The Super Mario Bros. games aren’t generally the most challenging titles you’ll ever come across. Sure, they certainly have their moments - the infamous Champion’s Road level from Super Mario 3D World, for example, is undeniably brutal.
Perhaps the existence of such levels should have warned me not to expect an entirely easy ride in Super Mario Bros. Wonder. The mustachioed plumber’s latest outing on Nintendo Switch is utterly joyous and features a focus on the weird and wonderful, as each stage contains a bizarre ‘Wonder Effect’ to transform the level and the way it’s played.
For the most part, the levels are a breeze, but as completionists will know, there’s a handful of much trickier stages hiding in the ‘Special World’ - a hidden extra area that can only be accessed by completing certain hidden stages in the main worlds. These Special World levels are all given the highest difficulty rating of five stars, and for good reason. One rhythm-based level, called ‘Fluff-Puff Peaks Special - Climb to the Beat’, is absolutely merciless, and requires you to pull off some very precise and quick jumps to get to the end of the level before the platforms all disappear.
While that stage took me around 40 minutes to complete and ingrained the ‘Jump! Jump! Jump!’ song in my head for days, this paled in comparison to the level that’s unlocked when you collect every Wonder Seed and 10-Flower Coin while also managing to reach the top of every flagpole. If you don’t want the details on this, consider this to be your final spoiler warning.
A true test of willpower
I was full of hope when I first entered ‘The Final-Final Test Badge Marathon’. Hope that would soon be extinguished. As the name might suggest, this stage forces players to go through an extreme gauntlet in which each part of the stage forces them to use a different Action or Expert Badge. For example, the first section has you glide down a huge fall using the Parachute Cap Badge while avoiding obstacles on the way, while another makes you use the Dolphin Kick Badge to quickly zip through an underwater area where stopping for too long will end in you being zapped by electricity.
I handled most of the stage’s challenges pretty well, save for one section that, on its own, took me around five hours to overcome - the Spring Jump Badge area. The Spring Jump Badge, as the name suggests, forces your character to bounce endlessly as they move. While this allows them to jump higher and further than usual, it’s harder to control the timing and precision of their movements. This, unsurprisingly, doesn’t mix well with an obstacle course full of spinning Fire Bars.
In order to overcome this part, you must deftly dodge the fiery objects of doom and land very exact jumps to avoid falling to your death. If you don’t have a Super Mushroom active (which you physically can’t after dying once in this part of the level), the Fire Bars also kill you instantly, meaning that any slightly incorrect movement will force you to try again, from two full sections before this one even begins. Those other two bits aren’t exactly easy in the first place, either.
I personally found myself retrying the final part of the Spring Jump segment repeatedly, as the platforms got smaller and smaller to the point where they were just one block wide. These would be challenging even without the Badge, but with it permanently equipped, things began to feel hopeless as I lost track of how many lives I’d used up.
Hop to it
By the time I got to the fifth hour, I was running on autopilot, and maybe it was because I stopped thinking so hard about what I was doing that I was finally able to overcome it… and move on to the next four parts of the level, one of which makes you jump onto moving, bouncy Bloomps (fish-like balloon creatures) across a deadly gap while completely invisible. That one was also rough, but given I was still feeling euphoric after dragging myself out of the special hell that was the Spring Jump section, I was able to get through it relatively quickly, comfortable in the reassurance that, thankfully, there was a checkpoint after that worst part.
Admittedly, I made the entire thing harder for myself since I refused to stop playing as Luigi when I could have used Yoshi or Nabbit to become immune to damage. That, and I wasn’t using the game’s online features that could have allowed other players to revive me when I fell. This was worth it in the end though, as the sense of victory was akin to taking down a challenging Elden Ring or Dark Souls boss, although ironically I genuinely found the level harder than taking down many of the soulsborne bosses I’ve fought in the past.
The frustration I felt during the stage is no complaint, either - optional challenges like these are fantastic since they offer something rewarding to complete for those willing to take them on, but anyone wanting a slightly easier ride doesn’t need to worry about it at all. Although I will say that the reward for doing so was - at least in my dazed opinion after getting through it - well worth my time.
If you’re looking for even more fantastic games to play on Nintendo’s console, look no further than our recommendations for the best Nintendo Switch games. You can also keep up with future releases with our upcoming Switch games list.
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Catherine is a News Writer for TechRadar Gaming. Armed with a journalism degree from The University of Sheffield, she was sucked into the games media industry after spending far too much time on her university newspaper writing about Pokémon and cool indie games, and realising that was a very cool job, actually. She previously spent 19 months working at GAMINGbible as a full-time journalist. She loves all things Nintendo, and will never stop talking about Xenoblade Chronicles.