Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. Review — Only 80s Kids Remember
Nintendo's throwback handheld is pretty barebones, but still manages to be a welcome treat for retro collectors and Mario fans.
It goes without saying that Nintendo has always done its own thing. Perhaps nothing is more evident of this in recent memory than the legendary video game makers opting to release a novelty collectible with the new Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. handheld in the same week as the launch of Sony and Microsoft’s next-gen consoles. Being that it is a throwback to a very niche part of video game history, it is definitely not made for everyone and will only really appeal to collectors and fans of old school retro gaming, but Nintendo has lovingly recreated a great throwback novelty for one of their oft-forgotten franchises in a new era while still keeping it true to its legacy.
The Game & Watch franchise dates as far back to 1980 and was one of the earliest lines of handheld game consoles. Each 4-bit handheld showcased a different title and ranged from basic mini-games to titles such as Donkey Kong, Mickey & Donald, Popeye, and of course, Super Mario Bros. This obviously opened the floodgates for Nintendo’s future forays into handhelds that they still dominate to this day. Having worked in the world of retro games retail in the past, I can easily confirm that these remain popular among collectors to this day. And that’s who this new, shiny version is undoubtedly catered to.
Released as part of Nintendo’s celebration for the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., this new version of Game & Watch comes loaded with the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2, also known as The Lost Levels in the United States. Both games don’t lose anything from being on a roughly two-by-two inch screen and the vibrant LCD manages to offer surprisingly crisp visuals for such a small package. If you’ve played either of these games in the past, then you’ll be right at home with these smaller editions. Everything is exactly as you remember and each game is here in its entirety. It’s a major testament to how far the technology of Game & Watch has come given how these handhelds used to look and function.
In addition to the two throwback Mario titles that found their homes on the original NES, it also comes with Ball which was originally the first Game & Watch game ever released. It’s a very simple mini-game where you use the two face buttons to control your arms to juggle two to three balls for as long as possible while racking up a high score with a Mario who has freakishly elongated arms. Aside from also including a clock (hence the Watch part of its name) with some pretty adorable Mario-related animations, that’s really all that’s packed into this tiny bundle. As such, don’t expect it to provide hours upon hours of playtime because the reality is that that’s not its intended function.
The contents within the packaging are also fairly minimal and barebones beyond the few games baked into it. Aside from the handheld itself, all that’s really included here is a USB cable for charging and a pretty basic instruction manual. Given that this is a collectible that will more than likely be on display, it would’ve been nice if there was a stand of some kind to make showing it off that much easier.
The handheld itself is powered by a Lithium-ion battery and has approximately eight hours of playtime between charges. This seems like more than enough given that this isn’t something you’ll be playing for a long span of time.
If this proves to be a hit, and I don’t see why it wouldn’t be, it would be really great to see even more iterations of Game & Watch get this same treatment down the line. It is something that would help bolster this already influential franchise and also allow it to potentially find a whole new generation of players and collectors.
Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is definitely made for collectors, and if you’re not one, then you won’t find much fun here for very long. In no way does it intend to be something that will become your new go-to handheld and it’s by no means the best place to play these games, but it also isn’t trying to be any of those things or serve as a replacement for your Switch. What it proves to be is a very cool novelty to play around with for a bit, but its real home will be on your shelf or mantle next to your other video game merch and collectibles. It really does looks great and Nintendo did a fantastic job retaining the retro style while bringing it into 2020 with some flair. It will fit into any retro fan’s library as part of Mario’s storied history and will assuredly prove to be a popular stocking stuffer this holiday season for that Nintendo lover in your life.