It is time to join Mario and crew on their latest Odyssey… I mean Wonderful adventure in our Super Mario Bros Wonder review!
There is simply no introduction required here. After the video game industry crashed in 1983, it seemed that the idea of a home video game console was dead in the water. But a saviour appeared. Out of the mists of Kyoto, Japan, rose a portly red-cap-wearing Italian plumber (and his brother). These champions led the charge to save the industry we love, and the rest is history.
The crew is all here and ready to rumble.
Mario is the most identifiable video game character for a reason. The Mushroom Kingdom crew have appeared in more than 200 different games over the past 40 years. He hasn’t just saved Princess Peach (multiple times), Mario has driven a go-kart, been a doctor, played tennis, competed in the Olympics, partied with his friends and of course – punched Solid Snake in the face.
You haven’t seen Mario looking like this before!
Super Mario Bros Wonder Review – Story
Mario games are typically known more for their gameplay than their narrative. Things are a little different this time – Princess Peach is not in any danger. Indeed, you can play through the entire game as Peach if you want to. The neighbouring Flower Kingdom has invited Mario, Luigi, Peach and Daisy to visit to see the mysterious effects of their great treasure, the Wonder Flower, that warps reality.
Something that hasn’t changed is that Bowser is here to spoil the party. He snatches the Wonder Flower for himself and turns into a giant flaming castle. Not only that, Bowser Jr. is also here to make sure Mario’s task is not an easy one.
He’s colossal, he’s cruel, he’s … a castle
Only by finding the Flower Kingdom’s six Royal Seeds can the Mushroom Kingdom’s strike team gain access to Bowser and take him down once and for all… at least until the next game. Can Mario and team save the day yet again?
Super Mario Bros Wonder Review – Gameplay
We haven’t had a new mainline 2D Mario game since New Super Mario Bros U, which was released over 10 years ago (wow, that makes me feel old). Wonder certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of that classic Mario gameplay. You’ll move from the left to the right, avoiding obstacles and enemies attempting to reach the goal flag at the end of the level. Stomping on goombas feels as good as it did way back in the 1980s.
This screen seems strangely familiar…
The usual powerups make their inevitable return here – mushrooms, super stars and fire-flowers feel as natural as they always have. There are two major new gameplay elements present in Wonder. The first is a selection of ‘Badges‘ that can be equipped, only one at a time, to provide a range of different effects that will help the crew on their adventure. Floating down slowly from high places, higher jumps, super speed – awesome abilities that make playing through each level a completely different experience.
24 different badges provide some great opportunities to switch up gameplay.
The other new component of the game is the peculiar effect of the Wonder Flower. All of the ‘normal’ levels in the game have a Wonder Flower hidden somewhere. Finding this will do weird and wonderful things to the level, with the goal of finding a small Wonder Seed that will help you unlock more levels to complete. Each Wonder Flower ‘mission’ is completely unique – you never know what you are going to see and these are definitely some of the best (and most challenging) moments of the game.
At the end of the day though, I personally found the standard levels weren’t much of a challenge. With the exception of the super difficult ‘Special World‘ levels, I probably only lost a handful of lives throughout the whole game. The game was moreish, and I was drawn to go back and play it at any opportunity. However, on finishing the game, I don’t really have any urge to return to it for a 2nd playthrough anytime soon.
Super Mario Bros Wonder Review – Visuals
Wonder is a visual and auditory treat, immersing players in a bright and colourful world that radiates charm. The game’s presentation is a true testament to the power of Nintendo’s artistry. The game’s varied areas and environments are a breath-taking showcase of colour and creativity. From lush forests to vibrant deserts and underwater wonderlands, each location is a visual masterpiece that invites players to explore and discover its secrets.
Lets all sing the praises for Wonder’s presentation! And 1 and 2 and 3…
Character designs for the Mario cast haven’t really changed in many years. However, what the team has been able to do here is bring new life to this quintessentially Mario cast. Familiar faces like Luigi, Peach, and Bowser Jr. are brought to life with amazingly detailed, playful animations and expressions. The enemies are equally charming, and new additions to the cast fit seamlessly into the colourful world.
Whatcha gon’ do with all that junk, all that junk inside your (elephant) trunk?
The game’s use of dynamic lighting and effects adds depth and atmosphere to the animated world. From the gentle sway of trees in the breeze to the shimmering water in the lakes, these effects contribute to the game’s immersive quality. Just look at the way that this dark level is lit up by both the enemies and Luigi’s fire-flower.
Super Mario Bros Wonder Review – Audio
The game’s soundtrack is a symphony of whimsy and nostalgia. The iconic Mario themes are given new life while introducing fresh compositions that capture the essence of each level. The music perfectly complements the gameplay and narrative, and I would expect nothing less from Nintendo – they always deliver.
The sound effects are delightful, from the cheerful jingle of collecting coins to the satisfying ‘ding’ when hitting a goal pole. These auditory cues add to the overall sense of joy in the game. It is a little strange that the main cast sound like they always have with simple ‘wahoo’s and ‘oh no’s, whereas the random flower people/things speak full sentences. I guess the education system in the Flower Kingdom is much better than the Mushroom Kingdom.
It is understandable that the Mushroom Kingdom spends more on military defense than education with that guy around
Super Mario Bros Wonder Review – Performance
Did you honestly think that it was even possible for there to be any negative comments in this section? We are talking about Nintendo here… not Bethesda or Game Freak.
How the hell did that elephant get up there?
Wonder performs perfectly with absolutely no issues to report whatsoever. Load times are snappy and the user interface is simple to navigate. What more could you ask for?
I might be in the minority here, but I honestly feel that Super Mario Bros Wonder could have ended up being far better than it actually turned out. Don’t get me wrong – this is still an amazing game. I certainly don’t want to diminish what is indeed a game of the year contender. However, the bright and colourful package presented by Nintendo doesn’t break significant new ground for their flagship superstar. Without a doubt this is the best-looking Mario game ever made, with an attention to detail on animation that I don’t think I have seen Nintendo produce in the past, but I hope becomes the new standard.
There are new plenty of new ideas here, with the Wonder Seed mechanic in particular allowing Nintendo to throw some really interesting (at time insane) ideas into these levels. At the end of the day though, this is still just a side-scrolling platformer. It might be the best side-scrolling platformer available on the Switch…but I left wanting more.
Particularly during completion of the extremely difficult ‘Special World’ stages (the only stages in the game that provided any real challenge) my mind kept coming back to the thought that the badge system is massively underutilized.
He’s not kidding, those levels are damn hard!
There must have been a massive amount of programming work put into badges that provide Mario’s crew with new abilities like a double jump, high jump, grapple shot, super speed and more. But these abilities aren’t actually needed to complete any levels other than the handful of badge challenges (that are very easy) and the Special World levels (that are very hard).
These powers would be absolutely perfect to evolve the adventures of the plumbing brothers into something new – a Mario game in the style of Metroid or Castlevania… a Mariotroidvania if you will (contact me Nintendo – I have ideas).
It will be impossible to play this game without a massive smile on your face
Regardless of my personal feeling above, Super Mario Bros Wonder is a worthy addition to the Mario series and it is a must-play game for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike. It is a reminder that even after all these years, Mario’s adventures whether in 2D or 3D continue to be a source of wonder and joy, offering a timeless and heartfelt gaming experience that will undoubtedly leave players with a smile on their face.
So, why should you play Super Mario Bros Wonder?
- It is Mario, need I say more?
- If I must say more, this is the best looking Mario game ever!
- The weird effects of the Wonder Flowers provide some of the most fresh and ingenious level design seen in a Mario title for a long time.
But, why shouldn’t you play Super Mario Bros Wonder?
- You don’t own a Switch…that is a reason you CAN’T play Wonder. But if you do own a Switch you SHOULD play this game.
A review code was kindly provided by Nintendo Australia for our Super Mario Bros Wonder review.
Still unsure what you think should be Game of the Year for 2023? Check out our reviews of some of the other contenders, including Spiderman 2, Sea of Stars, Final Fantasy XVI and The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom. Want to join the game of the year discussion? Come and join the Qualbert Discord Server and say hi!