Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a masterpiece in the 2D platforming space that showcases Nintendo’s creativity and innovation in the genre. It is an experience full of wonder, as the name suggests, and is a celebration of the Mario namesake, appealing to both fans and newcomers alike. This is a must play for anyone looking for a challenging yet charming action platforming experience because Wonder is the best Mario game in years.
Developer – Nintendo
Publisher – Nintendo
Platforms – Nintendo Switch (reviewed)
Review copy given by publisher
The latest and greatest side-scrolling 2D platformer game by Nintendo since 2012’s New Super Mario Bros. U is none other than Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Mario games never fail to exude that wave of nostalgia, but it’s also important for new ones to innovate and bring something refreshing to the table. This is exactly what Wonder does, as it combines the best elements of classic and modern titles in the franchise, whilst also featuring a vibrant art style and diverse cast of characters.
Like most other Mario titles, Wonder’s narrative is a bit barebones and mostly an afterthought. The story follows Mario, Luigi, and their friends as they travel to the Flower Kingdom, a new land that houses the mysterious Wonder Flower, which can grant any wish. Of course, big bad Bowser comes barging in and steals the flower to use for his own kingdom’s castle. This disruption causes chaos to engulf the map and our heroes must explore 8 different worlds to collect Wonder Stars and defeat Bowser to restore Flower Kingdom.
You can choose between 8 distinct characters, including Mario himself, among Luigi, Toad, Princess Daisy, and Princess Peach. A special purple rabbit called Nabbit can also be chosen but the interesting mechanic here is that it’s immune to all damage at the expense of not being able to perform any transformations. The same goes for all Yoshis and their respective color schemes too. Think of it as an easy mode for those who aren’t super familiar with platformers.
The gameplay is akin to previous 2D Mario games, where you traverse your way through creatively designed levels that mix up traditional platforming, puzzle-solving, and exhilarating boss battles. Hidden collectibles such as large purple flower coins can be used to unlock extra content such as bonus levels, mini-games, and artwork. Exploration is engrained naturally as the level design is top-notch, which made me want to explore every nook and cranny just from curiosity. Different power-ups can also lead to secret areas so there’s always a reason to revisit levels.
The main gimmick of the game are the Wonder Flowers that can transform entire levels or Mario himself in various ways. This includes changing the gravity, size, speed, or appearance of other characters and the environment. This refreshing mechanic adds a ton of fun and surprise to the gameplay, as it can alter levels in exciting and unpredictable ways. Every level also tasks you to find Wonder Seeds needed to push on further into the story and unlock new areas. Classic power-ups make a return, including fire-breathing Mario, but the one that everyone is excited for is elephant Mario, who is genuinely as exciting to play as he is to see.
Badges are another added layer of fun, which are equipable passive or active abilities that can be earned through progressing the game. You start off with an oversized hat badge that allows you to glide but quickly get your hands on a wall climb one in no time. There are a ton of them to collect and all of them change up the gameplay in significant ways, some of which actually save you from falling to your death or allow you to even swim! Badges also come with their very own challenge stages that test your mastery of a particular one.
It’s no news that the hardware of the Nintendo Switch is getting fairly outdated compared to its competitors, but Super Mario Bros. Wonder performs quite flawlessly on it. Coming in at a compact 3.5GB in size, the game takes a mere 3 seconds to load from a fresh launch and 5 seconds to load into a particular level. The frame rates also run at a near steady 60 fps in both docked and handheld mode with image resolutions hitting 1080p on docked and 720p on handheld.
Wonder looks fantastic, with crisp animations, vibrant colors, and diverse environments. The art style alone exudes a ton of personality and charm, with many humorous details and references to past Mario games. The characters are also expressive and animated, and the Flower Kingdom is full of quirky and friendly inhabitants. The soundtrack and audio design are equally impressive, especially when monsters break out in song and a full on musical performance begins. You’ll still hear the standard classics, although with a slight twist, such as when you die or jump off an edge, but there are a ton of new and delightful songs too.
Additionally, Wonder offers cooperative play of up to 4 players locally in addition to some online features as well. This means that family night won’t ever be boring again as having 4 elephant Mario’s on screen is sure to be a blast. Shadowy ghost versions of other remote players, who can help revive you if you die or lend you an item in a time of need, also show up in your world. How do you do this, you might ask? You can drop a Standee version of yourself that others can use to revive you, and vice versa. Very similar to how Soulsborne games do it, this online feature never feels intrusive and blends in quite seamlessly with the rest of the experience.
That being said, the game does feel a bit short, taking about 10 hours or so to complete. Several levels also feel too easy or too similar to one another, so having more variety would have definitely been better. Nonetheless, there is a ton of replayability here, and the hundreds of collectibles, secrets, badges, and power-ups to discover are bound to keep those completionists busy for quite some time. However, Wonder does embody the philosophy that it is a game that can truly be played and enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a masterpiece in the 2D platforming space that showcases Nintendo’s creativity and innovation in the genre. It is an experience full of wonder, as the name suggests, and is a celebration of the Mario namesake, appealing to both fans and newcomers alike. This is a must-play for anyone looking for a challenging yet charming action platforming experience because Wonder is the best Mario game in years.