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I Played Super Mario Bros. on a Coffee Table Controller

LAS VEGAS – You can control the original Super Mario Bros. with anything from an NES controller, to a Game Boy Color, to a calculator. In all of the iterations I’ve ever played of the classic game, though, today marked the first time I’ve ever controlled it with a coffee table. The Retro-Bit Mega Table is perhaps the most bizarre peripheral ever conceived: a full-size coffee table that both looks and functions exactly like a classic Nintendo controller.

What Is It?

I went hands-on with the Retro-Bit Mega Table at CES. It’s a wooden coffee table with a directional pad and six buttons. It can connect to just about any system via USB, making it suitable for everything from retro emulation systems to high-tech gaming rigs running Steam. The legs are detachable; beyond that, it’s exactly what it sounds like. If you ever wanted an NES controller, but roughly 100 times the size, here it is.

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Pricing and Availability

The Mega Table will probably cost $500, although how it will get there is still up in the air. Retro-Bit expressed interest in either finding outside investors or running a Kickstarter campaign; at present, it doesn’t have a clear path to getting on the market. As such, there’s no hard release date. Given the price tag, it may not be a household necessity, but it could have massive appeal for bars and restaurants.

How Does It Work?

At the moment, it’s a bit dicey. While playing Super Mario Bros., the hapless plumber protagonist often jumped when I didn’t command him to, or (in one particularly amusing incident) even ran and jumped backward for a good chunk of the level. On the other hand, there was absolutely no lag time between my input and Mario’s actions. With a little fine-tuning, the Retro-Bit Mega Table could be just as faithful as a traditional controller.

Why Should I Care?

Even if you’re not willing to drop $500 on a controller for retro games (and unless you have a really sweet game room, you probably shouldn’t), the Retro-Bit Mega Table could give you a whole new way to interact with your favorite games at a bar, office or university club. It’s just as cool as it looks, and it hits the sweet spot between kitschy and elegant, as far as aesthetics go. Let’s hope this one makes it to wide release.