Super Mario Bros. Wonder




Nearly 40 years after his humble beginnings as the little plumber with his red hat and thick mustache, Mario returns to his 2D roots in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. In what feels like the first proper sequel to the 1990 game Super Mario World – sorry Yoshi’s Island! – Nintendo puts the “super” back in Super Mario through the superlative “wonderful”.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder is indeed simply wonderful. Vibrant colours, cheerful music, and crazy action sequences make the game ooze with joy and happiness. Players, both new and returning to the series, will go from one surprise to the next because Wonder manages to put a fun twist on age-old Mario concepts and introduce new quirky gameplay elements and mechanics.

In what is best described as a combination of Super Mario Bros. 3 from the NES and Super Mario World on the SNES, Mario visits the Flower Kingdom, a neighbouring realm of his own Mushroom Kingdom, at the invitation of Prince Florian. Of course, Mario is closely followed by the villainous Bowser, who manages to fuse himself with Florian’s castle to wreak havoc on the surrounding burrows.

As always, the story in Super Mario Bros. Wonder is paper-thin, pun intended. It is mostly there to provide a backdrop for intense 2D-scrolling action by including the usual Mario tropes and themes. During the course of six differently themed and exquisitely crafted worlds, Mario collects Royal Flower Seeds by jumping on top of plenty of Goombas and by kicking lots of Koopa Troopa shells before fighting off Bowser Jr., encountering Kamek, and ultimately challenging Bowser.

As little attention as Nintendo spent on Wonder‘s story, all the more effort it put into the riveting and tight gameplay. Mario’s visit to the Flower Kingdom provides both a recognizable echo from past games and manages to add brand-new gameplay elements and challenges. No two levels in the entire game are the same and nearly every level introduces a wacky Wonder Flower.

These flowers morph the scene into unpredictable departures from the side-scrolling perspective and often grant Mario extremely powerful or outright bizarre superpowers. At different points during the game, Mario turns into a large spikey ball, a wandering Goomba, a red bouncy blob, and even an elongated and balloon version of himself.

Of course, classic power-ups like the well-loved mushroom and tough-to-beat Fireball Mario make a welcome return too. On top of that, Super Mario Bros. Wonder gives players the ability to turn into Bubble Mario, Drill Mario, and Elephant Mario. Why an elephant? It’s not explained, nor does it make any sense, but Elephant Mario is simply awesome! Slapping enemies and smashing bricks has never felt this satisfying in a Mario game, and holding water in the elephant’s trunk to douse fire or water thirsty plants feels extremely satisfying.

Elephant Mario also showcases Nintendo’s attention to detail with regards to the game’s animations. Players will be hard-pressed not to let out a chuckle when they make Elephant Mario throw himself to the ground and force him to wiggle his way forward. Similar standout moments happen when Mario reaches back for his cap when dashing into pipes, when flowers bloom after being sprayed with water, or when Goombas turn frightened.

While the main story line of Super Mario Bros. Wonder is relatively straightfoward and short, even for a 2D platformer, the game does offer plenty of things to do for players looking for more challenge and replayability. Not only is there a lot to collect in each level, such as additional Wonder Seeds and Flower Coins to purchase special standees with, Wonder offers plenty of hidden secrets and even a special and extra challenging area similar to Super Mario World.

Potentially the most replay value can be found in the multiplayer aspect of Mario’s latest adventure, which boasts both an online and offline component. By far the most enticing and wonderful part of Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the included couch co-op, which can be enjoyed by up to four friends at once. The inclusion of children-friendly characters like Yoshi and Nabbit, who cannot die from enemy hits, turn the game into a great and engrossing family activity.

All in all, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is not a very difficult game. The new badges, which help players adjust Mario to their preferred playstyle, go a long way to make even the most difficult levels enjoyable. As such, it is potentially the most accessible entry into the series. New players are therefore eased into Mario’s 2D origins with plenty of help, while veterans will still enjoy the harder challenges.

To conclude, Nintendo’s latest Mario game is rightly callled Wonder. The entire experience, from start to finish, and even long after, is sure to bring a big smile on players’ faces. Newcomers to the genre will equally enjoy the wacky moments and unexpected twists of the game as Mario’s more experienced player base. More than anything Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a Nintendo masterclass in level design. Let’s hope King Bowser won’t need another thirty plus years to find the courage and energy to plot another heist for such an amazing Super Mario Bros. adventure.

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