In the late 80’s and early 90’s gaming on the go wasn’t a distant dream anymore. We had the Game Boy, SEGA Game Gear and the Atari Lynx. These systems were great in their own right and of course the Game Boy would be the one to take the crown and become the most famous handheld ever. Only thing about these handhelds were the price of admission. The base systems were expensive and for many families with more than 1 kid, getting these handhelds wasn’t in the cards or they had to save up for them. However there was an alternative for kids to get their gaming fix on the go, albeit a much cheaper option.
Enter the Tiger Electronic handhelds, games that were officially licensed and about $15-$20 a pop meaning these machines were way cheaper than a Game Boy. Here’s the kicker though, these games got boring quick. For those who don’t know or don’t remember the handhelds, the Tiger games were LCD games in the same vein of Nintendo’s Game and Watch line. Simple games with simple graphics where the goal is really to see how long you could last and set a high score depending on which handheld you got. What got kid’s attention though was how many different games there were. Tiger got licenses for all types of pop culture icons ranging from movies, comic books, cartoons, and even some video games. Anything could become a Tiger handheld and most everything did. I remember the aisle these were sold in Toys R Us and almost everything that was popular at the time had a Tiger game to it. Multiple Disney games, a few Jurassic Park ones, and the sports ones. You didn’t have to switch cartridges to play certain games, you had to buy a whole new unit to play a new game and of course that got kids wanting so many different games, myself and my brother included.
My Tiger collection wasn’t big, we had about 5 or 6 games and the ones I can remember vividly are Sonic 3D Blast, Batman & Robin, Godzilla, Mars Attacks, and my Dad’s Football one. The ones I played the most were Football, Sonic, Godzilla and Mars Attacks since Mars Attacks had a version of a light gun that worked decently well from what I can remember. However these games barely held myself or my brother over in terms of playability. They were good time killers but we only wanted to play them for a few minutes tops, and the sound would drive my parent’s up a wall. The sounds for these games were very basic chip tunes that would sound a bit like the original theme of whatever game you were playing. Nowhere near the quality of a Game Boy or Game Gear. Yet why would I constantly ask my parents for one? Because they were cheap and it was easier to get than a Game Boy at the time. Having any sort of video game at my house in the late 90’s was a luxury but our parents also saw that we wouldn’t play with these games much and even called us out on it a few times. They were right, after a while these games get boring quick, and when we did get our Game Boys and Pokemon that was it. We only would touch our Tiger games for about 5 minutes then stop and move on to something else. That was one other thing about these games, you didn’t want to sink a whole lot of time into them unlike other games.
Nowadays the Tiger electronics are just a thing in the past. I’ve seen a few games here and there at conventions and trade shows but only for about $5 or less depending on the condition. Hasbro did release 4 this past year and I got the three you see in the top image for Christmas as a gag gift from my podcasting buddies (you can watch our Holiday Special where I unwrap these presents right here). They got them for my because I mentioned that I now hate the Tiger games and sadly that’s true. I liked them when I was younger but that was the only source of gaming for me for a good long while. Once I got my Game Boy and handheld systems became more advanced the Tiger games became space wasters. I would play the games for a bit but I would be confused as to what I would be doing in the game. I wouldn’t know if I was winning or loosing and the chip tunes would irritate even me. I may not think the games are good, but I do recognize how important these were to kids like me who didn’t have a Game Boy or Game Gear. Also I can appreciate the parents who wanted to get their kids something but couldn’t afford the higher end systems so these were the way to go. Are they completely obsolete now? Yes. Were they ever good? Maybe? Did they bring joy to kids who didn’t have much? Absolutely. Love them or hate them, you can not deny how big these games were to the kids that played them.