In a world where you’ll often see someone playing their Nintendo Switch on the subway, handheld gaming is rather commonplace. However, if you were to turn back the clock just a handful of years, you'd find a whole generation of gamers who viewed the entire concept as something straight out of... well, Star Trek!
At a time when most electronics were more than a little inconvenient to bring on the go, these miniature machines defied the norm and allowed kids to easily bring a new form of portable entertainment wherever they wished. It was futuristic fun at its finest, and it fit in your backpack! And, if you longed to explore the mysteries of the final frontier while en route to grandma's house, I'm happy to report that this new generation of pocket-sized fun had you covered in a number of different ways!
Here is a list of 10 classic virtual Star Trek adventures that allow for some scaled down Starfleet fun whenever, and wherever, you want...
#1 - Star Trek Telescreen Console (MEGO)
Seen by many as one of the first true examples of a handheld game, the Telescreen Console is the very definition of ingenious! Released by MEGO in 1976, this fantastic little gaming playset hybrid allowed kids to line enemy ships up into their sights and blast them to smithereens! Featuring a design reminiscent of the computers that appeared on the original Star Trek television series, in addition to blinking lights, a moveable target sight, and even a captain's chair for your MEGO Kirk figure, the Telescreen Console may be simplistic by today's standards, but continues to stand as a fantastic example of early handheld electronic stimulation!
#2 - Star Trek: Phaser Strike (Milton Bradley)
Long before the likes of the Nintendo Game Boy and SEGA Game Gear, Milton Bradley released their own handheld gaming system in 1979 with the Microvision. It was on this device that Star Trek: Phaser Strike came to be! Players control three sets of Phaser Banks along the bottom of the screen and attempt to destroy various Klingon "ships" that fly overhead. Again, this one is very simplistic with all objects in the game appearing as sets of block-like pixels of varying lengths. However, gameplay is extremely addictive and settings also allow players to specify the size, speed, and number of ships in each round of play for some added variety. If that's not enough, this one was also the first official handheld game to come to market with a Star Trek theme — and that's always a bonus if you ask this writer!
#3 - Pair Match (Bandai)
Okay, so technically this one is not a Star Trek game. However, could I really do a piece like this without mentioning Pair Match? Released by Bandai for the Asian market back in 1984, this tabletop electronic game played just like an audio version of Concentration. So, why is it on this list, you ask? Well, Pair Match actually appeared in a number of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes. It was seen a few times within the Forward Lounge of the Enterprise-D, where Deanna Troi and Alexander Rozhenko played it while waiting for Worf to undergo a rather serious spinal surgery. In addition, several crewmembers are seen playing with the game in episodes like "Ensign Ro" and "The Vengeance Factor." So, while Pair Match may technically not be a Star Trek game, it certainly has enjoyed a fair bit of screen time within the final frontier.
#4 - Star Trek: The Next Generation (Tiger Electronics)
Throughout the 80s and 90s LCD gaming was all the rage! At a time when portable electronics were still relatively new, it was actually considered cool to come to class with a battery powered video game in your pocket - and, Tiger Electronics was the undisputed king of this arena! In 1988, they released Star Trek: The Next Generation — a rather addictive little gem that sees you pilot the U.S.S. Enterprise through an asteroid field populated by numerous Romulan ships intent on stopping you in your tracks! You'll have to use your phasers, shields and some rather quick reflexes to beat the clock and master this one. It may not be the most complicated title out there, but it is far from the easiest! May I recommend you keep some fresh AA batteries nearby just in case?
#5 - Star Trek: The 25th Anniversary (Konami)
As the 90s dawned, LCD gaming continued to be a hot market that attracted fans in droves. Konami took things to a whole new level in 1991 with the release of Star Trek: The 25th Anniversary, a rather impressive looking handheld unit that featured a rudimentary voice chip that enhanced gameplay. Set aboard the Enterprise-A, the game takes place in three difficulty levels across two different stages. In the battle stage, you must fend off attacks from enemy Klingons and prevent the five major components of the Enterprise from being destroyed. While the rescue stage sees you trying to beam up survivors from a nearby planet - overrun with Klingons. Sound a little overwhelming? Not to worry, Mr. Spock is along for the ride, and it's only logical that he'd help you along the way!
#6 - Star Trek: 25th Anniversary (Visual Concepts)
In 1992, Visual Concepts released Star Trek: 25th Anniversary to the Nintendo Game Boy! In this particular title, players take control of both the U.S.S. Enterprise and Captain James Kirk in two different shoot 'em up stages that see you battling both enemy ships in the depths of space and hostile creatures from the far flung reaches of the final frontier in action packed away missions alongside Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy! If you were like me, this was probably one of the very first Star Trek games you ever experienced and, while I prefer the slightly more vivid presentation of the Game Gear Star Trek titles, there is no denying that this particular monochromatic classic really holds a special place in my heart. It's much more engaging then the Konami unit from the previous year, and is actually a completely different gaming experience when compared to its big brother released on the Nintendo Entertainment System that same year.
#7 - Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Advanced Holodeck Tutorial (Absolute Entertainment)
The 90s became a decade synonymous with handheld gaming. This thanks in no small part to the successful launch of units like Nintendo's Game Boy Color and the SEGA Game Gear. Over in North America, SEGA Trekkers would be treated to an exclusive title in Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Advanced Holodeck Tutorial. Released in 1993, this game lets you become a cadet at Starfleet Academy spending some time within a combat simulator. Your cadet takes on the role of captain of the Enterprise-D, and you must turn to different crew members such as Riker and Data to complete a series of different missions that range from thwarting enemy invasions to protecting space stations from a barrage of deadly asteroids. Minigames are spread throughout to make objectives a little more challenging to complete and, while gameplay can get a little repetitive from time to time, the overall experience is a fun one that fans and gamers alike have praised over the years for its uniqueness!
#8 - Star Trek Generations: Beyond The Nexus (Absolute Entertainment)
Of all the handheld Star Trek games, this 1994 title from Absolute Entertainment remains my favorite. Loosely based on the events depicted in Star Trek Generations, Beyond The Nexus sees players using either Captain Kirk or Captain Picard to complete various missions. Three different stages feature in the game - Ship, Away Team, and Puzzle. Each offers a unique gaming experience that keeps things feeling fresh, while also offering new challenges and keeping players on their toes as they must master new skills to move on to the next objective! While it was also released for the Game Boy, the North American exclusive Game Gear version gets some additional points for utilizing full color graphics for an even more immersive gaming experience!
#9 - Star Trek: First Contact Portable Arcade Game (MGA)
Yet another example of Star Trek's foray into the world of handheld LCD gaming, this beautiful piece released in 1996 by MGA sees you taking control of the U.S.S. Enterprise and fending off attacks from the Borg! Gameplay is rather straightforward as you rack up points by blowing up enemy ships, but the one thing that really stands out here is the unit itself! Earning top marks for presentation, this isn't just another flat, faceless brick. No, instead this particular game comes to you crafted in the shape of the iconic Starfleet insignia! It really stands out, and kudos to MGA for making such a bold design choice at a time when many in the industry just weren't. Add to that some decent battery life and more detailed sprites then what Konami and Tiger Electronics was putting out in their games at the time, and you've got a game that just screams Star Trek - even before you turn it on!
#10 - Star Trek 20Q (Mattel/Radica)
An updated take on the classic game 20 Questions, this handheld unit attempts to use a series of questions in an effort to determine what item in the Star Trek Universe you are thinking of! Players answer the unit's questions by pressing the appropriate response button, and hope to pull off a win by stumping the game before it can guess correctly! Shaped like a stylized version of the original U.S.S. Enterprise, Star Trek 20Q is a fun, fast paced party game that takes a timeless concept and launches it headlong into the final frontier - while at the same time proving handheld gaming is still relevant and fun all these years later!
John DeQuadros (he/him) is a writer and toy photographer based in Ontario, Canada. You can find a portfolio of his work on Instagram & Twitter right now @RipRocketPix.