It’s here. Oh my God, it’s finally here! The game that single-handedly sold me on the Nintendo Switch and the new direction the company has spearheaded is right on my desk! Super Mario Odyssey is a thing people can buy and play right now. Let that sink in. It’s so amazing to realize that, and it’s even more so when one dives into the experience itself. If you’re a Mario fan, there is no way you haven’t already picked this one up (Well, unless you just didn’t grab a Switch yet, I suppose). Should you somehow still be on the fence, though, allow me to fill you in on what makes Mario Odyssey such an event.
If there’s one nitpick I have about the story, it’s that this game doesn’t have the narrative backbone the character Rosalina provided in Super Mario Galaxy. Her backstory and the message she delivers at the end of that game are things that likely won’t be matched by any future Mario game’s presentation anytime soon. What I can say is that Super Mario Odyssey continues the seamless production values thoroughly present in the ex-plumber boy’s galactic adventures.
Princess Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser is no shocker in any Mario title, but the journey Mario traverses to get to the aforementioned human football is what makes the game. Bowser actually stopped by several other places to steal things for his wedding scheme and these locales have their own wonderfully unique flavors and personalities. I also dig the fact that instead of Koopalings, there are new main enemies that Bowser hired specifically to make sure Mario doesn’t crash the wedding.
On the flipside, Mario has Cappy. This little guy is to Mario Odyssey as F.L.U.D.D. is to Super Mario Sunshine, in both the little narrative there is and in practicality during gameplay. Both characters are amusing companions that serve to assist Mario on the journey, and they sometimes point out tips for those that need that little extra hint. As for Cappy specifically, his sister serves as Peach’s makeshift headdress (naturally by Bowser against her will), and he accompanies Mario as a makeshift replacement for the hat he lost during his initial confrontation with the Koopa King himself.
Holy heck, Super Mario Odyssey is a work of art! Everything is so clean, so polished, and so colorful! Mario games have always been successful in conveying exactly what they shoot for, and Odyssey is definitely no exception to that rule. What makes this outing so special, though, is what it does with the graphical capabilities of the Switch. If you were to show me anything from the other seventh and eighth generation consoles, I would hardly be able to tell the technical difference.
This can apply to the Wii U and Switch as well, but keep in mind the Wii U never did have a full-blown 3D Mario adventure like Mario Galaxy. Super Mario 3D World is fun and all, but fans could only ever wonder how things would go if there were to be a new installment in the grander scale of previous titles. Super Mario Odyssey not only finally demonstrates the much more advanced hardware compared to the Wii’s specs, but it also is clearly developed with the newer, more aggressive mindset Nintendo got to put in motion this year. Plus, the Switch doubling as a portable console means you can take this ginormous game anywhere you go! Super Mario 3D Land be darned…
Super Mario Odyssey is an open-world adventure, and it looks exactly as it does in its promotional materials. Nothing deceives, and everything delivers. Each world has an amazing, abstract art style that differentiates from each other in ways not seen in any other game in the franchise. The attention to detail is absolutely insane as well; from the many ways developers may hide secrets and Easter eggs to things they didn’t even need to add like the loads of costumes Mario can buy (with in-game currency and not micro-transactions, I may add) and the many animations Mario himself has, the game feels rich and content-crammed in every corner.
Interestingly, Super Mario Odyssey takes a page from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild by not having music play throughout the time spent in each kingdom. Every now and then, the music may die out and another track – if not the same one – would play depending on a particular area Mario would reach. Of course that’s not to say things get quiet all the time, but this is a surprisingly atmospheric Mario game nevertheless.
When the soundtrack kicks in, Super Mario Galaxy vibes kick in with a wide range from traditional cartoon-y Mario goodness to epic orchestrated pieces that solidify the grandness that is this new take on the series. There are even plenty of songs that accompany moments where I thought “Oh my actual God, this is in a MARIO game!” You know you’ve come across something truly special when that thought comes to mind, and Super Mario Odyssey has plenty of stuff like that to go around. It’s a greatly diverse soundtrack for a greatly diverse game.
Also, there’s an 8-Bit sounding version of a lot of the songs, and they’re just as fun to listen to.
Like I said when I played a demo of Super Mario Odyssey at PAX, it feels incredible to finally control Mario in this type of game again! The man in red is every bit as acrobatic as he was in titles like Super Mario 64 and Sunshine. He can perform various kinds of jumps, leap from walls, and now he can roll down hills for some fun with momentum. Cappy also plays a big role in enhancing Mario’s move-set (as I briefly brought up earlier by comparing him to F.L.U.D.D.); the big hook here is possess-I mean capturing things. By tossing Cappy at an enemy or objects that hint at being useful, Mario will take over the thing’s body and be able to use its ability. Want to capture a Goomba? Go right ahead and you’ll be able to jump on others to stack them up! How about a fireball in lava? Well, now you can wade through said lava and find new places you couldn’t get to otherwise!
If there is anything that you may think could be possible as you assess the terrain, there’s a solid chance you can do it. The Kingdoms may not be as large as the landscapes in Breath of the Wild, but boy do they take advantage of everything they could utilize! Super Mario Odyssey frequently rewards players’ senses of curiosity and skill with goodies from coins to Moons, this game’s Power Stars. They are more common than Stars, meaning there are more of them to collect. How many more? Well, the mission total here is 836. Only a small fraction of that is needed to get through the main adventure, but the sheer amount of post-game content would forever vastly overshadow that. Death is a slap on the wrist since you only lose 10 coins as a result, but the challenge can still be prevalent especially when trying to scour every Moon out there. Even then, you’d be surprised what challenges lie ahead and what could keep you on your toes.
Super Mario Odyssey is an explorer’s Mario game, and it makes sure of that. You know how in previous 3D Mario games when every time you collect a Star or Shine Sprite, you are forcibly kicked out of the level to select the next mission? That sequence is completely omitted here! Once you grab a Moon, it gets added to your total and nothing more; in a similar fashion to titles like Banjo Kazooie, you get to immediately move on to doing anything else from there. The pace is snappy as a result, and it’s a great improvement over previous establishments. On that note, you aren’t told where every Moon is located. Although the game may highlight a basic path to take, it doesn’t tell you where any specific Moon is. That’s up to you and only you to discover! This effectively preserves the satisfaction of finding them or finding new ways to get to them. Should you be overwhelmed or lost, the closest there is to a hint provider is a Toad or a parrot you can talk to for uncovering a clue of some sort.
The collect-a-thon probably wouldn’t be fun if the levels themselves were tedious slogs. Fortunately, Super Mario Odyssey is the total opposite of that. All of its Kingdoms are superbly imaginative to the point where players would want to stick around and dig up the most they can from them! Everything feels artistically foreign as far as the Mario universe is concerned while simultaneously feeling completely natural. The game presents itself as a literal world tour, and it sure lives up to this theme. There’s so much to do in each Kingdom and so many secrets to uncover that just talking about these doesn’t feel like it does them justice. I haven’t even gotten to the mini games that have online leaderboards, or the countless little nods the game makes to its predecessors!
This is why Nintendo remains king of the gaming industry. If you ever needed to explain to someone what makes Nintendo so special, Super Mario Odyssey is the physical embodiment of that explanation. Adults can dive right into this and tap into their inner kid, and actual kids could obsess over the lively, thoroughly detailed cartoon worlds. You can get through the main game in a few hours if dedicated enough, but the post game can potentially last for months on end. I cannot recommend Super Mario Odyssey enough. It deserves every bit of praise it gets, and I can’t be happier to see Nintendo skyrocket back to the top after going through an identity crisis with the Wii U.