If there’s a gaming franchise that would be considered the most recognisable in the world, it would be Super Mario. The iconic Nintendo character has been at the forefront of Nintendo’s repertoire for the last forty years, from side-scrolling adventure games to manic kart racing, and out-of-this-world 3D adventures. It’s been 11 years since the previous Super Mario Bros. game, New Super Mario Bros. U, was released on the WiiU, a lengthy time before iterations. When Super Mario Bros. Wonder was announced a few months ago, I was HYPED. The gaming space is rapidly evolving, which had me asking the question, “Can Super Mario Bros. Wonder deliver refreshing new gameplay instead of relying on nostalgia?” Short answer – yes, it can.
Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, and an entourage of Toads and Yoshis have left the Mushroom Kingdom after being invited to the Flower Kingdom by its ruler, Prince Florian. The Prince had plans to showcase the Wonder Flower, one of the greatest treasures of the Flower Kingdom, which can warp reality. In an unsurprising series of events, Bowser interrupts the demonstration and steals the Wonder Flower, which allows him to merge with Prince Florian’s castle, turning him into a large fortress. Bowser, of course, takes this opportunity to imprison the residents of the Flower Kingdom. Prince Florian accompanies Mario and Friends to defeat Bowser and restore the Flower Kingdom to the beautiful land it once was.
The core mechanics of what we expect from a 2D Super Mario Bros. game are all still present in Wonder. Each level has collectibles to be found, as well as secret areas accessible by pipes and vines. Players can choose from a large variety of characters: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, and Toads. These characters all play the same way and do not have any individual perks attached to them like other Mario games. Yoshis and Nabbit are also playable characters suited to younger gamers or inexperienced gamers and are not prone to damage but can still die from falling in a pit. The addition of the latter characters makes for an even more family-friendly experience.
The Flower Kingdom is split into seven areas, each with its defining aesthetic. Of the 126 levels, there are the standard start-to-finish levels as well as levels that offer a challenge. To gain access to more areas in the Flower Kingdom, you must acquire Wonder Seeds which are collected in each level. The Search Party levels are puzzle-orientated, where you have to find hidden tokens, which I found to be quite challenging at times. The KO Arena levels have waves of enemies that must be defeated to gain a Wonder Seed. Badge Challenges are also scattered throughout the overworld map, which contains levels designed to test your abilities using specific badges. These challenges wonderfully showcased how to use the badges to their full potential.
One mechanic surprisingly omitted from the game is the timer during each level, and I did not miss it for a second. In a game with so many little secrets and wonderful quirks, it would be a disservice to have a clock ticking down, forcing players to rush through each level. It was a smart move from the developers to remove it. However, I missed the music playing at 2x speed once the time was almost depleted.
Now, to talk about the elephant in the room (literally). The Elephant power-up is one of the three new power-ups in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and it grants players the ability to attack enemies with their character’s trunk, ingest water and water some flowers for some coin, and even break blocks adjacent to the character. When I first saw Elephant Mario back in June, I loved the look but thought the gameplay and movement would feel heavy, but this is fortunately not the case.
Another new power-up is the Drill power-up, which gives the character a drill helmet that can drill into breakable objects, kill enemies that attack from above, and burrow underground to navigate obstacles. I didn’t enjoy this power-up as much as the Elephant power-up, but it was still fun and offered even more gameplay variation to Super Mario Bros.
Last but not least is the Bubble power-up. This power-up allows the character to shoot bubbles, which can encapsulate and kill most enemies instantly. The bubbles can also be jumped on, aiding in platforming to hard-to-reach places or over obstacles proving to be a nuisance.
These three power-ups are the most robust lineup of new power-ups we’ve seen in a Mario game for a very long time. While I did miss Tanuki Mario and other power-ups, I think the range of ones available in Wonder did an exceptional job keeping the gameplay fresh. Oh, and you can have one power-up stored during each level, which was a neat touch.
Each level contains a hidden Wonder Flower, which transforms the world and gameplay into something delightfully ridiculous. Camera angles can be shifted to a top-down view, stampedes of bulls will chase you to the finish line, piranha plants will sing a Grammy-worthy performance, and you can even be turned into an enemy. The variations of these Wonder Flower effects almost feel endless. Towards the end of the game, I was still constantly surprised by what whacky effect I would be thrusted into next. The capability of the Wonder Flowers has pushed the Super Mario Bros. franchise to a level that has never been reached before.
Of course, the Wonder Flowers are not the only new addition to the franchise. Throughout the game, some badges can be equipped before each level, which grants platforming abilities and abilities to help support struggling players. My favourite badge was the Floating High Jump, which allowed me to access higher platforms without tricky platforming involved. All of the new abilities enable players to tackle scenarios differently (even in ways not intended by the level designers). Sometimes I struggled in a level because of the platforming required of me, but changing to a different badge allowed me to approach the level slightly differently, which proved successful.
I’ve spoken a lot about the more significant details, but I would like to take the time to acknowledge the finer details Nintendo have put into Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Details as simple as Mario grabbing his hat when he enters a pipe may seem minute, but it shows how much love and care went into crafting this game. There are also talking flowers throughout the levels, which can give players a light chuckle during their time in the Flower Kingdom.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder, in my opinion, holds one of the best Super Mario soundtracks ever. There’s an extra hint of whimsicalness in the soundtrack, which lends itself to how beautifully manic this game can be. In a game with little to no dialogue, it is imperative that the soundtrack needs to slap, and it certainly does.
SUPER MARIO BROS. WONDER REVIEW
Nintendo has delivered yet another memorable experience that is delightfully ridiculous with surprises from start to finish. There’s a perfect combination of old and new mechanics executed flawlessly which feels fresh yet nostalgic at the same time. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a masterpiece worthy of being titled one of the best platformers of all time.
- Feels nostalgic but new
- Captivating gameplay with surprises right until the end
- No two levels ever feel the same
- One of the best Mario games of all time
A copy of the game was supplied by the Publisher for purposes of this review.