Follow TV Tropes


Useful Notes / Game & Watch

Go To
Ball, the first of the Game and Watches.

When Super Smash Bros. Melee came out, there was a strange character that nobody except the most hardcore of Nintendo fans recognized. His name was Marth.


No, he's not the guy we're talking about today, we're talking about the guy that NOBODY recognized, or at least remembered. He was Mr. Game & Watch, the Smash representative of one of the first popular hand held game series: Game & Watch.

Back when Nintendo was in its early days (early for videogames, at least), Gunpei Yokoi saw a business man playing with his LCD calculator on his way home. This inspired him to make a watch that doubled as a game to kill time with. Thus the Game & Watch, a watch and a game that looks slightly like a calculator, was born.

Think it's boring? Think again. It was so entertaining, the success of this game helped popularize handheld videogames, started Nintendo's monopoly on handhelds, and catapulted Yokoi to a high position in Nintendo. From that position, Yokoi would create the Game Boy, Metroid, Kid Icarus, Dr. Mario, and Fire Emblem, before the... unfortunate mistake that the executives made with the Virtual Boy. In fact, the Game & Watch was Nintendo's first major success in the world of gaming (there was one long-forgotten home console and a few arcade games, but with one exception, nothing came out of them). Also, one of the templates for the Game & Watch was used in Nintendo DS. So, if you ever owned a handheld, you know who to thank now.


The games consisted of you controlling some guy doing some simple task, whether it was rescuing people jumping out of a burning building with a trampoline in Fire! (you had to bounce them three times before they'd get to the ambulance), or moving a single manhole cover to make sure people don't fall down as they walk across holes. Points were awarded each time you prevented disaster (such as when someone successfully walked across the gap in Manhole), and should you fail, you were marked with a miss. After three misses, your game was over. The game would speed up and get more difficult as you went on, but there were methods to clear your misses, usually after two, five, and seven hundred points or similar. The Game and Watch Gallery series would usually throw you a heart you'd have to catch once you broke the point marker.


Oddly enough, they were a major hit in Japan but relatively unsuccessful in the US, to the point where they never became as popular or widespread as overseas. Part of this was due to bad marketing (Nintendo of America used their own employees in commercials) and part of it was due to Nintendo not understanding how the toy industry worked, since they had marketed the Game & Watch machines as toys rather than consumer electronics. This was a mistake they made only once — their next attempt at American video games was with the Nintendo Entertainment System, and we all know how well that went. On the other hand these games became a smash hit in the Soviet Union, where the localized versions was license-produced as Elektronika IM. Very interesting fact: 

The games were rereleased on a series of Game Boy games called the Game & Watch Gallery series. These games featured several Game & Watch games in sets of four with both the old unaltered version and a new better looking version featuring the staple Mario cast as well as a couple of bonus features. These games tracked high scores separately for either version. This was actually one of the first remakes for a console game (albeit handheld), long before the days of the SNES and Game Boy Advance. Several Game & Watch games (in their original forms) were later released as part of DSiWare, with much more faithful graphics than the Game Boy editions thanks to the DS's increased capabilities. Two Game & Watch Collection compilations were also released for the Nintendo DS through Club Nintendo, each featuring three games from the series, including an original mix of Parachute and Octopus.

The mascot himself is a bit of an enigma. Still, we have some information due to his role in the Super Smash Bros. games. As far as we know, he has no personality. Because of this, he's Nintendo's first everyman, as Mario's a year younger than him. By Word of God, he's True Neutral, as he has no understanding of good or evil. He may be a Disco Dan, as he still speaks in calculator beeps (with the exception of the "present" section in Game and Watch Gallery 4), he uses Limited Animation and he and his tools remain two-dimensional (except for a manhole cover). This probably isn't his fault; no game designer wants to be the one who updates him and gets attacked by his fans. His fighting style is, more or less, a mix of Confusion Fu and Hammerspace. And that's all we know about the monochrome enigma. But if you'd like to apply some tropes to him, head on over to his Super Smash Bros. Melee character page here and add them there.

Recently, the brand name has had talk of being revived in yet more crossovers, one known as Nintendo Land and another called Game & Wario, both for the Wii U. Also, a new, fully-playable Mini-Game in the style of the originals is present as one of the visualizations available in the Nintendo 3DS's "Nintendo 3DS Sound" app, which involves a Mr. Game & Watch darting around to bounce a soccer ball off of its head.

Some of the popular Game & Watch games:

  • Ball (1980): The very first game in the series. The player has to keep a number of balls in the air. Re-released in Game & Watch Gallery 2, Game Boy Camera, and is also available on DSiWare, and has been recently re-released through Club Nintendo.
  • Flagman (1980): The player mimics a sailor, who holds numbered flags. Appears in Gallery 3 and as DSi ware.
  • Fire (1980): Perhaps the most popular game in the series, and the basis for Mr. Game & Watch's "Melee" design. Two firemen must bounce people from a burning building to an ambulance. Appears in Gallery 1, 3, and 4.
  • Octopus (1981): Three divers go under the sea to salvage treasure. A large octopus guards it. Appears in Gallery 1 and 4, and part of Club Nintendo's Game & Watch collection.
  • Egg (1981) (Later re-released as Mickey Mouse): Playing as a hungry fox, the player collects eggs from hens. Appears in Gallery 3. The original game saw a rare re-release with Mickey Mouse in place of the fox, as a tie-in game. This game was later ported in the Soviet union as a tie-in to the popular Soviet cartoon series Nu, Pogodi!.
  • Helmet (1981): A simple Point A to Point B game, where the player must dodge falling tools. Playable in Gallery 2 and as DSi ware.
  • Lion (1981) Two men must keep wild lions inside a cage. Appears in Gallery 3.
  • Manhole (1981): The player must fill in the holes in a bridge to keep travelers safe. Appears in Gallery 1 and 4, also as DSi ware.
  • Chef (1981): As a busy chef, the player must avoid dropping various foods. Playable in Gallery 2 and 4, where Princess Peach is the chef. Downloadable through DSi ware.
  • Popeye (1981), catch objects thrown to his boat from Olive Oil while avoiding strikes from Bluto.
  • Donkey Kong (1982): Practically the same as the arcade game. Playable in Gallery 2 and 4. The D-Pad was created especially for this game, and would be used in virtually every game system, Game and Watch and otherwise, afterward.
  • Donkey Kong Jr. (1982): Appears in Game & Watch Gallery 3 and 4.
  • Greenhouse (1982): Playing as a gardener, the player guards precious flowers from insects. Playable in Gallery 3.
  • Oil Panic (1982): A boss and employee of a gas station must keep an oil leak under control. Appears in Gallery 1.
  • Turtle Bridge (1982) The player must deliver a package from one side to the other, across a bridge of hungry turtles. Appears in Gallery 3.
  • Mario Bros. (1983): Very different from the arcade game of the same name. Mario and Luigi are in charge of a bottling factory, and must get the cases of bottles through the factory belts safely. Playable in Gallery 3 and 4, where the bottles are replaced with cakes.
  • Boxing (1984) (Later renamed to Punch-Out!!): Similar to Urban Champion. Also available in Game & Watch Gallery 4.
  • Super Mario Bros. (1986): A condensed version of the NES game. Introduced the Auto-Scrolling Level to Mario, which would be embraced by future games in the main series.
  • Zelda (1989): Another condensed version of the console game; the only Game & Watch title featuring Link, a definite ending and the ability to continue should the game be over as a result of the player character's death. Appears as the final game in Gallery 4.
  • Mario the Juggler (1991): The very last game in the series. Ball with a Mario twist.

The Game & Watch Gallery series has its own trope page.

Tropes that apply to the original handhelds:

  • Airborne Mook: Climber has bat bird things called eyeroms.
  • All There in the Manual: The plot to later games such as Zelda and Climber are hidden in their manuals.
  • Amusing Injuries: A miss in a game that involves people usually results in this.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: In Mario Bros., if you fill the truck or drop a case the game pauses for a quick animation (of the brothers on break until the truck returns, or the foreman reprimanding the brother that dropped the case, respectively). When the game resumes, any cases that were close to falling off the conveyor belt mysteriously disappear, giving you slightly more time to get back into your rhythm.
  • Art Shift: The designs varied from game to game, from ultra-stylized ("Helmet", "Fire") to comparatively detailed ("Fishbowl", "Snoopy Tennis"), and from monochrome with a white background to a black background and simple color in the tabletop and panorama series.
  • Attract Mode: Time Mode, when the game's just being a watch, plays animations from the game. This is absent in the Gallery series, but present in the DSiWare releases. The Game & Watch Soccer visualization in Nintendo 3DS Sound works the same way, the game playing itself until controls are initialized.
  • Balloon Belly: If you drop food in Chef, it becomes a large meal for a mouse who gets fatter upon eating it. Misses are also represented by bloated mice.
  • Book-Ends: The first game in the original line was Ball. The last was its Updated Re-release, Mario the Juggler.
    • Ball would later be re-released via Club Nintendo in 2010, making it, technically speaking, both the first and last Game & Watch game ever made.
  • Bowdlerise: Helmet was released as Headache in the United Kingdom due to vulgar connotations with the former title in that country.
  • Canon Discontinuity: Unsurprisingly, the Game & Watch variant of Zelda is not a part of the timeline.
  • Cats Are Mean: The one in Chef who shows up only to shove a fork in one of the falling food items and mess up your timing.
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: A hazard in Mario's Bombs Away. That guy lounging in the corner is a real help.
  • Clever Crows: One appears in Game B of Rain Shower just to tug on your clothesline.
  • Covered in Gunge: Results in a miss in the following games.
    • Letting pedestrians fall in an open sewer in Manhole.
    • Throwing oil onto customers in Oil Panic.
    • In Mario's Cement Factory, letting one of the mixers overflow and drop cement on one of the truck drivers.
  • Cowardly Lion: The player character of Climber is clearly scared out of his wits, but is fully capable of making it through his circumstances.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Climber's manual calls the Condor "the mysterious bird Hentori". "Hentori" is Japanese for "strange bird".
  • Difficulty by Acceleration: As you progress. Then it slows back down to the first level when you get your score high enough, likely throwing off your tempo.
  • Difficulty Levels: This is typically the difference between Game A and Game B. The DSi remakes even have a Score Select feature to play at any speed.
  • Dolled-Up Installment: Egg and Donkey Kong Circus have Disney-fied versions starring Mickey Mouse, both simply having his name as the title.
  • Do Well, but Not Perfect: Keeping the cats subdued is easier but you can only get points in Lion by stopping them right on the verge of escape.
  • Drop the Hammer:
    • Vermin has you dropping two hammers.
    • Judge awards points for either hitting the other player with your hammer or dodging theirs, depending on whether or not they drew a higher number.
    • Bluto has a hammer when appearing from the left side in Popeye.
    • Hammers are literally dropped in Helmet and you must dodge them alongside other discarded tools.
    • A hammer is used to bash attackers and knock away their projectiles in Fire Attack.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Applies to the Silver series of games which have limited LCD capabilities. Some of them have odd rules as well.
    • Ball gives you no second chances; if you drop a ball, the game is over. Also, catching a ball in Game A is worth one point, ten in Game B.
    • Flagman is two different games: In A, you repeat a sequence the flagman gives you. In B, you are given limited time to press the same number as the one shown on the screen.
    • In Vermin, misses can't be cleared.
    • In Fire, points are awarded only if you bring a victim safely to the ambulance. In the wide screen remake, catching someone with the life net is worth one point.
    • Judge ends when one player reaches 99 points. Game B is the only two-player Game & Watch title outside of the Micro Vs. series.
  • Endless Game:
    • The extreme simplicity of a Game & Watch game meant that there's no story or a victory condition. Only an aim for the highest possible score until you failed three times.
    • Averted with Judge and Zelda. The former ends when one player reaches 99 points, and the latter is won once Zelda is rescued.
  • Engrish: The majority of the instructions; this scan provides a good enough example. Averted with games launched after the NES, as their marketing became more global, the translations improved.
  • Epic Fail: There are plenty of ways to get a miss and defy common sense in the process, given that the situations are rather bizarre. A good example is in Bomb Sweeper: accidentally blocking the path to the bomb will make the player wait until the bomb goes off and kills him!
  • Eureka Moment: Meta example; Gunpei Yokoi watching a bored businessman play around with a calculator.
  • Explosive Stupidity: Not only can the smoking soldier blow up the bomb in your hands in Mario's Bombs Away, but Mario also has to dodge the oil spill he keeps setting ablaze.
  • Fireman's Safety Net: You have to move one around in Fire.
  • Floating Limbs: Due to system limitations, limbs on characters are not always fully attached in the earlier games, most obviously with Ball.
  • Foreign Remake: Some of the Elektronika IM titles, most famously Nu Pogodi, of Egg, as detailed above.
  • Golem: Climber has brick monsters called blockmen who fill in gaps in the path you can jump or fall through, namely by deposing of themselves to become new brick path.
  • Hit Points: In Boxing.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: In Safebusters, you're a bank guard defending against a bank robber trying to blast open a vault door. If you dump the robber's bombs into the furnace rather than into the empty bunker, you can sent some nasty cinders up the chimney and into the robber's crate of unlit bombs. This will set off all the bombs and send the crook flying away.
  • In Name Only: Mario Bros., which took place a factory with conveyor belts rather than a sewer that could be run through.
  • Limited Animation: The handhelds used the same architecture as a calculator, so animation in any real sense was not supported at all, only fixed frames which "filled in" at different times.
  • Locked Door: Most of the difficulty of Helmet comes from not being able to manually open the door and it not staying open very long.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: High-speed acrobatics just to keep your clothes dry in a rain storm? Taking care of garden pests with a giant mallet? Yes, please.
  • New Job as the Plot Demands: Mario has been a packager, cement factory worker, soldier in Vietnam, a lot more things than he even normally is. That's not even taking the Gallery series into consideration.
  • No Ending: As simple as the games are, did you really expect one? 'Judge and Zelda'' are the two exceptions.
  • No Nose: The sailor giving you instructions in Flagman, the exterminator the player controls in Vermin.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Where do we start...?
    • Helmet's entire premise is that careless construction workers are just casually dropping their tools. You're a fellow worker who can hardly get from one office building to another without getting his head smashed in because of it.
    • Manhole has massive gaping holes in busy bridges that anyone can and does just fall through to the water system below. You and the manhole cover you carry are the only reason why everyone there isn't soaking wet.
    • The kitchen in Chef has a cat and a mouse who have sneaked inside.
    • Oil Panic has a gas station that has a big enough structural fault to where gasoline is constantly leaking from the ceiling. Oh yeah, and it immediately catches fire if it hits the ground. And the disposal crew is just above the customers.
    • The titular cement factory in Mario's Cement Factory functions thanks to its open elevator shafts that barely stay in one place long enough for the worker to get on. They're lethal if you misstep.
  • Noble Bird of Prey: The Condor of Climber that carries you to new areas should you reach it. Sometimes you have to catch a sword to chase away a dragon first.
  • Not the Fall That Kills You: Fail to catch a civilian in Fire, and they just storm off in a huff.
  • Older Than the NES: By five years.
  • One-Hit Point Wonder: Mr. Game & Watch and his few fellow playable characters, with few exceptions.
  • Palette Swap: Sort of. Mickey Mouse and Egg are the exact same game bar the unit's colours and the character you control, and they were even released on the same day. ''
  • Parachute in a Tree: A definite possibility in Parachute's Game B.
  • Player Versus Player: Whenever it didn't adjust Difficulty Levels, Game B started a multiplayer game, such as in Judge, Donkey Kong 3 and Boxing.
  • Rule of Fun: Most of the premises of the games have Mundane Solutions to them. But then there wouldn't be a game to play.
  • Rule of Three: Getting three misses in most titles will cause your game to be over!
  • The Savage Indian: With torches, trying to burn down your fort in Fire Attack.
  • Scavengers Are Scum: The mouse waiting to steal your food in Chef
  • Scoring Points: Almost all of them have this as their primary goal.
  • Side View: Almost all of them, with few exceptions. Mr. Game & Watch HAS no front side, after all.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: In Oil Panic, one way to get a miss is by dousing a female customer with oil.
  • Spikes of Doom: Thorny/brambly vines/roots hang down in climber.
  • Spiritual Sequel: Climber is basically a more simple sequel of Ice Climber.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: The magic sword in Climber. It's an endless game like the rest, so you'll end up getting it several times.
  • Temporary Platform: The Turtle Bridge turtles dive if a fish swims under them, resulting in you falling in the water if you remain standing on or jump where they once were.
  • Tentacle Rope: This is how you lose divers in Octopus.
  • Tentacled Terror: The antagonist of Octopus is terrifyingly huge, or should be but your divers keep going back in the water with it and refuse to return to the boat if they are not holding treasure.
  • The Dragonslayer: The player character in Climber.
  • Threatening Shark: In Parachute, grinning sharks represent your misses.
  • Too Dumb to Live: The civilians in Manhole will walk right into an open pit. That's why it's your job to make sure that they don't.
  • Updated Re-release:
    • Mario the Juggler to the original Ball.
    • The earlier Wide Screen series were mostly just variants of the Silver and Gold line up with some nicer visual touches and a bigger screen. These include Fire and Manhole.
    • The New Wide Screen and Crystal models, launched later in the Game & Watch's lifespan, are rereleases of some of their more popular and in-depth games, such as Super Mario Bros., Manhole and Climber. They typically incorporated newer technology for the screen as well as making it bigger.
    • The Mini Classics line-up, again taking the most popular games and putting them in a scaled-down Game Boy style casing with a key-chain. They were first released back in 1998, although Nintendo still allows companies to produce them to this very day.
  • Ur-Example: Of the handheld video game console, of the D-pad (Donkey Kong)...
  • Use Your Head: Your player character uses his head in the lower left corner of Manhole to keep pedestrians from falling.
  • Whack-a-Monster: Vermin is a variation of the ever popular whack a mole.
  • Worm Sign: If you fail to stop a single mole in Vermin you lose. Thankfully you can see them coming.
  • Wrap Around: You can and often have to do so in Climber. Bluto uses this against you in Popeye.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: