Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s defining gimmick is its series of Wonder Effects. A Wonder Flower is hidden somewhere on almost every level and, once found, radically switches up what is going on within that stage. Some expand on ideas the stage was already exploring, while others are wildly unpredictable, giving players something they were not expecting at all.
There are over 69 stages with Wonder Effects that players can see while playing through the story of Super Mario Bros. Wonder, but 10 of those Wonder Effects effects stood out the most during my playthrough. By order of appearance, these are my 10 favorite Wonder Effects in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, which showcase just how inventive and unpredictable the platformer is.
The second Wonder Effect players will encounter in Super Mario Bros. Wonder is one of its best. After finding the Wonder Flower in Piranha Plants on Parade, the stage’s titular enemies will start belting out a song that shares its title with the stage. As players make their way through the rest of the level, they’ll dodge or fight some of these singing Piranha Plants while other ones dance in the level’s foreground and pop out of pipes to the song’s rhythm. Piranha Plants on Parade immediately establishes that players should expect the unexpected when it comes to Wonder Effects in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. It’s a joyously absurd level I’m still thinking about after beating the game.
There are multiple Wonder Effects where Mario and friends have to ride on a stampede of some sort throughout most of the level to find a Wonder Seed. Bulrush Coming Through! remains my favorite, though. It’s the first of its kind that I encountered during my adventure, so its central gameplay twist, the first instance of a timer appearing, and other moments like the destruction of the end-of-stage flag had a novelty here. I also love that it’s possible to see Bulrush enemies stampeding through the stage’s background. It plays into the feeling that this level is a living world of its own and rewards those of us who take the time to look at Super Mario Bros. Wonder‘s gorgeous backgrounds with something pretty funny.
In Fluff-Puff Peaks, the stage Condarts Away features one of Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s most annoying enemies: Condarts that launch themselves toward the plaery when they walk under them. These were tough enough to dodge in a 2D platformer setup, but things became even more challenging when I picked up a Wonder Seed, as it temporarily turned into a top-down game. Similar to the indie game Toodee and Topdee, I was now walking on what was once the stage’s background walls while avoiding Condarts like this was a bullet hell game and not a 2D platformer. Including that enemy made this the best top-down Wonder Effect in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, so it remains one of my favorites in the game.
Up ‘n Down with Puffy Lifts contains my favorite Wonder Effect of this second world. Throughout the whole stage, the central conceit is that Mario and friends are platforming on the titular cake-like Puffy Lifts, which compress when weight is put on them. That alone is a clever stage gimmick that kept me thinking about how long I stayed on certain platforms, so it was a surprising joy when a Wonder Effect turned me into a Puffy Lift. The main challenge then became keeping objects off the top of my Puffy Lift character, which forced me to think methodically about when and where to jump throughout the whole Puffy Lift section.
This Petal Isles Wonder Effect that transforms players into a Goomba was all over the marketing of Super Mario Bros. Wonder. I get why: it’s one of the game’s most game-changing Wonder Effects. Like capturing an enemy with Cappy in Super Mario Odyssey for the first time, this Wonder Effect transforms players into one of Mario’s most iconic enemies. It essentially turns Super Mario Bros. Wonder into a stealth game for a bit. The stage’s titular Maw Maws are natural predators of Goomba, and will rush for and eat one if they spot it. As it’s not easy to fight back as a Goomba, the rest of the stage is then spent dashing from cover to cover behind trees and bushes, hoping you aren’t spotted and eaten by a Maw Maw along the way. It’s one of Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s tensest Wonder Effects and a great level to show someone to demonstrate how much Wonder Effects can shake things up.
Like Piranha Plants on Parade, Upshroom Downshroom features another Wonder Effect that essentially turns the stage into a music level. Instead of a Piranha Plant singalong, though, it’s a Halloween dance party as all the enemies in the stage start dancing to a song called Pumpkin Party. The aesthetics and tone of this Wonder Effect are a perfect fit for the October spooky season. I’ll probably go back to play this stage on Halloween, and you should, too. Regardless of the time of year, it’s another reminder of how excellent the music-based Wonder Effects are.
For most of Dragon Boneyard, I was platforming across the titular fossils while trying to avoid lava. I had assumed this level’s Wonder Effect would have me run away from a massive rolling fossil, Indiana Jones-style, but what actually happened was a lot more magical. The Wonder Flower brought one of the dragons back to life — it looks like an ancestor to Yoshi — and I got to ride it. The dragon looked happy to be alive again, creating yet another spectacle that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. I can tell Nintendo really likes this Wonder Effect, too, because the dragons are brought back a couple more times in Super Mario Bros. Wonder, including during the final stage where players take on Bowser.
Wavy Ride Through Magma Tube’s Wonder Effect essentially adds a mini-boss to Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Most of this stage tasks players with riding platforms as they slowly move through the titular magma tube. If players hit a block at the right time along the way, they’ll trigger a Wonder Effect that activates a statue in the stage’s background. They then have to spend around 40 seconds dodging the balls of magma that it spits out in a brief platforming endurance test that rewards players with a Wonder Seed. Surprisingly, there weren’t other Wonder Effects like this in the game, which means I’m remembering this encounter from what was otherwise a pretty innocuous lava stage.
Even in the game’s final world, some impressive Wonder Effects still appear. Missile Meg Mayhem is all about platforming on the titular Bullet Bill variants, which can also serve as temporary platforms when jumped on. After activating the Wonder Effect of this level, players can ride a long Missile Meg out of the dreary factory that most of the level takes place in and soar into the clouds. Like Dragon Boneyard, this is a Wonder Effect I enjoyed more for its spectacle than the gameplay, thanks to the colorful jet fume trails the Missile Megs leave behind and all the fireworks going off in the background.
Finally, Evade the Seeker Bullet Bills stands out as one of Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s defining Wonder Effects. This is one of the game’s more challenging stages, as the Seeker Bullet Bills constantly launch themselves around the level. That’s why it’s incredibly satisfying when the game turns the tables against these enemies by giving players a boat and cannon to launch bombs from. This exciting ride on a boat down this acid rivre gave me one final action-focused Wonder Effect power trip before the final confrontation with Bowser. Up until the end, Super Mario Bros. Wonder was surprising me with its quirky Wonder Effect ideas — and that’s what makes it so special.
Super Mario Bros. Wonder is available now on Nintendo Switch.
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