What a Wonderful World: Super Mario Bros Wonder Review

Re-enter Mario's world of wonder...

George Brownless
23rd February 2024
Image Source: George Brownless
2D Mario has a long history. The original, released back in 1985, all the way up till Super Mario World in 1991. Aside from remakes, 2D Mario disappeared until the DS in 2006, with New Super Mario Bros releasing, a game I personally enjoyed a lot when I got it in 2009. The “New” series kept going until 2013’s New Super Luigi U, which, while it cranked up the difficulty, still had begun to feel very similar to the other entries in this part of the series.

Super Mario Maker, and Super Mario Maker 2 subsequently resolved this, giving the power to the players to make their own stages, and show how creative, or indeed sadistic they could be. Super Mario Bros Wonder is the first wholly new 2D Mario in 10 years, and Nintendo have knocked it out of the park.

"Super Mario Bros Wonder is the first wholly new 2D Mario in 10 years, and Nintendo have knocked it out of the park."

Like all previous games in the series, enemies do reoccur across levels, but where Wonder differs is that minus Goombas, Koopa Troopas and Piranha Plants, most other enemies appear very rarely. There is such a wide variety of new ideas in platforms, enemies and how the level plays that there is no risk of the game ever feeling stale. It feels much more like a continuation from World back in 1991, than any of the other games that have occurred since then. The spark for all of this is the Wonder Flower, present in each level changing it in unique ways across every level. For example, the second level in the game, Piranha Plants on Parade. Traditionally, the second stage of a Mario game is an underground level, this time, it was closer to a jungle. Filled with Piranha Plants, not just coming in and out of pipes, but also walking around. On Christmas day, I was playing the game with my sister, whilst my parents watched on, and when we hit the Wonder Flower in the stage and the Piranha Plants began to sing, we all burst out laughing. It was such a surreal experience, and every time you hit a new Wonder Flower you have to take a second to realise what is happening. That’s by no means a bad thing, it’s a testament to the development team that the same level of surprise in the first three levels carries all the way through to the very end.

Mario Wonder also brings back only a few past power ups, being the Super Mushroom, Fire Flower, and Super Star. Instead, it brings in the Elephant Fruit, Bubble Flower and Drill Mushroom, a very unique set of powerups. I will openly admit, I adored the Elephant Fruit from the moment I first saw it, just whacking enemies with a trunk is hilarious and a brilliant idea. Elephant Toad also manages to be one of the cutest things possible. The Drill Mushroom is also very fun to use, and it opens up a lot of options for traversing levels, particularly along ceilings. Finally the Bubble Flower, which is probably the weakest of the three, but the ability to create platforms in front of you, alongside trapping and killing enemies is very interesting.

Badges are the other unique feature added to Wonder, augmenting each characters abilities with everything from using a hat as a glider and being able to wall jump vertically, to having a consistent spring jump or turning yourself invisible. Previous Mario games have definitely suffered from a lack of re-playability, beyond getting collectables in each levels. But with the badges changing the gameplay so dynamically, running back through levels to challenge myself has felt very gratifying.

Super Mario Bros Wonder has truly been the 2D Mario games I’ve wanted to see for years, taking inspiration kindly from its past, but with a smorgasbord of so many new ideas that it’s been impossible to stop smiling while playing.

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