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  • Writer's pictureGreg Ezell

Super Mario Bros. Wonder Review

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

Childlike Wonder is back for Mario


Super Mario

For those who have been part of the Three Dads and a Console community long enough, you’ve heard me complain about 2D Super Mario games. What was once the template for side-scrolling action games became a tiresome slog through mediocrity and bland, repetitive gameplay. The last 2D Super Mario Bros. game I truly felt bland with was New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch.


For the first time in a long time, I talked at length about what the 2D Super Mario Bros. games lacked in innovation and that the “New” Super Mario Bros. moniker was almost a turn-off for me. You may say, “Well, Pez, Nintendo tried to implement new features, but it just didn’t work.” That’s true, but I don’t want you to make a mistake using the Wii U pad to create blocks; as I said, the gameplay was bland.


2D Mario games devolved into such formulaic video gaming that one could tell you the levels without even playing the game. The grass, ice, and final lava levels had you moving left to right using the same powerups you’ve used since you were first introduced to the series.


Super Mario Bros. Wonder, however, is here to take the tried and true side-scrolling action game formula it created and turn it on its head. I can honestly say that Nintendo succeeded at changing their 2D Mario Bros. formula.


Super Mario Bros. Wonder looks great and runs beautifully on the Nintendo Switch in docked and handheld mode. Nintendo added small animations that bring the game to life like Mario grabbing his hat when going down pipes or baby Princess Daisy looking both ways before exiting a sideways pipe. These minor animations add significant detail to a highly polished game that is possibly the best-looking game on the Switch.


Story


The story of Super Mario Bros. Wonder has elements of any typical Mario Bros. game. Bowser steals a thing, and you need to get it back. In this installment, Bowser steals Prince Florian’s Wonder Flower, which gives him immense power and merges his airship with Prince Florian’s castle. It is your job to go through the world with Prince Florian and save the land.


While the story is your typical cookie-cutter tale, it is a nice change of pace from saving a Princess. Super Mario Bros. Wonder brings a welcomed change into the mix: you select to be someone who isn’t Mario or Luigi. This time, there is a large installment of characters for you to choose from immediately. You’ll have access to Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Blue Toad, Yellow Toad, Toadette, Yoshi, Red Yoshi, Blue Yoshi, Yellow Yoshi and Nabbit.


Nintendo even threw a bone at you when your littles or non-gaming spouses/friends want to ride or die in the Petal Isles because the Yoshi and Nabbit don’t take damage, but they also do not use powerups. This means your partner won’t be swallowing those lives up! It is an excellent addition to Nintendo.


You don’t need to stay with a particular character throughout your journey. You can change your characters on the map screen at will. Unlike previous Mario games, the characters do not have special abilities. Princess Peach doesn’t float, Luigi doesn’t jump high, and Toad(s) isn’t vital. They are all the same in terms of how they play. Nintendo introduced a new mechanic, which changed the gameplay.


Badges


Badges are used to add something to your character. You pick these up along your journey in three ways:


  1. Complete a badge challenge.

  2. Buy one in a Poplin’s store.

  3. Given one to you by Master Poplin.


Throughout each map are badge challenges. These challenges are used to test your badges without using them in the game. A nice feature of these badge challenge areas is that you do not lose lives when you fail. They’re strictly a training course for practicing and will award you a wonder seed. We will talk more about wonder seeds in a moment.


If available, you can also buy badges at a Poplin’s store. Throughout the game, you’ll acquire purple coins called Flower Coins, and you can use them to purchase 1UPs, standees, badges and more wonder seeds.


Lastly, Master Poplin may give you a badge when you encounter a Poplin House. Poplin Houses are much like the toad houses in previous Mario games, where you will get something from them. They can be items, wonder seeds or specific badges.


Badges can be changed on the map screen at will, much like the character select screen.


Badges are essential because they allow for characters to all be the same. Now, the extraordinary powers are coming from what you equip. Mario or Princess Daisy can do the Super Mario Bros. 2 squat+jump or the Princess Peach float. Everything is a badge, and badges are cool.


Powerups

Mario
Mario

Powerups have always been a staple of the Mario franchise, and Wonder does not disappoint in this area. The tried and true staples are here: Super Mushroom, star, and Fire Flower, but Wonder adds three news powerups to the loot pool.


The elephant powerup does precisely what you saw in all of the trailers. It turns your character into an elephant. The elephant powerup allows for a trunk attack, which slaps your enemy off the map. It also has a secondary function of collecting water, which you can use on dying flowers in the desert map, which will give gold and flower coins.


The drill shroom turns your head or feet into a drill, which allows you to hide in the ceiling or the ground. A bonus to this powerup is that you can easily break blocks, large wooden crates and ice blocks that are above or below you.


Lastly, the bubble flower lets the character spit bubbles to entrap enemies. These enemies will become a coin. The bubbles will also give you a slight jump advantage when you pop them.

These powerups are very well instituted in Wonder and do a good job breaking up the monotony of using the same old powerups. I was also pleasantly surprised when I came across the drill shroom because it was not advertised like the elephant and bubble shrooms were. While not a big deal, having a tiny surprise like that was great.


Wonder Flowers and Wonder Seeds

Super Mario Bros Wonder
Super Mario Bros Wonder

Your goal is to collect enough wonder seeds in a level to ward off piranha plants wrapped around castles. Wonder Seeds can be acquired in various ways, but most will be found throughout levels. Think of them as stars in Mario 64 or Super Mario Bros. 3D World. Each level will have at least one seed, usually collected by the wonder flower.


The wonder flower is a large, psychedelic-looking flower found in levels. Grabbing this flower morphs the level into something that will make you feel like you’re on certain substances. Sometimes, you’re running across a barrage of charging bulls, or you're an extremely tall silhouette that must navigate the level. These are just two instances of the most bizarre and fun bite-sized gameplay in Wonder.


The wonder flower moments make up the greatness of Super Mario Bros. Wonder and differentiate itself from the rest of the Super Mario franchise. These moments allow an almost childlike wonderment to overflow and make the experience great.


Levels are re-playable in case you miss a wonder seed, but the bar of entry into the castles is so low that you don’t need to 100% every level to grab a wonder seed if you do not want to.


Before I wrap this up, I want to give Nintendo major kudos on removing level timers. You no longer have to worry about running out of time and losing your lives. Instead, you’re granted as much time as you’d like to explore a level fully. Some wonder flower segments are timed, but the timer is more than generous. Removing the timer is such a great feature, and I’m surprised Nintendo didn’t do it earlier.


Final Verdict


Here at Three Dads and a Console, we don’t score games. Instead, we base it on a few parenting questions:


  1. Can you play it in front of your kids?

  2. Can your kids play it?


Can you play it in front of your kids?


Yes! It is a 2D Mario game. These are as safe as safe gets.


Can your kids play it?


Absolutely. Super Mario Bros. Wonder has local multiplayer for up to four players, where you can run around and cause chaos. There is also an online component. As I mentioned earlier, Nintendo added “casual, friendly” characters that don’t even take damage. Nothing should be anything that impedes your child(ren) from having a blast.


Ultimately, Nintendo hit a home run with Super Mario Bros. Wonder and has blown fresh, cool air into the 2D Mario franchise. I highly recommend this for any of you fellow Ninten-Nerds out there.



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