Tiger Electronic Handhelds Are Back and as Sad as Ever

One of the most illogically beloved toys from our collective youth is heading back to store shelves, as part of the sweeping 90s nostalgia wave that continues to dredge up memories that, until now, had silently wept in the basements of our unconscious. Tiger Electronics (which is actually just Hasbro with a fake mustache) is once again producing its iconic handheld electronic games, which seek to somewhat evoke the experience of playing a real video game; batteries not included.

The new line of games, which are available for pre-order through GameStop (not kidding), include Sonic the Hedgehog 3, The Little Mermaid, X-Men Project X, and Transformers Generation 2, all of which are reproductions of Tiger Electronic handheld games from the original run, way back when. Sonic 3 and X-Men Project X both feature the original artwork seen on their progenitors, while The Little Mermaid and Transformers Generation 2 have redrawn versions of their original artwork.

GameStop is asking $14.99 per handheld, or you could go on eBay and get a working original (of admittedly varying quality) for about the same money, give or take depending on the game.

If you never had one of these growing up, they were essentially fancy LCD watch screens with video game pictures printed on them, like a westernized version of the Nintendo Game & Watch handhelds from the 1980s. Each unit played a single baked-in game, with sound effects provided by a square/sine-wave speaker that parents would make you to turn off almost immediately, and with good reason. They were hugely successful, despite being, at best, mildly occupying to actually play, primarily for two reasons.

First off, they were affordable enough (around $20) that low-income parents could buy them as placeholders for more expensive, traditional video games, and rich people could buy them as throw away novelties. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, these things were sold under the banner of every conceivable media license you could possibly imagine. Walk the electronic toy aisle of any mid-90s K-Mart and you would be festooned by Tiger handhelds based on Street Fighter 2, Batman: The Animated Series, Beavis and Butthead, Marble Madness, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks!, Pit Fighter, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Jurassic Park, Space Jam, and of course, the family favorite franchises revitalized today. There were non-licensed Tiger handhelds as well, such as Ninja Fighter, but they were few and far between and none of them probably sold as well Aladdin, seen above.

From where I’m sitting, the only reason to drop $15 on one of these in 2020 is if you had some kind of deep emotional connection leftover from childhood, and even then, it would have to be a deep emotional connection to one of these four specific games. Otherwise, you’re probably fine going down a YouTube rabbit hole and calling it day, $15 safely in hand for when Pogs or Giga Pets or HitClips or Doodle Bear or Gak or Floam or Betty Spaghetty or Poo-Chi or Stretch Armstrong or Sky Dancers or the Nerf Vortex Football or Street Sharks or Wizard Magic Blow Pens or the Yakbak finally make their infernal comebacks.