Where Are This Generation’s Tiger Handhelds?

Where Are This Generation’s Tiger Handhelds?

Kids today are spoiled with their iPod touches and iPads and PSPs and 3DSes. When I was their age, portable games certainly DID NOT look comparable to their console counterparts.

If you remember life before the advent of the Game Boy, then you remember Tiger Handhelds. They were cheap, they were attached to some sort of established gaming/toy/television brand or franchise, and the gameplay was pretty shitty. But as a six-year-old, I wasn’t particularly concerned with the nuances of game mechanics. The colorful artwork on the LCD bezel had already sold me before I turned the thing on (I was a marketer’s dream!).

Still, in 2011, it seems difficult for kids today to have that same sense of excitement that those of us ’80s babies had with the Tiger Handhelds. We got colourful pieces of plastic. They get a minimal black slab of glass, metal and plastic. Yes, their games are a million times better anything we ever played, but when you’re a kid, downloading a game from an app store can’t possible be as exciting (or epic) as going to Toys ‘R’ Us to get the handheld game (or cartridge) du jour, right?

Take, for example, my personal favourite Tiger handheld from the era: Bo Jackson’s Football and Baseball. Unlike ANY Tiger handheld before it let you play two different games! On two screens! I could score 99 runs in one inning! Sure, the Game and Watch version of Donkey Kong had two screens years before this. And gluing any two Tiger handhelds together would offer the same exact functionality. But it wasn’t the same.

And the best part about these was the minimal investment of time and money required. You pay $US10-$US15, play the thing for 10 minutes at a time, and toss it to the bottom of the toy pile a month later. If you buy a DS or a PSP, you’re gonna drop a couple stacks for a new device, plus anywhere from $US20-$40 for a game. And you have to deal with cartridges… blah. And sure, plenty of smartphone games only cost a few bucks, but the device itself costs hundreds, and the lack of uniform hardware means there’s no guarantee how well it will play games in a couple of years.

There needs to be a dedicated device that hearkens back to the tiger era of gaming. Sony has the right idea with their Xperia Play and their “hardware neutral” PlayStation store for Android. But a cheaper, more stripped-down device would still be better, and from the sounds of it, the selections of games might only be old PS1 games.

Make it colourful and awesome (kids shouldn’t be stuck with boring smartphones). Let it run a custom build of Android (no need to live in the past). Make it no more than $US50 (it’ll get lost or broken). It doesn’t need the best, latest hardware (simpler games mean lower development costs, which mean they’ll be cheaper for the enduser). And give it an app store where every app submitted was made with that specific hardware in mind (because glitchy gameplay sucks). Get some serious game developers on board (more Megaman, less Farmville). And for the love of god, give it some buttons (because touchscreens can’t do everything).

Republished from Gizmodo


  • “When I was their age, portable games certainly DID NOT look comparable to their console counterparts.”

    And they still dont!
    [/anti-mobile gaming elitism]

    I never really got into the old Tiger handhelds. Then again, I was too busy playing the Giana Sisters on my old commodore, before switching to the SNES… man they were good times.

  • I still remember the Street Fighter Tiger handheld game I had as a kid. I wish I knew where it was now.

    After clocking the game with perfect rounds straight through, I worked out I could still better my highscore by purposely losing the first round each time (but only after dishing out enough damage was that the opponent was only one punch away from death). The result was I could get the highest score technically possible.

    I’d like to see kids nowdays make the technical maximum highscore on anything.

  • I used to Ninja Gaiden on a Tiger Handheld, and Gauntlet – man those were some good games. Only a handful of Nintendo Game and Watch games really pushed the LCD to the limits (Climber, Balloon Fight, Goldcliff) but Tiger really packed a lot of game into those things.

    I think the equivalent today really is smartphone games, hampered not by their displays but by touch-screen controls.

  • Yeah, my brother had a Street Fighter 2 Tiger LCD, and we both used to fight over who’s turn it was and for how long. Then I realised if I went and turned on Wonderboy 3: Dragons Trap on SMS, it was suddenly my turn! hahaha

  • Sony Xperia will be great for emulation! Stuff DLC mobile games when you can play all the classics. At the moment I have an NokiaE63, which Ive loaded on sms s60 (master system) and Picodrive (Megadrive/MegaCD) and they work great! Only problem is tiny buttons, but you get used to it. Now to find emus for SNES, NES & MAME.

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