At the center of that design is the presence of a touchscreen, allowing players to navigate systems using touch controls, much like they’ve grown accustomed to doing on their smartphones. But touchscreens and gaming go back even further than the introduction of the iPhone and iPad. In fact, we can trace the very first applications of the technology all the way back to the 1960s. If we’re talking purely just in terms of gaming though, they’ve been a number of devices that had a touchscreen as a means of accepting user input over the years. What follows are some of its earliest implementations.
Developed by Smith Engineering, the Vectrex Gaming Console is a vector display-based game console that was released in 1982. It has one of the earliest implementations of touchscreen controls through its light pen peripheral, which allowed players to draw directly on its included CRT screen in several art-based games.
The system was discontinued in 1984, following the video game crash of 1983, making it one of the rarer collectibles of this type.
9 Sega Graphic Board For SG-1000 (1985)
Sega’s first stab at a dedicated gaming system came in the form of the SG-1000 (or Sega Game 1000 as it was also known). Released alongside the SC-3000 in 1983, the console was home to a number of games and applications.
This included Terebi Oekaki, a simple paint program that is perhaps most notable for coming bundled with the Sega Graphic Board, a peripheral that allowed players to draw with a stylus within its 10.8cm x 8cm drawing area.
8 Tiger Game.com (1997)
Tiger Electronics is perhaps best known for its low-end LCD handheld games based on popular games like Street Fighter 2 and Sonic 3D Blast. But in 1997, it made a play to revolutionize the handheld space with the release of Game.com.
The game console is not only noted for being the first handheld gaming system to include a touchscreen but the first to support internet connectivity too, which allowed players to send emails and browse the internet over a dial-up modem.
7 Tapwave Zodiac (2003)
The Tapwave Zodiac was released just a month after the Nokia N-Gage in 2003, at a time when various mobile device manufacturers were trying to tap into the highly-lucrative handheld gaming market long since dominated by Nintendo.
Based on an enhanced version of the Palm Operating System, the device came in 32MB and 128MB variants and doubled as a media consumption device. Notable games on the system include Doom 2, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, and Madden NFL 2005.
6 Nintendo DS (2004)
Following the success of the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance, Nintendo had released its next handheld gaming device in the form of the Nintendo DS in 2004. The system is notable for its dual-screen design, with the bottom screen being a resistive touch display for touch controls.
This allowed its games to take advantage of both displays in inventive ways. The DS remains the best-selling handheld game console to date, with more than 154.02 million units sold during its lifetime.
5 Pandora (2010)
Released in 2010, the Pandora doubled as both a mobile personal computer and a handheld game system. It was built specifically to target the homebrew development community using open-source technology.
As a result, the system was mainly viewed by many enthusiasts and members of the homebrew community as a device for emulating older game consoles like the PlayStation, Nintendo 64, SNES, and Sega Mega Drive.
4 Nintendo 3DS (2011)
The follow-up to the immensely successful Nintendo DS finally came in 2011 in the form of the Nintendo 3DS. The newer system retained the same dual-screen design as its predecessor but sought to set itself apart with the introduction of a stereoscopic 3D top screen that didn’t require the use of 3D glasses.
Like most of their other systems, several variants were released by Nintendo over the course of its lifetime, including the 3DS XL, 2DS, and the New Nintendo 3DS.
3 PlayStation Vita (2011)
After dabbling in the handheld gaming market in 2005 with the PlayStation Portable, Sony released its successor, the PlayStation Vita, in 2011. The newer device immediately stood out with its beautiful 5-inch OLED capacitive touchscreen, even though this was replaced with an LCD screen in later revisions.
Despite serving as a home for many JRPGs and indie titles during its tenure, the system was still considered a commercial failure and would mark Sony’s exit from the handheld gaming market.
2 Wii U (2012)
Seeking to get ahead of the competition, Nintendo released the Wii U in 2012. Serving as a successor to the Wii, the newer device’s most defining feature was the inclusion of a GamePad that housed a built-in 6.2-inch touchscreen display.
While the system itself failed to take off with just 13.56 million units sold, the Wii U GamePad would serve as a stepping stone for the work Nintendo would eventually put into the Nintendo Switch, one of its most successful consoles to date.
1 GPD XD (2015)
Based on the Android operating system, the GPD XD is a handheld game console that was released in 2015. The device is powered by an ARM Cortex-A17 clocked at 1.4 GHz, along with a Mali-T764 running at 600 MHz.
Not only was it capable of running games and apps available on the Google Play store, but it also proved to be a capable device for homebrew and emulation, even managing to handle games from systems like the Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo DS.