Game & Watch

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Game & Watch

Game & Watch logo (top) and a Ball handheld (bottom)
Manufacturer(s) Nintendo
Type(s) Handheld game
Release date 19801991
Units sold About 43.4 million
Power Button cell
CPU Sharp SM5xx family
Display Liquid color display
Predecessor Color TV Game
Successor Game Boy
This article is about the Game & Watch system. For the character of the Game & Watch games with a similar name, and named "Game & Watch" in Japan, see Mr. Game & Watch.
Not to be confused with Nelsonic Game Watch.

The Game & Watch series is a series of handheld games developed by Nintendo from 1980 to 1991. Each Game & Watch had its own game built in, in addition to a clock and an alarm. The units are based on a 4-bit CPU from the Sharp SM5xx family, and they include a small ROM and RAM area and an LCD screen driver circuit. The first Game & Watch game was Ball, a simple juggling game, and some Game & Watch releases are based on well-known games, such as Donkey Kong Jr. The Game & Watch was Nintendo's earliest product to be very successful,[1] with the series selling a combined 43.4 million units worldwide.[2] In 1991, the last Game & Watch game was released, Mario the Juggler.

Most Game & Watch titles have two modes: Game A and Game B. Game B is usually a faster, more difficult version of Game A, but in some titles, such as Flagman and Bomb Sweeper, Game B is slightly different from Game A. In a few others, such as Judge and Boxing, Game B features a two-player mode. The titles Climber, Balloon Fight, and Super Mario Bros. do not have a Game B.

The Game & Watch games normally become harder as the player progresses, but the gameplay usually slows down every 100 points the player receives. The games usually end when the player receives three misses (generally meaning "lives that are lost"). In most games, misses can be removed if the player reaches a certain number of points; in some games, doing so with no misses will increase the score either temporarily or until a miss is made.

Origin and design[edit]

Game designer Gunpei Yokoi, while traveling on a Shinkansen, saw a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator by pressing the buttons. Yokoi then thought of an idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature game machine for killing time.[3]

The units use LR4x/SR4x "button-cell" batteries. Different models were manufactured, with some having two screens and a clam-shell design (the Multi Screen Series). Similarly, the Game Boy Advance SP, Nintendo DS, and Nintendo 3DS also utilize the clamshell design.

The modern "cross" d-pad design was developed in 1982 by Yokoi for the Donkey Kong handheld game. The design proved to be popular for subsequent Game & Watch titles. This particular design was patented and later earned a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award.

Game A and Game B[edit]

Most of the titles have a 'GAME A' and a 'GAME B' button. Game B is generally a faster, more difficult version of Game A, although exceptions do exist, including:

  • In Squish, Game B is radically different from Game A — the player must touch aliens to eliminate them as opposed to avoiding moving walls.
  • In Flagman, Game B is a mode where the player has to press the right button within a certain amount of time, not memorizing patterns.
  • In Judge, Boxing, Donkey Kong 3, and Donkey Kong Hockey, Game B is a two-player version of Game A.
  • In Climber, Balloon Fight, and Super Mario Bros., there is no Game B button.

In most cases both Game A and Game B would increase in speed and/or difficulty as the player progressed, with Game B starting at the level that Game A would reach at 200 points.


Main article: List of Game & Watch games
  • Silver (1980)
  • Gold (1981)
  • Wide Screen (1981–1982)
  • Multi Screen (1982–1989)
  • New Wide Screen (1982–1991)
  • Tabletop (1983)
  • Panorama (1983–1984)
  • Super Color (1984)
  • Micro Vs. System (1984)
  • Crystal Screen (1986)

There were 59 different Game & Watch games produced for sale and one that was only available as a contest prize, making 60 in all.[4] The prize game was given to winners of Nintendo's F-1 Grand Prix Tournament, a yellow-cased version of Super Mario Bros. that came in a plastic box modeled after the Disk-kun character Nintendo used to advertise their Famicom Disk System. Only 10,000 units were produced, and it was never available for retail sale.


The Game & Watch games were renewed between 1995 and 2002 with the Game & Watch Gallery series, five Game & Watch collections released for the Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance. They feature the original ports and modernized versions starring Mario characters.

From 1998 onward, a number of third-party distributors have been licensed to re-release smaller LCD versions of ten separate Game & Watch games which together compose the Nintendo Mini Classics series.

In 2001, Nintendo released Manhole-e bundled with its Nintendo e-Reader systems. There were several Game & Watch e-Reader cards planned, but were never released.

Between July 2006 and March 2010, Nintendo produced two Game & Watch Collection cartridges for the Nintendo DS to be released exclusively for Club Nintendo members. The first and titular release, Game & Watch Collection, featured three games from the Game & Watch Multi Screen series: Oil Panic, Donkey Kong, and Green House. The second compilation, Game & Watch Collection 2, contained Parachute, Octopus, and a new dual-screen game with Parachute on the top screen and Octopus on the bottom.

Between July 2009 and April 2010 Nintendo released nine separate Game & Watch ports for DSiWare including remakes of Ball (called Game & Watch: Ball), Flagman (called Game & Watch: Flagman), Manhole (called Game & Watch: Manhole), and Mario's Cement Factory (called Game & Watch: Mario's Cement Factory) among others.

In March 2010, Takara Tomy released officially licensed Game & Watch-styled keychains, based on the Wide Screen series editions of Octopus, Parachute, and Chef. They do not actually run the games, instead just display a demo screen. While the game cannot be played, the speed at which the demo runs can be adjusted. The batteries are recharged with solar panels on the unit.

Ball was re-released exclusively via Club Nintendo to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Game & Watch, with the Club Nintendo logo on the back. Unlike the original release, this version includes a mute switch. For members of the Japanese Club Nintendo, after an announcement in November 2009, it was shipped in April 2010 to Platinum members.[5] For members of the North American Club Nintendo, it was available for 1200 coins from February 2011, and for members of the European Club Nintendo, it was available for 7500 stars from November 2011.

On September 3, 2020, 29 years after the original Game & Watch series' discontinuation and as part of the celebration of the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., Nintendo announced Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., a full-color screen Game & Watch system featuring ports of Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, a Mario-themed version of Ball, and a built-in alarm clock. It was released on November 13, 2020.

Alarm function[edit]

Starting from Gold Series' Manhole, the Game & Watch games started to have an alarm function, which was accessible only by gently pressing the ALARM switch with a sharp-pointed instrument. Alarm time can be set by pressing the left buttons (hour set) and the right buttons (minute set). Games with two buttons in the same side use only the top button for time setting.

Image Name Game Action at alarm time Location
Alarm lady Manhole (Gold Series) Swing bell Upper left corner
Alarm construction worker Helmet Swing bell Upper right corner
Alarm bear Lion Swing bell Upper left corner
Alarm monkey Parachute Swing bell Left palm
Alarm baby octopus Octopus Whistle trumpet Upper right corner
Alarm kettle Chef Whistle smoke Left stove
Alarm bell Egg Be swung by the hen Beside the hen
Alarm fireman Fire (Wide Screen) Swing bell Between ambulance and miss counter
Alarm crab Turtle Bridge Swing bell Between difficulty indicators
Alarm cowboy Fire Attack Sound bugle Below miss counter
Alarm policeman Oil Panic Swing bell Below lower screen's miss counter
Mini Donkey Kong Donkey Kong Jump and swing bell Below the difficulty indicators
Alarm cat Green House Be stung by a bee Beside the ladder
Alarm bell Donkey Kong II Be stricken by Mario Beside leftmost lock
Alarm bell Mario Bros. Ring Under time/score
Alarm dog Rain Shower Nod head Beside lower right clothesline
Alarm man Life Boat Pour water from bucket Under time/score
Alarm chicken Bomb Sweeper Nod head Beside difficulty indicators
Alarm bell Safe Buster Flash Above difficulty indicators
Musical notes Donkey Kong Jr. (Panorama Screen & Table Top series) Be whistled by Mario Below miss counter
Alarm driver Mario's Cement Factory (Table Top) Ring bell Beside upward lift section
Alarm Monkey Mario's Bombs Away Swing bell Below time score
Alarm bell Donkey Kong Circus Swing Below time/score
Alarm bell Donkey Kong Jr. (New Wide Sceen) Be stricken by Mario Under Donkey Kong
Alarm bell Mario's Cement Factory (New Wide Screen) Swing Beside upward lift section
Alarm woman Manhole (New Wide Screen) Swing bell Upper left corner
Alarm cat Tropical Fish Swing bell Between miss counter and time/score
Alarm Koopa Super Mario Bros. Nod head and spew fire Upper left corner
Alarm bug Climber Swing bell Below time/score
Alarm Koopa Troopa Mario the Juggler Swing bell Beside the pipe
Alarm bell Spitball Sparky Flash Upper left corner
Alarm bell Boxing Flash Upper right corner
Alarm bell Donkey Kong 3 Flash Beside Player 1's miss and spray value counters
Alarm referee Donkey Kong Hockey Ring bell Beside Player 1's score


For this subject's image gallery, see Gallery:Game & Watch.


1983 American commercial
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  1. ^ Iwata Asks: Super Mario Bros. 25th Anniversary
  2. ^ Iwata Asks: Game & Watch
  3. ^ "Searching for Gunpei Yokoi". Escapist Magazine. Published March 6, 2007.
  4. ^ "Super Mario Bros. YM-901". Published January 2, 2009.
  5. ^ "Platinum Club Nintendo Members Get Game & Watch". Siliconera. Published November 18, 2009.