The Golden Age Of Gaming brought many of the characters that we love and play as today to the fold, and many of them shot to fame in the best Game & Watch games.
Mario’s 35th Anniversary has brought these one-title handhelds back to the forefront of the retro gaming scene, and gamers young and old are heading back to check out the ‘original portable console’ out for size.
Back before the Gameboy shot to fame, this is what Nintendo’s handheld console series looked like.
There was no cartridge function or the ability to play multiple games. Each handheld had one game on it, and that was that.
This meant that if you wanted to play more of the best Game & Watch games, you had to purchase multiple handhelds.
It was a great time for collectors, and now some of these single-title handhelds are worth a small fortune!
Checking Out The Best Game & Watch Games!
First Game & Watch Release Date
The first-ever Game & Watch handheld is actually the handheld at Number 3 in our list.
It was released in 1980 and comprised of one game and an on-screen clock.
For those of you that haven’t actually held one before, they use an LCD screen and run off 4-bit CPU.
The backgrounds on many of the handhelds are also static, with characters moving in small increments along the screen during play.
Game & Watch Creator
Of course, it only makes sense that the genius behind the best Gameboy games and the best WonderSwan games should be behind the best Game & Watch games of all time too!
Number Of Game & Watch Units Sold To Date
Over 43-million units.
That’s an insane amount of sales, and these Nintendo units are still being sold all over the world today.
Speaking of which, you can click on a hyperlinked area in each section below to add one of the best Game & Watch games into your own collection!
1. Super Mario Bros
Of course, we had to kick things off with the eagerly awaited Super Mario Bros Game & Watch console, recently announced as part of Mazza’s 35th birthday celebrations!
I know that I’ve made a lot of emphasis on these titles only having one game in them, but this brand new classic console remake comes with not one, not two, but three games on it.
Not only that, but you can now experience one of the best Game & Watch games in glorious colour!
The Super Mario Bros Game & Watch remake features the original Super Mario Bros adventure as well as Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, and Ball (Mario version).
It also comes with an updated digital clock too, so you can always find out what time it is no matter when or where you’re gaming!
Be sure to get this little slice of gaming history before it sells out!
2. Donkey Kong Jr
Now we’re getting onto the classics!
Next up in our list of the best Game & Watch games is Donkey Kong JR, one of my all-time favourite games and a treasured handheld here at Retro Dodo Towers.
You’ve all played Donkey Kong, the original arcade classic that sees Mario (a.k.a Jumpman) trying to save his girlfriend from the clutches of Donkey Kong.
Well, this time the ladders and the rolling barrels are gone, and it’s time for Mario to be the villain for a change.
Mario has locked up Donkey Kong in a cage, and Donkey Kong JR is on a mission to free his dad.
There are only 4 stages to play through, but it’s a classic hit and one that you should definitely consider adding to your collection.
This was also one of the first Widescreen Game & Watch handhelds on the scene too, a fun fact for your next nerdy party.
You can’t have a list of the best Game & Watch games without including the game that kicked the series off.
Mr Game & Watch might be everyone’s go-to character or considered a comic fighter when it comes to the Super Smash Bros series, but he started his life right here in the Ball handheld.
This game is as addictive as Tetris and oozes those arcade feels that make us keep wanting to come back to increase our high score!
The rules are simple; move Mr Game & Watch’s arms left and right as you try to keep all of the balls he is juggling in the air at the same time.
Of course, it doesn’t just stop at two balls. That would be too simple!
The number of juggling balls and the speed in which they fall both increase as the game goes on. There’s no levels to complete; it’s all about getting that ultimate high score!
I can’t juggle in real life, but my ball skills are pretty impressive in this game!
As a die-hard Zelda fan, it gives me great pleasure to talk about the next entry in our list of the best Game & Watch games.
Towards the end of the 1980s, Nintendo branched out into a series of dual-screen clamshell Game & Watch handhelds.
Looking at the picture above, it’s not hard to see where the inspiration for the Nintendo DS or the GBA SP came from!
This Game & Watch title takes influence from Zelda II: Adventure of Link for the NES, but it’s a fully-fledged original adventure of it’s own, making it a must have for Hero of Time fans out there.
Unlike the DS, however, both screens aren’t in operation at the same time.
The player must take Link through a series of chambers on the bottom screen, fighting classic Zelda baddies such as Stalfos and Poes.
When the chamber is complete and key items have been collected, a set of stairs take you up to the top screen where you have to pit your skills against a fire-breathing dragon!
How cool is that!
Once the game ends, you appear back down on the bottom screen and try to complete the whole thing again, this time faster, all while retaining your high score!
Speaking of fire, this next title is one of the best Game & Watch games that I first played on the GBA as part of the Game & Watch Gallery series.
It’s also one of the best Game & Watch games if you fancy throwing your handheld into an ocean or stomping on it after losing your high score for the umpteenth-time.
Fire was a great game once you got into the rhythm of it, but it was ruthless if you missed a step or lost your concentration.
Little people are continuously jumping from a burning building. As the player, you must move the two firemen/paramedics (it really doesn’t matter) and their trampoline back and forth across the screen in order to bounce the people into the ambulance and away to safety.
Drop a person, and you lose a life (well, their life technically).
And when the game ends, you have to start again and try to beat that high score all over again!
6. Mario’s Cement Factory
Mario’s Cement Factory is another classic that many of you might have played on the GBA Game & Watch Gallery series.
Not content with being a plumber, a Kong capturer, or an all-round princess-saving do-gooder, Mario is now trying his hand at running a cement factory.
And when I’m in control, he’s pretty terrible at it!
The player must move Mario along platforms as he transfers cement between funnels and down into trucks. I guess they’re waiting to take it off to make warp pipes or other Mushroom Kingdom landmarks.
Players can increase their scores by succesfully transfering concrete and will lose points if it spills over the edge and falls onto the workers below.
That would probably be enough to kill a person in real life, but thankfully, these 4-bit people tend to come out unscathed (or at least not seriously injured).
7. Mickey Mouse
Everyone’s favourite mouse takes the Number 7 slot on our list of the best Game & Watch games!
Mickey Mouse stars in his very own Game & Watch adventure, and not only is it named after him, but it’s in widescreen too!
The gameplay is very similar to another Game & Watch title called Egg. Mickey has to catch eggs as they roll down four different slopes.
Sounds easy, even if eggs and mice are the same size!
If you let three eggs drop, then it’s game over. A missed egg counts as a point lost, though if Minnie Mouse is peering out of a window to look at Mickey, then you only lose half a point when dropping an egg.
In summary, don’t drop any eggs.
As with many of the other best Game & Watch games, the gameplay gets faster and harder as you progress.
Try not to get distracted; one false move and you could end up with egg on your face…and your hands, ears, shoes, etc.
8. Baloon Fight
Next up is Balloon Fight, a game that always makes me think about the Mario Kart battle mode on the N64.
Sadly, this one is even harder!
Some of you might have played Balloon Fight on the NES or online using your chosen best Nintendo Switch Emulator.
It’s a classic title that first appeared as part of the Crystal Widescreen series back in 1988, two years before I was even born!
If you ever played that annoying Flappy Bird game, then you’ll be good at Balloon Fight.
You play as a dude with balloons strapped to his back who floats through the air.
Button-mashing A makes him fly, but if you lose a balloon due to enemy fire, then it will become harder for you to rise and much easier to fall.
If both your balloons get popped, then you die in a horrible fashion in a piranha-infested river.
You can also get electrocuted by lightening. Either way, you lose a life.
Get from A to B without dying and you win. It’s that simple!
9. Mario’s Bombs Away
Mario’s back to take the Number 9 slot in our list of the best Game & Watch games, and this time he’s featuring on a Panoramic Screen!
This Mario’s Bombs Away Game & Watch device differed to the other handhelds as it used an unlit colour screen that faced downwards as opposed to towards the player.
This exposed the rear, translucent part of the handheld towards an external light source like a lamp or the sun if you were playing outside during the day.
It was a bit of a cool gimmick, but it’s pretty annoying now in our world of backlit modded Gameboy units!
Still, the gameplay is exciting. You play as Mario as he moves bombs from one side of the screen to the other.
If you come into contact with oil spills or flaming torches held by the enemy, then it’s game over and goodbye Mario!
Last, but by no means least, is Climber, a game that is very similar to ‘Ice Climbers’.
Yes, those annoying characters from Smash Bros actually have their own series!
You play as ‘Climber’ as he sets out to find the Blockmen on Block Mountain.
You’re granted a pair of magical boots from some wizard dude that let you jump real high, and you have to either grab a flying bird or slay a dragon while jumping on blocks and staying alive.
It’s got a pretty exciting storyline, you have to admit!
Climber is another title that I first played on the GBA Game & Watch Gallery, and it’s one that I’ve gone back to in its original form time and time again.
It’s super tough to get a high score on this game, so give it a go if you think you’re up to the challenge!
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Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.