Super Mario Bros. Wonder review: Not just a clever name

Super Mario Bros. Wonder artwork. Image courtesy of Nintendo
Super Mario Bros. Wonder artwork. Image courtesy of Nintendo /

Game: Super Mario Bros. Wonder
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo Switch (reviewed on)
Release Date: October 20, 2023

I finally beat Super Mario Bros. Wonder last night and it’s time to finally talk about it. Because there is a LOT that needs to be said about this game.

When I first saw trailers for Wonder months ago I was excited but also confused. Talking flowers, turning into a big ol’ elephant, I was genuinely worried that we had a game for younger kids on our hands.

I am very glad to be wrong here though because it turns out Super Mario Bros. Wonder is the kind of Mario side scroller I’ve been waiting on for a long time.

Firstly I’m going to talk about what I DIDN’T like.

I was disappointed in the music. They clearly worked really hard on this soundtrack. The stages have really interesting orchestral tracks that have layers upon layers of work put into them and I get it; it’s impressive. But, surprisingly it makes it a lot less memorable. There are a lot of Mario songs from the early days that most people will recognize with just a few notes. But having completely beaten this game, I couldn’t hum a song. I know that’s a minor detail to some but to me, the music in a Mario game is almost a character in and of itself.

My other complaint is that there are a few stages that feel empty. Many of the stages are rich and filled with detail and then sometimes you’ll get a stage that is so focused on challenge and so not focused on detail that it feels like you’re playing a Super Mario Maker stage. For example, there are these exceptionally difficult rhythm stages that are so visually boring. Check it out:

Beyond those minor complaints though, the game is REALLY solid with a lot of clever elements.

The new power-ups add some fun little new mechanics to the game. The Drill allows you to traverse the ceilings, the Bubble allows you to not only capture enemies within bubbles but to turn them into makeshift platforms, Bubble Bobble style. And to address the elephant in the room, the infamous Elephant powerup allows you to break blocks horizontally and occasionally shoot water.

In addition to the new power-ups, the addition of a “badge” system gives you a fun customization for your character that grants you a new ability which makes multiplayer really fun, especially when you’re playing online with different people using different abilities.

The first badge you get allows you to produce a large Mario-style hat that works as a parachute, allowing you to slowly glide. Over time you find and earn many different badges. One that makes you jump much higher but also bouncy. You never stop jumping. There’s one that gives you a secondary spin jump that almost works like a double jump. And one that makes you run a lot faster. My personal favorite is one where your character produces a piranha plant on a long vine that clamps onto something and pulls you in like a grappling hook.

You can also switch over to bags that give you other abilities that aren’t gameplay-related. There’s a radar to help find hidden items, a badge that switches all power-ups to the power-up of your choice, and even a badge that makes mysterious sounds and voices spring up all over the place.

Another thing I like is that as this game takes place in a brand-new Kingdom. They’ve given us a TON of new enemies which, in a Mario game, I’m always down for. Obviously, Goombas, Koopas, Bob-ombs, Piranha Plants and the like will be carried over as Bowser’s army is invading but we also get Hoppycats which are weird spiky critters that jump whenever you jump. Outmaways are cute little fellas that walk around like Goombas kicking everything they run into whether that be ice blocks, Koopa Shells, or even you. Each of the new enemies adds a fun new way to tackle a situation and they’re well designed.

Except one. There is one enemy that I feel needs to go away forever because of how much it resembles the least majestic part of a horse.

Super-Mario-Wonder-Tall-Bois /

Moving on though, another great mechanic is the network features that the game has to offer. Turning on the Internet mode allows you to see several other players that are playing the same stage as you. They’re translucent and don’t directly interact with you like they’re creepy little dead Jedi masters but they can see you and sometimes you’ll find them giving you hints to where a hidden block is. As I played stages over again, I found myself tempted to guide people to secrets as well.

You can also place standees of yourself around the stage. This not only shows your username to other players, they can also serve purposes. If you find a hidden block, jump on it and place a standee and other players will see the sign floating in the air and know there’s something hidden there.

And if you die by falling in a pit or getting hit by an enemy and you have the online mode enabled, instead of starting over, you become a ghost. When you become a ghost you have five seconds to either find another player or another player’s standee. Touching them will allow you to come back to life right, giving you a second chance.

I love this feature so much as in the later stages there were some severely tricky jumps. I found myself working with another player — one of us tried the jump while the other stood behind to resurrect. Then when that person would cross, I’d try and make the jump knowing they’d be there to bring me back if I screwed up.

Super-Mario-Wonder-Character-Select /

The game also contains a lot of features for helping younger gamers in the same system multiplayer. Characters like Yoshi and Nabbit, while unable to use power-ups, don’t take damage. And Yoshi is rideable meaning that if you have a younger gamer having a hard time with some of the jumps, they can hop on your back and you can get them across that pesky gap.

It’s fantastic because the game not only offers some later challenges far tougher than some of the recent Mario games, but it also recognizes that not all gamers are at the same level and gives them a myriad of ways to help them get through the challenge.

All in all, it’s the most fun I’ve had in a 2D Mario game and honestly, it’s something that gives me a lot of hope for the future of the franchise. True to its name, Super Mario Bros. Wonder kept me in a state of wonder up until the end of the game. Well done, Nintendo.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder (Nintendo Switch) Score: 9.5/10

Super Mario Wonder is an exceptional reinvention of the wheel where they’ve taken everything you comfortably know about Mario and his gameplay and shifted it on its ear. The game is filled with new enemies and mechanics and will constantly stun you with innovative twists and turns. If you’re a fan of multiplayer games, regardless of your skill level, this is the game for you as it’s one of the finest 2D Mario experiences I’ve had in years.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.