A nostalgic trip through the history of handheld game consoles

In his new book, video game enthusiast Brandon Saltalamacchia studies the legacies and culture of handheld gaming

Lost in Cult, a platform dedicated to video game culture, has released a new book titled A Handheld History, which explores the progression of handheld gaming devices from the 1980s through to the present day.

Authored by Brandon Saltalamacchia of Retro Dodo, the book takes readers from the launch of the seminal Game & Watch console in 1981, which was responsible for popularising handheld gaming, to more recent releases like the Nintendo Switch and the Steam Deck, which have managed to bridge the gap between handheld and traditional consoles like no others before them.

Top: Cover illustration by Stephen Maurice Graham; Above: Illustration by Yasmeen Abedifard. All images from Lost in Cult

Saltalamacchia includes anecdotes of his own experiences growing up with this technology, thanking his mum and dad for buying him a Game Boy Color back in 1999 and “cementing a core memory” that’s led him to where he is today. These consoles had such an impact on his life that they inspired him to build a career within the video game industry.

The consoles themselves are shown and discussed in detail throughout the book, presenting drawings and photographs of them alongside deep dives into their creation that cover their designs, hardware, software and, of course, games.

Image: Bbretro

The games are another key part of these stories and Saltalamacchia makes sure to discuss in-depth the most important releases throughout the years, including Mario, Metroid, King Kong, Pokémon, and Zelda, among many others.

But it’s not just the consoles and games. A Handheld History goes much deeper, covering topics like community, connection, and creativity. Saltalamacchia talks about how designers’ far-fetched dreams came to life, how certain games brought people together, and about many aspects of the expansive video game industry.

Even for those not particularly interested in video games, the book offers plenty of visual stimuli. From vintage poster design and retro illustrations to satisfying breakdowns of console hardware, there is something inspiring for everyone.

A Handheld History is published by Expanse, a Harper Collins imprint; harpercollins.co.uk