PAX AUS 2023: We played Super Mario Bros. Wonder

While it’s always great to be at PAX AUS, some of my fondest memories of the show came from 2017. It was my first PAX AUS with The AU Review, and Super Mario Odyssey was out that weekend. While it had actually come out that Friday, the first day of the PAX AUS weekend, I had not yet had a chance to play it. So I jumped in line straight away, to play a game for the first time, that I would eventually be playing later that night. And it was worth every second.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder might be a little further out, but that didn’t stop me running over to the Nintendo booth as soon as I got onto the floor, for a quick play. While my thoughts were generally positive, Super Mario Bros. Wonder feels like a safe step forward for the franchise, bringing back the familiar side-scrolling structure, while reinvigorating it with new powers and abilities. So join us as we run through our brief playthrough at PAX AUS 2023.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder immediately feels familiar in terms of its setting. This might be known as the Flower Kingdom, but it bears a striking resemblance to its Mushroom counterpart. Invited over by Prince Florian to see the mysterious Wonder Flower, the party is soon interrupted as Bowser steals it for himself, merging his castle with Prince Florian’s. While there are a total of seven new areas to explore, we got a chance to check out two, namely the introductory Pipe-Rock Plateau and the Jewel Block Cave.

It’s worth noting here that you get the chance to choose from a range of favourite characters to play as, but I’m a sucker for the one and only original Jump Man, Mario himself.

You’ll run and jump as normal, across the same Koopa and Goomba enemies, although it’s not long before you discover the newest abilities that Super Mario Bros. Wonder has to offer. I picked up an unknown flower, only to transform into Mario’s Elephant form. It’s an incredible power trip, to say the least, as you not only grow in size but gain the ability to swing your trunk about, flinging enemies off into the distance. You can even destroy blocks and will and deflect enemy shells and projectiles.

Upon completing the first level and entering the Jewel Block Cave soon after, I got to try out the Drill ability, which allows Mario to drill under the ground or through lower jewel blocks to access goodies and hidden areas. On normal rocky ground, however, Mario can hide just beneath the surface and pop up from underneath enemies. You can even use the drill head to deflect enemy attacks from above. I also found it interesting that you can select certain abilities known as Badges before entering a level, which allows Mario to take in with him a jump that allows him to float in the air for a second, or another to turn his hat into a parachute for a softer, more guided landing.

Players can now also touch Wonder Flowers throughout levels, which change levels in uniquely funky ways. In the first level, for example, the pipes came to life and started slithering throughout the level, allowing me to jump on its back when arched, to reach previously inaccessible areas for coins and Wonder Seeds, which now replace the traditional Stars.

Overall, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a welcome return to a familiar structure, that is all the more intriguing, thanks mainly to its new power-ups and abilities. While it feels a little safe on the surface, I have no doubt that players of all ages will have fun with something both familiar and fresh.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder will launch on the Nintendo Switch later this month on the 20th of October. Stay tuned for our full review closer to release.

Matthew Arcari

Matthew Arcari is the games and technology editor at The AU Review. You can find him on Twitter at @sirchunkee, or at the Dagobah System, chilling with Luke and Yoda.