The Nintendo Silver Game & Watch: A Piece of Gaming History

Transport yourself back to the days of 8-bit gaming with a retro unboxing of the iconic Nintendo Silver Game & Watch. Learn more about this classic device and its nostalgic gameplay!

The Nintendo Silver Game & Watch: A Piece of Gaming History
Nintendo Silver Game & Watch collage

Welcome to the world of the Nintendo Silver Game & Watch, a series of handheld electronic games released in the early 1980s. As we delve into each game's unique features, characters, and gameplay mechanics, get ready to take a trip down memory lane and relive your childhood gaming experiences.

The Game & Watch Series: A Brief Overview

The Game & Watch series was created by Gunpei Yokoi, a Japanese inventor and game designer, who also happens to be the creator of the iconic Nintendo handheld device - Gameboy. It all started in 1980 when Yokoi noticed a businessman playing with an LCD calculator on a train. He realized that there was a potential market for small, portable electronic games and decided to pitch the idea to Nintendo. And that's how the Game & Watch series was born.

Gunpei Yokoi: The Man Behind the Magic

Nintendo logo in red and white

Gunpei Yokoi was a maverick in the realm of gaming. Starting his career as a maintenance worker at Nintendo, his talent for innovative, out-of-the-box thinking quickly caught the attention of the company's president. Yokoi's first notable creation was the Ultra Hand, a toy that became a significant commercial success for Nintendo.

Gunpei Yokoi

However, it was the Game & Watch series that really put Yokoi on the map. The series showcased his design philosophy of "Lateral thinking with withered technology," where he focused on using mature, low-cost technology in innovative ways. In addition to the Game & Watch series, Yokoi also spearheaded the development of the Game Boy, which further cemented his status as one of the industry's most influential figures. Despite his untimely death in 1997, Yokoi's legacy lives on. His design philosophies continue to inspire and influence the world of gaming, with the Game & Watch series being a testament to his genius.

Ball Toss-Up: A Game Changer

The first game released in the Game & Watch series was none other than 'Ball'. As simple as the name suggests, 'Ball' was a juggling game where the player was tasked with keeping two balls in the air, using nothing but two digital hands moving left and right. This game was ground-breaking at the time. It was completely operated by just two buttons, one left and one right, along with a set of simple rules.

Ball - game and watch 80s

While 'Ball' may seem rudimentary by today's standards, back in 1980 it was nothing short of revolutionary. It introduced a new paradigm in the gaming world: portable digital entertainment that was simple, yet engaging. The simplicity of the gameplay, intertwined with the constant struggle to beat one's own high score, made 'Ball' a hit amongst the masses.

This game was a testament to Yokoi's ingenuity. He proved that a game didn't need flashy graphics or complex mechanics to be enjoyable. All it needed was a straightforward objective, intuitive controls, and a decent challenge.

Critics hailed 'Ball' as a milestone in gaming history, and its success paved the way for the plethora of Game & Watch games that followed. Its influence can still be seen today in many mobile and browser games that focus on simple gameplay mechanics and high-score chasing. Indeed, 'Ball' was not just a game, but a harbinger of the future of handheld gaming.

The Price Tag: Then and Now

Back in the 1980s, a Game & Watch handheld would typically set you back around £30. To put that into perspective, that's roughly around £120 in today's money when accounting for inflation. This price tag was quite reasonable considering the novelty and the entertainment value the device offered. In fact, it was competitively priced compared to other electronic toys and games available at the time.

bags of money image

Fast forward to the current day and these devices have become treasured collector's items. The price to get your hands on an original Game & Watch in good condition can range from £100 for the common titles to over £500 for the rarer ones. Some of the most sought after models, like the special edition 'Mickey Mouse', can even go for thousands! It's clear that, just like a fine wine, the value of these handheld gems has only increased with time. Whether you're a gaming enthusiast or a nostalgic collector, the Game & Watch series offers a priceless glimpse into the history of handheld gaming.


Flagman: The Semaphore Master

Flagman game from the 1980s

The next foray into the world of the Nintendo Game & Watch series takes us to 'Flagman', which released in June 1980. Just like 'Ball', 'Flagman' was part of the Silver series, but it did differ significantly in its gameplay and mechanics.

Flagman was a memory game that put players in the shoes of a sailor, tasked with repeating a sequence of flags shown by the title character, Flagman. The game had two modes - Game A, a sequence memorisation challenge; and Game B, a test of your quick reflexes to match the flag shown.

Although Flagman was not as instantly captivating as 'Ball', it still had its charm. The game successfully incorporated elements of memory recall and reflex testing into a simple-to-understand yet challenging gameplay loop. Critics and gamers alike appreciated this divergence from the juggling mechanic of 'Ball', showcasing Nintendo's willingness to experiment and iterate on their winning formula.

Flagman might not have been the flagship game of the series (pun intended), but it was an important step in diversifying the Game & Watch line up – moving away from simple reflex games to games that require a bit more cognitive investment. Furthermore, the concept of repeating patterns introduced in Flagman can be seen in many modern games–a testament to its enduring influence.

The Cost of Flag Waving: Then and Now

In the 1980s, 'Flagman', like its Game & Watch brethren, would have cost around £30. For the entertainment it provided and the novelty it represented, this was a competitive price tag. Despite not being as instantly captivating as 'Ball', 'Flagman' won over many with its unique gameplay and added cognitive challenge, justifying its price.

1980 Flagman game

Today, however, the story is quite different. 'Flagman' has become a coveted item, especially amongst gaming enthusiasts and collectors who appreciate its historical significance. An original 'Flagman' in good condition can sell for around £200-£300. The price can climb even higher for models in pristine condition or those still in their original packaging. The surge in price is a testament to the legacy of the Game & Watch series and its enduring appeal. The price tag of 'Flagman' now is not just about the game itself, but rather, it signifies owning a piece of gaming history.


Vermin The Exterminator: A Whac-A-Mole Revolution

Next on our nostalgic journey through the Game & Watch Silver series is 'Vermin,' released in July 1980. Often referred to as 'The Exterminator,' this game took the simple yet addicting concept of a whac-a-mole game and brought it to the small screen.

Vermin The Exterminator

In 'Vermin,' players took on the role of an exterminator tasked with protecting a garden from an onslaught of pesky moles. The moles would pop up from their holes, and it was the player's job to bash them on the head before they could reach and potentially destroy the plants. The game was simple, with only two buttons to move the exterminator left or right across the three mole holes.

While 'Vermin' didn't reinvent the wheel in terms of gameplay mechanics, it was the first Game & Watch to introduce an adversarial element - the need to protect something from incoming danger. The frantic pace of the game and the constant threat of the moles added an extra layer of excitement and tension to the series, which was well received by players and critics alike.

The design of 'Vermin' further highlighted Nintendo’s design philosophy of simple, yet engaging gameplay. The game's success demonstrated that the addition of a defensive element could significantly enhance a game's appeal, a lesson that Nintendo would carry forward in many of its future releases. Today, 'Vermin' is remembered as a fun and challenging game that represented a significant evolution in the Game & Watch series.

Pest Control Prices: Then and Now

Just like 'Ball' and 'Flagman', 'Vermin' was priced at around £30 upon release. The increased complexity and innovative defensive gameplay justified this price, and the game was considered a good value for the entertainment it provided.

Vermin The Exterminator box

Fast forward to the present day, and 'Vermin,' like its siblings, has become a coveted collector's item. Depending on its condition, an original 'Vermin' can fetch between £200 to £400, with pristine or boxed models commanding even higher prices. The ongoing popularity and value of 'Vermin' is yet another testament to the enduring legacy of the Game & Watch series, proving that these handheld gems remain as sought-after as ever.


Fire: The Saviour in the Inferno

Continuing our nostalgic journey, we arrive at 'Fire,' another gem in the Nintendo Game & Watch Silver series, launched in December 1980. This game deviated from its predecessors by introducing a new game format that went beyond simple reflexes or pattern memorisation.

Fire - game and watch 1980s

In 'Fire,' the players found themselves playing the role of firefighters, tasked with saving people by bouncing them into an ambulance from a burning building. Using two buttons to control two firemen carrying a trampoline, the players had to catch the falling people and bounce them into the ambulance. Timing and positioning were key elements, making 'Fire' a game of strategy and precision.

As for reception, 'Fire' was a hit among gamers and critics alike. The unique and engaging gameplay, combined with the tension of saving lives, offered an immersive gaming experience, showing Nintendo's continuous ambition to innovate within the handheld gaming space.

The introduction of multi-character control, timing-based mechanics, and a clear goal to achieve had a profound influence on the gaming industry. This can be seen in several modern games that involve similar coordination and goal-oriented tasks.

The Price of Heroism: Then and Now

Back in the day, 'Fire' was priced similarly to other games in the Game & Watch series, fetching around £30. Given its unique gameplay, players found it worth every penny and the game quickly flew off the shelves.

Fast forward to today, 'Fire' is considered a prized piece of Nintendo's legacy. A well-preserved 'Fire' game can fetch anywhere between £200-£500. For game collectors, 'Fire' represents not just a game, but a significant milestone in the history of handheld gaming. Nintendo's continuous innovation and the Game & Watch series' timeless appeal prove that the value of these classic games goes far beyond their original price tags.


Judge: The Duel in Your Pocket

The next stop on our nostalgic tour is 'Judge,' a unique entry in the Nintendo Game & Watch Silver series, released in October 1980. Unlike its earlier counterparts, 'Judge' put players head-to-head in a battle of reflexes and quick decision-making, taking the Game & Watch brand in a new and exciting direction.

Judge - game and watch

The premise of 'Judge' was simple, yet thrilling. Both players (or a player and the CPU in single-player mode) were each assigned a random number from 1 to 9. If your number was higher, you were to attack; if lower, you had to retreat. Quick number comparison, lightning-fast decision-making, and swift button-pressing were the keys to victory here.

'Judge' innovated by introducing competitive gameplay in a handheld format, a concept that was pretty groundbreaking at the time. This was the first instance wherein a Game & Watch title allowed two people to play against each other on the same device, leveraging the dual screen design to its fullest. The simple numeric mechanics offered depth and strategy, turning every game into a test of skill and reflex.

The game was lauded by players and critics alike for its innovative multiplayer mechanics and tense gameplay. 'Judge' was a significant milestone for Nintendo, showing that handheld games could provide competitive multiplayer experiences, a feature that has become standard in today's gaming scenario.

Worth of a Duel: Then and Now

As with its predecessors, 'Judge' was priced at around £30 at launch. The unique multiplayer aspect and competitive gameplay made it a good value proposition, and the game achieved considerable success.

Judge box

Today, an original 'Judge' in good condition can fetch a price between £300-£500, with boxed or mint-condition copies going for substantially more. The increased value of 'Judge' over the years is a reflection of its status as a groundbreaking handheld multiplayer game. Collectors value it not just for its gameplay, but also for its significant contribution to the evolution of handheld gaming. No doubt, owning a 'Judge' is akin to possessing a key chapter in the history of Nintendo and the larger gaming industry.


From Pocket-Sized Nostalgia to Pioneers of Handheld Gaming

As we conclude this nostalgic journey through the Nintendo Game & Watch Silver series, it's clear that these pocket-sized marvels were more than just games. Pioneering the world of handheld gaming, the Game & Watch series were the precursors to what would become a dominant trend in the gaming industry, shaping the way games were designed and played.

game and watch logo

These timeless pieces are as valuable today as they were back in the 80s, both in terms of monetary value and the significant role they played in gaming history. Each game had a unique charm, offering various game mechanics and innovative gameplay that pushed the boundaries of what was considered possible in a handheld format.

Even today, traces of Game & Watch can be found in numerous modern games, demonstrating the lasting influence of these early pioneers. The transition from the Game & Watch series to handheld devices like the Gameboy represented a significant evolution in the gaming landscape and sealed Nintendo's legacy as a groundbreaking force in the industry.

In retrospect, the Nintendo Game & Watch Silver series was not just about fun and games; it was about innovation, pushing the envelope, and taking risks. In the end, it was these qualities that ensured Nintendo's lasting success and cemented the Game & Watch series in the annals of gaming history. So, if you're lucky enough to own one of these vintage gems, hold on to it - you're holding a piece of history that transformed the world of video games.