In 1996, Nintendo helped change the video game industry forever with Super Mario 64, a pivotal release in the transition from over two decades of 2D experiences to the amazing new world of 3D gaming. It was an incredibly exciting time—but, in a way, also a sad one. As players and developers alike rushed to embrace the switch from sprites to polygons, too many did so with the belief that anything with only two dimensions was no longer valuable.
Thankfully, we’ve come to fully understand the folly of such sentiments. Nintendo, the company who had helped transition the platforming genre to 3D years before, proved it still had faith in side-scrolling adventures with the New Super Mario Bros. series of games. And yet, as great as they were for those who wanted a more traditional experience, there’s been growing demand for a game that would combine the best parts of that series together with some of the gameplay and stage design elements lost from Mario’s 8- and 16-bit eras.
Enter Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
“I think players will notice a distinct feel and experience from the New Super Mario Bros. games [in Super Mario Bros. Wonder],” Damiano Pinton of Nintendo Treehouse told us. And, at least if you’re asking us, that difference is noticeable even just when watching trailers for the game. From the art style and stage design, to the types of power-ups and new gameplay twists, everything leaves us feeling like this maybe could have been titled Super Mario Bros. 5 had we all taken a warp pipe straight from the SNES to the Switch.
“In Super Mario Bros. Wonder, Mario and friends were invited to the Flower Kingdom, a not-so-distant land just beyond the Mushroom Kingdom, by the benevolent Prince Florian,” explained Pinton. “But Bowser was after the mysterious power contained in the Wonder Flowers, and with just a single touch, he merged with Prince Florian’s castle. Thanks to his newfound power, chaos spread across the land.”
Unsurprisingly, it’s up to Mario and crew to save the Flower Kingdom while cleaning up the mess Bowser has caused. Our heroes have quite a journey ahead of them, as Prince Florian’s domain covers not only his home turf of the Petal Isles, but also the six distinct lands encircling them. From the more familiar-looking terrain of Pipe-Rock Plateau, to a gloomy forest filled with giant mushrooms, Super Mario Bros. Wonder looks to feature a wide diversity of locales perfect for offering classic Mario platforming moments while introducing a whole host of new gameplay mechanics.
One of the first questions any good Mario fan will ask mechanics-wise is what kinds of power-ups are in any new release. Super Mario Bros. Wonder introduces three new options to go along with the classic Fire Flower: Elephant, Bubble, and Drill. Should you grab a different power-up when you’ve already got one active, you can keep it in reserve in case you get hit by an enemy and lose your current form. Or, in a new twist, you can also freely switch back-and-forth between the two to make use of both abilities.
Speaking of abilities, one element that might surprise some is that, even though Super Mario Bros. Wonder sports the largest roster of playable characters in a traditional Mario game ever, who you pick won’t be as dire a decision as you may expect.
“There have been Mario titles in the past where each character had different traits, such as Luigi being able to jump higher or Peach being able to float,” Pinton told us. “In Super Mario Bros. Wonder, characters and traits are independent from each other, so that you can add your favorite trait to your favorite character [using] the Badge system.”
Of course, the addition that changes everything in Super Mario Bros. Wonder is right there in the game’s name: the Wonder Flowers, simple-looking plants that thrive on the mysterious energy of the Flower Kingdom. Touching a Wonder Flower causes it to release all of the energy it has stored up, resulting in a reality-altering Wonder Effect. When that happens, pipes may suddenly start moving on their own, you might find yourself walking on the background (instead of in front of it), or Mario could even change into a Goomba or blow up like a balloon. Even with Nintendo not revealing everything there is to see and do in the game, we’ve already witnessed a wide array of fantastical events that can happen when Wonder Flowers alter the world, meaning you’ll never know what to expect once you touch one—or what you’ll need to accomplish to grab the Wonder Seed waiting in that warped world so you can send things back to normal.
“When a Wonder Effect occurs in the game, the mechanics of the course change greatly,” said Pinton. “Wonder effects vary course by course, but all of them put a heavy emphasis on surprise and fun. Something interesting is how all of the courses are designed to be fun regardless of if you get the Wonder Flower, which allows players to experience and enjoy each course in a different way.”
Experiencing things in a different way is a concept deep at the heart of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, a fact that’s also on display in the game’s multiplayer options. Much like in New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, if you’ve got enough Joy-Con or other controllers, up to four players can trek through the game together in local co-op. Unlike previous Mario games, however, you can now also hop online for a whole new multiplayer experience, so long as you’ve got a Nintendo Account and Nintendo Switch Online membership.
Once connected, you’ll run into Live Player Shadows, translucent characters which represent other players roaming around the world map or attempting the same courses you are at the same time. While you can’t directly affect their progress, nor can they yours, players can offer up a little encouragement to anyone in the area, gift one another items, or help resurrect each other in times of need. If you’d rather play together with friends or family members instead of strangers, you can create a private room for up to 12 people, where you and three others can then enter the same course together to either provide one another some support, or compete with each other in a Friend Race to see who can get to the goal pole, find the Wonder Seed, or defeat the boss the fastest (depending on the course).
Across these eight pages, we’ve touched upon a number of elements to Super Mario Bros. Wonder. And yet, there’s still so much we don’t know about the game, and so many things that we didn’t have the room to talk about. Like, say, those Talking Flowers that, to be honest, freak us out just a bit. (Pinton told us that he feels like “they are my in-game best friends—except when they talk about what I might taste like.”)
What we do know and can tell you is that Super Mario Bros. Wonder promises to offer even more proof that 2D platformers are alive and well—and all in a package that looks to take the best elements of the modern era of Mario while powering them up with beloved concepts from the past. And that, at least to us, sounds like a wonderful combination.