Since Nintendo brought the Super Mario franchise into 3D gaming, the 2D sidescrollers have felt a little lacking. While the New Super Mario Bros. games were enjoyable, they failed to live up to the lofty expectations of the franchise.
Super Mario Wonder is the first 2D Mario game in decades to exceed the hype. Filled with innovation, joy, and, well…wonder, Nintendo provides a wonderful capstone to the presumed end of the Nintendo Switch’s lifespan. If this is the last hurrah for the Switch console, it’s going out on a high note.
Welcome To The Flower Kingdom, The Home Of Super Mario Wonder
Instead of taking place in the familiar Mushroom Kingdom, Super Mario Wonder brings players to the new Flower Kingdom. The setting is familiar enough, with the same style of overworld hub awaiting players to navigate between stages. A lot of the differences come from environments and enemy varieties. They’re able to add a much-needed change of pace compared to how stale things were getting in the New Super Mario Bros. games.
Nintendo delivers a perfect balance of familiar Goombas and Koopa Troopas alongside new, exciting, and unique enemies to encounter. Combined with the intelligent level design, it helps elevate Super Mario Wonder alongside the greatest entries in the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Yes, this game is on the same level as Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World.
The biggest reason is the all-new Wonder Flower, a special power-up that changes each level to something entirely new. Yes, every level has one of these, ranging from adding a new twist or challenge to the level to the downright absurd. I won’t spoil anything but don’t be surprised when you’re gleefully laughing shortly after the Wonder Flower kicks in. Even without the Wonder Flower, adding badges helps make traditional stage layouts as enjoyable as ever. These badges give you certain perks and abilities to enhance your playthrough, ranging from jumping higher, starting a level with a power-up mushroom, and other beneficial enhancements.
Super Mario Wonder Is A Worthy Swan Song For The Nintendo Switch
At a certain point, Super Mario Wonder becomes more of a victory lap for Nintendo than anything else. It clearly celebrates everything that makes the Super Mario franchise great. We’ve seen it repeatedly, most recently with Super Mario Odyssey, but Nintendo has finally cracked the code to deliver the same innovation to the 2D games we’ve seen from 3D entries.
Even without the Wonder Flower power-ups, each level is a wonderful (pun not intended) celebration of platforming perfection. Each world offers a treasure trove of levels to explore, from traditional platforming stages to mini-challenges to test your skill and patience. That’s not to say Super Mario Wonder is a challenging game, but it’s no pushover either. It certainly has its moments. Thankfully, the game doesn’t push players to the overworld every time you die. This doesn’t sound like a big deal, but honestly, it is. It’s such a convenient quality-of-life change that will make the harder levels easier to deal with.
Where the game truly shines is the constant barrage of new ideas being thrown at the player. Remarkably, it never feels overwhelming. Instead, it helps develop a perfect flow to the game. You’re constantly encouraged to explore every nook and cranny of the levels and are constantly rewarded for doing so. It blends well together with the game’s visual style. In terms of graphical prowess, it’s a bright and colorful game, but it won’t be anywhere close to cutting-edge graphics. They get the job done, though. Where the visuals overperform, though, are the little details and animations that exist. Super Mario Wonder is an incredibly stylish game with animations and character movements that back it up. It helps the game feel more alive when you see the characters so animated.
It’s a testament to the quality of games in 2023 that Super Mario Wonder isn’t an automatic shoo-in for Game of the Year. That also rings true for Nintendo games; it lives in the shadow of Tears of the Kingdom.
Yet despite this, Super Mario Wonder deserves a seat at the table for the year’s best games, even the best games for Nintendo Switch. It’s a culmination of everything Nintendo has learned from making Mario games in one big love letter to the franchise and platforming genre. Every aspect of the game is a love letter to everything you know and enjoy about the Super Mario franchise. Pick up Super Mario Wonder as soon as possible; you won’t regret it.