Couch Soup Previews: Super Mario Bros. Wonder – A Mesmerizing Journey into the Flower Kingdom

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| October 17, 2023

2D Mario games have been in a bit of a rut recently. The New Super Mario Bros. series wasn’t bringing anything significant to justify buying each new game. This made it all the more exciting when Nintendo announced a totally new 2D Mario game earlier this year, Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Since I saw that first announcement trailer, I’ve been itching to get my hands on the game (and having nightmares of Elephant Mario). Lucky for me, Super Mario Bros. Wonder was available to play at PAX Aus 2023 for the first time in Australia, and I wasn’t missing this opportunity to try the game before its release.

Yahoo! Wahoo! Yippie!

Mario is running on top of a green pipe with eyes. The pipe is bending in the middle with Mario on top. Another pipe is shooting water. A tree with purple collectibles is on the right. A spotlight is on Mario.
Praise the magic pipe. (Nintendo)

The gameplay is what you would expect from a 2D Mario game (a surprise, I know), but it feels perfect here. I don’t know how to put it into words properly, but the gameplay is snappy and fun. Mario is highly responsive to all inputs, leading to fun platforming sequences. I particularly had fun with the wall jumping challenge in the demo. I can see the game building on these challenges later on and incorporating more than one skill. I was able to play as Mario and Toad during my two playthroughs of the demo (it was that good), and unlike previous Mario games, they played the same minus the height difference. The only characters that play differently are Yoshi and Nabbit, as they don’t take damage and can’t use power-ups (I didn’t get to play as them during the demo).

Speaking of power-ups, I finally got to see the brand-new elephant power-up in person, and it’s just as creepy in real life (I’m joking, or am I?). Creepy look aside, the elephant power-up allowed for some unique ways to traverse the courses and deal with enemies (even if your character turns into a creepy elephant). The other new power-up I could use was the drill power-up, which was my favourite. Being able to dig into the ceiling at any point was very fun and unique way to solve platforming puzzles. There was also the Wonder Flower, a unique item that doesn’t affect Mario but the stage itself. After I grabbed the first one, I saw pipes moving on their own, and I was transported to a new location and escaped getting crushed by a giant Konk after grabbing another flower. These trippy sequences are going to be a highlight of the game for me, they just look so unique and fun.

Mushrooms? No, Flowers!

Mario and his friends are trying to stop Bowser from stealing a Wonder Flower. Prince Florian and the citizens of the Flower Kingdom are in shock. Bowser is in his flying clown car as he reaches for the flower.
This is why we can’t have nice things. (Nintendo)

We’re in a new Kingdom in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and it’s quite the visual spectacle. The courses are full of life and are a joy to play through. While the course themes don’t appear to have deviated much from your classic Mario, with the first stage being a grassy field, followed by an underground level, they’re still fun enough that I was able to overlook the overused aesthetics. 

This is where the Wonder Flower came in and spiced up each of these levels with wacky shenanigans. The overworld also reminded me of Super Mario 3D World, as you can freely move around and choose which level you’d like to tackle next. Recent Mario games have emphasised this type of freedom, and it’s nice to see Super Mario Bros. Wonder incorporating it as well.

The new art style goes a long way to make the Flower Kingdom look different from the Mushroom Kingdom and give the characters a new look. I absolutely adore this unique art style because it’s just so much fun. Seeing these characters with a clay-like aesthetic is something I never knew I needed. I also appreciated having Yoshi look more like their classic design with the longer neck and all that. It’s not just the playable characters that have received a new look; the enemies have also been given a nice visual upgrade. You still have the classic Goomba and Koopa Troopa that look almost too cute to defeat, but this game introduces a few new enemy types as well. I didn’t catch any of their names, but there was a squirrel enemy that would steal power-ups and run away. It was cute at first, but then I made it my goal to extinguish each and every one of them whenever they crossed my path 

A Wonderful Experience

Mario is jumping towards a Wonder Seed. The seed is above a water fountain and is surrounded by purple collectibles. Green pipes can be seen to the left and in the background.
These look trippy in the fun way, not the drug way. (Nintendo)

I very much enjoyed my time with Super Mario Bros. Wonder. So much so that I actually played the demo twice during PAX. The first time I played solo as Mario, it was a fun time as I tried to get through as much as possible before I was timed out. The second time, I was able to play in four-player co-op with two friends and a rando (who was super chill, btw). The co-op experience is fun and chaotic; everyone tries their best to survive and get through the course as fast as possible. I see this game being a hit at parties, with fewer destroyed friendships than Mario Party. Even though Elephant Mario still gives me nightmares, I’m definitely looking forward to playing more of this game soon.

Mario, Luigi, Peach, and Daisy are all in their elephant forms. Green pipes with black eyes are scattered around the screen.The sky is distorted.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to these. (Nintendo)

We won’t have to wait long to play the full game because Super Mario Bros. Wonder releases on the Nintendo Switch on October 20th. Keep it locked to Couch Soup for everything Super Mario Bros. Wonder and more game previews from PAX Aus 2023.

Are you going to pick up Super Mario Bros. Wonder? Who will you play as? Are you creeped out by the elephant power-up as well? Let us know in the comments where we can talk all things Mario.

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