Super Mario Bros. Wonder Review

A wonderful family 4-player game

By Paul Hunter

I may be a bit late to the party, but when it comes to Mario games the party is always happening. Nintendo of Canada recently gave me the opportunity to review Super Mario Bros. Wonder, the latest Mario platforming game on Nintendo Switch, and I jumped at the chance. Not only do I love Mario games but Wonder is 4-players, which means my whole family could get in on the action.

Together we've played through all eight worlds and had an absolute blast collecting as many Wonder Seeds as we could and then beating Bowser, foiling yet another of his schemes to take over the kingdom. By kingdom I mean the all-new Flower Kingdom, and not the usual Mushroom one where Mario games usually take place. The Flower Kingdom is full of wondrous surprises, including new power-ups, new enemies and game-changing Wonder Flowers. Let's hop on into the kingdom to see what this game is all about, here are four things I liked about Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

Liked: New Kingdom, New Story

Mario games tend to have simple stories and Super Mario Bros. Wonder is no different, but I enjoyed this game's story more than usual because so much is new. The tale begins with Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy and their Toad friends all visiting the neighbouring Flower Kingdom, ruled by Prince Florian, and a brand new setting for the Mario series. While the Prince is showing off his kingdom's world-altering Wonder Flowers, Bowser, Bowser Jr. and Kamek show up to ruin the fun. The trio of baddies take control of the powerful Wonder Flowers and use them to convert Florian's Flower Castle into Castle Bowser, while also trapping the kingdom's citizens, the Poplins, in their homes by turning them into cages.

Naturally, Mario and his friends spring into action to save the Flower Kingdom and are joined by four Yoshis and Nabbit. Together the group travels through six worlds to collect Royal Seeds that are needed to destroy the six Cloud Piranhas protecting Castle Bowser. Along the way, you'll meet up with a bunch of talkative characters that add more flavour to the story, including talking flowers in each level that have witty one-liners and useful advice. You'll also meet a variety of Poplins in the worlds that help guide your way and usually gift your party useful items like 1-Up Mushrooms or Wonder Seeds. If you search worlds thoroughly, you may even find hidden warp pipes that lead to Captain Toad who gives you flower coins as a reward.

Liked: Wonder Flowers!

The big showpiece feature in Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the new Wonder Flowers and they are so delightful and surprising. Most levels contain a Wonder Flower and they trigger a variety of effects that turn the Flower Kingdom upside down—sometimes literally! There are lots of fun, rhythmic effects like Piranha Plants singing and popping in and out of pipes to the music, or pipes becoming inchworms and slinking across the level. There are also zany levels where Wonder Flowers will unleash an endless rain of invincibility Super Stars or ones where the ground becomes icy or sticky for an even greater platforming challenge.

My absolute favourite Wonder Flower effects are the many transformations Mario and the team can go through. I played one hilarious level where I got turned into Goomba Mario, complete with Mario's red cap. As the Goomba you can only hilariously jump about one pixel high, so to avoid enemies you need to hide behind bushes. Other transformations include morphing into balloon form, becoming a sticky jellybean Wubba, changing into a spikey ball, and there's even a metal form transformation that's a nice nod to Super Mario 64.

Wonder Flowers have ridiculously fun effects but they're also quite useful because if you can beat the flower's challenge then you'll be rewarded with a Wonder Seed. These seeds are needed to progress in each world and ultimately will open up a path to the Royal Seed needed to complete the world. Wonder Flowers can also lead you down alternate routes that can lead to the level's 'true' flagpole ending and open up new routes on the world map. In a neat nod to each world, Wonder Flowers come in different colours that reflect the world's colour palette, like green flowers in Fungi Mines or purple flowers in Deep Magma Bog.

Liked: 4-Player Excitement

Super Mario Bros. Wonder features a sizeable roster of 12 characters, including the expected group like Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Yoshi and different colour toads. But there are also nice surprises including Princess Daisy, Red and Yellow Yoshi and the neither-enemy-nor-ally wily Nabbit. What's great is the Yoshis are near-invincible (except for touching lava or falling in bottomless pits) and Nabbit is even more powerful since he doesn't flinch when touching most enemies or hazards.

With such a large roster, it was a great choice for Nintendo to include 4-player co-op in Mario Wonder. I played through the game with my family and we had so much fun playing co-operatively, while also a bit competitively as we all tried to touch the Wonder Flowers first or reach the highest point on the end-of-stage flagpoles. Since Yoshis and Nabbit are invincible they're great choices for younger players or those less familiar with platforming games. Yoshi is also a good pick for more experienced players since he can let another player ride on his back—perfectly for letting Yoshi complete a difficult segment while your co-op partner can ride patiently on his back.

Playing the game co-op leads to so many funny moments as everybody scrambles to grab power-ups, defeat enemies and be the first to overcome tricky platforming areas. One person will always hold the 'crown' which means that's the person the camera will follow. That can lead to silly moments too when the crown leader pushes the other players offscreen, but thankfully they'll immediately be revived as ghosts that pop back to life if another player touches them.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder features online play that can make co-op sessions even more fun. Other players from around the world will begin to appear in your game as ghost forms, but everyone can see each other and you can even send emotes to each other. There were some levels where random online players would use emotes to show us where secrets could be found, so that was a nice surprise. You can also place an object in levels called a Standee that acts as a respawn point for your party, plus other online players in your level. It was nice to see other players would drop Standees for my party to use, particularly near some of the game's most challenging segments. There are 144 Standees to collect, which show characters in different poses or forms, and the Standees can be bought at Poplin Shops for 10 Flower Coins (a new in-game currency introduced in Mario Wonder).

Liked: New Power-ups

When the first trailer dropped for Super Mario Bros. Wonder and showed us the new Elephant Mario transformation, I got so curious to see what form has to offer. As it turns out, in elephant form Mario can use his long trunk to bash enemies or destroy blocks. You can also touch water and suck it into Elephant Mario's trunk to water flowers that will usually reward you with Coins or Flower Coins. Since your elephant form is so big you can also run across two-block gaps and pick up large snail shells too heavy for regular Mario.

This game introduces a new Drill Mario form that gives you new ways to attack enemies and destroy blocks. However, its most useful ability is drilling into the ground or ceiling to squeeze through super-tiny cracks and access secret areas with great rewards. Another new power-up is the Bubble Flower which lets Mario toss a stream of bubbles. The bubbles can trap enemies and turn them into coins, and you can even jump and bounce off the bubbles to reach new areas. All these new power-ups add a tremendous amount of newness and variety to gameplay which I enjoyed.

A new collectable and equippable item featured in Super Mario Bros. Wonder are badges, and they're great! There are 24 badges in total to collect, ranging from Action Badges that give new abilities, Boost Badges that offer passive benefits, and Expert Badges that grant advanced skills and are for experienced players. Some of the Action Badges can help you complete levels faster and easier, like the crouching high jump to jump higher than usual or the fast dash to run even quicker. Boost Badges offer a bunch of different benefits, such as letting you start a course with a Super Mushroom, a sensor to detect nearby secrets, or a coin magnet to draw in nearby coins. The Expert Badges can give you powerful new abilities such as invisibility, making it so enemies no longer see you, but they're the most challenging badges to acquire. Badges are a great new addition to the Super Mario Bros. series that can help younger gamers complete levels more easily or give experienced players new ways to enjoy each level.

The Verdict

I haven't had this much fun playing a Mario game since Super Mario World on the SNES. So much creativity went into making Super Mario Bros. Wonder whether that's all the new power-ups, the incredible level designs or the game-changing Wonder Flowers. The game is a blast playing solo but the fun is magnified several times over when you play co-op with family and friends. Mario Wonder epitomizes what makes the Nintendo magic so special and will go down as one of the best platformers of all time.

Final Score: 9.5/10 - Amazing

Super Mario Bros. Wonder details

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Genre: Platformer
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

A key was provided by the publisher.