Smallball! Handheld Sports Games of the 1970s and 1980s

They were incredibly rudimentary...and eternally lovable. Herewith, a tribute.

By  |  Monday, March 30, 2009 at 12:34 am

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When it comes to sports simulations, there’s an inverse relationship between realism and charm. The handheld sports games that toy companies cranked out in the early days used a single LED to represent each player, not thousands of polygons, but they had more personality than today’s console titles–and they were plenty addictive, too. This slideshow skews towards baseball (hey, it’s only a week until opening day) and football (unquestionably the most popular handheld-sports sport), and focuses mostly on games from Mattel and Coleco (the major leagues of handheld sports). It celebrates them through patent drawings, packaging photos, and original commercials. If you’d like more–a lot more–of this stuff, check out Rik Morgan’s wonderful, where some of the images in this show originated.

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