In an inspired nostalgia cash in, Hasbro recently announced that it was releasing handheld games based on the line of games popular in the early 1990s. The ubiquitous collection of LCD handheld games were originally produced by Tiger Electronics, an Illinois company that merged with Hasbro in 1998 and folded in 2012.
Tiger gobbled up licenses when it was cranking out handheld games and released a wide variety of branded items that were all essentially the same game. If you aren’t intimately familiar with them, check out the commercial compilation below. In a fitting tribute, it’s 20 minutes of Tiger that is essentially the same commercial over and over.
The general consensus is that the Tiger handheld games were terrible, and they were, but what you have to remember is that their target audience was adolescent boys. Adolescent boys are dumb and easily manipulated. I should know because I was and I was. Therefore, I owned a whole bunch of these.
To celebrate the introduction of these bad games to a whole new generation of dumb adolescent boys and reintroduction to old dumb boys, today I’m going to cover a few of my favorites.
Jordan vs Bird: One on One
“Hands” down my favorite handheld, Jordan vs. Bird was a proud entry in the late 80s-early 90s industry of forcing together two of the greatest basketball players of the era with wildly disparate playing styles and personalities. The handheld version of the game followed the release of the EA Sports Nintendo game of the same name, and was the precursor to a Sega Genesis version that I somehow never knew existed. It also led to the series of McDonald’s commercials where the athletes competed in Horse for Big Macs, which I touched on in a previous article.
Jordan vs Bird featured three game modes: a slam dunk contest, a three point contest, and one-on-one. My favorite of the three was the three point contest, and when I played one-on-one I always favored Bird because as a Northern Ohioan Jordan was one of the primary villains of my childhood. Luckily, since the little LCD figures were basically indistinguishable it ultimately didn’t matter.
I spent so many hours between the ages of 7 and 11 playing Nintendo that you’d think I’d have a long list of favorite games, but I really don’t. Off the top of my head I can think of a handful of games that I have especially fond memories of. Double Dragon was never one of them. I played it occasionally but I was always first and foremost a sports games fan. I played a lot of side-scrolling beat ’em ups, but I never got invested in them. In my mind Double Dragon’s biggest contribution to the zeitgeist is the 1994 film starring Mark Dacascos (“Allez cuisine!”), Scott Wolf, Alyssa Milano, and Robert Patrick.
Every kid needs a handheld fighting game though, and I landed on Double Dragon. The game was fine? Your character flashes onscreen, bad guys flash onscreen, you mash buttons. It wasn’t too dissimilar from the Nintendo version except that in this one goals and progress were more hypothetical. A typical session involved dispatching a handful of guys and then dying. Of the Tiger handheld games that in theory had a plot and an ending, I’m positive I never actually completed a level. That didn’t stop me from asking for the next property released that caught my eye. I love that one of the button options here is “sway.” Not dodge, sway.
As if I haven’t driven home the point a million times including in this article, big childhood sports fan here. When I was very young my sport of choice was baseball. I was in luck then because Tiger released a lot of baseball games! And I owned one of the worst ones, the 1988 edition above. This one didn’t talk, like later editions, or feature real players. You could hit and run. That was it. Every 8 year old knows that pitching and defense is boring, so this was all you needed. For as dumb and simplistic as this game was, hitting homers was deeply satisfying.
Tiger Electronics wasn’t the only game in town when it came to foisting crappy LCD games on kids at price points just low enough to convince parents it made more sense to grab one of these now than make your kid wait for Christmas to get a Gameboy. Konami wasn’t above releasing shoddy versions of their Nintendo games available in handheld form. According to the Internet Konami released at least 36 of these, featuring titles such as Bayou Billy, Top Gun, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (six editions! all of which I’m assuming were really the same game), Double Dribble, Blades of Steel, and Contra. I definitely owned Top Gun, Blades of Steel, and the first edition of TMNT, and while they were just as awful as the Tiger handhelds, the cases looked pretty sleek.
There you have it. Tiger Electronics handheld games. Butt technology that can be yours again, thanks to Hasbro and 39 year old guys like me who need to have their childhoods spoon-fed to them once again.
Did you own any Tiger handheld games? What were your favorites? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.