Available On: Switch

The Super Mario Bros. series has always supported multiplayer — sort of. It was more like taking turns with slightly different characters.

Then in 2009 we finally saw a simultaneous co-op Mario sidescroller with New Super Mario Bros. Wii, and an equally excellent sequel on the Wii U in 2012. Despite launching as acclaimed blockbusters, we wouldn’t see another traditional sidescrolling Mario game until now, with Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

Was it worth the wait? Read on for our Super Mario Bros. Wonder review!

The New Kingdom

The biggest change in Super Mario Bros. Wonder is that it doesn’t take place in the familiar Mushroom Kingdom, but in the new Flower Kingdom.

Bowser is up to his old shenanigans, and becomes fused with Wonder Power, a special power-up produced by the Wonder Seeds of the kingdom. It’s up to our heroes to travel across the colorful kingdom, collecting Wonder Seeds, and confront the new tyrant.

This is still a Mario platformer where players run and jump to collect power-ups, avoid or defeat enemies, and reach the familiar flagpole at the end of each level. We’ll hop down warp pipes, discover secret blocks, and jump on koopas to grab their shells. The gameplay is instantly intuitive whether it’s your zillionth Mario platformer, or your first.

Simultaneous co-op adds a chaotic wrinkle to the Mario formula, letting up to four players tackle a level together. Gameplay becomes a bit easier with others, as players can rescue each other from a downed state as they fly as a ghost for a few seconds.

This time around, Yoshi and Nabbit are playable characters designed for younger and first-time players. These characters cannot use power-ups, but are immune to enemy attacks.

The Flower Kingdom also features tons of new enemies, such as the ledge-spawning blewbirds, the bouncy hoppos, and the super-tall tompettes. Every new enemy is cleverly designed to add new challenges and mini-puzzles. And many enemies are given an entire level dedicated to introducing their fun traits, and how to exploit them.

Level designs are equally clever, drawing from past 2D Mario games such as Super Mario World and even the oft-forgotten Super Mario Bros. 2. And new power-ups like drill and elephant provide fun new abilities that can unlock different areas.

But the real highlight is the new Wonder Flower power-up.

Flower Power

Almost every level features a hidden (or not so hidden) Wonder Flower. When touched, this power-up doesn’t so much change Mario and company, as it changes the entire level.

Each Wonder Flower activation is completely unique to that level. Warp pipes begin moving on their own. A gigantic hoppo bounces everyone around. Levels move at two times, or half speed, or turn into an auto-scroller with a deadly thing coming at you from the other side.

My personal favorites include bringing Mario to the background, revealing the background art as a unique top-down sequence, and one that utilized a head-bopping rhythm game to time our jumps to raise platforms.

Some of the most clever Wonder sections borrow from Super Mario Odyssey, transforming Mario and friends into the signature enemy of that level, such as a goomba, or hoppycat, and playing around with completely different controls and abilities.

Sometimes the Wonder Flower sections are so zany, they feature their own ending. Players have to replay those levels without activating the Wonder Flower in order to collect all the potential Wonder Seeds.

However, there are plenty of levels and Wonder Seeds to collect in order to unlock later levels, completionist or not. The world design is a mix of linear progression, while letting players pick and choose which levels they tackle in what order. Level varieties include devious hidden block puzzle-levels, and badge challenges, where players play around with the new badge system, many of which add even more abilities such as wall-jumping, gliding, swim-dashing, and rhythm-jumping.

The Rating

The Super Mario series is practically the Disney of video game franchises — synonymous with family-friendly. Super Mario Bros. Wonder has been rated E for Everyone by the ESRB, with Mild Fantasy Violence.

The Takeaway

In a post-Super Mario Maker world, Super Mario Bros. Wonder delights with creatively fun levels, interesting enemies, and eye-popping colors. Thanks in large part to the Wonder Flowers, the game never rests on any single gimmick or idea too long, and hits a perfect balance between fine-tuned platforming and frenetic humor, in what may be the funniest Mario game yet. If your kids are old enough to handle 2D platforming, you can’t get much better than this.

This article was written by

Eric has been writing for over nine years with bylines at Dicebreaker, Pixelkin, Polygon, PC Gamer, Tabletop Gaming magazine, and more covering movies, TV shows, video games, tabletop games, and tech. He reviews and live streams D&D adventures every week on his YouTube channel. He also makes a mean tuna quesadilla.