Nintendo have been on an amazing run on releasing hardware that provides nostalgia in new form factors with both the NES and SNES Classic Mini consoles. I’ve yet to be swayed by these (yet) but their Game & Watch throwback has been the hardest one to ignore with its combination of retro form factor and emulation of two classic games.
As the packaging says, the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros (see above) brings two Mario titles from the NES era into a tiny handheld that looks very much like the old single screen games from forty (!) years ago. The big difference of course is the colour screen which has no problem displaying the emulated games. Sound is pushed out through an internal speaker which is a little tinny but is more than loud enough. The only thing you have to be careful of is covering the speaker hole with your hand which can be easy to do when holding it. The unit feels lighter than expected but maybe that’s ancient muscle memory kicking in reminding me of how solid the old units were. In terms of battery life it seems good as I topped up the battery a few days ago (USB C connector, BYO charger) and it’s still at 80% after playing it at random times since then. That may very with usage but it does look like it holds its charge nicely when not in use too. The real only gripe I have as a whole is with the directional pad which feels a little mushy, making it easy to hit directions you’re not intending. For nostalgic adults with large hands/fingers it could be an exercise in frustration.
There’s three games bundled in the unit with Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 and a special Mario themed version of Ball – a simple juggling game that was one of the very first Game & Watch titles. It’s certainly a lot different in capability to my original Mario Bros. game (see below). The games are responsive so you don’t feel like they’re impacted by the transition to this emulated hardware. An animated clock is there too that leverages graphics from the NES games and is definitely a step up from the old clocks. A simple brightness and volume menu is built in too which works fine and doubles as a game reset. If you’re looking for something substantial that’s not what you’ll get here – this is all about letting you play classic Nintendo games in a unique form factor and it does exactly that. The screen may be a little too small for older eyes trying to track that tiny Mario sprite but if that’s not a problem for you I think you may have some fun with this.
I can’t really say this is an essential piece of nostalgia – I’d probably look at it as more as a REALLY cool novelty that’ll win over anyone who remembers Game & Watch. If they had a Donkey Kong version that supported the G&W version, arcade and more it could be a winner. I think if you are more interested in the games the Classic Minis will probably be the better choice but I do enjoy having this sit on my desk and jumping into the occasional game. 🙂