Long before the Disney Afternoon games created by Capcom, Nintendo was creating other Disney themed video games. In fact, Disney’s first venture into the world of digital gaming came through Nintendo.
In 1981, Nintendo released Mickey Mouse for the Game & Watch System as part of the Wide Screen series. The handheld gaming system debuted in 1980, the brainchild of the legendary Gunpei Yokoi. He had been inspired to create the device after spotting a bored businessman playing with an LCD calculator.
The Game & Watch system operated on rudimentary graphics displayed on an LCD screen. The system could also function as a clock or an alarm. The game play was as simplistic as the graphics. In Mickey Mouse, players controlled Mickey and helped him collect eggs rolling down hills that sat on either side of the screen. Miss an egg and it would hatch into a chick. Eggs came more quickly as the game progressed and you could only miss three eggs before a game over. Fortunately, Minnie mouse would occasionally peak her head onto the screen. If you happened to miss an egg while Minnie was present, the miss only counted as a half. Misses would be cleared out after a certain number of eggs were collected (either 100 or 500 depending on if you were playing game A or B).
A year after the release of Mickey Mouse, Game & Watch returned to the world of Disney with Mickey & Donald, a game for the Multi-Screen Series. The multi-screen system was a two-part device that opened up, with one screen on top and another on the bottom. The controls on the bottom portion. In Mickey & Donald, players attempted to put out fires on a three story building. Mickey operated the pump and Donald controlled the hose.
The final Game & Watch Disney game, also titled Mickey Mouse, was released in 1984 for the Panorama series. Panorama utilized a Vacuum Florescent Display and had a fold out mirror as an enhancement. Despite sharing a name, the gameplay was completely different than the original. In the Panorama game, players controlled Mickey Mouse as he performed at the circus. As he flew through the air, Mickey attempted to collect batons and avoid flaming torches. The speed increased as players progressed, and you could only lose three lives before the game was over.
The games were a far cry from the technical wizardry on display in modern Disney games like the Kingdom Hearts series, but they represented the first, tentative steps that brought the world’s most famous mouse into the world of video games.