Game & Watch

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The Game & Watch is a series of self-contained handheld LCD games by Nintendo which are often seen as the precursor to the Game Boy, although new Game & Watch games were still released as late as 1991.

Despite their simplicity, Game & Watch handhelds were completely unemulated for a very long time due to a lack of information about their hardware and difficulties with dumping ROMs and accurately recreating graphics. After an extensive reverse engineering effort by several MAME developers, MAME became the first emulator to support many retro handheld electronic games, including a few Game & Watch systems.

Emulators[edit]

Name Operating System(s) Latest Version Libretro Core Active Recommended
MAME Multi-platform 0.187
  • MAME is currently the only Game & Watch emulator, with support for a growing but still very limited amount of games (An example being Mickey and Donald). For the few games it does support, MAME is recommended, although most Game & Watch games still can only be played outside of the original hardware through simulation.

Emulation issues[edit]

Although Game & Watch emulation has recently became possible, it took quite a while to achieve due to the lack of information about the microcontrollers driving them and the high difficulty of dumping the ROM from a system. (To dump a game's ROM, the microcontroller must be decapped, which is not only very costly and complicated, but highly destructive to the system.) The lack of information on the Game & Watch's hardware lead to the false belief that it does not contain a CPU or ROM and therefore could not be emulated. Even though this was disproven after reverse engineering efforts of several MAME developers led to support for a few games being added to MAME, emulation of additional games is progressing slowly due to the high amount of time and patience it takes to dump their ROMs and recreate their graphics.

Graphics[edit]

Even when a Game & Watch game's ROM has been dumped, one of the biggest challenges with accurately emulating it is with how the Game & Watch displayed graphics. Rather than by sending output to an LCD display like most cartridge based handhelds do, Game & Watch games (as well as most other handheld electronic games from the same time) displayed graphics by lighting up pre-drawn LCD segments, like a calculator. In order to recreate this as accurately as possible, MAME uses .SVG files traced from high quality scans of the LCD screen, allowing graphics in supported Game & Watch games to be displayed crisply at any resolution without the loss of any detail. While this is the most accurate way to recreate the LCD graphics outside of obtaining the original art from Nintendo, it is a difficult and time consuming process, as not only does the LCD need to be scanned at a high resolution with all segments lit up to capture all of the graphics, but the scans must be traced very carefully to faithfully recreate the original artwork.

Simulators[edit]

For most Game & Watch games, this is your only option outside of buying them used.

  • Nintendo officially released virtual reproductions in the games and compiled them in the Game & Watch Gallery (and, later, Game & Watch Collection) series of games. These games had both "classic" and "modern" variations of these games. While these collections have a loss of "authenticity" (especially in the collections that are running on earlier hardware), these collections are Game Boy, Game Boy Color, Game Boy Advance, and DS games for which emulators are widespread. (A few games are from the difficult-to-pirate DSiWare series, though every game in the DSiWare series appears in another collection.) However, some of the games in the collection (notably Zelda) may need to be unlocked before play.
  • The Handheld Remakes Archive hosts some reproductions of games.
  • Pica Pic (by Hipopotam) is an online collection of Game & Watch games under an authentic presentation. While there seems to be no way to play these games offline, there are a few games that are exclusive to the website, one example being Nu, pogodi!
  • Madrigal wrote some simulations that give an offline, authentic presentation of the Game & Watch games, the collection of these games growing through time. Of particular note is that these simulations are available to play through RetroArch through the gw-libretro core. There are also some simulations that are not of the Game & Watch series.

Games[edit]

Game Collection DSiWare Remakes Pica Pic GW-Libretro MAME
Ball
Baloon Fight
Bomb Sweeper
Boxing
Chef
Climber
Crab Grab
Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong 3
Donkey Kong Circus
Donkey Kong II
Donkey Kong Jr.
Egg
Fire
Fire Attack
Flagman
Goldcliff
Green House
Helmet
Judge
Life Boat
Lion
Manhole
Mario Bros.
Mario the Juggler
Mario's Bombs Away
Mario's Cement Factory
Mickey & Donald
Mickey Mouse
Octopus
Oil Panic
Parachute
Popeye
Rain Shower
Safebuster
Snoopy
Snoopy Tennis
Spitball Sparky
Super Mario Bros.
Tropical Fish
Turtle Bridge
Vermin
Zelda

The following games are currently not emulated or simulated in any way:

  • Blackjack
  • Donkey Kong Hockey
  • Pinball
  • Squish

Games exclusive to some collections[edit]

Games in Pica Pic that are not part of the Game & Watch Series[edit]

  • Aerogun Field
  • Autoslalom
  • Barrier
  • Bartman
  • Castle Adventure
  • Caveman
  • Coffee House
  • Fishing Boy
  • G-Man
  • Merry Cook
  • Ncha! Bycha
  • Nu, pogodi!
  • Penguin Land
  • Plane & Tank
  • Pirate 777
  • Search Light
  • Space Bridge
  • Sub Attack
  • The Terminator
  • Thief in Garden

Simulations that are not part of the Game & Watch Series[edit]

  • Armor Battle
  • Banana
  • Baseball
  • Bomb Fight
  • Caccia al Ladra/Heatcliff
  • Cessate il Fuoco/Heatcliff
  • Chick Woggy (2 versions)
  • Condor
  • Crazy Chewy
  • Defendo
  • Donkey Angler
  • Donkey Kong (Coleco version)
  • Donkey Kong Junior (Coleco version)
  • Dungeons & Dragons Computer Fantasy Game
  • Engine Room
  • Escape
  • Explorers of Space
  • Fowling
  • Frog Boaster
  • Galaxy II
  • Grab Man
  • Hippo Teeth (2 versions)
  • Hot Line (2 versions)
  • Las Vegas
  • Monkey
  • Monkey Jump
  • Motor Cross
  • Pac Man
  • Pancake
  • Penguin Land
  • Pirate
  • Roller Coaster
  • Safari
  • Sleep Walker
  • Sub Chase
  • Tennis Menace
  • Tom & Jerry Popper
  • Towering Rescue
  • Tron
  • Wild Man Jump

Resources[edit]

List from Wikipedia of Game & Watch ports and remakes