My first video game console was the Nintendo Entertainment System. My parents got it for me for Christmas when I was in 1st grade! I have a lot of great memories playing my NES (even though I missed out on a lot of titles like the original Legend of Zelda). I don’t have much connection to consoles that came before that, such as Atari, and Nintendo’s own Game & Watch series. So when this beautiful and nostalgia-packed Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. was announced, I wanted to pick it up to experience that part of Nintendo history! I also really enjoy the original Super Mario Bros, and though you can play it in literally hundreds of ways, this looked like such a neat device that I thought I’d give it a go.
I managed to get a Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. on release day online from Best Buy. They still had stock when I woke up at a normal human hour, so I was quite surprised and delighted! I’ve been messing around with this fun snapshot of history for a few days now. So let’s take a closer look at the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. edition for Mario’s 35th anniversary!
The first thing that struck me when I opened my package was how small this thing is! I expected it to be substantially larger, even though I had looked at a ton of photos. I think I may just have a terrible sense of scale!
A quick note that the plastic sleeve that houses the box is really fun and looks like a screen from the game. I love that you can see Bowser in the background here!
The actual unit is gorgeous and the design is very striking. The screen display is surprisingly bright and colorful!
Back to the size, it’s adorably small and can easily fit in your pocket. My young daughters both had a lot of fun messing around with it, since it fits their hands perfectly! But for adults, the small size comes with the caveat that you’re left wanting more screen and space for your hands. I’ve been spoiled playing the original Super Mario Bros. on my (by comparison) gigantic Switch screen! Scaling Mario back to this size ups the charm, but unfortunately lowers the comfort.
The name of the game is…
In addition to including a much hyped clock (that’s a joke), the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. includes three games. The original Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 2 (Japan, not USA), and “Ball”, a Game & Watch original.
The first Super Mario Bros. holds up as well as ever. I’ve been trying to speed run the game since I just completed it fully when Mario All-Stars was recently released on Nintendo Switch Online. Again, the size of the unit and screen is a bit of a detriment. The Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. is simply not as comfortable to hold for long periods of time as the Switch, a 3DS, or an NES controller. But it is quite charming playing this way!
I’ve honestly never been a huge fan of the Japanese Super Mario Bros. 2 (known as “The Lost Levels” here in the US). I feel it doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from the first game. There are new items and mechanics, but they seem more designed to frustrate rather than test your platforming skills. Still, it’s a fun inclusion, and in keeping with the whole idea of the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., an interesting piece of Nintendo history. I do wish Super Mario Bros. 2 USA had been included! And while we’re at it, why not Mario 3? Or the excellent Mario Land series from Game Boy! That would’ve been glorious, but Nintendo has never been one to go “above and beyond” with anniversaries or collections.
Last, “Ball” is surprisingly addictive and quite a bit of fun! It’s neat that you can play as Mario or Luigi (see below), and nice to see an original Game & Watch game included. Game “A” is a bit easier and “B” is more difficult, with three balls to juggle and more landing points to manage. I preferred Game B, and keep coming back to it for a few minutes of fun!
In honor of Mario’s 35th anniversary, there are 35 hidden features in the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. You can read all of them here. Most of them are just Easter eggs hidden in the clock at different times of the day, but they’re still neat!
My favorite of the hidden features is “Infinite Mario” mode. If you hold down the “A” button when you see the title screen of either Super Mario Bros. game, you’ll change to a mode where there are no game overs! A great feature if you find either Mario Bros. game too tough, or if you have kids who want to keep playing and making progress. You can do the same “A” trick to play as Luigi during the ball game too!
Is it worth the $50?
If you’re a Nintendo collector, then let’s be honest-you already own this (or are frantically hitting “refresh” on retail landing pages). If you have a lot of nostalgia or interest in the Game & Watch era or general Nintendo history, I’d certainly recommend it. But if you don’t fit into any of these categories, the price tag is a bit steep for what you’re getting. It’s a neat little device with three worthwhile games, but beyond the nostalgia and novelty of a physical Game & Watch, there’s not much else.
And if you’re just interested in playing the original Super Mario Bros., there are so many (much cheaper) ways to do so! The version found in Mario All-Stars (again, now on the NSO SNES catalogue) is great with its remastered graphics. But I myself still prefer the excellent Super Mario Bros. Deluxe on the Game Boy Color. It included The Lost Levels, as well as quality of life upgrades like backwards scrolling and fun challenge mode where you collected red coins and Yoshi eggs!
Maybe we’ll see a Zelda themed Game & Watch for its upcoming 35th anniversary? That includes the original Zelda, Zelda II, and…A Link to the Past? (UPDATE: E3 2021 just wrapped and there IS a beautiful Zelda Game & Watch that includes Link’s Awakening! I’ve already pre-ordered it and will review it after it releases!)
Did you pick up the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros.? If so, what do you think of it? Are you still a fan of the original Super Mario Bros. game? Which “Super Mario Bros. 2” version is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below!