The Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch system is really neat. As someone who grew up mostly playing the Tiger electronic handhelds this new device pays a great homage to the Game & Watch titles from decades ago. So why am I talking about it now than way back in November when this first came out? Well a few things, one, I wasn’t able to get my hands on it until very recently and two because this is serving as a last second review for those gamers (like I was) who are on the fence on buying one. Because once March 31st hits these little devices will be discontinued by Nintendo and the second hand market is already upselling them hard.
First let’s get to why I think this little thing is so neat. This particular version of the Game & Watch does exactly what the previous models did with a few bells and whistles. The screen is color, it officially comes with 3 games, Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, and Ball. Ball, for those who didn’t know, was the title of the first ever Game & Watch Nintendo ever produced way back in 1980. The first thing I noticed when I turned on my Game & Watch is that the screen is gorgeous. It is tiny but it looks fantastic and the brightness is easy to adjust and it sounds great as well. However you may want to make sure you’re holding it a certain way because your finger can easily cover the speaker. Aside from that the 8-bit tunes of Super Mario Bros. sound exactly how they’re supposed to sound. The whole build feels great and you can tell Nintendo put some love and care into it. It doesn’t feel cheap and I don’t feel like I’m going to break it while I’m playing a game. The battery so far has been great, I charged it 100% before I started playing it and it’s only gone down 1 cell since I opened it 6 days ago. Of course I’ve only been playing in short bursts but it looks like I wouldn’t have to worry too much on constantly charging it. I like the color scheme too, I’m willing to bet that when designing this, Nintendo wanted to make the colors reminiscent of the original Famicom console. Even the box it comes in has some Easter eggs. Once you take the Super Mario sleeve off, it reveals a screenshot and renames the unit to Ball. On the side where you open the box it has the initials SM-35 as well as a little LCD style Mario and Luigi saying, “Special thanks to you.” I just recently started keeping the boxes of my systems and this is one I know I’m not going to throw away anytime soon.
Now because of it’s size that’s where some of my issues with this come up. I get that the Game & Watch line was created for those on the go to kill some time, meaning the design has to easily fit in a jacket pocket. This version is no exception but the caveat here is that the early models were simple LCD screens whereas this one has an original NES title packed in. The screen looks great but it can be hard to see Mario scrolling along the screen, especially when he’s small with no power ups. I’m also not the biggest fan of the A and B buttons. The D-Pad feels like it would on a regular NES controller but the rubber style buttons for A and B don’t feel as responsive sometimes. There have been a few moments when I was running and couldn’t make a jump because the button press didn’t register. I must’ve played for a good 30 minutes or so when I noticed my thumbs would hurt a little bit after I was done playing. One more little negative is that the instruction pamphlet doesn’t really tell you how to exactly set the time when you first turn it on. Like all former Game & Watch games this one has a clock but it took a little while to figure out how to set it. Thankfully you can adjust the sound so you don’t have to hear the little blip you hear when a second passes. You also don’t have to constantly change the volume, which ever sound setting you’ve picked for either game or the clock stays at that setting.
This system is definitely for fans of Mario and it does what its meant to do, kill some time. When you need to stop playing the system saves the game and you can pick it back up right where you left off, even if you turn the power off. Your progress and your high scores will be saved and you don’t have start all over again. Now as I said in the beginning of this article, the second hand market is already upselling these things. Ebay has prices all over the place and when I went to a local trade show one seller was selling it used for $40 ($10 off MSRP and it was CIB) and another guy was selling one sealed for $100. Of course Nintendo isn’t helping either by making these things a limited release until March 31st. I was lucky enough to find mine at a Target but it was locked away with the Nintendo Switch consoles so if you want to try and find it at a store, look where the consoles are. Personally I’m really glad I got it because I love the nod to history and how easy it is to play. It truly is a fun novelty and even though the $50 price tag isn’t my favorite, especially since it only comes with 3 games that are very easily accessible elsewhere. Since Zelda and Metroid also have 35th anniversaries coming up I’m willing to bet that we’ll be seeing more of these Game & Watch releases, hopefully with a little more added in.