Every time I start to get the feeling like the Nintendo Switch console has outstayed its welcome, the company behind it releases a title that delivers incredibly fun entertainment and helps to re-center my views on what makes a good game. This time they’ve done it with the amazingly fun Super Mario Bros: Wonder.
The side-scrolling adventure starts with the friends of the Mushroom Kingdom (Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Toad, Nabbit & Yoshi visiting the neighboring Flower Kingdom. It’s here we meet Prince Florian before Bowser once again crashes the party this time not to capture a princess but a whole castle that he merges with before beginning his chaotic rampage.
It’s up to team Mario to collect the magical Wonder Seeds and stop Bowser and his goons in time to save the kingdom.
The premise of the game has a lot of impact on the way the story plays out, especially when compared to previous Mario titles. The focus is on the rescue of the Flower Kingdom so your missions instantly become more varied. I chose to play through with Yoshi, mainly because I always choose the cute green dino-buddy when given the chance and although I feel like I might have missed part of the brief by not choosing Mario the game played so beautifully that in the end it wasn’t a big deal at all. Having said that, my next play through will be as Mario to hear the new voice over talent, but from what I’ve heard so far it’s more the same old “its-a-me’s”.
The fact that there are so many characters to choose from at the get-go is an inspired choice that will give the game a fair bit of replayability. This is a side-scrolling platformer at its heart, but giving us options makes the world feel more alive than most titles of a similar style and the impressive graphic styling brings it all together without ever giving an impression of hardware limitation.
That’s because Nintendo just knows the DNA of how to make a great family friendly game. Take a glance at the recent back catalogue of titles to see that it’s fun gameplay that comes first in titles like Mario Kart, Kirby & the Forgotten Land and even Zelda. These games thrive on simple but bright and colourful visuals that don’t require the big ray-tracing elements to make them AAA titles.
Super Mario Bros: Wonder features six main worlds sporting unique theming and plenty of hours of gameplay. Inside those worlds you’ll find familiar elements from your previous adventures in the Mushroom Kingdom and stacks of new ones for the new Flower Kingdom. By completing specific worlds or tasks you earn badges that each have powerful abilities which will help you on your journey and actually have an impact on your gameplay style. Protection badges will help against hazards like lava or poison while the hat badge will allow you to float more effectively to your level goals.
The trailers leading up to the release of the title all showed the elephant transformation using the powers of the wonder flower and it really is as fun as it looks, even though I didn’t find the education around using those powers particularly intuitive. There are also bubble and drill powers which are a joy to use even if they don’t quite have the same earth shattering raw power that elephants do.
Multiplayer co-op is a stack of fun, even when playing with my young kids whose ability to use a controller is still limited so I found myself slowing down and backtracking a bit so they could catch up. You can play with up to 4 players though and that could be a chaotic smash bros level experience, but I still found my favourite way to play was one or two players.
Super Mario Bros Wonder is a perfect example of a polished AAA release in an era when so many half finished titles are getting released and waiting for a further patch. The simple and traditional mechanics are of more value than I originally would have given them credit for and the visual updates to the characters and scenery actually go a long way in making this a more modern take on the genre. The replay value is superb and will keep you coming back to explore the worlds as new and enjoyable Mario buddies. The game continues to hit the goals set by all the recent Mario media making the Italian plumber comfortable on his throne overlooking the gaming kingdom.