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Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. review

Actually: three games, one clock

Nintendo’s Game & Watch brand is 40. Super Mario Bros. is 35. To celebrate these events, Nintendo has combined the two into an endearing bespoke handheld that’s a love letter to its past.

If you weren’t there at the time, this device might baffle you. Fortunately, certain ‘veteran’ Stuff staff members experienced G&W and Mario first time around. We’ve used the shiny delight to distract one such ageing writer from his bus pass long enough to write this review.

Packaging: Box clever

Packaging: Box clever

Yes, we’re going to start with the box. No, we haven’t lost it – and that’s because the box exemplifies the entire experience of this device. Slide off a plastic sleeve and the overly busy modern packaging design is gone, leaving you staring at something that would pass for a 1980s Game & Watch box.

Open the box’s flap and Ball versions of Mario and Luigi say: “Special thanks to you”. It’s clear at this point Nintendo is sweating the details and turning up the charm – and if you’re of a certain vintage, what comes next will plaster a massive grin all across your (very old) face.

Design: Old school cool

Design: Old school cool

It’s a Game & Watch. “Of course, stupid,” you might say – after all, that’s what it says on the box. But in 2020, this is bonkers. And it feels almost identical to a unit you might have owned four decades ago, from the rubbery action buttons to the sturdy frame.

There are concessions to the modern world – and one disappointing omission. First, the good bits: the unit charges via USB-C rather than using batteries, and there’s a bright, vibrant 2.36in colour display instead of a limited LCD. The unit also has a clock mode, featuring animated characters bounding about.

But this leads on to the first disappointment: old-school Game & Watch hardware included a wire kickstand to prop the thing up. That this model doesn’t have one, given its wonderful clock, is a pity.

Games: Leap into the known

Games: Leap into the known

But what of the games? There’s no disputing the sheer quality of Super Mario Bros, obviously. All these years later, it remains a superb platformer and is hugely replayable – even when you know it inside-out.

Despite the tiny screen bordering on squint-o-vision, it’s sharp. You’ll get on fine with it. The D-pad is responsive and the buttons, while a bit odd, are OK. The tiny dimensions are a bit cramp-inducing after a while, but you can pause a game and pick it up later. Sequel Super Mario Bros. 2 is less of a draw, though – it’s more of the same, but harder.

We’re much less impressed with the Game & Watch bit. You get Ball, with Mr. Game & Watch’s head unceremoniously switched for Mario’s. And Ball is… fine? Its endless twitch action has a brainless charm but gets old quickly. And it makes you wonder why Nintendo wasn’t more generous. The NES Mini had 30 games shoved inside; here we get just one Game & Watch title and two Super Mario Bros. efforts.

Verdict: Nintendo Game & Watch Super Mario Bros.

Verdict: Nintendo Game & Watch Super Mario Bros.

It’s hard to know who this new Game & Watch is for. There’s no doubt it’s a beautiful piece of hardware, albeit a curiosity in mashing together bits of NES and bits of Game & Watch. As a collector’s piece, it’s a nice item to own or gift to someone, despite the lack of a stand for when the thing’s propped on a shelf.

As a handheld, it’s lacking. Had Nintendo bundled more games – especially more Game & Watch titles – we’d feel more generous. As it stands, the limited line-up feels artificial, like Nintendo’s testing the water to unleash more of these gadgets when other properties like Metroid turn 35, each with their own single back-up G&W game. At 50 quid, the value proposition is thin; and as gorgeous as the hardware is, the lack of games inside means it won’t be long before it’s gathering dust.

Tech specs

Screen 2.36in colour LCD
Dimensions 112×76×12.5mm
Weight 68g
Battery lithium ion (up to 8 hours play time)
Charging USB-C (about 3.5 hours)

Stuff Says…

Score: 3/5

Beautiful and packed with tiny details, but beyond collector bling this Game & Watch comeback feels like a missed opportunity

Good Stuff

Great attention to detail

Lovely design and screen

Super Mario Bros. is a classic

USB-C charging

Bad Stuff

Including only one G&W title is miserly

No built-in stand

Merely adequate mono speaker

Profile image of Craig Grannell Craig Grannell Contributor


I’m a regular contributor to Stuff magazine and Stuff.tv, covering apps, games, Apple kit, Android, Lego, retro gaming and other interesting oddities. I also pen opinion pieces when the editor lets me, getting all serious about accessibility and predicting when sentient AI smart cookware will take over the world, in a terrifying mix of Bake Off and Terminator.

Areas of expertise

Mobile apps and games, Macs, iOS and tvOS devices, Android, retro games, crowdfunding, design, how to fight off an enraged smart saucepan with a massive stick.

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