Super Mario Bros. Wonder has arrived on Switch, and much like Super Mario Maker, it revives the 2D platformer franchise by completely breaking the rules. Instead of relying on its laurels, Mario Wonder bucks the trend in several important ways, resulting in a much-needed change of pace. This brilliant platformer has already nabbed several 2023 Game of the Year nods, but some are taking it even further, claiming that Super Mario Wonder is one of the best 2D Mario games ever made. At the very least, Mario Wonder makes a statement by fundamentally changing the way the game is played.
New Plumber, New Kingdom, New Everything
Starting with a historic change that rocks the very foundation of the franchise, Super Mario Wonder is the first game not to feature the voice of Charles Martinet as Mario. Instead, this is the debut of Kevin Z. Afghani, who has replaced Martinet as the primary voice actor for Mario, Luigi, and Wario. Kevin Afghani makes a commendable first impression with his shouts of “wahoo” and “letsa go”, faithfully replicating Martinet’s unforgettable tone and timbre.
Furthermore, Super Mario Wonder steps away from the ever-constant Mushroom Kingdom, opting for an adventure in a brand new locale. This time, Mario and his friends are summoned to the bucolic Flower Kingdom by the tiny caterpillar Prince Florian, as Bowser is on yet another rampage. To stop the King of Koopas from conquering the lovely landscape, Mario must recover six Royal Wonder Seeds, spread across the many worlds of the Flower Kingdom.
In short, the Flower Kingdom is the Mushroom Kingdom’s eccentric next-door neighbor, where everything is wackier, more experimental, and the colors just hit different. You won’t find any Toads here (unless you’re playing as one), as flower-bud-headed Poplins call this Kingdom home. Goombas and Koops are still available for stomping, but there are over a dozen fresh enemies in Super Mario Wonder, including dive-bombing birds, insatiable Maw-Maws, and even bouncy purple hippos. Outlandish power-ups like the elephant fruit and bubble flower simply elevate the oddity, setting the stage for a truly imaginative experience.
The Best Part of Super Mario Wonder is a Secret
Dashing to the flagpole at the end of each stage is still a blast, but truth be told, that’s not really the point of Super Mario Wonder. Rather, the game encourages you to be curious and experiment as you explore each level in search of hidden Wonder Seeds. When you find these valuable hidden collectibles, the stage undergoes a psychedelic transformation, presenting a short challenge to enjoy. While occasionally similar in flavor, no two Wonder Seed challenges are the same. Between rhythm-based mini-games, unique power-up puzzles, and much much more, finding a Wonder Seed always results in blissful entertainment.
The overworld of Super Mario Wonder is also bursting with surprises and deserves just as much examination as the individual levels. Instead of holding you tightly to a linear level track like in Super Mario Bros. 3, the overworld occasionally opens up, letting players choose what level or world to tackle next. Some areas, like the Sunbaked Desert, are especially rewarding in this regard, and packed with multiple hidden levels.
According to game director Shiro Mouri, Super Mario Wonder was wholly inspired by the inherent mystery and discovery within classic Mario Bros. games. Like stumbling on a warp pipe or secret exit every few minutes, Mario Wonder aims to provide a consistent stream of bite-sized surprises without growing repetitive or dull, and it succeeds in spades. From start to finish, you can never be sure what the next level of Super Mario Wonder holds. Plus, further surprises wait for completionists, including bonus worlds, extra-challenging levels, and more.
Is Super Mario Bros. Wonder The Best 2D Mario?
Objectively speaking, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is now the fastest-selling Super Mario game ever, with over 4 million copies sold in its first two weeks on store shelves. Both franchise newcomers and longtime fans can’t stop singing its praises, and for good reason. Not since Super Mario World has a 2D Mario title strayed so far from the formula and still came out a hit.
While there are already many players calling Super Mario Bros. Wonder the best 2D Mario ever made, only time will tell if it can face down the most popular of its peers. When compared to the likes of Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World, Wonder seems just as inspired, but only time will tell if the community embraces it for the long haul. At the very least, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a joyfully imaginative platformer that rejuvenates the Nintendo magic that has been long missing from this much-beloved franchise.