2023 IS one of the most stellar years for game releases in recent memory.
Between Final Fantasy 16, Baldur’s Gate 3, Starfield, Street Fighter 6, and of course The Legend of Zelda, it’s going to be tough for gamers to pick their favourite titles of 2023.
But despite already releasing one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time this year, Nintendo still has one more trump card to see the year out, and that’s Super Mario Bros. Wonder.
It’s impossible to ignore the charm that this game drips with.
Mario and his friends have genuinely never looked this good.
Every animation is meticulously crafted – Daisy popping her head out of a pipe, Luigi covering practically his entire body with his cap when crawling, grabbing a power-up – everything the Mario cast does here just looks gorgeous, including standing idle.
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Is that seemingly the most surface-level and generic praise ever?
Yes, but there’s a reason for it.
We’ve had a bunch of 2D Mario games since New Super Mario Bros. first launched on the Nintendo DS in 2006, and pretty much all of them have followed the same visual and gameplay style.
It’s never been bad or ugly, but it has been a long time since anyone – including myself – has been excited to see it.
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That’s exactly why Super Mario Bros. Wonder is so exciting, even those minute animations and details – this is a brand new style of 2D Mario game, for the first time in 17 years.
Of course it’s not an overhaul just for the sake of a few aesthetic differences.
Mario and the crew now control differently, and have a suite of brand-new abilities to use.
For example, a new Wall Jump allows players to ascend rather than jump away from the wall, and another ability will have players using a cap like a glider to soar over gaps and enemies.
The cast all have access to a store of badges, and equipping these badges will give you helpful extra abilities, like those mentioned above, or being bounced out of death pits.
But a bunch of new abilities and fancy animations are all pointless in a Mario game unless it has good levels, and I’m happy to say that Super Mario Bros. Wonder delivers on that point too.
I played several stages from across the game in single-player and four-player co-op, each of which had the new power-ups and abilities on full display.
Everything feels like a fairly traditional Mario game until you come into contact with a Wonder Seed, which always changes the stage radically.
Sometimes it’s just a case of making warp pipes writhe around and shift, where in another stage, Bulrush Coming Through, it caused a literal stampede, forcing players to jump and run along the top of bull-like creatures in order to get to the end of the stage.
Each new concept felt brand-new to the 2D Mario games, making Wonder feel even fresher than it looks.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder feels like a minor revelation for the Mario series as a whole, finally injecting the stagnant 2D franchise with the same inventiveness we see in the 3D games.
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Written by Dave Aubrey on behalf of GLHF.
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