Answer: Atari Lynx

When most people think of the handheld gaming market in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they think first and foremost of the wildly successful Nintendo Game Boy (16 million sold by 1995), the popular but not “Game Boy slaying” Sega Game Gear (10.62 million sold), but probably not the Atari Lynx (3 million sold).

That’s too bad, honestly, because while the Atari Lynx didn’t have the game catalog or enduring popularity of its better-selling rivals, the handheld console certainly deserves a few nods for innovation. Most notably, the Lynx was the first handheld console with a color screen (and back lit at that). Further, it had graphics rendering and scaling that was on par with, or superior to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System—not only is that notable because the Lynx was a small handheld device, but it launched a year before the SNES. On top of the color screen and the great graphics, the design of the Lynx was ambidextrous (whether you were left or right handed, you could simply rotate the entire unit so the directional pad and buttons were oriented in your preference) and it supported networking with up to 15 other units (although most multiplayer games only supported eight or fewer players at once).

At the time of its launch, the Lynx was hailed as a breakthrough and reviewers noted that it was significantly superior to the Game Boy, on a technical level, in every way. Despite a strong showing right out of the gate and a decent table of launch-day games, the system received few updates, was poorly marketed, and releases were few and far between. In another timeline, where Atari invested heavily in promoting the platform and game development, we might associate the Atari Lynx with mobile gaming instead of Nintendo.

Image courtesy of Atari.




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