It’s not uncommon to hear game companies talk about wanting to surprise and delight players, and it’s hard to find a better example of a 2023 game doing just that than Super Mario Bros. Wonder. This is a real step forward for 2D Mario games.

The new Wonder effects are the chief addition here. By finding a Wonder Seed hidden (to varying degrees of difficulty) in each level, an otherwise standard level can be transformed into something totally new and different. Platforming may suddenly take place with a top-down camera; a wave of Bulrushes you can ride may flood the stage; or numerous other examples that you should see for yourself–some are truly surprising. Whatever the case, these can completely upend the way you traverse or interact with a level, and they’ll often leave you with a big smile on your face.

Experiencing the Wonder-fied versions of levels (or not) leaves you with ample reason to revisit each level, so as to see what the alternative is. But further adding to the replayability is Wonder’s new Badge system. Badges each provide you with some kind of bonus, from the relatively mundane to those that give you new abilities (an underwater burst of speed or a crouching high jump). Some, like Spring Feet (causing you to bounce whenever you hit the ground) or Invisibility (making you invisible, both to yourself and enemies), force you to thoroughly rethink your approach, making for a very different experience on the same level.

Combine the consistently delightful surprises with surprisingly strong multiplayer support and a wonderful look–there are numerous delightful touches in the game’s many animations–and Mario Wonder is a must-play for Switch owners.

“Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a bold choice for a name,” Steve Watts wrote in our Super Mario Bros. Wonder review. “It plants a flag in the ground that suggests anything less than a constant sense of awe and delight will be a failure by its own terms. But then, surprisingly, Mario Wonder rises to the challenge and the result is a modern classic. The Wonder effects are the marquee feature, and for good reason, as they serve as a springboard for a cornucopia of creativity. But it’s the smart and thoughtful choices around new power-ups, badges, online multiplayer, and visual flair that cement it in Mario canon. This is the rightful successor to Super Mario World, and hopefully, will serve as a touchstone for 2D Mario going forward.” — Chris Pereira