Super Mario Bros. games have always been fun for people of all ages, but Super Mario Bros. Wonder takes players on a delightful new journey that we can’t help but think was inspired by substances of the psychedelic variety. Super Mario Bros. Wonder is fun for everyone, but should you choose to imbibe while playing, you’ll find tons of psychedelic parallels that can’t be denied.
A Wonderful World of Color
In Super Mario Bros. Wonder, you’ll get choose one of the core game’s usual heroes: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Toads, and Toadette. As you traverse the Flower Kingdom, you’ll find tons of Wonder Flowers emanating a mysterious cosmic force in each course. The power of these Wonder Flowers brings on Wonder Effects—which Nintendo describes as items that “trigger spectacular moments you have to see to believe.” Wonder Flower effects are strange and often hilarious, and each one will cause something fantastical to happen.
The first example of this comes in the game’s introduction. The gang is hanging out in the Flower Kingdom at the invitation of Prince Florian—a very adorable green caterpillar. In true villainous fashion, Bowser comes out of nowhere, snags a Wonder Flower, and stuff gets weird. Bowser’s body merges with Prince Florian’s castle to become a massive, floating head wearing the castle as a hat, complete with pink and yellow spiraling eyes. The psychedelic inspiration immediately takes shape. Cue the metal music while newly colored black and green variations of vining piranha plants burst out of the ground, and Bowser’s huge floating head floats by before he sets out to imprison the people of the Flower Kingdom (called Poplins). It’s a typical day in this world really.
I settled down to play Super Mario Bros. Wonder the weekend it came out with an edible that was already beginning to take effect—and found that especially for a first playthrough, the Wonder Flowers warp this new kingdom into something new, unexpected, and just seriously delightful.
Essentially, grabbing a flower either turns the player character into something wonky (like a spiked turtle creature that can jump exceptionally high in the air), or it alters the course landscape in some crazy way (like unleashing a stampede of flying buffalos that you can surf on top of).
Some Wonder effects are less crazy, such as making stars or snowflakes fall from the sky or enabling invisible platforms that you can traverse to get to a wonder seed at the top of a course. But others transport you into a multiverse of weird situations to address the “what ifs” of this already weird world. What if warp pipes were alive, and move around like inch-worms? What if all of the foreground details of a course became darkened silhouettes, including your body and all enemies, but also your body is now extremely tall? Or one of my personal favorites: what if piranha plants decided to bust out into a full-scale musical performance and march around?
If you can complete the course’s crazy conditions and collect the Wonder Seed at the end, the course resumes its normal appearance, and you can reach the flagpole at the end. Depending on how high you land on the pole, you’ll see little wholesome little praises like “Wonderful!” and “Incredible!”
While the Wonder Flowers are the core feature of the game, a few new power-ups also add extra variety as well. First, players can pick up the Elephant Fruit and become a chunky bipedal elephant that can break down brick blocks, punt goombas, and hilariously Naruto-run across a course. I mean, cat suit power-ups from Super Mario 3D World (2013) felt both ridiculous and amazing at the time, so it’s hard not to laugh at a herd of elephants running around using their trunks to slap enemies around. The Bubble Flower allows players to encapsulate enemies in adorable pink bubbles, but they can also be used to bounce on for an upward boost. Finally, the Drill Mushroom gives players a dorky drill hat that allows them to drill down into the floor, up into the ceiling, and travel underground both above and below enemies.
In addition to those power-ups, players can also collect 24 badges by: 1. Helping players traverse level obstacles (like a Parachute Cap to slow your descent while falling, Fast Dash which allows you to run faster, or Grappling Vine to aid in pulling you to the ceiling or a tall wall), 2. Implementing passive changes (Auto Super Mushroom gives you a Super Mushroom automatically at the beginning of each course), and 3. Adding useful but challenging abilities (like Invisibility, which makes you invisible to enemies, but as a player you also can’t see yourself, or Spring Feet, which makes you jump nonstop and higher than your normal jump). As my high kicked into gear, I found that badges were more difficult to obtain because, well, they’re meant to be a challenge and at this point I’m feeling very relaxed.
You can play Super Mario Bros. Wonder locally with a total of four players, but a new feature allows one of your fellow players to experience a more stress-free playthrough. Two of the character choices include Yoshis (either green, red, yellow, or light-blue) or a purple rabbit called Nabbit, were designed for players who “are just starting out,” or maybe those who are a bit too high. Playing a Yoshi or a Nabbit means that you don’t take damage, so you won’t have to worry about dying to baddies. However, you can still lose a life by falling in a pit.
Another new feature allows you to see other players who are starting on the same course as you. Their character silhouettes are slightly transparent, and you can’t chat or interact with them. However, if they die they turn into a ghost and have five seconds to fly over to you or another player in order to get revived. Also you can throw up a character standee (like a cardboard cutout of a character) that is stationary, but can also be used to help resurrect other players if they can reach it in time. It’s a cute, subtle connection you get to make with others—and you see some players very weird usernames too. (Shoutout to “Dad” and “xXsadboyXx” from my personal playthrough.) Also if playing with your personal friends is more your style, you can create a co-op room of up to 12 players, join their game, and play alongside them in the same way.
The real world has been especially bleak lately, so Super Mario Bros. Wonder came at a good time to introduce some fun and positivity to our lives. Honestly, it’s wonderful, weird, and right down my alley. There’s plenty to enjoy and collect for longtime players, but new players are welcome to enjoy the experience too. Like previous Super Mario games, it’s charming and entirely worth picking up for a night in.