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Lifewire / Emily Isaacs
Modern, sleek design
Great value for the price
35 hidden surprises for completionists
Smooth frame rate and beautiful LCD screen
Bright, vivid gameplay
No included kickstand
No additional, classic titles included
Back with a facelift, the Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is a fantastic handheld system that brings Nintendo’s time-honored classic titles to life in a whole new way, and, better yet, it won’t break the budget.
We purchased the Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. so our reviewer could put it to the test. Keep reading for the full product review.
While Nintendo may be one of the most popular gaming companies today, dominating the 2020 market with their Switch sales, Nintendo’s origins are a bit more humble—and celebrated, with the release of the newly minted Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. handheld. It was in the 1980s when Nintendo truly established itself in the competitive video gaming market, solidifying their household name with the release of the Game & Watch in 1980 and later Super Mario Brothers in 1985.
What better way to celebrate both of their birthdays than by bringing both titles together for a self-contained wombo-combo celebrating their 40th and 35th anniversaries respectively? I put the handheld to the test for three weeks.
From the moment you pick up and pop open the box, the design oozes old-school cool and nostalgia. It’s a special edition release—and it feels like it. Intentionally stylized black and gold packaging, which resembles the retro feel of the 1980s Game & Watch classic titles, is a familiar and warm return to an era.
From the moment you pick up and pop open the box, the design oozes old-school cool and nostalgia.
Combined with the slender and sleek design of the console itself, which features a plastic gold and red case, it's both beautiful and surprisingly sturdy for a device so small. We do wish that Nintendo hadn’t nixed the classic kick-stand feature, which this Game & Watch product, unlike its collectible predecessors, sorely lacks.
The screen itself is tiny, measuring barely over two inches in length, but the bright LCD screen makes it easy to see Mario or Luigi clearly while playing. While the controls are a bit small, it's not wholly unexpected for a Nintendo Game & Watch product.
Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. arrives in a small package that is lovingly designed in the Game & Watch family feel. In addition to the instructional care packet, it also includes a charging cable. Some long-time Nintendo fans may be inclined to keep the box, due to the Game & Watch’s collectible nature.
The Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is a pick-up and play device. Simply open the box and remove the console from its shipment packaging, press the power button on the right-hand side, click the Time button to set your clock for the included Watch mode, and then you’re all set to enjoy the preloaded Super Mario Bros. and Ball games. It arrives with a partial charge.
The Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is preloaded with Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (also known as The Lost Levels), and Ball, the foremost title in the Game & Watch series. Also included are 35 hidden interactions, which make the standard Watch mode a joy as well.
As with the original Super Mario Bros. release, playing on the Game & Watch is a challenge, but a welcome one at that as it captures the difficulty of the original title! With single and multiplayer modes available, there’s plenty of fun to go around. Choose from Mario or Luigi as you make your way across the world, crushing Goombas and Koopa Troopas as you go. I do appreciate that it’s possible to pause the game, so you never lose progress in a pinch.
The Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is preloaded with Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 2 (also known, The Lost Levels), and Ball, the foremost title in the Game & Watch series.
The Ball game is the only included Game & Watch title in the product. Balls bounce back and forth in the air as you juggle them to keep them from hitting the ground. Instead of the classic Ball character design, Mario’s head has been superimposed on the character. It’s a much simpler game, and it’s OK, but this game loses its allure fairly quickly due to the repetitive gameplay.
The included mono speaker is surprisingly loud and crisp, emitting 8-bit chiptunes. It’s located on the left-hand side of the device, nestled into the case’s trim. While I thought my hands might get in the way and block the sound a bit during play, that didn’t turn out to be true.
The included mono speaker is surprisingly loud and crisp, emitting 8-bit chiptunes.
At loud tonnes, the Game & Watch does have a bit of wobble, but it just adds to the tension as you race through the levels to beat the game.
Thanks to the Game & Watch’s lovely, classic retro design, sturdy frame, crisp and clear LCD screen, and great game content, retailing for only $50, the Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is a great value for the price. We just wish there were more games included, especially as other similar classic releases such as the SNES mini have seen as many as 30 titles included with its launch.
For anyone looking to bring the Game & Watch home, they should be aware that while it brings the three included classic titles to life in a fun, exciting way, the Game & Watch doesn't add anything new to the Nintendo family. It caters to long-time Nintendo lovers and collectors, more than anything else.
It would be doing it a disservice to compare the Nintendo Game & Watch to the more complex consoles. The appeal of the Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. edition is that it’s a nostalgic, collectible, and fun handheld gaming device that’s a throwback to an older era of gaming. From the black and gold box design, the red and gold retro frame, and even the titles chosen, its inception is meant to celebrate the long-running success of the Nintendo family.
Sure, we could compare Nintendo Game & Watch to Nintendo's current flagship, the Switch, PlayStation’s latest and greatest release, the PlayStation 5, or the Xbox Series X—but, frankly, that would be unfair to the Game & Watch. It simply isn’t meant to compete against these significantly more advanced consoles so much as complement Nintendo’s current properties and bring the joy of classics to a whole new generation.
A nostalgic throwback that collectors and gamers will love.
The Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is a throwback to an older, simpler era of gaming that packs a wallop of a punch, bringing the challenge of the original Super Mario games and the original Game & Watch Ball title while making them accessible to a whole new generation of players. While we do wish Nintendo had included additional titles—who doesn’t want more classic options when these are so fun—it’s no showstopper for enjoying this product.
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