Kinda always been interested in these. Pretty much the only toys marketed to kids that are still completely fascinating as an adult. Beyond all the usual sports games that are completely mechanical (most being baseball and such) I think the coolest are the ones where you have to guide a ball through a kind of obstacle course.
They got most mainstream popularity when Tomy released Athletic Land in 1979. Vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2DqAo0-FvU
. Atheltic Land was released under heaps of different names in overseas countries and continued to be remade or repackaged under a different theme for decades after.
Tomy followed this up in about 1982 with 'Kong Man' which was even more ingeniously designed than Athletic Land. This too was later repackaged in following years with a Takeshi's Castle theme, heres a vid of that version: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vlMK5ZBlY0
In the same year Yonezawa jumped in and made their own mechanical ball game with a Ninja Hattori Kun theme. Vid here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEyi5rIUVwo
. This one was more advanced again than Athletic Land but not quite as awesome as Kong Man. This Yonezawa game was also repackaged in later years with a theme based of some Samurai manga or drama show I don't know the name of.
In the early 80's Epoch also came up with games in the genre inspired by Athletic Land. First was this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lvunQkE1SqE
and then later a game called Athletic Race that allowed for 2 people to race simultaneous. Pic here: http://img5.blogs.yahoo.co.jp/ybi/1/a5/ ... 1324820623
In addition to these 'big' games, Tomy had a series of handheld mechanical games called Pocket Mate, which included miniature versions of stuff similar to the ball obstacle course design, along with lots of other stuff. Over 100 of these were made, heres a list: http://www.masters.me.uk/pocketeers/com ... -index.htm
Apart from these I haven't really found any others, but in recent years there have been some mario themed games such as this 2 player one based off mario kart: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elYlBY7887A
and also this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xc8TPwlE5ME
which is a single player one with a quite ingenious design of having different 'worlds' you go through which the machine pans around to show as you get to each one. Unfortunately its design doesn't look anywhere near as fun as the 80's stuff, and the stickers with mario 64 art plastered all over it makes it look ugly and cheap.
Anyone else ever know about this stuff, or know about other similar games?