Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a kaleidoscopic festival of innovation that chucks new ideas at the player incessantly, almost faster than they can be processed. Nintendo’s designers delight in constantly turning the game’s world upside down, sometimes literally. But there’s an extent to which this is just par for the course for the series. Super Mario games have always been about breaking their own rules, as far back as the moment in 1985’s Super Mario Bros. when Mario jumped off the top of the screen and invisibly ran along it.
Nonetheless, Wonder does break a few rules of 2D Mario games that have never been broken before. One of these changes in particular is discreet to the point of being invisible — a simple omission that the game never draws attention to — but it has a profound impact. I’m talking about the removal of the timer.
From the 1985 original until 2019’s New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe, all 2D Super Mario stages have had a time limit that ticks down in the corner of the screen. Often, this would be pretty generous, and you would be just as likely, if not more, to fail a level by running out of lives (or patience) than by running out of time. But the timer made its presence felt regardless. You sensed it ticking down every second of play. Time is running out, the timer said. You can’t do it all. Don’t rush, but do hurry. With a minute to go, that familiar urgent fanfare would go off and the music would speed up, along with your heartbeat. Don’t panic, don’t panic, don’t panic… panic!!!
For almost 40 years, Nintendo has clung to the timer as a core design principle of 2D Mario games, even as it started to look increasingly archaic — a vestige of arcade-game philosophy, from a time when mainstream game designRead more on polygon.com