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There Was A Sega Genesis Handheld And You Probably Didn't Realize It

The Nintendo Switch brought handheld gaming and console gaming together in one clever device, proving to be a tremendous success for the company. In fact, the Switch is projected to be the best-selling system for the 2020 holiday season, even in the presence of a new Xbox and PlayStation. Considering its success, one has to wonder why it took so long for a manufacturer of gaming consoles to think up a first-party portable/home system.

Well, the simple answer is it didn't take as long as you might think, because Nintendo was not the first to bring such an innovative idea to market. Nintendo was simply the first to successfully brand such a device. Sega actually beat Nintendo to the punch by 22 years with a portable console that played Genesis cartridges.

If Sega came out with a system similar to the Switch, how come it failed to achieve the same level of success? And why are so many people unaware of its existence?

Do you even "know-mad" the Sega Nomad?

Launched in 1995 as a Toys 'R' Us exclusive, the Sega Nomad was the company's second portable gaming system in the US after the Game Gear. With the Nomad, gamers could play their favorite Sega Genesis games on the go. You could even hook it up to a TV much like the Switch, though it didn't have a dock or those clever Joycons. If you wanted it to function as your main Genesis, you'd have to use the bulky system as a controller, and a multiplayer option existed via a built-in controller port.

In its time, it was an exciting piece of technology for Sega fans. So what went wrong?

The Nomad was released late in the Genesis' lifespan — the same year the Saturn launched — and was only sold in stores for about a year before it was discontinued. Much like the Game Gear, the Nomad required a whopping six double-A batteries that would drain faster than Sonic on his morning run. As such, its portability was somewhat limited. (Wall and car adapters were available, but being stuck next to an outlet kind of defeats the purpose.) For what it was, the price was also fairly prohibitive. Roll in its Toys 'R' Us exclusivity, and it's no wonder the Sega Nomad failed to make a mark.

The Sega Nomad returns?

At CES 2019, Retro-Bit announced that a Sega Nomad remake was in the works. The Retro-Bit Sega Nomad prototype featured HDMI output, a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a design closely resembling the original, only less bulky.

In Retro-Bit's tweet, more information was promised in the coming months, but the company has not provided further updates. One user inquired as to the status of the project, to which Retro-Bit simply replied, "We cannot share further details at the moment." Will the Nintendo Switch progenitor make a comeback, or will the Nomad once again be forgotten? Unfortunately, there's no telling whether the Retro-Bit Nomad will see the light of day.

An original Nomad is quite pricey. If you want to play your old Sega Genesis cartridges on the go but are discouraged by the intimidating price tag, there could be another solution: Announced early in 2020, the Super Retro Champ will play both Sega Genesis games and Super Nintendo games. Like the Retro-Bit Nomad, gamers will have to wait to see if this system comes to fruition.