To mark thirty-five years of their most beloved and iconic character Super Mario, Nintendo have released a commemorative Game & Watch system focused on the well-loved plumber as part of their celebratory efforts.

After receiving the Game & Watch, I couldn’t ignore the attention to detail they gave it on the packaging alone. The box comes with a plastic sleeve that protects the gold-coloured cardboard box, but rather than opt for a plain old plastic protector, Nintendo decorated the box with sprites and characters from traditional Mario games. From Goomba to King Bowser, Warp Pipes and ? Blocks, to Princess Peach and Mario himself, the sleeve itself sets the tone of this product before you even get your hands on it. Upon opening the box itself, there is a special thank you message within the folds.

Once I finally got inside after salivating at the epically designed packaging, I was able to check out its contents. The console is held within a cardboard inlay, and comes with a USB-C cable to charge the system, and detailed instructions. The console itself is protected by a plastic cover. For something with an RRP of £44.99, I am happy that Nintendo provides good protection for such a tiny product! But enough about the packaging, what about the system itself? Find out in my review by clicking ‘Read More’.

Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch
Developed by Nintendo
Published by Nintendo
Released: 13th November 2020

At a glance, The Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch system looks like an authentic Game & Watch handheld that could be mistaken to have been released in the early 1980s. It has all the usual buttons you would expect to see, such as a D-pad, A & B buttons and buttons marked Game, Time and Pause/Set. It includes a traditional colour scheme, with a burgundy-red plastic and a golden brushed metal cover plate, and contains a mono speaker on the left side. It certainly looks and feels like something that could have been created forty years ago, but upon closer inspection, you can see that the addition of the USB port and a full-colour screen means this is a more modern product than your typical Game & Watch system from long ago.

The Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch system features four applications to choose from. The first is Time, which has been themed on the original Super Mario Bros. titles. As each minute passes, Mario and friends will break the blocks to show the new time. Around the edge of the screen, you will find a flashing pixel that beeps displaying how many seconds have passed. This application contains a huge range of cameos from these iconic games, witnessed if you are looking at the clock at specific times of the day, which proved to be a fun distraction propped up against my monitor at my desk while I worked away. I couldn’t resist turning the system back on to find out what characters would greet me next!

At around 2pm I saw that a Bill Blaster had replaced the on-screen Warp Pipe and at around 1am before I went to bed, I noticed a Dry Bones cameo, one of my favourite villains from the series! After experimenting and pressing different buttons, I found that I could make the clock flash yellow if I held down the A & B buttons together at the same time. The device is simply packed full of secrets, including a fairly big one, in the form of The Mario Drawing Song, if you hold down the A button for five seconds…

The Mario Drawing Song was first featured in Flipnote Studio, and has been referenced in Super Mario 3D Land, and the 3DS and Wii U eShop video series, The Cat Mario Show, which aimed to educate and entertain younger players. The song is performed in English, but has translations for other languages. I personally found the video pretty cheesy, but it’s nice to see that the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch is trying to cater to all kinds of fans.

For me personally, I see the Time application as a theatre stage, a performance featuring a huge majority of characters from across the series, acknowledging and recognising the part they played in this thirty-five year story.

Super Mario Bros. is exactly what you have seen and experienced before, and for the vast majority of Nintendo fans it’s likely you’re not going to need a full run-through of how this works. Simply guide Mario through each level from left to right, collecting power-ups and stomping on enemies while making your way to the end goal. I have exhausted myself playing Super Mario Bros. for many years, most recently on Nintendo Online via the Nintendo Switch. While it continues to be an enjoyable experience, and no Mario celebration would be complete without it, I feel like I have had my fix of the original game long ago.

The second title featured is the Japanese version of Super Mario Bros 2., or as it is known in the west, The Lost Levels. I am happy that Nintendo chose to include this version of the game instead of the western version of Super Mario Bros 2., as I personally enjoy the challenge and the inevitable frustration this particular game brings. It’s also a title I haven’t played as much as the original, so it was an enjoyable experience to return to.

The third and final game in this anniversary celebration is Ball, and the very first game ever released in the Game & Watch series, which is conveniently also celebrating an anniversary this year, its fortieth to be exact! For those who haven’t played this one before, the objective of the game is to accumulate as many points as possible by guiding a Game & Watch version of Mario left and right to catch jugglers balls, and ensure that his hands are underneath them before they can drop to the ground. The game will speed up the longer you play, and thus becomes more challenging. Ball has two game types, Game A will let Mario juggle two balls, and the player will receive one point for every successful catch, while Game B forces you to juggle three balls, but with a generous ten points per catch.

Finally, pressing the Pause/Set button will let you set the desired volume and brightness of the system, and displays the current time and battery life. If you press the Pause/Set button while playing one of the built-in games, you will be able to reset the game. Alternatively if you press it while using the time application, you can set the clock.

One useful feature is the ability to switch out to a different game, and return to find that your progress has been paused, allowing you to jump right back in where you left off. This was especially useful for me, who simply gets distracted and busy with all kinds of tasks. It would be a great thing to play on the morning commute. Unfortunately, the device doesn’t include a 3.5mm headphone jack, so you may need to weigh up whether it’s worth submitting your fellow passengers to the beeping wrath of Mario, or play in silence with the volume lowered. The system will also idle after three minutes to preserve battery life, and even displays a fun image of Mario sleeping for a few seconds before the console switches itself off, just another of those secrets packed within this tiny device.

The only fault I had with this device was a minor issue with the D-Pad when trying to change the brightness. I pressed left and found that the D-Pad actually moved upwards instead on occasion. While this didn’t impact my enjoyment, or when playing the games, I hope that it doesn’t worsen as time goes on.

The Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch is a celebration of days gone by, a tribute to two classics featuring the icon that quite rightly made Nintendo a serious player in the video game space. I love how the system referenced as many characters as it possibly could, not just in the application and games built-in, but across the packaging itself. The original Super Mario Bros. game is an important one to mark, but I greatly appreciated the inclusion of The Lost Levels over Super Mario Bros 2 so much more.

This release is also a joint celebration with Game & Watch, which marks its fortieth anniversary this year, and something I feel that has been overlooked in its advertising. Ball was being enjoyed outside of the arcades before Mario reached us, and I appreciate and respect its inclusion as part of this release. The handheld certainly looks and feels the part, but Nintendo have managed to bring everything up to date by including a colour screen and a built-in rechargeable battery to ensure the gaming doesn’t end sooner than it needs to!

Ultimately, the question here is whether this is something you should purchase or not, and to be perfectly honest, the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch failed to entice me on a personal level. On the contrary, the system is not at fault here, but the system could never appeal to me personally in ways it would likely appeal to my older brother, who grew up in that era.

Unfortunately, classic Mario simply doesn’t interest me anymore after playing it continuously over the years, and while I respect its place in video game history, this isn’t a product I would have purchased for myself, but its a product I definitely would purchase for those around me who grew up in that era, and want to be transported back to simpler times and enjoy a classic experience once more. I see the Game & Watch Super Mario Bros. edition being a popular gift choice this holiday season!

Final Rating – 4 out of 5

Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch is available now for a limited amount of time.

Darren is a huge Nintendo fan from the days of the Gameboy Color and his copy of Pokémon Blue. Over time, he developed a passion for many Nintendo franchises, including Metroid. His favourite system is the Wii.