Say what you will about plumbing, it keeps you fit. Nintendo‘s mushroom-munching hero Mario turned 40 this year, and he’s busier than ever. After starring in a film adaptation, along with an expansion for Mario + Rabbids Sparks Of Hope, he’s back to the Nintendo Switch for a portable 2D adventure in Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
This time around, Mario – along with Princess Peach, Luigi, and a castle-full of other playable characters – are off to the Flower Kingdom. Their stately visit is interrupted when Bowser arrives to steal the magical Wonder Flower, transforming him into a flying castle and warping the land’s colourful buildings into gothic prisons. That’s your problem to solve, and you’re soon galavanting around to collect Wonder and Royal Seeds to dispel Bowser’s evil magic and free the Kingdom’s hapless citizens.
On paper, little has changed from past 2D Mario games. In most levels, you’re tasked with sprinting along stages, bouncing over Bowser’s minions and hoovering up coins until you reach the Wonder Seed at the end. There are a few smart additions that keep things feeling fresh too. Some new power-ups have been made available, including one that turns Mario into an elephant capable of destroying bricks and Koopas with a flick of his trunk, and another that lets you fire bubbles and pop enemies caught within them.
There are also a number of creative trials to complete, which range from frantic races against adorable Wigglers, to briefer challenges triggered by picking up a Wonder Flower. Grabbing this family-friendly hallucinogen completely reshapes the worlds they belong to. A straightforward path can transform into a parade of singing Piranha Plants that you have to march along with, or an already difficult course might turn into a brutal time trial. It’s brilliant fun – casual players will have no trouble rolling credits on Wonder, but completionists will have their work cut out trying to snag the tougher Wonder Flowers.
You don’t have to do it alone, either. Wonder supports up to four players in co-op, though how many of those slots you should fill is debatable. Running through a stage with four pals is absolute carnage, as it’s a nightmare keeping track of danger while Peach, Toad, and Mario riding a Yoshi all try to barrel through it at the same breakneck pace. Yet it can make Wonder‘s tougher courses much easier, as players can revive each other to save starting again.
Whether you use multiplayer or not, there are a host of Badge modifiers to customise your Goomba-stomping experience. You can only equip one Badge at a time, but they’re incredibly useful – they let Mario cling to walls, jump higher, float through the air and much more. Badges can be unlocked in certain levels or bought with coins, and experimenting with them can reveal hidden items and pathways that otherwise couldn’t be reached.
The whole time, Wonder is thoroughly charming. Each stage looks gorgeous, and the game’s pacing means you’re rarely loitering in the same area for long. The wider world of the Flower Kingdom is just as vibrant, and you’ll be ready to die for its cutesy Poplins after just a couple of meetings. Even Bowser Jr., a Koopa child you’ll questionably knock about in several slightly repetitive boss fights, endears with every failed attempt at following in his dad’s villainous footsteps. Wonder‘s delightful score – directed and partly composed by Nintendo legend Koji Kondo – ties the whole thing together, providing plenty of nostalgia without leaning on it too hard.
It’s fitting that Wonder launches just after Mario’s 40th anniversary. This adventure is a joyous celebration of those four decades. It’s a perfect jumping-in point for newcomers of all ages, while long-time fans will fall in love with its stage design and new power-ups. With Super Mario RPG set to follow Wonder next month, there’s no break in sight for the beleaguered plumber – but when his games are this good, can you blame Nintendo?
Super Mario Bros. Wonder launches on October 20 for Nintendo Switch
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is one of Mario’s all-time greatest titles. With no shortage of colour and creativity, Nintendo reminds us why we’ve loved this series for so long – while also setting up a bright new future for its 2D games.
- Gorgeous visuals
- Platforming fans will find some irresistible challenges, which casual players can ignore if it’s not their cup of tea
- A charming cast of new and returning favourites
- Some boss fights can feel repetitive
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