PAX Aus 2023: Hands On With Super Mario Bros Wonder

PAX Aus 2023: Hands On With Super Mario Bros Wonder

“Wahoo,” I muttered as I hustled up to the kiosk and picked up a controller.

Super Mario Bros Wonder is the major draw at the Nintendo booth during this year’s PAX Aus convention. It’s Nintendo’s Next Big Thing, a game set to drop on October 20, a scant few weeks from now. Wonder is a both a throwback to the classic 2D Super Mario Bros games of old, and the next in the New Super Mario Bros series that updates the immortal franchise for modern hardware.

In my admittedly short time with the game during the Friday morning Media Hour, what I played felt exactly the way I expected it to feel. The jumping still feels extremely precise. The movement feels natural, and each character’s momentum felt balanced in that specific way that lets you barrel through levels at a reckless rate of knots.

I selected Luigi, my boy, and didn’t get to play any of the other characters, so I can’t speak to whether they play differently from one another. I also managed to grab the Elephant pickup right away, transforming Luigi into a beefy, elephantine version of himself. Despite his change of size and scale, Elephant Luigi was not significantly different to play than normal Luigi, helping to avoid breaking flow. It’s one of a few transformations the game uses to change up the established formula. A few others I noted: the classic fire flower, and particularly useful drill hat that kept Luigi from being stunted on by spiky koopas that dropped from the ceiling of a cave level.

A major change I noticed was the ability to select different power ups before running each level. These power ups act as modifiers for your run — maybe they give your character an extra high jump, or they allow you start the run with a super mushroom. Its a fun change that keeps re-runs of the same levels fresh and interesting.

What struck me most about the game in the short time I played it was, unsurprisingly, its character. I just came off a preview of Sonic Superstars, a similar attempt at updating a beloved 2D retro franchise, where I commented on the level of character injected in each of its models. Nintendo’s doing the same thing here — Luigi’s expression hardens as he begins to run, he pulls his hat down over his eyes when he crouches, he expresses joy with every leap. Such a high degree of expression from such little models. Nintendo are, as usual, the masters of charm.

Anyway, that’s my ten minute wrap up with Super Mario Bros Wonder. It makes a hell of a first impression, and its instantly, perfectly playable. But did you expect any less?

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