Game of the Month: Super Mario Bros. Wonder
RELEASE DATE 10.20.2023
No doubt needing a break from all of the craziness of the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and his friends head off to the neighboring Flower Kingdom. Soon after meeting Prince Florian and the Poplins (flowery takes on Toads), things go awry as Bowser shows up, taps into the power of the magical Wonder Flower, and sets off to cause havoc all across the domain.
Thus begins Super Mario Bros. Wonder, a new 2D chapter of the series that harkens back to Mario’s classic 8- and 16-bit adventures. All throughout the game, creative and colorful stages await, feeling familiar yet fresh thanks to the different creatures, obstacles, and landscapes scattered throughout the Flower Kingdom.
While it’s clear that a lot of thought and artistry has gone into the game on a basic level, stages truly blossom whenever you touch the Wonder Flower hidden in each. The energy released transforms the world in a unique way, from causing Super Stars to rain from the sky, to morphing our heroes into strange new forms. The amount of different Wonder Effects found throughout the game is staggering, becoming a legitimately game-changing feature that prevents things from ever getting dull.
Also helping in that regard are the new power-ups and the introduction of Badges, selectable special abilities that can boost your jumping skills, protect you from falls, and much more. Given it initially seemed like a completely random choice for a transformation, we really weren’t expecting to love Wonder’s new Elephant form as much as we did, but it’s a ton of fun. We were, however, a tad disappointed in the new Bubble Flower. While it does provide for some handy new ways to dispatch foes, the bubbles pop far too fast to make them as interesting of makeshift platforms as they could have been.
Surprises also come in Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s multiplayer options. Local four-player couch co-op is still around and enjoyable (so long as you’ve got players who are good at sticking together), but it’s online where we were caught off guard. While you can’t directly play with strangers over the internet, you can see them attempting the same stages you are, and even help one another avoid death in certain cases. Wonder’s online options are technically limited, but genuinely help foster a sense of comradery that we simply weren’t expecting.
Saying that Nintendo has produced yet another great new Mario game comes as no shock, but even in that, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is an achievement that deserves recognition. It is easily the best 2D platformer the series has seen in nearly 30 years, and serves to refresh both the franchise and its titular character. If this is the start of a new direction for Nintendo’s side-scrolling Mario adventures going forward, then we can’t wait to see what the future holds—and that’s a wonderful feeling.