Nintendo has done the impossible with Super Mario Bros. Wonder, staying faithful to a tried and true formula while making the most iconic 2D platformer feel like a new and exciting experience.
Super Mario recently went through a spell of feeling pretty stagnant – bland, maybe – as it seemed Nintendo was pulling the reigns on the developer’s creativity. For the past few years, players have debated the ominous “Mario Mandate,” citing several of Mario’s most recent titles, from Paper Mario to New Super Mario Bros., as “proof” that Nintendo was against innovation and creativity.
But then 2023 happened, and Mario couldn’t possibly be any less milquetoast. Sure, The Super Mario Bros. Movie was brilliant and worked to pave the way for high-quality animated video game movies in the future, but then June came along, and the Mario floodgates opened.
Since the Super Mario Bros. Wonder reveal on June 21, I have been dying to turn into an elephant. And now that it’s here, I can’t get enough.
Same 2D Platformer, but A Brand New Mario
Playing Mario Wonder is what I imagine it would feel like to return home after a long business trip. It’s familiar and cozy, and you fall right back into place as if you’ve played this game your entire life. Because for all intents and purposes, if you grew up on Super Mario, you have played Wonder.
At its core, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is just a continuation of the New Super Mario Bros. franchise. You have the same base moveset, enemies have the actions, and levels contain familiar elements. But all that is simply the foundation that Wonder builds upon, and boy, does it build.
From the get-go, Super Mario Wonder rocks players with its creativity. Level 1, you’re an elephant. Level 2, you are surrounded by singing walking Pirahna Plants. By the end of World 1, you’ve already faced some of the game’s hardest challenges and wackiest encounters, and you’ve only scratched the tip of the iceberg.
Every single world is like this. They’re all chocked full of surprises and collectibles, levels ranging from cakewalk to eye-watering. And yes, there are new enemies tucked into every corner of this game. It almost feels like a treat when you see a Goomba or Boo, as they aren’t common in the slightest.
Wonder Seeds are Ingenius
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is already a brilliant 2D Platformer before you even get into the Wonder Seeds. This gimmick, if you can even call it one, is what elevates Mario Wonder beyond the typical mustachioed plumber adventure.
Every one of the 69 main story levels has a secret Wonder Seed that, once found, will transform the entire stage. Try as you might; you will never guess what is going to happen once you find it. Sometimes, a flash mob of enemies will escort Mario to the end of the level. Maybe you’ll turn into a Goomba and have to hide from carnivorous monsters. In one instance, the sidescroller changed to a top-down dungeon crawler, and Mario had to dodge evil birds in a different dimensional plane.
Each time I found a Wonder Seed, I could feel the biggest uncontrollable smile overcome my face. My eyes would widen as I had no clue what awaited me, and I could hardly stand to wait to see what would occur – and I was never disappointed by the outcome.
What’s even more astounding is that Nintendo jammed one of these into every level. Even if these were scattered in just a few levels, it would have blown me away. To go into each story mission and know something exciting was hidden within its walls was a feeling I’ve never really experienced, at least not with a 2D Mario game.
Mario Has A Grappling Hook
In addition to Power-Ups and Wonder Seeds, Mario and the gang can unlock and equip different badges. At the start of each stage, players can select a badge for their character to wear, each granting a different ability, change in gameplay mechanic, or challenge.
Want to start every level with a mushroom? There’s a badge for that. Jumps aren’t as high as you’d like? There are a few badges for that! Is the game just too easy, and you want to bounce uncontrollably off every surface? There’s even a badge for that!
These badges are a ton of fun and add so much more variety to the gameplay. I mean, there’s little as entertaining as watching Elephant Mario use a grappling hook to escape King Boo’s operatic ballad.
Kevin Afghani’s Debut & Talking Plants
Of course, the biggest change to the Super Mario formula is the debut of the plumber’s new voice actor, Kevin Afgahni. While it was sad to see Charles Martinet removed from the role he had held for over 25 years, Afgahni’s Mario is impeccable.
For someone who grew up with Mario, the change was very noticeable. Almost abrasive at first. “This isn’t my Mario,” I thought. But as I spent more and more time with this younger-sounding plumber, he grew on me.
The grit behind each “Wonderful!” and the cadence of his “Yahoos” made me an Afghani fan – though, his performance couldn’t outshine that of the talking flowers.
You will either love or hate these little guys if you’re an adult. Kiddos will likely become instant fans, but anyone older than 16 will fall to one side or the other. I love the talking flowers. Mick Wingert did an incredible job voicing them, and I found myself chuckling at most of their quips.
Most notably, anytime you kill whatever they’re admiring, they will let out a disappointed “Oh…” which tickles me every time.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is arguably the best 2D platformer from Nintendo. Its range in difficulty makes it a game everyone can enjoy, especially with invincible characters like Yoshi and Nabbit. The co-op makes for a hilarious and fun family game night. Completionists and challenge runners are also in for a treat, as Mario Wonder is bursting at the seams with content.
Wonder feels like the start of a new generation of Super Mario. We are on the precipice looking out at the exciting Mario games on the horizon, and if Mario Wonder is the first step, we are in for quite the journey.
10 / 10
|+ Over 100 levels & 60+ Wonder Seed challenges|
|+ Tons of new and interesting enemies and characters|
|+ Badges make gameplay customizable & add replayability|
|+ Stages range from from easy to extremely hard, giving older gamers a challenge|
|+ David Afghani IS Mario (and Luigi)|
|+ Incredibly fun experience from top to bottom|
Gamepur reviewed this game on the Nintendo Switch