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Hand-Held Football Games By Euphrates
There are two undisputed kings of the electronic football game gridiron - the
Tudor vibrating games from the '60s and '70s and Mattel and Coleco's hand-held
games from the late '70s.
"Electric" football games first hit the toys shelves in the '40s with Cadaco's Foto-Electric. The two opponents would select their plays from see-though cells. The "electric" feature in this game was a minature light bulb that illuminated the results of the play when the cells were matched together in front of it. Most of the board games from this period used spinners, cards and other random indicators to provide play results.
In the late '50s, Tudor gave us the classic vibrating football game. Essentially, the game consisted of a particle board field with a vibrating device attached underneath that was controlled from the top of the game. You and your opponent would line up your 11 plastic players that were painted to actually look like NFL teams, turn on the game which would animate the figures and then either place a magnet or piece of foam shaped like a ball on the base of the player or pass it to a teammate using a combination QB/Kicker figure. As you probably remember, most of the 22 players would end up in a cluster somewhere on the sideline while the remainder ran in circles in the center of the field. In the '70s Coleco would revisit this theme with it's Command Control Football Game which allowed each child to control one player by virture of a lever underneath the field with a magnet to match a magnet underneath the base of the featured player.
The early '70s gave parents several options for Christmas morning, from Mattel's Talking Football Game to Aurora's Roger Staubach's Monday Night Football. One of my favorites is Kenner's See-Action Football from around 1973. This game employed elements of Kenner's Give-A-Show projectors to show cartoon football imagery and the results of plays.
In 1977, Mattel put out Football 1. These were pre-Gameboy hand-held games that basically let the player use direction keys to run his blinking red blip through a maze of defensive blips. A kickoff would result in a chirping version of the "Charge!" melody.
In 1978 Mattel upgraded their game to include a pass option. This new game was christened Football 2 and is one of the most popular of the '70s hand-helds. It was given a forest green casing while the Football 1's casing was white. Coleco put out the Electronic Quarterback that functioned the same as the Football 2 with the expection of the pass option. The Mattel game allowed you to run or pass on the fly. The Electronic Quarterback required you to commit by flicking the pass/run switch.
Later, Coleco presented its Head to Head and Total Control series. These games were about twice as long as the earlier hand-helds and featured a field screen with a control panel on either side. This allowed two buddies to play each other simultaneously. They released similar games for other sports, including Head to Head Boxing, Soccer, Baseball, Hockey and Basketball. Coleco's Table Top series is also worth mentioning here. These were minature replicas of the large arcade type games like Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man and Donkey Kong. The video and sound were far superior to the smaller games. Mattel expanded their hand-held line to include Soccer, Baseball, Basketball, Hockey, Sub Hunt, Battlestar Gallactica and more.
Of course Colecovision and Atari's Intellivision moved the games from little screens to the television set. The classic Techmo Bowl for Nintendo is one of the pre '90s favorites. The John Madden series for Nintindo and the Gameday series for Playstation were just around the corner.
The classic Mattel and Coleco games are almost always in working condition even today. You do need to check the sound before making a purchase. Children frequently cut the speaker wires so that they could play in class without being given away by the touchdown song. Expect to pay $20-$30 for the Football 1 and Electronic Quarterback and $30-$40 for the Football 2. Tudor has a handheld football game that is hard to find and can bring as much as Mattel's football 2.
Note: Mattel has since rerelased it's Football Handhelds.