Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. Review: A wonderful retro recreation

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It’s that time again, for Nintendo to do something weird and experimental. With a new console generation here, of course, Nintendo would release a throwback minimalist handheld console.

With systems like the SNES and NES Classic and now the Game & Watch it’s fair to say Nintendo has successfully weaponised nostalgia and it’s a great idea to appeal to long-time fans and capitalise on their rich history.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary of of the NES classic Super Mario Bros the iconic game has been brought to this uniquely designed system to resemble the original Nintendo handheld the Game & Watch.

Between the retro design and colour scheme, the Game & Watch looks gorgeous

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The Game & Watch handhelds where one of the first systems to put Nintendo on the map and are a cornerstone of their development as a gaming giant. The original systems were designed by Gunpei Yokoi who also designed the iconic Game Boy.

They were a series of simple handheld electronic devices produced from 1980 to 1991 that featured simplified games of Donkey Kong, Mario Bros and even The Legend of Zelda. These systems featured a single game displayed on a basic LCD screen.

Apparently, the Game & Watch came about when Yokoi was travelling on the Shinkansen and saw a businessman playing with an LCD calculator to pass the time. Yokoi then thought of an idea for a watch that doubled as a miniature game machine for killing time.

Super Mario Bros was released for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985 and changed home gaming as we know it.

This recreated handheld is tiny and matches the classic Game and Watch size and look almost perfectly.

Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros features a small but functional 2.36-inch, LCD colour screen that is bright and has great viewing angles which are more than capable of displaying the 8-bit NES classic.

Rocking the Japanese NES or Famicom colours of red and gold the device looks great and classic at the same time.

Being only 67mm x 112 x 12.5mm much like the first wave of single-screen systems from the 80s. It’s also a featherweight at 68g making it incredibly lightweight and very easy to take anywhere.

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A standard D-pad similar to the classic NES controller or Gameboy is included which feels solid and accurate giving Mario his trademark tight controls. The squishy rubber A and B buttons also look like the classic system while still working well. In addition, there is three rubber buttons Game, Time and Pause/Set on the front.

Sound is surprisingly loud and clear despite there being a single speaker on the left-hand side. It feels strange for there not to be the inclusion of a 3.5mm headphone jack especially when playing out in public or on the tube, but this I can understand its exclusion for authenticity and to keep its compact size.

The build quality is good despite being mostly plastic with a metal front and it really feels just like the old school Game & Watch systems.

Included in the box is the system, a USB Cable and instructions but even the box is designed in the style of the original Game & Watch systems form the 80s making it cool to displayed especially next to the originals.

The compact handheld charges via USB-C, using a rechargeable Lithium-ion battery, which takes around 3 hours to charge and is estimated to last 8 hours.

The Game and Watch features the original Super Mario Bros as well as the original Mario sequel referred to as “The lost levels” in the west, and Mario Ball which is a Mario themed version of the first-ever Game & Watch.

The addition of a few more NES Mario titles wouldn't have gone amiss
(Image: James Ide)

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As the name suggests the system is also a digital clock that plays animations of 8-bit Mario platforming around blocks that shows the time. The clock also features 35 special hidden animations for you to find that change what the clock screen and how Mario interacts with it.

I’m astounded that Nintendo has convinced me to buy Mario Bros AGAIN. I have played re-releases of Super Mario Bros countless times on many different systems over 35 years and it’s still fun to play especially with the addition of the more challenging “Lost Levels”.

There are lots of ways to play this game portably in 2020 from the Switch, the Virtual Console on the 3DS and even the Gameboy Colour had this title available but there is an undeniable charm of the Game & Watch aesthetic and it’s nod to gaming infancy.

While it’s great to have Mario in this retro yet ultra-portable form factor, nevertheless, I would have really appreciated the addition of something like arcade 1983 Mario bros game especially as it was originally a Game & Watch title or Game Boy classic Super Mario Land.

Better yet the inclusion of Mario 2 and the best NES game ever Super Mario 3 would have taken this device to the next level.

This system really feels like a throwback to the 80s for good and ill as many of the functions of this phone are redundant by modern smartphones making much more of a cool novelty item.

It’s a characteristically offbeat move from Nintendo and I would love to see more of these Game & Watch systems recreating other classics like the legend of Zelda, Metroid.

For £49.99 this is a decent price for such a good looking collectable but the systems is a limited release make it a must-have for Nintendo fans and collectors with some places already having sold out and others starting to appear on eBay for inflated prices.

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Verdict

Game & Watch is an important part of Nintendo’s past and this loving recreation of one of their first-ever gaming consoles is great to look at, easy to carry and fun to play.

The Game & Watch is a neat little device that’s fun, if a little limited. The addition of a few more titles would have made it even better.

Honestly, it’s all about the retro form factor, which is beautiful and works really well, it’s also really nice to carry around a bit of gaming history in your pocket but it's definitely more for collectors, Nintendo and retro gaming fans.

It’s great to see Nintendo re-releasing older games and making rarer novelty systems especially the Game & Watch. A great stocking filler paying homage to the original handheld king.

The Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros is out 13 November and retails for £49.99

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