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Video Game / Game & Watch

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The Game & Watch series of simplistic games played on single-game handheld consoles. Most of the games rely on earning as many points as possible, with them ending once you run out of lives. There's usually a Game A and Game B option to adjust the game's difficulty slighly, but the main source of it is Difficulty by Acceleration anyway.

To see information regarding the hardware and a list of games running on it, please go to the Useful Notes 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.
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  • 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.
  • Bookends: The first game in the original line was Ball. The last was its Updated Re-release, Mario the Juggler.
  • 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 Zelda timeline.
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  • 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.
  • Clumsy Copyright Censorship: The Tabletop version of Mario's Cement Factory originally had "Another One Bites The Dust" as its opening jingle. Later revisions swap this out for a generic jingle.
  • Continuing is Painful: Gold Cliff and Zelda each have a Continue button that lets you pick up from a game over. However, your score resets to zero.
  • 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 and Fire, 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, and misses are cleared at 200 and 500 points.
    • Judge ends when one player reaches 99 points. Game B is the only two-player Game & Watch title outside of the Micro Vs. series.
  • Easter Egg:
  • 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, which inspired him to make the Game & Watch.
  • 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 Safebuster, 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 send 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.
  • Later Installment Weirdness: Of the twelve titles released after 1985, eight of them have only one game mode: the last two Multi-Screen games Gold Cliff and Zelda and both Crystal and New Wide Screen versions of Super Mario Bros., Climber and Balloon Fight. Gold Cliff and Zelda, two of the last games in the series, are the only ones with a Continue option.
  • 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.
  • Mythology Gag: Mickey and Donald, with Mickey and Donald Duck tasked with putting out a fire in a burning building, is strongly reminiscent of the Classic Disney Shorts cartoon "Mickey's Fire Brigade". To further drive this home, Mickey's sprites are based on his classic 1930's design.
  • 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 on remakes of Fire, and they just storm off in a huff. On the original Game & Watch games, it's all but said that the civilians die if you fail to catch them.
  • Older Than the NES: By five years. In fact, by a month it's older than Pac-Man.
  • 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.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: The panoramic games Mickey Mouse and Donkey Kong Circus open with "Pop Goes the Weasel". The jingle that plays for misses is "London Bridge is Falling Down".
  • Reformulated Game: Games based on existing Arcade and NES games, like Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros., Balloon Fight and Zelda, capture the essence of the gameplay of the originals, while translating them to work with the Game and Watch graphical limitations.
  • 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 simpler 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 and Life Boat, people who fall in the water get eaten by a shark. In the former, 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 is an updated version of 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 re-releases 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.
    • The 2020 Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch was released for the 35th anniversary of the Mario series and includes Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, and Ball, with Mario replacing Ball's original juggler. The two Mario games in the package feature an added save feature, and the system features cheat codes to play the two Mario games with infinite lives and play Ball as Luigi.
  • Unintentionally Unwinnable: In Squish, you control a character who is trying to avoid getting squashed by randomly generated moving walls. The walls will sometimes spread across the entire screen, rendering misses unavoidable.
  • 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.
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: How misses in Fire are represented. Gallery remakes change this to the fallen person walking away and the miss icon becoming a bandage.
  • Worm Sign: You get a miss if you fail to stop a mole in Vermin. 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.


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