When Nintendo released the NES Classic in 2016 and the SNES Classic in 2017, I stubbornly abstained. After all, I’d already played most of the games on both miniature systems countless times, and I still own both of the full-sized game consoles on which they were based. Simply as nostalgia acts, the systems didn’t really appeal to me.
But something about the newly announced Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. is different. The handheld gaming system, which will launch on November 13 for $50, is modeled after the Game & Watch LCD handhelds that Nintendo started making in 1980, before it entered the home console business. But instead of just running crude monochrome games, it’ll play the original Super Mario Bros., along with the much harder Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, which was known as Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan. (It will, however, include a version of the old Game & Watch: Ball LCD game, starring Mario instead of Mr. Game & Watch.) The handheld will also offer a digital clock mode, with occasional animations of Mario in action.
Nintendo is announcing this now as part of a 35th-anniversary celebration for Mario. The celebration will also include a remastered package of 3D Mario games for the Nintendo Switch and a “Deluxe” Switch version of Super Mario 3D World, which originally launched on Nintendo’s failed Wii U console.
Why is Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. scratching an itch for me that Nintendo’s other miniature gaming tchotchkes haven’t? Maybe because it feels more exceptional than just a shrunken-down home console, or because it makes Mario even more accessible than a system you have to plug into your TV. Or maybe I just like the idea of propping up a Mario-themed digital clock on my desk. In any case, Nintendo’s appeals to nostalgia finally got me, sight unseen. The only question is when the company will start taking pre-orders on the thing.