Nintendo has been in my life for almost as long as I can remember (by virtue of my brother, who owned a SNES back in 1990 – I was the Sega guy, for my sins) and in the near-to-25-years since then Mario has been a staple in my life. Save for a handful of titles, I adore Mario games.
So when Nintendo announced it was to release a new Mario title for Switch – Super Mario Bros Wonder, which harks back to the side-scrolling old-school style of those decades-old originals – I was stoked to receive a pre-release review copy of the game. Especially as we're in the send-off stages of the Switch's life, with a Switch 2 (or equivalent) expected in 2024.
I didn't realise quite how special this new Mario game would be, though, and as I've been travelling extensively of late it gave me an opportunity to pack my Nintendo Switch OLED and play while on the road. That's something I've not done for some time, because as excited as I'd been about the Switch's Zelda sequel, Tears of the Kingdom, that game was (for me at least) a damp squib.
Super Mario Bros Wonder on the other hand? It's a sensational send-off for the Nintendo Switch and a future stone-cold classic already. Here's why it's a must-buy for any Nintendo fan.
Mario Wonder: Price & Availability
Super Mario Bros Wonder is a Nintendo Switch exclusive, whether you play on Switch, Switch OLED or Switch Lite, you'll need a Nintendo console to play. It's on sale now, from 20 October 2023, across the globe.
Nintendo's first-party games rarely get big discounts, and Mario Wonder's £49.99/$59.99/AU$79.95 initial price is likely to stick at or close to that for some time. It's worth the cover price in my view, but if any deals do appear they'll show in the real-time shopping widget embedded above.
Mario Wonder review: Classic side-scroller
Super Mario Bros Wonder was an almost-surprise release, with little lead-up from announcement to release. But you can tell that Nintendo has spent a lot of time polishing this game to perfection. Wonder goes fully classic in its side-scrolling depiction of Mario and co., complete with an isometric overworld through which you can pick (and revisit) levels. It's got an air of the best bits of 90s Mario classics with all the modernity you'd expect from a 2023 Nintendo Switch release.
Wonder does exactly what its title describes: delivers a feeling of wonder from the very moment you begin in the Flower Kingdom. Only that Bowser is once again wreaking havoc on the inhabitants and, lo and behold, it comes down to Mario to stomp his way through various worlds to put things right. Well, I say Mario, it's actually much broader than that – you can pick from a multitude of characters, from Toad to Yoshi, Princess Peach to Daisy and beyond, some with unique play characteristics.
Super Mario Bros Wonder begins gently, just as you'd expect of any Mario classic, but quickly asserts Nintendo's mastery of the difficulty curve. It's not crazy-difficult, mind, just superbly judged in the way it introduces layers and collectables to the levels, plus a suite of actions (called 'Badges') that you also need to master. You'll certainly need these, especially when you gain access the particularly difficult secret world (which I'll leave unnamed, to not spoil the surprise).
Mario Wonder review: Badges of honour
Not only can Mario transform into new forms – yes, there's the new elephant power-up (amongst plenty of others), which you'll experience from the initial levels – but those new Badges abilities, only one of which can be active at any given time – add additional complexity. As the Badges accumulate there's a sudden realisation that Wonder delivers a level of depth that's well beyond many Mario titles before it.
But that's what I really love about Mario games: I can plod through and finish the main story fairly easily; but in Wonder being able to 100-per-cent the game has meant a whole lot of dedication. But it's felt like a pleasure throughout: in the weeks I've been away and playing the game it's been always thrilling to jump in and try to achieve another level completion, or to go back and find, say, that one elusive item.
The Badges are wide-ranging too, and while I won't spoil the fun of exactly what they all do (self-descriptive as many are) there are a lot: Parachute Cap, Wall-Climb Jump, Dolphin Kick, Crouching High Jump, Safety Bounce, Grappling Vine, Auto Super Mushroom, Invisibility, Floating High Jump, and yet more. You can only apply one at a time, including in multiplayer, however, so no combinations are possible.
There's plenty of new stuff to dig into, too, from buffalos that dash through the world, to time-trail defeat-all-enemies races – all that stuff that brings a smile to your face. Even when messing up and dying, Mario is one of those few games where I can just chuckle and find it entertaining, not want to throw my controller at the wall.
Super Mario Bros Wonder is so much fun to play – whether on the handheld in my hotel room while away, or big screen TV when back at home – that I've been eagerly grabbing moments to dive back into the game in between work.
The game feels like winding back the clock, yet it also feels fresh, showing that even seemingly 'simple' games such as this can showcase a level of polish beyond many AAA games upon their release. Nintendo is the master at this – and I've been addicted enough to finish every level solo, plus there's collaborative multiplayer too.
It's been a fairly long time since I've used my Switch so frequently, but Super Mario Bros Wonder has no doubt reignited my love for Nintendo's console ahead of the rumoured incoming Switch 2. It's a sensational send-off, the ideal swan song, and a must-buy for Nintendo and Mario fans alike.