Look, you can probably guess what I'm going to say: Super Mario Bros. Wonder is good.
Well, you guessed wrong. It's not good. It's amazing -- wonderful, even. After what could be considered some relatively lackluster 2D Super Mario Bros. entries, the franchise returns to take back its crown. Our favorite Italian plumber is not just the King of 3D platformers, but 2D as well.
A New Look for Super Mario Bros.
To understand just how special Super Mario Bros. Wonder is, look no further than the overall presentation. Nintendo's efforts with this title create one of the most visually spectacular titles on the Nintendo Switch. The sound design? It's second to none, 1-upping the already stellar Super Mario Bros. tunes we know and love.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes a new spin on old designs, creating almost chibi-like characters with Mario, Luigi, Peach, and the rest of the gang. If I had to describe it in one word, everything looks a bit more "cute," but certainly does justice to these lovable characters.
Nintendo put extra emphasis on animation this time around, so every minute movement and detail on characters are much more expressive. From sliding into pipes or jumping into pits of lava, characters look incredible and have more personality.
My favorite new detail is the crouching animation, which covers most of their head and has their little noses and mustaches sticking out. It's comical and also pays homage to the Super Mario World crouching animation.
Indeed, Super Mario World is often the favorite when it comes to Mario titles, if anything for its stellar visuals. I won't begin to compare the two as one game is much older than the other -- not to mention it's 16-bit -- but to say Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a successor to this title would not be inaccurate.
A Varied Bestiary in Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Much like World, there are so many different enemies in Wonder -- so many that no level feels anywhere near the same as the last. While you have classic Mario enemies like Cheep Cheeps, Goombas, and Bullet Bills, there are plenty of new and fun designs as well. Not to mention, some returning enemies like Boos and Dry Bones only appear a handful of times.
It's lovely to see old enemies make a return, but Nintendo goes buck wild with some of these newcomers. Variations on new enemies include walking Piranha Plants -- which is the total opposite thing you expect them to do -- and Missile Megs, which are elongated Bullet Bills that can double as platforms.
If I had to talk about some of my favorites, it'd be the Tailies and Hoppycats. The former tend to hang from ceilings and with a pull on their handle-like tail, you can swing and make some good distance -- it just feels like a fun enemy to take down. Hoppycats, annoying as they are, jump the exact moment you jump. But darn it all, it's such clever design that I love them.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder's Unparalleled World Design and Wonder Effects
The levels in Super Mario Bros. Wonder are just as creative as any entry in the series to date. Honestly, it's not a stretch to say levels of variety surpass what other 2D Super Mario Bros. have offered up to this point. While a variety of biomes in a handful of different worlds offer up a central theme for levels to build upon, you'll go places you never expect.
Each level hosts its own secrets and hidden areas, more so than any other 2D game in the series. With a helping of collectibles scattered throughout each level, you're incentivized to experiment and look around a level with more care than ever before. By removing the timer for levels, you're encouraged to explore and have fun without any huge rush.
However, the main difference between Super Mario Bros. Wonder and those that came before are Wonder Seeds and the Wonder Effects they elicit. These seeds will radically alter the visual style and gameplay of a stage, and with so many different effects, you really never know what you're about to experience.
Wonder Effects are incredible to experience. Sometimes, these seeds will transform your character into a monster like a Goomba or Slime and affect how you move and interact with stages; others will alter the terrain and cause it to move in unpredictable ways and offer up wonderfully fun challenges.
The best moments are when your expectations are subverted; while not all Wonder Effects are unique to each level, the Effects that you'll only see once stick with you. As a very early example, I bet you wouldn't expect Piranha Plants to jump out of their pipes and start singing in unison. Just when I thought I'd seen it all, Super Mario Bros. Wonder says "think again!"
The Many Uses of Badges in Super Mario Bros. Wonder
With such wonderful stages, you bet the platforming is just as crisp, precise, and buttery smooth as any platformer on the market. Mario and the gang have never felt better to control in the 2D plane, badges helped create an already varied experience even more refreshing to play every time I picked up the controller.
Badges aid players by altering Mario and friends' abilities to platform. Many badges, which are unlocked as you play and beat certain levels, help players gain height with their jump. Others make it easier to recover while falling by using your hat as a parachute. Whatever the case may be, there's never usually a wrong choice.
By limiting players to only one badge, choosing can be quite difficult. However, I often stuck to one badge for long periods of time and found they allowed me to gain collectibles and complete levels without too much difficulty. It's great to give players so many choices since you're bound to find a badge you enjoy.
And let me tell you, some of these badges are wild. One shoots out a vine that clings to walls like you're Spider-Man -- this completely changes the way you can tackle a level compared to, say, the Crouching High Jump that allows you to charge up a huge jump.
There are even Expert Badges that give huge benefits like invisibility to enemies, but the cost is not being able to see yourself. As wacky as it sounds, I found uses for this badge in some levels, which speaks to the variety this entire game package provides.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder Review | Final Thoughts
It's not a stretch to say Super Mario Bros. Wonder is nearly a perfect game. Were it not for a relatively annoying multiplayer experience, I'd have no problem giving this game top marks. But, multiplayer just didn't jive right with me. Playing with two other players, I encountered a few issues that hindered my enjoyment, despite the fact that player collision is now gone.
Essentially, whoever is ahead of the rest of the pack becomes the "leader," and has the camera follow their movements. It can be jarring to have the camera focus on you, fall behind, and then suddenly get taken out of bounds. Falling out of bounds turns players into a ghost, and you have to frantically catch up and touch a player to turn back into your regular form.
Losing the lead as Player One is annoying since it gives the lead player agency over dialogue. Imagine playing with a child, you let them hit the flag pole first, and now they're skipping through all the dialogue you want to read. Not saying Super Mario Bros. Wonder has a huge amount of exposition, but I ran into this very issue.
Annoyances aside, what an experience Super Mario Bros. Wonder was. It was one of my most anticipated games of the year and certainly delivered on offering a platforming experience like no other. Here's hoping Nintendo can continue to subvert expectations because it's going to be hard to top this one.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder was reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a copy bought by the reviewer over the course of 15 hours of gameplay. All screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Incredible Art and Sound Design
- Outstanding Variety of Enemies and Level Design
- Badges Mix Things Up
- Multiplayer Issues