Thu. Jul 18th, 2024

Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s online multiplayer keeps making me think of Elden Ring.

Nintendo’s latest Super Mario game has a clever online multiplayer mode. When you connect online, you’ll see near-invisible versions of other players throughout the game’s islands and levels as they also travel the Flower Kingdom. It’s a lot like how you see the outlines of other players as you traverse the Lands Between, and in Wonder, Nintendo created some smart ways for your fellow compatriots to help you out.

While in a level, you’ll see up to three other players jumping and elephanting their way through whatever series of dastardly obstacles Nintendo has cooked up for that location. But these aren’t just Mario Kart-like specters to measure yourself against; they’re other players working through a level at the same time you are, meaning it feels like they’re discovering its challenges and surprises right alongside you.

Here’s what your near-invisible fellow players will look like.Image: Nintendo

This real-time adventuring has already helped me in more ways than I can count. Many times, I’ve watched another player figure out how to get an out-of-the-way purple flower coin that had eluded me, meaning I could follow their path to finally get the coin for myself. Once, I was stuck on a puzzle until I saw a spectral Yoshi doing the pushing animation, which helped me realize there was a pipe that I needed to move. I’ll occasionally notice Wonder showing me that a player is offscreen, which I’ve used as a clue to discover that there’s a hidden underground or sky area that I have to go find.

Your compatriots can save you if you fall down a pit or are defeated by an enemy. If there are other players in your level, when that happens, you’ll turn into a ghost, and then you have a few seconds to desperately fly around and make contact with somebody else so you can come back to life. This might sound stressful — it can be tough to make contact when another person is trying to make tricky jumps or zip through a level — but since your ghost character makes ridiculous noises as they flounder around to try and find somebody to save them, the whole thing generally feels very silly even if you end up dying.

When you’re a fully corporeal being, you can rescue other players who have been defeated and exist only in the astral plane, too. I like to go out of my way to lend a helping hand — though sometimes I can do that just by standing still near a perilous chasm and letting other ghosts swarm me.

While playing online, you can also put down standees (basically a cardboard cutout of your character) that are useful in more ways than one. Most of the time, standees are just a place ghost players can fly to so they can be revived. But as I’ve played more of Wonder over the weekend, I’ve noticed that players have cleverly started to use the standees to point other people toward secrets. It’s kind of like how people leave messages in Elden Ring to help out other players; when I see standees hovering in midair, I rush over to try and hit an invisible block underneath.

Sometimes, these multiplayer features mean that levels already filled with mind-bending new ideas become even more of a trip, especially when three other people are trying and failing to complete a tough platforming sequence right alongside me. But more often than not, I’m reminded of how a well-placed Elden Ring message saved me from a fearsome enemy or when I wordlessly scaled a mountain with a partner in Journey’s brilliant cooperative multiplayer.

I’ve come to accept multiplayer mayhem as part of the fabric that makes Super Mario Bros. Wonder such a special game. If you see a Toadette standee placed by someone named Jay, hopefully it helps you out.

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