Given that Mario is the icon of Nintendo, its “poster boy,” and a character we typically see at least once a year in some respects, it was odd for me to be reminded that we haven’t had a “truly new” 2D Mario title in 11 years! We’ve had remasters and ports, but nothing new…until now. Nintendo made it clear that with their newest entry in the 2D platforming style of Mario, things would change for the better, and The Outerhaven’s Super Mario Bros. Wonder Review will tell you that the promise was kept and then some.
Game Name: Super Mario Bros Wonder
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 20th, 2023
Price: $59.99 | Nintendo
…wait, did I seriously just post a “spoiler tag” for my Super Mario Bros Wonder Review? It’s a 2D Mario title…what am I going to spoil? Whatever, let’s just hit the Wonder Flower and get into this!
The easiest way for me to describe Super Mario Bros Wonder is by stating that it’s the platforming style you grew up with, just with a whole new look and vibe. That might not SOUND like much, but within about two levels, you’re going to realize just how crazy and wondrous things will be. That’s not a joke. I came into this game thinking, “Ok, how much is the Wonder Flower REALLY going to impress me?” and by the second level, I had gotten my answer because I heard a Pirahna Plant chorus serenading me as they tried to kill me. That was just the second level!!!
But that, in a nutshell, is the experience that is this game. You’ll go from level to level, trying to find the Wonder Flower and then trying to survive the madness it throws you into. Sometimes it’ll be easy, and sometimes it will be hard. Other times, you’ll be so blown away by what you’re seeing and experiencing that you’ll honestly not want it to end. That’s easily one of the game’s biggest strengths. This Wonder Flower could’ve been a gimmick that backfired on them, and yet this game would be totally basic without it.
The plot, which does matter in this case, is that Mario and the crew have gone to the Flower Kingdom to meet Prince Florian. Naturally, Bowser screws things up and uses the Wonder Flower to merge with Prince Florian’s castle, take over the kingdom’s lands, warp it to his will, and has surrounded himself with piranha plant clouds so that no one can get near him while he prepares to do an “Epic Wonder.” It’s pretty standard stuff, but we do get to see more from the “story” in this game than other Mario titles.
For example, Prince Florian is a cool little character who interacts with his citizens and helps Mario out in certain ways, like carrying his badges. More on those latter. Like with much of this game, it really is the little things that matter.
Case in point, another highlight of this game is the fact that they embrace the fact that we’re in the Flower Kingdom and thus are dealing with all sorts of new enemies. It was a genuine thrill to go from spot to spot and find out what creatures lived there and how much of a pain they could be compared to the standard Koopas, Goombas, and Lakitus. Yes, all three of those, and other familiar foes, are in the game, but there’s something to be said about having some fresh and new to deal with.
For example, the Hoppycats are a simple yet effective enemy that will really be a pain if you don’t plan your jump right. Maw-Maws are freaking creatures that will swallow you whole, eats Goombas, and will happily swallow any attacks you throw at them! There are even variants to enemies you’ve seen in the past to further add to the variety.
That brings me to the level designs. You can tell that the Super Mario Bros Wonder team went all out to not just make levels exciting with the Wonder Flower but also the overall designs of the levels you go through. Even in some of the ending levels, I was going, “That’s really clever.” Or they will do simple things to the main levels to make them tricky or feel fresh. For example, not unlike certain Kirby games, there are levels that play with the perspective to make you REALLY pay attention to see what to do next.
That’s another thing that they did right. The Wonder Flower isn’t always hiding in plain sight. Sometimes, you have to look for little clues and hints that will guide you on where to go. Plus, there are multiple levels that have “secret exits” that will unlock more Wonder Seeds and new levels to play in.
Another thing that was fun, more times than not, was the variety of level types you could do. The majority are the “standard levels” you’re used to. Others are special missions where you try to take on waves of enemies with only two power-ups and try to beat them in a quick amount of time. There were also levels dedicated to badges to help you “train” with them and really test how good you could be with them. Finding all the levels was a challenge, and I’m not afraid to say I needed help at times to get to certain ones, but with the open-world approach to many sections of the overworld, I was never bored.
So, shall I talk about the Wonder Flower levels now? Great, I will. These were easily the biggest part of the game. I talked about them earlier, obviously, but I REALLY want to harp on how creative they got in these “warped levels.” They rarely repeat themselves, and sometimes they flip the script on what you expect so you can get a fresh experience with a familiar concept. There were MULTIPLE times in the game where I thought I had “seen it all,” and then all of a sudden, I was floating through the air trying to dodge lightning. Or I’m riding a resurrected dragon that was mere bones seconds before. They got SO CLEVER for these levels, and you KNOW that there were concepts and ideas they wanted to do but likely ran out of time or felt it was “too big.” Maybe we’ll get to see those ideas in the sequel. You never know. But seriously, I could play a game of JUST the Wonder Flower levels and likely never be bored of the creativity that is shown to me.
The badges were the other “big gimmick” for the game, and for the most part, they added to the title in fun ways. There are 24 badges to get, with three categories they’re put into. Some of them can be received by doing challenges, others can be bought, and the rest has to be earned. Not unlike other games of this type, such as the Paper Mario series, you’ll find badges that you prefer and use them to great effect more times than not. I personally liked the Parachute Cap Badge because it helped me land safely on platforms (and save my bacon) plenty of times. But there are others you’ll want to try out, so don’t be afraid to give them a shot.
Oh, let’s not forget about the new power-ups! We got three new ones in the game, and while I did like Elephant Mario, I really preferred using Bubble Mario and Drill Cap Mario. All three added new elements to gameplay and fun things for gamers to do, like get into new sections of the level or kill enemies that were almost unkillable before!
One last positive thing to note is that the game looks crisp and vibrant. The team noted before the game’s launch that they put a LOT of time and money into making the animations for Mario, the other characters, and even his enemies more detailed than ever before. You can tell immediately that it shows. Mario is more expressive than ever and has certain animations that help sell what he’s doing, like going into pipes, getting hit by attacks, and more. Plus, the levels themselves look gorgeous, and when you combine them with the Wonder Flowers, you sometimes get visually stunning levels that are deep in detail and layered with things to look at. This is absolutely the visual and gameplay standard for 2D Mario titles going forward.
But alas, we’ve reached the part of my Super Mario Bros Wonder Review where I must talk about the “lesser” parts of the game. Thankfully, they are few, but they do matter.
For starters, the biggest thing for me in this game was the difficulty. Each level states how “difficult” a level is likely to be to the player. I’m a seasoned veteran at platformers, it’s true, but even I was surprised when some of the 3-5 difficulty levels were incredibly easy to beat. Even the final levels leading up to the Bowser boss fight were trivial, and I died ONCE because I made a simple error in judgment during a Wonder Flower section. There were only two or three levels in the entire GAME that I felt I was being seriously challenged and having to “make my fingers bleed” just to get through. As a result, the game can be blasted through in under 15 hours. I was around that number because I was trying to get every Wonder Seed and beat almost every level. Others won’t have my “completionist drive” and might beat it in ten hours.
Furthermore, while the various “types” of levels were clever, some of them just felt “in the way” or superfluous. You can beat some of the 1-star “extra levels in less than a minute. I’m not joking. Yes, they give you a Wonder Seed, but we could’ve gotten something a bit more complex. Furthermore, I seriously hated the “Search Party” levels because they had some really abstract ways of getting the Wonder Seed, and part of it relied on you having other people in co-op so you could see everything at times! That’s kind of a restrictive way of thinking when you’re like me and only playing by yourself.
I didn’t play co-op with a friend (I tried to, but the timing never worked out), but it was an odd choice only to do local co-op versus true online co-op. Hopefully, that gets remedied next time around.
Badges were a mixed bag. As I noted, I only used one during the majority of my playthrough and only occasionally used others. I feel this is something that can be built upon for the better in the next game because there wasn’t really a “need” to use many of the badges overall. For example, there were “coin collector” badges, but I was able to get to 999 on the purple coins and had about 50 lives before the end of the game, so I didn’t need the help or coins. Other badges were ones that were only for those who “wanted a challenge,” like being invisible the whole time or having a really tricky jump skill.
Finally, while the Wonder Levels were incredible, there were times that it almost felt that they “ran out of ideas,” as ironic as it sounds. In one of the worlds, there were three straight levels (in my run-through) of the same gimmick, just slightly tweaked, given the level design. It really stuck out, given the creativity and randomness of all the other levels. Plus, you can tell they loved certain concepts (like the “musical beat” idea) and leaned on that probably more than they should have.
Lastly, I do want to point out that while Charles Martinet is no longer the voice of Mario and Luigi, his replacement, Kevin Afghani, has managed to character the same excitement that Charles has given us for decades. No, seriously, he has done an amazing job, but you’ll have to hear him to believe me.
In the end, I hope my Super Mario Bros Wonder Review fills you with glee and inspires you to try out the game. It really is good, and there’s a lot to like in it. It’s not as grand as Super Mario Odyssey, but you’ll have plenty of reasons to play it and see what secrets it holds. If this is the “baseplate” for all that comes from 2D Mario games in the future? I can’t wait to see what’s next.
Review Disclosure Statement: Super Mario Bros Wonder was provided to us by Nintendo of America for review purposes. For more information on how we review video games and other media/technology, please go review our Review Guideline/Scoring Policy for more info.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Super Mario Bros Wonder is the big leap that 2D Mario platformers needed. The updated visuals, the Wonder Flower levels, the improved level designs, the variety of new monsters, all of it lends to a great experience that will leave you screaming, “WONDERFUL!!!”