Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Az Elias 26.10.2023

Review for Super Mario Bros. Wonder on Nintendo Switch

In the space of less than seven years, Nintendo subjected 2D Mario fans to near-carbon copy levels and the same generic art style with four games in the New Super Mario Bros. series. Although not without their merits, these side-scrolling platformers lacked a surprising amount of originality, despite being as popular as they were (it's Mario, after all). Just check out the 80s and 90s Mario games from Super Mario Bros. The Lost Levels onwards, though, and notice how distinct every single one was from the previous title. The hiatus following the Nintendo Switch port of New Super Mario Bros. U was necessary, and the result is a return to form for the franchise as Mario and friends enter a world of wonder… while the rest of us wonder why it really did take so long to get back to greatness.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the best 2D Mario game since Yoshi's Island. High praise, for sure, but there is no question about it - although it is a sad reminder of the degradation of the series up until now. There are more than a few similarities between the 1995 SNES title and this one, with the immediate resemblance being Wonder's terrific art style and character animations. Full of vibrant colours and excellent use of parallax scrolling to give considerable depth to each level, the setting of the Flower Kingdom for Mario's latest outing is brimming with life.

Life feels like the central theme to this game, too, as that is exactly what has been injected into the entire playable cast of twelve (yes, twelve!) characters - a much-needed move for the series. Super Mario Bros. Wonder allows for the selection of the familiar faces of Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toadette, Nabbit, Blue Toad, and Yellow Toad, who have all been playable in previous entries, while Daisy makes her debut outside of being a sports game side character, with four different coloured Yoshis available to use, too, instead of being found in specific courses for others to ride on as in the past.

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All characters play the same, apart from Nabbit and the Yoshis, who cannot use power-ups and are invulnerable to damage and therefore function as Super Mario Bros. Wonder's easy mode - ideal for kids and beginners. The Yoshis - of which there is a choice of green, red, yellow, and light blue - are even more unique in that they feature their core traits of flutter jumping and tongue licking, allowing them to reach greater heights and gobble down a multitude of enemies. Furthermore, if playing with friends, Mario and pals can hop onto a Yoshi's back just like in other games to hitch a free ride to safety - and that includes a Yoshi giddy-upping on another Yoshi!

From a personal perspective, there are some mixed feelings here. It is fantastic to give Yoshi the attention he deserves and be made a selectable character in his own right, but for him to be invulnerable is a bit of a kicker for those who were looking forward to using him throughout the adventure. Nabbit has established himself as the series' easy mode character for a while, now, so to also have Yoshi function the same way seems strange, especially since the dinosaur's own special abilities give him an edge over other characters already. Removing the invulnerability of Yoshi could have allowed him to act as a step up for younger players that have moved on from Nabbit, while also still appeasing fans of Yoshi who are excited to see him given centre stage. Options are something Nintendo consistently struggles with, but it could have alleviated some disappointment here - even if it was letting players choosing to turn invulnerability on or off.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. Wonder on Nintendo Switch

The variety of characters to play as is surprising, but also understandably necessary for this adventure due to the heavy focus on multiplayer. While local co-op is ever-present, online play is highly encouraged, even if it functions a tad differently from the norm - yet is possibly one of Nintendo's best implementations of it in a game like this to date.

By opting to connect online during play, other players from around the globe can be seen running around the world map as faint ghosts. Hopping into a stage may feature other users attempting to tackle the same course at the same time, again with these strangers or friends appearing slightly faded and unable to collide with each other. This functions much better than in previous iterations, whereby players would constantly get in each other's way, accidentally picking them up, taking items, and not being able to progress on their own terms.

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Super Mario Bros. Wonder's novel method means all the above isn't an issue, yet players can help one another out by dropping power-ups or emoting with a handful of speech bubbles to indicate secrets or points of interest. Using collectable standees featuring various poses of each playable character, users can also place these in key positions throughout a course, whereby they can act as revive points if a fellow player dies. Like in recent Mario games, falling down a pit or taking damage while small doesn't always mean instant death, and there is a brief window of opportunity to revive oneself by either touching a standee placed by another player or coming into contact with their active character.

This approach functions incredibly well, to the point that this may be the perfect implementation of online play in a game of this ilk, since it removes the frustrations of accidental collisions and deaths, while still being a viable way to play co-operatively. Anyone that has experienced the joys of Super Mario 3D World online will know all too well the trouble that can be had, but Nintendo may just have found a winning formula that can be taken forward into other games because, while this feature does make the adventure a bit easier, it is entirely optional. Such is its successful execution, though, it is highly preferred to stay connected, as the fun is amplified knowing others are simultaneously enjoying the game in the background, as everyone helps each other out in their own ways.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. Wonder on Nintendo Switch

It is for this reason that the choice of characters is large, or it would be pretty boring seeing a dozen Marios and Luigis dashing around, and is also why most of the cast plays the same way. Some fans may lament the absence of Luigi's higher jumps or Peach's floaty dress, but this keeps things consistent, and players can happily choose their preferred character without worry that they are worse off than another. It is also long overdue for Daisy to get her time in the limelight, too.

As mentioned earlier, though, part of what brings Super Mario Bros. Wonder to life is the utterly delightful character animations, whether that be the twelve stars of the show or enemies both old and new. Mario characters have suffered from bland personalities for some time, and while there aren't any major changes to their generic and cheerful attitudes here, they all feel reinvigorated thanks to their new expressions that evoke the 2D Mario artwork that was always such a joy to see in those old instruction manuals, as well as completely fresh recordings from a range of new voice actors.

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Charles Martinet, the voice of Mario for the best part of 30 years, has stepped aside, as Kevin Afghani fills his shoes, making Mario his own, while still retaining the familiar quips Martinet first coined. Even Yoshi, having endured some of the most reused voice clips in gaming history, gets new grunts and yelps. Daisy's "See ya!" to the grateful Flower Kingdom resident at stage clear adds just a touch more personality to her character, although one wonders whether Nintendo dares take this further going forward.

It is safe to say that the developer has been looking at other ways to introduce voice acting more prominently, though, and it has culminated in the Talking Flowers that are dotted throughout every course. These non-interactive characters sit across the landscape, on the ground, on platforms, on ceilings, and underwater, and exclaim brief phrases depending on the area and actions currently being undertaken. From wishing Mario and friends good luck to remarking about the distant sunset, the dialogue is short and effective, again adding personality where it was lacking before in an unobtrusive way, encouraging and supporting players and providing an extra sense of humour. It is a positive aspect in this reviewer's eyes, although there is the option to turn their voices and text bubbles off completely.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. Wonder on Nintendo Switch

A refreshingly brilliant soundtrack (another massive improvement over the New Super Mario Bros. games) backs up the excellent animations and level backgrounds, but all of this would be for nothing without the star of the show: the phenomenal gameplay. Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes the series to places it has never been before with some of the best level design and most outrageous segments seen in a 2D platformer.

The premise and villains are sadly familiar territory, but it is clear from stage one that Mario has entered a strange new world. The key collectible items throughout the journey are Wonder Seeds, always granted at the end of a level, but usually also hidden throughout each course, too. Once the hidden Seed has been found, it is anyone's guess what happens next. Shifting into a dreamworld-like state, it is clear the development staff had creative freedom to surprise and delight the player in several ways.

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This could include the world and objects around Mario turning into live beings, being blasted to the edge of the atmosphere, transforming into an entirely different creature with unique abilities, gameplay speed being increased to crazy levels, and all manner of other wacky ideas that need to be experienced to be believed. The imagination on display is both hilarious and entertaining, again establishing Super Mario Bros. Wonder as the most original title since the SNES days.

Taking a positive note out of Super Mario 3D World's book, just about every single level has its own central theme that it runs with, introducing a core idea and gradually expanding upon it as progress is made. The Wonder Seed hallucination often revolves around this pillar, venturing off in extreme directions, while three all-new power-ups, the most bizarre of which is an elephant transformation, deliver clever moments that often lead to hidden items and secret passages.

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At long last, the timer has been done away with, leaving players to explore each course to their heart's content - something that has desperately been needed with the entire series. In an odd oversight, though, levels generally veer on the short and simple side, meaning the removal of the clock isn't taken advantage of.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder cannot be criticised for its inventiveness per stage, as just about every single one is distinct from the other. However, there was an opportunity with the countdown gone to include a few larger maze-like levels that require further exploration and puzzle solving. These elements are present, but not on the scale hoped for. Instead, with courses as short as they are, it seems Nintendo was concerned it would overuse its concepts, content to showcase a gameplay aspect in one stage and then just as quickly wave it goodbye. Some slower-paced and longer levels with further use of the creative themes would have been most welcome.

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Unlockable badges from small minigame-like stages on the world map grant a special ability that is designed to offer a helping hand in courses. While some specific levels necessitate the need for a certain badge, all regular stages can be beaten without any of them, and it is the player's choice which one to equip. Whether it is being able to crouch-jump to greater heights, running faster than normal, or being gifted a Super Mushroom at the beginning of the course, badges grant a little extra freedom in how best to get through a level or tricky segment. Only one can be equipped at a time, too, so it isn't as if players can completely break the game with this feature, and they are free to not use any at all if preferred.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is chock full of wonderful, weird, and wacky ideas that sometimes feel a little too fleeting in their execution, with boss battles that are all too disappointing and lacking in any challenge. Advanced players will find some very testing levels later in the game, but even then, the adventure is over quicker than anticipated. No one can deny that what is here is brimming with fun, and it is a rare video game that can deliver this kind of constant joy, but it can't help but be felt that Nintendo could have elaborated further on certain aspects. Regardless, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is an example of what can be achieved if daring to step outside the confines of an established formula.

Screenshot for Super Mario Bros. Wonder on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

It has taken Nintendo almost 30 years to get its flagship side-scrolling series back on top, but that is exactly what has been achieved with Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Not since the days of the SNES has 2D Mario felt this original and fun, with the bizarre hallucination-like gameplay elements contributing to both the joy and hilarity all at once, coupled with brilliant character animations and a multitude of ideas that makes every level unique. Stages could have stood to be longer, and it may have been a good opportunity to go a bit wilder with the story and villains, but those are small complaints for what is an absolute blast from beginning to end.

Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10 (2 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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