I’m sure that there are plenty of you who were like me, a kid who wasn’t part of those affluent families that could afford every device and game system while growing up. Which is fine — I see the value of not being spoiled — but that didn’t stop me from being very envious of other kids who did get certain toys and games that I could only dream about.
One of the most vivid memories I have was in fifth or sixth grade, when a kid in our study period pulled out the Super Mario Bros. Game & Watch. Now, in the mid-1980s, Super Mario Bros. was THE killer app that everyone either played or dearly wanted to play. Everyone was nuts about it, and here it was in a mobile format.
I only ever had the Zelda two-screen Game & Watch years later (which was really awesome, so I’m not complaining), but boy did I want this one after getting some time with it. Looking back at it today, the Mario Game & Watch was fiendishly clever with its limitations. Instead of going the Tiger Electronics route of trying to replicate gameplay in a sad fashion, this mobile edition did away with things it couldn’t really do — like have you stomp on enemies, grow big, or shoot fireballs.
Instead, the Mario Game & Watch focused on platforming, using a grid of lines that could be shaped into either a top-down or side-scrolling landscape. Everything from mazes to pipes to moving platforms to fireball lines could be represented with this, and the goal was simply to get Mario through it and to the princess at the end of the level.
I watched a video in preparation for this post and was still impressed how crisp and good this looks. I’d have my doubt about playing with four little directional touch buttons instead of the classic D-pad, but it still looks very functional.
In any case, that one game session I had with it thanks to a generous friend left me with a strong memory of how good this was. I don’t know why I didn’t save up to buy one or ask for it for Christmas, because I know it would’ve been something I would have played for years afterward.