With over a decade since the last 2D Super Mario game and several years since the incredible Super Mario Odyssey, a new entry finally feels earned. We’ve spent most of the Switch’s lifespan without a new Mario game. This month, we’re finally getting what I think is easily my favourite game in ages and the best 2D game from Nintendo.
Moving away from the 3D Mario games, Super Mario Bros. Wonder returns us to the series’ roots, filling a void that has plagued the Switch for years. From the earliest moments of the title screen to the credits rolling, I’ve felt a wave of magic and nostalgia, feelings I find Nintendo is most experienced at utilizing to great success. For the first time in years, we’re getting a game not anchored by a gimmick. New Super Mario Bros. 2 heavily used coins and had several modes that featured coins somehow. The follow-up, NewSuper Mario Bros U Deluce, introduced the Super Crown, yet both pale compared to Wonder. No game in the series offers the same exhilaration except Super Mario World — the gold standard for 2D games. And somehow, Wonder is as close to the World as Yoshi’s Island was then.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder Is Infectious Fun
This is a surprise and something I found shocking, given how I believed Nintendo felt about the 2D games. I liked the New Super Mario Bros. games but thought they were too easy, leaving me wanting more.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder begins as always, with Bowser putting his most recent plan in motion, only for something to go wrong. This time, though, Bowser attempts to acquire the Wonder Flower for his schemes, only for the situation to go from bad to worse as he merges with it and becomes a gigantic monstrosity that infuses with the castle of the Flower Kingdom. And from there, the Flower Kingdom devolves into one of the most chaotic places we’ve seen yet. Bower’s continuous commandeering of situations has decimated poor Prince Florian’s kingdom, and it is up to Mario and his friends to stop Bowser.
Over six distinct worlds that circle the Petal Isles, Mario’s adventure is connected by a hub area. The adventure begins in Pipe-Rock Plateau before moving to Fluff-Puff Peaks; then you head to Shining Falls, underwater and in caves in Petal Isles, a white sand desert, a giant mushroom forest, lava spouts and more. Surprisingly, the worlds are not as linear as previous entries, and some are far simpler than others, while other levels will challenge even the most veteran players, putting them through their paces.
You’re free to engage and complete the stages in any order; many allow you to return to and replay them. Like most games where you play as Mario, you can also use Luigi, Peach, and Daisy, one of two Toads or Toadettes; they all play the same. The Yoshi’s don’t take damage and are meant to be a more effortless experience.
The Flower Kingdom is also a land with new creatures you’ll face across each stage. Many animals feel familiar but deliver exciting new ways to defeat them, often providing you with the tools to meet them head-on. Enemies like Groombrats will make you feel right at home, while the Bulrushes, new flying enemy types, and the Maw-Maws will take some time to adjust to their move sets. Encountering each new enemy is a surprise, and they constantly challenge how you approach them when trying to make it to the end of each stage.
Compared to the NewSuper Mario Bros. games, Wonder stands apart. Each level is filled with creativity and feels unique; the background provides exceptionally catered details. Everything you encounter, including the mountainous area, the lava pits, the icy caves, and the clouds, will leave you in awe. This is more recognizable when looking back at previous games where the experience felt like an extension of what came before for 2D Mario. Instead, Wonder jettisons most of what you’ve experienced for some of the most infectious fun you’ll have this year.
Nintendo introduced several new ideas in Wonder. Each one serves a purpose, including new animations for power-ups, new sound effects, new purple coins, and many more changes that elevate the experience. Within an hour, you’ll understand what is necessary to complete a stage and how to tackle the tasks each location must meet.
Purple coins are used at the Poplin shops to unlock new items, including power-ups, additional lives, and more. Levels are generous with purple coins; you’ll find many by exploring each level. There are also three larger coins spread across the stage that, when collected, add ten purple coins to your tally. Searching the corners of the locations and even the maps might yield additional free coins.
The Flower Kingdom Is One Of The Best Settings The Series Has Ever Seen
A new way to experience the Mario series is with the Badges introduced in Wonder. Each one you come across does something new, and you’ll need to equip them at the start of a level before the effect becomes active. The badges allow you to choose between active and passive power-ups before each stage. For instance, the Parachute Cap lets Mario gently float down from jumps, or the Grappling Vine allows you to shoot a vine onto walls, while passive options include escaping water or lava hazards. Some of my favourite abilities include the Dolphin Kick, which gives you a burst of speed underwater, and the Jet Run, allowing you to run at a high speed without stopping. The flexibility to attach any badge to each character on the roster makes for diverse and exciting gameplay. Whether you’re Mario, Peach, Luigi, Yoshi, or Nabbit, you can customize your experience.
The exceptional features tied to the Wonder Flowers in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. While Nintendo teased several instances recently, nothing prepares you for what the effect indeed does. And each example with the Wonder Flowers is probably the highlight of each level. Super Mario games have always rewarded players for their curiosity, and Super Mario Bros. Wonder is no exception. The hunt for Wonder Flowers and the unique effects they bring adds a layer of excitement. It encourages players to search every nook and cranny, reinforcing the essence of discovery and adventure that defines Mario games.
The Wonder Flowers are like hidden treasures in each stage, offering transformative and unpredictable experiences. Imagine a herd of Bulrushes stampeding across the screen, inviting you to ride them like a wave, collect coins, and unlock alternate stage endings. Or, picture yourself and your co-op companions inflating into giant round balloons, bouncing off walls and collecting coins as you rise higher and higher. However, one of the best and most original uses of the Wonder Seed involves the Piranha Plants, and you’ll have to see it to believe it! These Flowers add an element of surprise and fun to the gameplay, often creating moments that’ll have you saying, “Oh, wow!”
Every level also includes several hidden Wonder Seeds that serve as collectibles you use to grow the map. Completing a level will reward you with a seed or two, while others need to be located in the level by exploring it.
Mario has never felt or played better than in Wonder
Speaking of gameplay, jumping, diving, and bouncing off walls have never been deemed better, as Nintendo delivers what is easily my favourite 2D Mario experience. With various levels and antics you’ll encounter, there’s always something new and exciting to look forward to the further you enter the Flower Kingdom.
It wouldn’t be a Mario game without new power-ups like the Elephant form. In this form, you can use your nose and size to deal with enemies and even bounce back shells with your trunk. You can easily break blocks and dash across gaps. For example, Mario can store water in his trunk to help the talking flowers. The Bubble form allows you to blow light bubbles to capture and defeat enemies from a distance, and you can take enemies in one go; even impervious enemies are susceptible to the bubbles. You can even jump on bubbles to get to hard-to-reach places. The Drill form allows you to deal with spiky enemies quickly, and you can drill downwards and burrow through the ground, the ceiling, and more.
You can freely walk around areas and play stages in any order you like. You can even replay stages you’ve completed if you wish. Every stage has talking flowers that talk to Mario, offering hints or coins to your team. Besides Mario, you can please Luigi, Peach, and Daisy, one of two Toads or Toadettes; they all play the same. The Yoshis don’t take damage and are meant to be a more effortless experience.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes 2D Mario multiplayer to a whole new level. First, Nintendo has introduced online play for up to four players, with a limit of two per console. If you have a group of friends, you can create Friend Rooms with up to a dozen pals. This means that smaller groups can venture off together for adventures. Moreover, any stage can be turned into a thrilling race, provided all players are on board. You can also activate Persistent Online mode for random matchmaking. To make things even more interesting, you can strategically place Standees in the course, offering fellow players a revive point if they face an unfortunate demise. Don’t forget to explore the scattered shops throughout the overworlds, where you can purchase new Standees and Badges to enhance your gameplay. A unique feature added is you can place standees in levels. These statues of your character are utilized by defeated players to be brought back to life if you’re not around and are best placed in not-so-easy areas and can be purchased at the Poplin Shops as well.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder delivers one of the best 2D Mario games in decades, providing an experience unquestionably tied to Nintendo’s identity. Few developers, if any, exist in the bubble Nintendo resides in, yet that uniqueness and inclination to creativity have given us Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Stages are dazzling, the power-ups are exciting, the characters and NPCs are charming and funny, and the platforming scenarios are top-tier. For the first time in decades, the 2D Mario games feel like they’ve outpaced the 3D Mario games by delivering one of the best games you’ll play this year.
[The publisher provided a copy of the game for review purposes.]
Reviewed on: Switch
Review: Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Super Mario Bros. Wonder delivers one of the best 2D Mario games in decades, providing an experience unquestionably tied to Nintendo’s identity.
The Flower Kingdom provides one of the best worlds we've ever seen
Tons of secrets, hidden pathways, and easter eggs to discover
The Wonder Flower create some of the best gameplay changes
The badge system allows for a ton of customization