Good parenting is a lot like being a solid player two. You want to be supportive, curious, and competent. You’re there to have a good time, and understand going with the flow is key to harmony. This can be a challenge with kids and video games when you’re actually, literally, player two, especially if you’re a gamer and struggle to turn off those killer instincts. Enter Super Mario Bros. Wonder (see on Amazon). It is without question the year’s best family game (and in the running for GOTY) but it can be a challenge for any parent to share the sticks, regardless of skill level.
And let’s take a moment to acknowledge the mercurial nature of young children. You’re not playing a game with a like-minded adult who shares your sense of purpose or your temperament. One minute you’re co-opping with a volatile, rage-quitting narcissist then a condescending, proficient genius the next. Whether this is your first time playing Mario in years or you’re a lifelong devotee, these tips are designed to help you facilitate a fun session for everyone. And for parents of little ones, we’ve got some extra tips for you, too.
Mario Wonder Tips for Kids of All Ages
Don’t Be Too Goal Oriented
You can’t help being an adult. It’s hard work, and conditions you to approach life a certain way. No judgment: Being a productive, task-oriented person is what our entire education system is based on. Once you’ve gone through school and spent a few years working you have a compulsion to get shit done the right way. Kids are different.
If you’re playing alongside them and find yourself saying you’re “supposed” to do something—i.e. “you’re supposed to get those big purple coins!”—switch gears. SMBW is a great playground, so slow down and have fun. Seeing the game through a child’s eyes will give you a new appreciation for its incredible level design.
Replay Fun Courses
Sometimes a level is just a lot of fun and you can’t wait to do it again. So don’t! If your kid thinks the Hoppos are hysterical, then play the Hoppo level as long as they want. If they’re really good at the Parachute Hat Badge Challenge, let them do it again and again. The difficulty curve in SMBW will sneak up on you and can hit kids pretty hard. Nothing takes the fun out of a night of gaming faster than running into a level no one can beat. So avoid frustration at all costs. You can always come back and play more once the kids go to bed. There’s multiple save files for a reason.
Pro Controllers Are A Wise Investment
While it’s admirable that the Switch comes with two built-in controllers, using a single Joy-Con to play games means having to touch the smallest buttons known to man. This is especially true for parents who aren’t gaming much, or who spend their time on PC or other consoles with keyboards or adult-sized controllers. If this sounds like you, then consider investing in a Switch Pro Controller (like this one) to make life easier. Odds are you’ll like it so much, you’ll end up getting more than one.
Mario Wonder Tips for Younger Kids
Let Them Have The Stupid Crown
On paper, the mechanic of having the player who gets the best score earn a little crown to wear seems cute and harmless. A silly little thing that has no bearing on the game and is essentially meaningless. Unless you are a small child. Then, suddenly and without warning, the crown will become the most important thing in your life. You will wail and despair if someone else has the crown, even if they get it by accident. So, parents, a word of warning. Let your kid get the crown. If you’re navigating siblings you may need to institute some hard rules on sharing, or wear the crown yourself in a “if you can’t play nicely you can’t play at all” situation. In the meantime let’s pray Nintendo lets us disable this feature in a future update.
Yoshi and Nabbit Don’t Get Power-ups
One of the things that sets Nintendo apart from Sony and Microsoft is their dedication to family-friendly gaming. This comes through in a lot of places in SMBW, but the addition of the Yoshis and Nabbit is probably the biggest accommodation they’ve made in franchise history. These characters can’t take damage, so young players (or adults) can still go through levels without feeling like they’re failing over and over.
The caveat is that these characters can’t use power-ups. This could be very upsetting for young players (or adults) who wanted to see Elephant Yoshi. This may not be a dealbreaker but probably something you want to mention before starting a level together.
Mario Teaches Reading
Who says games aren’t educational? Sure, Mario may be miles away from Ms. Rachel, but don’t fool yourself into thinking SMBW is pure brain candy. There’s plenty of dialogue and text to read, full of the common sight words kids are learning in elementary school. You can also apply the same techniques that make for effective reading at home. Ask about character motivation, the sequence of events, or make connections to their lives. Your kid may never have had Boswer steal their castle, but they’ve probably experienced someone being bad at sharing.
Buy Super Mario Bros. Wonder: Amazon | Best Buy | GameStop