Today carrying your favorite classic video game around in your pocket is as easy buying a few downloads of Sony PlayStation classics to play on your PlayStation Portable or hitting up the Nintendo eShop to purchase beloved Nintendo Entertainment System titles to play on your Nintendo 3DS, but back in the 1990s, if one wanted to carry Super Mario Bros. or Sonic the Hedgehog 3 around in your pocket, you had to open your wallet wide and get a deeper pocket. 1UP.com explores some of the more bizarre handheld gaming systems of the end of the twentieth century and observes how impractical they were. Still, you have to admire their moxie. Consider the Sega Nomad's predecessor, for instance: the Sega Mega Jet.
In Japan, Sega was more cautious about pushing out new versions of the Genesis/Mega Drive, as was evident with the Mega Jet, a portable version of the system sold exclusively on Japan Airlines flights. The Mega Jet looked reminiscent of the Game Gear, except it didn't have a screen; you could plug it into JAL's seat-back monitors and enjoy it that way. As such, the Mega Jet was as "portable" as the CDX was: it could take up less space in a bag, but you'd still have to contend with the cords and games. It was just another reminder that you shouldn't buy anything on a plane except liquor.
The list is populated with official devices (the TurboExpress from NEC) and unofficial hardware (the Kingway Top Guy) and I was surprised at how much I learned from this article. Some of the Chinese knock-off gadgets are impressive for their time despite being completely unlicensed and totally unviable in terms of mass production and sale. Sure, the Top Guy could play Nintendo's 8-bit finest, but each unit was apparently created by hand in someone's workshop. That's no way to run an electronics concern. Sega, on the other hand, went gadget wild on a wide scale with a whole stable of handhelds of varying power and capability: Mega Jet, Nomad, CDX... the list goes on. The one company that you won't see on the list, naturally, is Nintendo. While the competition was doing everything is could to get its home games on the road, Nintendo recognized the value of keeping home and handheld markets distinct and designed games that played to each segment's strengths. There's a reason that the company is still going strong (despite the occasional stumble) all these years later.
(Image via VGRetro)