There are very few games I play nowadays that have me smiling the whole way through. Perhaps I have just become way too serious in life or maybe games just don’t hit me like they used to. But just when I thought I had become a soulless husk of a human being, Super Mario Bros Wonder came along and brought so much joy to my day. This gem of a game is so simple in concept but so magical on screen. Its outrageous gameplay mechanics kept charming me level after level and its superb soundtrack had me humming its tunes throughout the day.
Watch our Super Mario Bros. Wonder Review below:
The Super Mario Bros series is best known for its fun and addictive platforming action. While it may look cute and approachable from the outside, fans who stick these games out know that once you’re deep into the game, it can get nail-bitingly difficult. Super Mario Wonder can’t be a more perfect example of this. It is likely Nintendo’s most adorable-looking platformer to date. I mean the game has elephants! Who doesn’t think elephants are some of the cutest animals alive?
But dig into this game and there’s actually a lot more going on than cute elephants. In fact, Super Mario Bros Wonder is so far out of Nintendo’s comfort zone that it was surprising to see to what lengths the studio went when crafting this game. While the general gameplay follows the traditional Super Mario Bros platforming roots, the Wonder is where things get a little crazy… in all the best ways.
The biggest change to the series is the move away from the Mushroom Kingdom. That place is done and dusted and instead, I was dropped into the Flower Kingdom. A place with new enemies to stomp on, power-ups to use, NPCs to meet and locations to visit. It is the most refreshing new location we have seen in the Mario series since Galaxy days and this masterclass world oozes into every aspect of the game.
That is to say, Super Mario Bros. Wonder does feel familiar at times. You can’t change an underwater stage and make it feel as new as a forest level, for example. However, every single level is brought to life with new platforms to jump on, different colour pipes to slide into, new enemies that are perfectly positioned to make your life Hell and vistas that deliver this refreshing visual appeal at every opportunity.
Not to mention that almost every level is also divided into two portions with Wonder segments hidden somewhere throughout the stage. It is hard to describe the greatness I experienced in these moments. It is even more difficult to list the best ones because they are so wonderfully magical.
These Wonder segments are triggered once you discover a Wonder Seed. They can be placed in the middle of nowhere, spawned by touching a flower and even found by venturing off the screen. Once touched, the game flips its gameplay on its head and delivers something unworldly to experience. One saw me shoot into space and hover through a deadly field of spikes. One stretched Toad’s torso into oblivion resulting in an elongated character model where I had to duck and dodge around a shadow-like realm to get to the end.
One transformed enemies into larger-than-life versions and I had to utilise their large bodies to destroy the stage around me in order to pass by. The list goes on. I even encountered some brilliant music stages where the Wonder Seed simply turned the stage into a Pirahna Plant musical number. I then jumped from platform to platform while the Pirahna Plants serenaded me in tunes.
Just when I thought I had seen it all, I then turned into a Goomba who just happened to be in a stage littered with literal Goomba-eating creatures. I then had to scurry, because you know Goomba have those little adorable legs, behind trees in order to avoid the hungry mouths from gobbling me up.
I can’t begin to describe the joy these Wonder Seed segments brought to the game. It made me seek them out at every opportunity just because I wanted to see what other weird and wonderful gameplay mechanics they brought to the table. I can also confidently say that throughout the game, these moments never felt overused. Sure, there are a few which are used multiple times but the incredible level design made these encounters feel refreshing every time.
It also helps that the majority of Super Mario Bros. Wonder is consumed in small bite-sized portions. So right before a stage overstays its welcome, it is over. Nintendo pushes this even further with stages called Break Time. Because, if you needed a break from the already relatively short stages, here’s an even shorter one. These Break Time stages are literally a few seconds long and come with simple objectives in order to gain the Wonder Seed.
One had me drill my way around a level to break boxes to pick up the Wonder Seed. Another was a stage that flipped into nighttime when I pressed a button. I then had to memorize the platform layout and jump my way to the top in order to grab the seed. One just had me jumping to the rhythm of the music to excite the strange creatures scattered around the stage. While these sound like hogwash and pointless on paper, the game’s charm elevates them all to exciting levels where I was automatically drawn into every stage I could stumble upon because I could not wait to see what lay in wait.
There’s so much more here too. KO Arenas had me running through a wave-based series of screens trying to defeat all the enemies as fast as possible to earn rewards. But of course, I could use items I had equipped such as the elephant but each segment also offered wonderful ways to defeat the enemies using the environment too. It is just that magical variety that only Nintendo knows how to offer.
I won’t spoil any more of these stages because the joy of experiencing them all is what makes Super Mario Bros. Wonder so remarkable in the first place. I will just say it is Nintendo’s masterclass-level design like we have never seen before.
Not to mention the game features Badges that do cool things. One was a hat that let me glide around. Another was a jump hover badge that let me leap further into the air. Another was a charge jump where I could leap high into the air above me. There were even badges that had zero benefit to the platforming but were just fun to use. These badges are also completely optional and every stage, outside of the Badge Challenges, can be completed with or without them.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder also gets exciting with its online mode. When connected to the internet, the game allows other players to be seen as shadows throughout the stage. So if you happen to be in a stage with another batch of players, you’ll see them there too. You can simply carry on with your life and ignore them but it ruins the fun. And when I say “fun” I really mean it. Super Mario Bros. Wonder has an online mechanic I have yet to see in a game and it works brilliantly.
Say you die and there are other players in your level, suddenly these players turn into real characters and you can quickly float towards them and once touched, get revived. The same goes for their game too. Some difficult levels had me and some random player reviving each other on a constant basis as we both kept dying. You also only have 5 seconds to get revived before you die so there’s also this sense of urgency that makes the experience feel so wonderful.
I can’t tell you the number of times I shouted “Revive me, idiot” as I floated towards players who kept on running away from my poor defenceless ghost. Or the number of times I was saved at the very last second by a player who likely had no idea what they did to help in the first place.
You also get these posing boards in the game called Standees. These can be placed around levels and can also revive players if they touch them. Standees come in different shapes and rarities. They can also be purchased at the various stores throughout the Flower Kingdom. Once you revive a player with your Standee, you’ll also get a heart added to your account. So when you place another one down, players will see how helpful you are.
But the game goes beyond just reviving players. You can also emote to them and they will see it on their side. This comes in handy. During one Search Park stage, which is a level with hidden Wonder Seed Fragments you have to find by any means possible, a player and I were searching for the last fragment. I found it and spammed my emote button to alert him. He then followed me to the pipe which I had to move in order to hit a hidden brick and reveal the last piece.
I know it sounds simple but that moment felt amazing. Such a simple concept which turned into something so much more. To help one another on the other side of the world while being just a shadow and only having an emote was a beautiful thing.
But that’s exactly where Super Mario Bros. Wonder shines. It takes simplicity and turns it into pure joy, It is, after all, just another platformer and just another Super Mario Bros game. However, under the surface, there’s so much more going on. There’s a collection of levels that are inspiring to play through. These are elevated with a remarkable collection of Wonder Seed mechanics that had me smiling like a kid at my screen. The further you dive into the game, the more challenging and unworldly it gets. It is simply…. well….. wonderful.
This Super Mario Bros. Wonder review is based on a code sent to us by Nintendo. The game is available from 20 October starting at R1185.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes simplicity and turns it into pure joy. It is Nintendo’s masterful level design at its finest. The game’s Wonder Seed system also delivers charming gameplay sections we have yet to see from the series to date. It is simply wonderful.