The Internet Archive has added 75 handheld games to its collection of playable archived games. While there’s a big omission, the collection does have some wonderfully obscure games.
The archive already included thousands of PC, console and arcade cabinet games, but this is the first time it’s added standalone handheld games. Popular in the 80s, the attraction here was the novelty of a video game you could play without a TV set. The fact that the device only played one game (or variants upon a base game) wasn’t an issue to most buyers until the emergence of the GameBoy and similar handheld consoles.
The obvious omission is the Game & Watch series which, hard as it may be for younger readers to imagine, had the selling point of combining a video game with a digital clock (in some cases with an alarm.) It was prime on my Christmas list one year, but I learned an early lesson that you don’t always get what you want. The series is likely not in the archive because of rights issues with Nintendo.
The collection does include a great range of popular and lesser-known games. This includes handheld versions of titles such as Frogger, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, along with more dubious tie-ins such as the handheld MC Hammer game, Batman and Robocop games, and even a Garfield title.
As well as the more traditional screen-based ‘video’ games, the collection includes memory game Simon, the full-keyboard Speak and Spell, Merlin: The Electronic Wizard and even the virtual pet Tamagotchi that was a big late-90s fad.