Holiday finds: Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros.

More than nostalgia

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Here’s a great idea for a Christmas stocking stuffer. 

Just a few weeks before another pandemic holiday season, I found myself opening a brand new Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros., the limited edition Nintendo Game & Watch developed to commemorate two anniversaries: Super Mario game series’ 35th and Nintendo’s 40th.

This handheld console contains three games: the 1985 Super Mario Bros., its 1986 sequel Super Mario Bros. 2 (so-called The Lost Levels), and Ball, which has Mario as the character instead of Mr. Game and Watch. To me, the last two games are just bonuses, really.

When you turn on the device for the first time, it asks you to set the clock and send you to Super Mario Bros. World 1-1 right away with Mario waiting for your command. To be honest, just hearing that recognizable background music again made my heart flutter.

The buttons needed some getting used to only because they are tiny. But the controls are the same as those found on the Nintendo Family Computer. The device uses the very familiar thumb-operated D-pad combined with A and B buttons. 

Game, Time, and Pause/Set buttons are located by the side of the screen. While playing, you can adjust screen brightness and volume by pressing the Pause/Set button.

A power button is on the side of the device, which also pauses the game when pressed quickly to turn off the screen. Just below the power button is a USB Type-C port for charging the built-in Li-ion battery. This is a huge plus because almost everyone has a USB Type-C charging cable lying around. If you happen to not have any, the device comes with one in the box.

Gameplay is the same with the addition of many Easter eggs, so even 1980s kids who had completed Super Mario Bros. would find something new to amuse them. Personally, I’m just happy to play the game again and rediscover decades-old strategies, although my thumbs are admittedly no longer as agile.

Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. doesn’t only appeal to 30- to 40-something-year-old children at heart. My cousins in their 20s, who played the game for the first time on this device, couldn’t put it down either. Even my 2-year-old nephew took pleasure in watching the screen as the adults played and in seeing the figure on the screen move as he pressed the buttons himself.

Two players can play the game with Mario and Luigi taking turns. You would just have to pass the device when your character dies.

The Game & Watch doesn’t ask much of you to enjoy it—not an expensive audio-video setup or even an internet connection. The game looks amazing on the device’s 35mm widescreen full-color LCD, which is a welcome break from chasing bigger television screens when playing high-tech video game consoles. Who cares if Mario is no bigger than a fingernail? He still does the job well. 

Weighing less than today’s smartphones at only 68 grams, the device is easy to bring to any corner of the house, in the car, or to the park. Your pocket or bag won’t feel the difference. You can play while waiting for your deliveries, takeout, or turn at the vaccination site. Just don’t forget to sanitize the device afterwards if you’re out and about.

With all these great features, the Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is a joy to play for mainly three reasons. One, nostalgia. That needs no explanation. Two, Super Mario Bros. ages well. It is still quite entertaining and challenging to play. And three, the simplicity and convenience of playing an unassuming side-scroller is very comforting. 

The Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. brings warmth, amusement, and familiarity. Amid the evil, chaos, and uncertainty in our world today, don’t we all deserve that?

Words and photos Aritha Zel Zalamea

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