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"Super Mario Bros. Wonder" game review: A dazzling Nintendo Switch adventure for the whole family

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'Super Mario Bros. Wonder' is out now for the Nintendo Switch gaming console. Nintendo

Within hours after "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" was made available for download, I grabbed my Switch, purchased and then excitedly installed the game. Not since the release of "The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom" have I been so excited for the release of a new Nintendo Switch title.

Having been a Super Mario Bros. fan since the early days of Nintendo gaming (on the NES), the idea of playing an all-new side-scrolling game that wasn't a sequel or remake was both intriguing and exciting.

Here are my thoughts on the new nostalgia-packed Nintendo Switch title, sure to be a top gift for Nintendo gamers this holiday season.


"Super Mario Bros. Wonder:" At a glance

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Nintendo

Platform: Nintendo Switch | Number of Players: 1 to 4 (locally or online) | Rating: E | Publisher: Nintendo | Game File Size: 3.5GB | Genre: 2D Action/Adventure (side-scrolling)

Nintendo's "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" is the latest game in the Super Mario Bros. franchise. It can be experienced as a one-player adventure, or up to four players can play simultaneously on one Switch console (with each player using their own controller). The game supports Nintendo Switch Online, so playing online with up to four friends is also possible.

Within minutes after launching the game, it's obvious that "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" is filled with colorful, smooth and visually stunning 2D graphics. The gameplay is accompanied by a new soundtrack that's upbeat and inspired by other Super Mario Bros. games.

The game stays authentic to what you'd expect from a Super Mario Bros. adventure, but it nicely incorporates plenty of new twists and surprises that makes it unique, fun and interesting. This is one of the few Switch games that just about anyone -- regardless of age or gaming skill level -- will enjoy.

Want to give the game a try for yourself? Tap the button below and pick up a copy on Amazon.


10 things you need to know about "Super Mario Bros. Wonder"

There's a lot that allows "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" to stand apart from other games in the franchise, not to mention most other Switch games. Here's a quick summary of 10 things I discovered that make this game extra special.

  • "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" is an entirely new adventure, not a sequel or remake.
  • It can be played as a fun-filled, one player adventure, but also enjoyed by up to four players locally, using one Switch with each player using their own controller.
  • "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" supports Nintendo Switch Online (membership required) for online gaming with up to four friends.
  • Gamers can take on the role of Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, the Toads or Toadette. There are a dozen selectable characters.
  • The game incorporates a special mode for young players. When they choose to control the Yoshis or Nabbit, their character won't take damage from enemies. That way, inexperienced players can play the game without frustration.
  • In addition to taking place in a new land (the Flower Kingdom), each area is chock full of new challenges and surprises, not to mention imaginative new power-ups. 
  • There are some never-before-seen character transformations, like the ability to transform into an Elephant Mario, who can whack enemies or shoot water at them using its trunk.
  • Throughout the adventure, Wonder Flowers cause unexpected things to spontaneously happen. We won't ruin the surprises here.
  • New powers are achieved by finding and collecting badges throughout the adventure. There are action badges, boost badges and expert bandages to find, collect and utilize.
  • The appearance, fluidity and responsiveness of the graphics make full use of the Switch console, while the game's new soundtrack is upbeat. The audio sounds great coming from the Switch's internal speakers, but far more immersive when headphones are used. 

"Super Mario Bros. Wonder:" The gameplay

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Nintendo

The first few minutes of the game will bring you up to speed on the Bowser-takes-over storyline. This time, he transforms into a living castle.

As in any Mario Bros. game, there are fun new power-ups to discover. When Mario locates the power up that transforms him into Elephant Mario, he can pounce on enemies, jump, run and split water. His trunk is also a power-packed way of whacking enemies out of his way and smashing through objects in his path. There are secrets in the game that only Elephant Mario can discover.

While the game is not difficult, it will often take you a few attempts to figure out what needs to be done in each level. Wherever you go in the Flower Kingdom, you'll find new mechanics and obstacles that require you to use your powers in different ways. There's a lot of agility, timing and strategy involved here, and a lot of secrets to find. Experimentation is required.

Another thing I found particularly refreshing is that the game is not entirely linear. There are many forks in the road, and you can often choose your own path. Some levels are much harder than others, but many of the hardest levels can be skipped if they prove too difficult or frustrating to complete. There's also the element of surprise intertwined throughout each level. Each level has a Wonder Seed to find that will transform it in strange ways -- the background will change and pipes will begin the move. Some enemies will start to sing, or start to stampede.

I found some levels deeper in the adventure can take upwards of an hour to get through the first time. But once I knew what to expect and what's required to get past the various challenges and obstacles, it then took me just minutes to get through it again, if necessary.

Mario's transformations and how they can impact your adventure

"Super Mario Bros. Wonder" is a non-linear game, which gives players the freedom to explore and revisit areas as they deem necessary. Whichever character you choose to control, it's the character transformations that sometimes make the game particularly interesting and fun.

When any of the characters snags an Elephant Fruit, they transform into an elephant that's able to smash their way through certain obstacles, move heavy objects (like some pipes) and shoot water at enemies. When a character finds and grabs a Bubble Flower, they're able to blow bubbles to shoot at enemies. These same bubbles can be used like mid-air stepping stones, allowing Mario and his friends to bounce and leap through certain areas.

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Nintendo

Speaking of being able to float through the air, another transformation involves Mario (or one of his friends) to be able to blow up like a ballon and go airborne. But for a little comic relief, with the right power up, it's possible to transform into a Goomba. Yet another way to smash through things is to transform into a Spike Ball.

Finding a Drill Mushroom comes in handy too, because it gives Mario or one of his friends a special drill that allows them to dig downwards or crash upwards into a ceiling to reach a different area that's otherwise blocked off. Being able to drill into enemies offers yet another way to clear them from your path. Other transformations that Mario (and in some cases) other characters can experience in "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" include ghost (dead) Mario, superstar Mario and shadow Mario. 

Since each new area introduces a new group of enemies, it's often how you use these transformations and their related capabilities that'll allow Mario and his friends to defeat their foes. But as important as these transformations are, finding, collecting and using badges to unlock special abilities is equally important.

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Nintendo

Sometimes, it's not just about Mario or one of his friends transforming that makes the game more interesting. Finding the Wonder Flower and touching it instantly transform that area, allowing for strange and often unpredictable things to happen -- like solid pipes being about to move around like worms. Don't worry. These level-based transformations are only temporary. 


"Super Mario Bros. Wonder:" Final thoughts

"Super Mario Bros. Wonder" is not one of those games you play for a few minutes at a time and then walk away from. I found myself getting drawn into the adventure and losing track of time in the real-world, since there's so much happening in the game from a visual standpoint at any given moment.

The graphics are dazzling and very detailed, which is impressive given the technical limitations of the Nintendo Switch console. For this review, I played the game on the basic Switch's 6.2-inch display, on the Switch OLED Model's more vibrant 7-inch display and then on a 65-inch 4K TV. To really experience the beauty of the game, it should be played on a larger, high-definition screen. Otherwise, there's a lot of intricate detail you're apt to miss seeing.

After each session playing "Super Mario Bros. Wonder," I consistently found myself in a really good mood. It provides a totally different game play experience than the 3D-oriented "Super Mario Odyssey," while offering a giant leap forward for 2D Super Mario Bros. adventures.

Tap the button below to get the game at Walmart.


What I liked most about "Super Mario Bros. Wonder"

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Nintendo
  • Those who have played previous Super Mario Bros. games will find familiar game elements, while also facing a new set of surprises, enemies and challenges.
  • The graphics are beautifully rendered, and accompanied by a fun, mood-boosting soundtrack that will remind you of past games in the series. 
  • The game takes more than just good timing and fast reflexes. In some cases, strategy and creativity are required. 
  • There's almost always more than one path to take through a level. There are lots of hidden areas to find, so being observant pays off.
  • The multiplayer elements give you a way to experience the game with friends and family, even little kids without gaming skills.
  • Collecting badges play an important role in the game, as each unlocks a power or capability that's required to complete later levels.
  • Nothing in this game is random. The relationship between seemingly unrelated events and items often begin to make more sense as you delve deeper into the adventure.

What I didn't like about 'Super Mario Bros. Wonder'

  • Some levels seem too short and will leave you wanting more.
  • Playing the game on the Switch's built-in screen does not do justice to the beautifully rendered graphics that really pop when "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" is played on a big screen TV.

Who will enjoy playing "Super Mario Bros. Wonder?"

I highly recommend "Super Mario Bros. Wonder" for any gamer who loves the types of action/adventure games that Nintendo has spent decades perfecting. Everything Nintendo's game developers have learned over the years has been expertly incorporated into this game in a unique way. It's the most original 2D, side-scrolling Super Mario Bros. adventure ever released. I loved it and I am confident you will too.


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