Originally published at: Rediscovering the Magic of Mario: A Gamer's Review of Super Mario Wonder - People of Con
Author: Greg Lozano
For the past few decades, I found myself stepping away from 2D Mario games for several reasons. The shift seemed to focus more on accommodating up to four players in a side-scrolling chaos, less on the innovation and creativity we expect from a platformer, and a strong push to introduce a new generation to the world of Mario. As someone who mostly played these games with an older audience, it felt like the 2D realm wasn’t quite catering to my demographic. Fast forward to 2023, and Nintendo unveils Super Mario Wonder. Let me be frank—it’s a spectacle of imagination. Yes, it still accommodates four-player mayhem, yes, it aims to welcome newcomers to Mario’s universe, but it doesn’t shy away from innovation.
It’s been a long time since a game, fundamentally simple in gameplay, has captivated me like this. The uniqueness of each level is astounding. No two levels feel the same, thanks to the “wonder seed,” a special item that transforms each level into a unique experience. You can’t help but wonder (pun intended) what the next stage will bring. The distinctiveness of each world map, ranging from simple plains to marshes, deserts, and special worlds, maintains the allure and charm synonymous with Mario titles.
The level design is brilliant, with each level indicating its difficulty and varying from short challenges to typical Mario-length adventures. The pacing feels meticulously crafted for a broader spectrum of enjoyment. Players can often choose their next challenge, as the overworld, while having occasional locked points, generally allows freedom in level selection. This liberty, though sometimes limited in structure, is a welcome addition.
The developers have outdone themselves in making this game feel special. From animations like elephant forms struggling through pipes to the terrified expressions of goombas being chased, the attention to detail and charm is palpable. It’s these little things that made me excited, often surprising me with their creativity.
However, I did hope for more variety in the castle stages, particularly with the bosses. Relying on Bowser Jr. with minor alterations felt like a missed chance, especially given the game’s overall creativity. But I understand the need to cater to new players potentially experiencing Mario for the first time. My second critique concerns the music, which, while having callbacks to previous titles, lacks the memorable tracks characteristic of the Mario series.
Overall, Super Mario Wonder is the game I’ve longed for since Super Mario World. It rekindled my nostalgia while providing an enjoyable experience with my partner and friends. In an era where couch co-op is a rarity, it’s refreshing to share such a delightful game. It’s a title I see myself returning to for fun evenings with friends, boasting immense replayability.