Super Mario Bros. Wonder (2023)

Super Mario Bros. Wonder (2023)

Back a few years ago, in 2017, after I finished Super Mario Odyssey, I ended up writing an article about my experience instead of a review. It was titled “I’ve Outgrown Mario”, and in that article I list off how the formula for Mario games has stayed the exact same over multiple decades. And while the transition to 3D was new and exciting back in 1996, in the mid 2010’s it was wearing thin, and Nintendo reverted back to 2D side–scrolling instead for this newest game… except we’ve been getting 2D games as well. It never went away, it was just in games the majority of us hated. The dreaded “NEW Super Mario Bros.” games. The awful artstyle that looks like a rubbery CGI from the early 2000’s, terrible feeling physics, along with an emphasis on multiplayer shenanigans. But again, it has been there for us to play since the beginning.

I honestly forgot I wrote that article, since it’s been 7 years, and I hoped that since the Super Mario Maker series took off so successfully, that it would have had a major influence on the mainline series. And in a few very special circumstances, it probably did… not enough to even remotely make up for the bland-ness that is Wonder. Blandness might seem like I’m out of my mind, as the color of the game itself in images and videos are out of this world saturated… but I mean blandness as in “It’s more of the same”, a phrase I hate, but seems apt for talking about a Mario game. It’s the EXACT same game we have played since the inception of the Nintendo Entertainment System. King Koopa (Now just simply Bowser in all modern games) takes something and it’s up to Mario to save the day. You play through a “world of levels” traversing Overworlds that really don’t do anything except let you more or less skip around half of the game, and the sidekick character interacts with the gameworld. Mario could be taken out of all cutscenes, and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. Mario is basically pointless besides being on the box and the one bouncing around the levels. It’s made even worse since the characters can be swapped out at any time for around 7 other characters, all which make zero impact to the game’s overall “story” which can be a single sentence.

I’m not here to solely gripe on the perceived story of a Mario game, because story doesn’t matter… right? I actually disagree, especially now. In the aftermath of the Super Mario Brothers movie (the new animated one, not the terrible 90’s one that is legitimately bad, no matter what 90’sKid ™ YouTubers say). There should be a singular cannon universe at this point. A plot with characters that stay consistent through the games. They spent YEARS on the movie, and the game was in development at the same time. There is zero reason why this game shouldn’t have had some form of connection to the movie. Maybe going forward it will, but that won’t really matter to me, because the real heart of the issue is the game itself, not the bland plot and character who are so inconsequential that I couldn’t even tell you who besides Mario and Bowser are in the game.

So, why am I so down on this game that everyone seems to love? It’s honestly really simple. It’s a child’s game. A game made for children. It might be a harsh statement to some, but it’s true. It’s a game made for a demographic of around seven years of age. Take Mario’s new catchphrase for this game “Yowie Zowie” A phrase made for little kids to imitate. One that no adult would think interesting, clever or even down right want to hear. While we are on the subject. Mario has a new voice. Since Charles Martinet has retired, some random unknown is now the “voice” of Mario, which again, just instantly complicates the whole “cohesion” of Branding that every other company under the sun seems to understand. But it really doesn’t make any difference because Mario speaks about 3 phrases, all one or two words at a time. You’ve got “Let’s-A-Go” and “Oh Yeah!” and “Wowie Zowie”. Why Charles needed to retire or why they needed to find anyone at all is beyond me. Pull a guy out of a parking lot and throw a mic in his face and he’ll give you roughly the same line read. It doesn’t matter in the slightest, and they really could have just used the same recording as the other games and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

I see what they are going for with the game itself, it’s bright and colorful and eye-catching, but underneath the surface it’s really just the same exact game we’ve been playing for decades with a new shiny coat of paint. They try to gussy it up with some “Badges” that do jack all. I didn’t use them until I was forced to in just a couple different points. Mostly in a level where I completed it, and then it popped me out to the over-world and told me, you missed the secret exit, equip this mostly useless badge and do it all over again. I actually said “OH COME ON!” multiple times whenever I just had to redo the entire level and search for the secret. And yes, I know in Super Mario World, you had keys that you could find to find secret exits, but I don’t believe they ever impeded progress.

Besides the few times where a level actually stops and becomes something completely different, like a singing concert with beats, or colorful bullet bill missiles, it was all just so boring to get through. I honestly view the Mario series as the same thing as an Elmo’s Magical Adventure type game. It’s a game geared towards kids. Or an adult with an actual kid, as I could see the multiplayer part being something a dad and young son could bond over… but again, that kid has to be very young, in the 4-7 year old phase. I just don’t see how a kid around 10 would be all that captivated by “WOWIE ZOWIE!” and being turned into an elephant, especially modern kids with cell phones and tablets who are growing up on YouTube. I’m a 38 year old guy with no kids. This game is clearly not aimed at me. But I see plenty of people who are around my same demographic praising this game, and I just can’t fathom why. Unless it’s just that whole trend of it being cool to be some arrested developmental adult who is a man-child and wears superhero T-shirts to work and spends their time watching Marvel movies only, while buying action figures to put up on their display shelves in their home.

It’s honestly bizarre to me that this is a fully fledged Mario game in the same vein as Super Mario world. The difficulty is nearly non-existent as each course will just take a few minutes at most, and the game just doesn’t warrant multiple play throughs or any sort of memories other than “another one of those”. I used to say platformers (like Mario and Donkey Kong Country) were my favorite genre of game, but when we get saddled with games like Wonder, I want nothing to do with the genre. Mostly because it’s clear that it’s not made for me anymore. I have indeed outgrown Mario, and his childish nonsense.