After the highly successful NES and SNES Classics, Nintendo tried its luck again with another revival of an old-school gaming system. The Game & Watch, which prefigured Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld, has been given new life and, unsurprisingly, became quite a hot item, despite its price, because of its limited run. Also unsurprisingly, it has piqued the interest of hardware hackers and modders who, after a lot of work, have been able to run a custom Super Mario Bros. game and, more impressive, the original DOOM.
Unlike the NES Classic, the constrained space of the Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros. meant that there was no room for easily hackable software or even hacking-friendly ports. It required good old-fashioned hardware tinkering that required some specialized tools you won’t easily find in electronics stores. Fortunately, the interest in Nintendo’s latest toy was quite high so modders and hackers were pretty motivated in doing the work.
That motivation definitely came in handy because of the amount of work needed to figure out how the device worked. In the end, hacker stacksmashing on YouTube got a hacked version of Super Mario Bros. running but that was only the tip of the iceberg.
Like any computer, the litmus test is whether it could run the original Doom game. Again given the hardware constraints, it was definitely no walk in the park. Even when he was able to get Doom running, it had no sound, lacked a good number of textures and effects, and wasn’t exactly a smooth experience. Nonetheless, it was an impressive feat that they were able to get it running at all.
Tweaks and improvements could improve performance but it probably still won’t be able to run the full game or even close to it. There are some modders that are trying to build a homebrew community around the tiny Game & Watch but it won’t be as easy as connecting a USB cable to a computer and will require some under the hood tinkering and specialized tools.