original on 2009-09-08. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  21. ^ a b "Nintendo Super Mario Bros Promo". Retrieved 2009-07-01.
  22. ^ a b "Super Mario Bros. YM-901". 2009-01-02. Retrieved 2009-07-01.
  23. ^ "昔(1970年代)のテレビゲームは何台売れた?" [How many old (1970s) video games sold?]. Classic Videogame Station Odyssey (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2014-01-09. Retrieved 16 April 2021.
  24. ^ "Obscure Pixels - Nintendo Game&Watch". Archived from the original on 2018-11-30. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  25. ^ "Game & Watch Collection: Manhole Release Information for e-Reader". GameFAQs. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  26. ^ "Game & Watch: Ball Release Information for DS". GameFAQs. 2010-04-19. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  27. ^ "Game & Watch: Manhole Release Information for DS". GameFAQs. 2010-04-05. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  28. ^ "Game & Watch: Mario's Cement Factory Release Information for DS". GameFAQs. 2010-03-22. Retrieved 2013-07-06.
  29. ^ "GAME&WATCH". 2009-07-10. Retrieved 2009-07-11.
  30. ^ "Retro Games Immortalised as Solar-Powered Miniature "Game & Watch" by Takara Tomy". Gigazine. January 18, 2010. Archived from the original on 16 January 2021. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  31. ^ "Game & Watch". Iwata Asks. Nintendo. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
  32. ^ Spencer (November 18, 2009). "Platinum Club Nintendo Members Get Game & Watch". Siliconera. Curse. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  33. ^ McWhertor, Michael (November 18, 2009). "Club Nintendo Offers Members Actual Game & Watch Prize". Kotaku. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  34. ^ Winterhalter, Ryan (February 11, 2011). "Club Nintendo offering Game & Watch replica". gamesradar. Future. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  35. ^ "Game & Watch: Ball". North American Club Nintendo. Nintendo. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  36. ^ Newton, James (28 November 2011). "Game & Watch Gifts Added to European Club Nintendo". Nintendo Life. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  37. ^ "Game & Watch: Ball". European Club Nintendo. Nintendo Europe. Archived from the original on 2 November 2014. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
  38. ^ "The official home of the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. system". Retrieved 2020-10-24.
  39. ^ Burton, Jared (2020-10-16). "'80s and '90s kids might remember the Game & Watch handheld systems—now Nintendo's bringing 'em back, Mario-style". Our Community Now.
  40. ^ McFerran, Damien (June 15, 2021). "There's A Zelda Game & Watch Coming This Christmas". Nintendo Life. Retrieved June 16, 2021.
  41. ^ Richter, Darmon (3 May 2023). "How A Nintendo Game & Watch Bootleg Enraptured A Generation Of Russian Kids". Time Extension. Hookshot Media. Retrieved 3 May 2023.
  42. ^ "Personal Trainer: Cooking – Cheats".
  43. ^ Hanson, Ben (November 7, 2012). "F-Zero, Yoshi, And Octopus Dance Gameplay Videos In Nintendo Land". Game Informer.
  44. ^ "Street Fighter® Icon Ryu Joins the Roster of Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS / Wii U". Business Wire. 2015-06-14.
  45. ^ Sahdev, Ishaan (2015-06-14). "Ryu, Roy, Duck Hunt, And Mewtwo Amiibo Figurines Announced". Siliconera.
  46. ^ "Mr. Game and Watch - Nintendo Amiibo Wiki Guide". IGN. 2015-09-29.

External links[edit]

  • GAME&WATCH at Nintendo official website (Japanese)