Mark Lesser Games


Mark Lesser's career path led from the earliest days of electronic handheld game development to video game development. 

The adventure followed from 4-bit to 32-bit machines, from 512 byte assembly language to object-oriented compiled C++ programs, from simple LED displays to television, from circuit design to game design, from solo game programming to large team collaborative development.

This website is an attempt to document some of the highlights of this journey.

More information is stored in the Mark B Lesser archives at The Strong National Museum of Play in Rochester NY for anyone interested in further research.

Mattel Electronics Auto Race (handheld)

Mattel Auto Race is often cited as the first handheld electronic game. 

When George Klose presented the idea of converting a handheld calculator into a simple racing game, no one at Rockwell Microelectronics paid much attention.  Mark Lesser was a young circuit designer at Rockwell with no programming experience who took on the project. He altered the circuit design of a B5000 series calculator chip, producing the B6000  chip used in Auto Race and wrote the program (512 bytes!) to create the game.  This was the only game program Mark ever wrote that had no known bugs!

There were many preliminary design questions that needed to be addressed:  

Mattel Electronics Battlestar Galactica Space Alert (handheld)

After completing Mattel Auto Race, Mark modified the program to create Mattel Missile Attack (aka Mattel Battlestar Galactica Space Alert) and Mattel Flash Gordon.

Mattel Electronics Football I (handheld)

Mattel Football I became a popular hit, following on the heels of Auto Race.

Once again George Klose came up with a simple game idea and collaborated with Mark Lesser who did the circuit design and game programming. The B6100 calculator chip series was designed as a larger cousin to the earlier B6000 used in Auto Race. The program ROM size was a whopping 896 bytes!

In 2010, TIME magazine named Mattel Football I one of the "All-time 100 Gadgets", an honor given to "the 100 greatest and most influential gadgets from 1923 to the present".

Mattel Electronics Baseball (handheld)

Mark followed programming Mattel Football I with Mattel Baseball.

His love of the sport of baseball did not prevent him from introducing one of his two worst programming bugs into the game: a walk with runners on first and third advanced the third base runner to score! Oops!  

The other worst bug was in EA Sports NHL 95 for the Genesis.

Mattel Electronics Brain Baffler (stand-alone game)

Mark programmed Mattel Brain Baffler, a console containing a series of word games designed by Bill Bernstein from Mattel. 

Mattel released a number of stand-alone electronic games at around the time Mattel Intellivision, the video game console,  was being developed.

Mattel Electronics Horoscope Computer (stand-alone system)

One of Mark's final programming efforts for Mattel Electronics was the Horoscope Computer.

Mattel hired an astrologer to work on algorithms to make 'predictions' an electronic fortune cookie!

Mattel Electronics Children's Discovery System (cartridge-based system)

Mark programmed the Words 1 cartridge for the Mattel Children's Discovery System, a stand-alone unit with add-on cartridges that contained educational games and activities for young children.

The system was built around a COP400 4-bit microcomputer from National Semiconductor.

Parker Brothers The Lord Of The Rings (Atari 2600)

On to video games!

After working on Mattel handhelds, Mark retreated to his cabin (no electricity or running water!) in the woods of Maine.  After a stint of sitting on logs, he joined the fledgling electronics division of Parker Brothers in Beverly Massachusetts to help build a group. It was there Mark met Rex Bradford, his longtime friend, partner and collaborator.  

At Parker Brothers, Mark switched from handhelds to video games, and designed and programmed the Atari 2600 game, Lord of the Rings. This was one of the many experiences of completing a game that was never published! 

Parker Brothers Frogger II Threeedeep! (Atari 2600)

A group design effort.  Mark Lesser worked on a portion of the design and programming for the Atari 2600.

MLSA MicroLeague Baseball II (MAC and Atari ST)

The late Barry Morstain  was a professor at the University of Delaware. He came up with the design for a non-real-time baseball management game. Mark worked on programming the MAC and Atari ST versions and implemented the first versions that had plays in real-time along with a General Manager's add-on for building teams.

Parker Brothers King's Quest (Sega Master System)

This was the first joystick (no keyboard) version of the famous text based game. It was programmed by Mark Lesser and Rex Bradford.

Accolade Mean 18 (Mac Version)

This was Rex Bradford's great original golf game. Mark worked on porting to the MAC and Apple IIgs.

NuVision Bimini Run (Sega Genesis)

Microsmiths, Inc.  was a game development company formed by Rex Bradford,  later joined by Mark Lesser and Charlie Heath who became vice presidents of the company.

Bimini Run was a group effort for the Microsmith's team (Rex, Charlie and Mark). This is the game that gave Mark Sega Genesis chops. Unfortunately, NuVision was underfunded and could not support advertising and distribution of this game, so it barely made the shelves.

EA John Madden Football '93 (Sega Genesis)

Mark was surprised that EA had offered the Madden '93 game to a game development house (Blue Sky) that had no Sega Genesis experience, but it got Mark launched at EA. As a contractor to Blue Sky, Mark programmed the game and their internal artist, Doug Wike, did the graphics. 

After finishing the game, Mark signed a contract directly with EA for future work and Doug Wike came along for the ride.

EA Sports John Madden Football Championship Edition (Sega Genesis)

A follow up version of Madden '93 with all the greatest teams.

EA Sports NHL '94 (Sega Genesis)

When EA Canada took over the Madden franchise, MBL Research, Inc., Mark's fledgling company,  was given it's weaker cousin, the NHL franchise. 

NHL '94 was one of the most popular games Mark programmed, and the sales of NHL'94 exceeded those of its Madden counterpart for the first time. The game won many awards and there are devoted fans to this day who play in NHL'94 tournaments.

EA Sports NHL95 (Sega Genesis)

Mark Lesser programmed NHL 95, but may not always admit it: the bug in this game was almost as embarrassing as the bug in Mattel Baseball.  If you play a full season and your team reaches 128 points, the points wrap around to zero!  Who has time to play a full season anyway?

It's heartening to know that, bugs and all, NHL 95 is still being played in tournaments to this day.

EA Sports NHL96 (Sega Genesis)

Yet another attempt to make a good game better. Mark was the sole programmer (as he was on all the Sega Genesis versions from 94 through 97).

EA Sports NHL97 (Sega Genesis)

Mark  stuck with the NHL series as programmer on the Genesis, although the Genesis was starting to fade.  NHL 97 was the last Sega Genesis game Mark  and MBL Research worked on.

EA Sports NHL98 (PC and Sega Saturn)

Mark and his company MBL Research, Inc. designed and programmed the player strategy AI for the PC.  The team also did much of the programming for the Sega Saturn version. 


Mark was the technical director of several groups that collaborated on NCAA Football 98.

EA Sports NHL99 (PC)

Mark and MBL Research's AI once again.

EA Sports SuperCross 2000 (Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation)

SuperCross was the final game Mark Lesser and his company MBL Research developed.  After a career spanning 24 years and as many games, it was time for Mark to say farewell to game development.  It was a wonderful adventure and departure from the more prosaic path of an electrical engineer.