Super Mario Odyssey does things that no other game before or after it could or ever would do, and that’s one of many reasons why it’s a must-have for anybody with a liking for video games.
What Is It?
Super Mario Odyssey is the latest entry in the flagship series of gaming’s most iconic mascot. It’s the first “open” Super Mario game since Super Mario Galaxy 2‘s release on the Wii in 2010, and without so much as needing an introduction, it’s the biggest Mario ever.
The story? Same stuff. Princess Peach gets kidnapped, but this time it’s by a sharply dressed Bowser and fully intends on taking Peach to a faraway place to get married. The devil is in the details, as Princess Peach was in the possession of a tiara that’s alive… appropriately named Tiara, the princess of the Cap Kingdom. So now it’s up to Mario and his new Cap Kingdom friend, Cappy, to save Princess Peach and Princess Tiara and put a stop to this wedding the pimped up Bowser is trying to have.
Why Should I Care?
Being an open Mario, Super Mario Odyssey is more of a successor to Mario 64, Sunshine, and Galaxy than Super Mario 3D Land and 3D World were. Instead of looking for flagpoles, the collectathon is back, and it’s bigger and more involved than it ever has been, and Odyssey is all the better for it.
The biggest feature in the game is the addition of Cappy, who Mario can use to attack enemies when jumping isn’t an option, as well as providing an extra bounce in the middle of a jump. So if you’re on a space that doesn’t allow room for a long jump to get to the next platform, you can throw Cappy out, and jump on him for extra momentum. If you’ve mastered the controls, you can also use Cappy for more advanced long jumps. Early in the game, such techniques can feel like an exploit, but you’ll actually find this to be a useful tool when the game reaches its highest spike in difficulty. Mario also has some new moves at his disposal including the ability to roll over hills like Sonic, or the ground pound jump (jump right when Mario hits his butt slam, and he does a Shoryuken type of high jump).
We do have to mention, though, that some of Cappy’s moves are reliant on motion-based controls, and while it takes a bit of getting used to, it doesn’t hinder the experience. The most annoying yet useful motion-based action you have is by shaking your controller side to side and having Cappy move circles around you in case you’re surrounded by enemies, so it’s at its most useful when you’re stationary. Very rarely will you have to rely on motion controls when Mario or the camera is moving, so there isn’t much to worry about either. You can also have a second player take control of Cappy for semi-cooperative play.
Cappy isn’t just there to assist in platforming, though. When throwing Cappy at most “capless” beings, Cappy can possess them (Nintendo insists on having people call it a “capture” mechanic, but we don’t need so many puns in life), and while it may seem like the game is doing too much at that point, you’ll see that “capturing” things in the game is an essential tool to move forward.
The capture mechanic is what F.L.U.D.D. was in Super Mario Sunshine, but it doesn’t feel like a gimmick at all. Whether it’s transforming into a spark to zip across power lines, taking over a tyrannosaurus rex to wreak havoc and destroy environments, turning into a magma ball to jump into pools of lava, or even taking control of humans to play with remote controlled cars, each and every transformation you make has a certain charm to it, and nothing feels cheap in your journey.
Speaking of the journey to save Peach, instead of searching high and low for “Power Stars” and “Shines,” it’s all about finding Power Moons now. The more Power Moons you have, the more powerful your spaceship (appropriately named the Odyssey) gets, allowing you to visit more of the game’s exquisitely designed kingdoms on your way to get to Bowser.
In addition to the 850+ moons in the game (yes, we’re well past the days of having to find “all” 120 stars) every kingdom also has a finite amount of purple currency to find, and they’re used at the Crazy Cap store to purchase costumes and memorabilia for the specific kingdom you’re in. The game’s classic golden coins can buy you things like a life extender, Power Moons, and special costumes while the purple currency can get Mario clothes and memorabilia specific to the kingdom he’s in. It all sounds like fluff, especially since all these costumes don’t serve much of a purpose aside from cosmetic changes (though every kingdom has a special room only accessible with a specific outfit on), but there’s a certain inexplicable charm when you’re playing dress-up with Mario and decorating the Odyssey with stickers and statues. I was elated when finding a Dr. Mario costume and even a mariachi-inspired poncho outfit, and I have no idea why.
While the game’s first kingdom isn’t “huge” by any stretch of the imagination, there’s just so much lurking in every corner, and it’s perfectly sized to show off the level of scope and design mastery to expect with each world. You have your standard objectives to earn moons that are required to advance the story, but if you want to stop and smell the roses by searching every nook and cranny possible, you can. In fact, you’re encouraged to! See a platform off in the distance in the middle of nowhere? If there’s a path to get there, there’ll be something of value waiting. It might not be hiding a moon or purple currency, but there might be invisible coins laying there. I found myself moving the camera 360 degrees whenever I was on what looked like a ledge or any sort of edge a normal person might avoid, and it’s something you’ll want to do with every opportunity. That said, the camera can be pretty problematic at times, but it’s easy to get used to especially if you’re a player coming off worse camera issues in previous platformer games. From the prehistoric Cascade Kingdom, to the huge deserts of the Sand Kingdom, to the watery depths of the Lake Kingdom, or the jazzy buzz that is New Donk City in the Modern Kingdom, every kingdom in Mario Odyssey is an enjoyable hop, skip, and jump away.
Each kingdom even has 2D sections that you can enter by going into a warp pipe into a wall, and more often than not, these sections are hiding moons for those looking to go off the beaten path. In fact, one of the very best sequences in the game and perhaps in gaming history takes part in 2D. It’s such a sight to behold that it literally left tears in my eyes because of how awesome it was. Watching the transition from 2D to 3D or vice versa in HD is all the more impressive, and it really showcases the depth and level of detail that the designers put into the game, and it deserves all the praise possible.
Like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild before it, Super Mario Odyssey promotes and rewards players with a sense of discovery at any level. Those that enjoyed Breath of the Wild can allude to the fact that whenever they saw an unbeaten shrine out in the open, that’s it–forget the objective, head to the shrine! It’s the exact same thing in Mario Odyssey, except with moons, and they’re a lot more fun to deal with than Zelda‘s Korok seeds.
The best thing about Super Mario Odyssey is that it isn’t over when you beat Bowser and save the princess. We won’t spoil it, but some stuff happens, and if you thought everything was too easy, don’t worry. After that point, the game becomes increasingly more difficult, and it’s all really just a great reward for those that put the time and effort in taking advantage of everything the game has to offer. And while we’re on that subject, of course Odyssey supports Amiibo. Whether it’s for uncovering moons you simply can’t find or maybe even getting an exclusive costume, if you have some Amiibo lying around, Super Mario Odyssey definitely takes advantage of it, and it does it the right way. It simply helps to have some, but they aren’t required for anything you might find essential.
What Makes It Worth My Time And Money?
Fantastic level design and encouragement of exploration aside, Mario Odyssey doesn’t exactly re-write the book on how Mario games or platformers are played. Nintendo simply took a bunch of mechanics from other games they’ve created and made it the most Mario game possible. It’s all just mindless fun, the way Nintendo has always done things for the last three decades.
From the countless moons to collect both right in front of your eyes and the ones that are more of a surprise, to the cute and charming costumes to try on, to the hours upon hours of fun you’ll have as Mario with Cappy looking for everything shiny, Super Mario Odyssey is a special experience that’ll keep smiles beaming on the faces of people playing. It’s a masterpiece that’s the product of more than 30 years of enjoyment Nintendo has brought gamers, and it’s arguably the new pinnacle of the genre Nintendo themselves created.
So if you’re wondering whether you should pick the game up, let’s just say this. If you have a Switch and don’t have Super Mario Odyssey, it should be a crime, so make it happen and jump up, superstar!