In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few months, Super Mario Odyssey is the latest sandbox-style Mario game, the truly first of its kind since 1996’s Super Mario 64 and 2002’s follow up, Super Mario Sunshine. Since then, Mario went back to his roots in a series of “New” 2D platformers, as well as some more linear 3D affairs in the form of Super Mario 3D Land (3DS) and Super Mario 3D World (Wii U). The Mario Galaxy games fit in there, too, somehow, with their unique spherical worlds very much in 3D, but not of the same open-world ilk as 64, Sunshine and Odyssey.
Super Mario Odyssey has been out for a little over a week now, with some amazing sales already under its belt. If anyone out there still hasn’t purchased the game, then my review seeks to rectify that situation. Super Mario Odyssey is a glorious, joyful game that everyone should play – not just every Switch owner; everyone.
The game starts with a startlingly ominous scene, featuring Bowser, Peach and Mario. While it’s no surprise that Peach has been kidnapped yet again, Bowser’s latest plan is bordering on deranged, even for him, as he seeks to marry the Princess and make Mario jealous. It’s a novel take on the threesome’s antics, and there’s a bleak moment when Mario loses his cap and falls, only to land on the first of the game’s many kingdoms, the Cap Kingdom.
Here we meet Cappy, a talking hat who befriends Mario. They soon pair up to stop Bowser from stealing certain wedding-themed items from across the world. To do that, Mario and Cappy must collect Power Moons to recharge their ship, the Odyssey, and chase Bowser across kingdoms ranging from your typical desert theme to the moon itself.
Cap Kingdom serves as a tutorial of sorts, though more moves are revealed as you progress through the game. It’s a fun place to start, despite the slightly dark intro, and it’s straight into the action as you try out your new cap-throwing moves. Cappy is amazingly versatile; from turning plants into flowers or activating lights, to knocking Bowser’s poster off of walls, this is just the beginning of your adventure. Experimentation plays a strong role throughout the game as you use Cappy to do all sorts of things. Most importantly, you can use him to possess objects.
Hurling your cap toward an enemy, like Goombas, Chain Chomps, Bullet Bills or Cheep Cheeps, jumps Mario into their body so you can take control. It’s fun and quite humorous as you control them – moustache intact – to perform unique moves that usually help you progress. You can control inanimate objects too, even manhole covers. Like I said, experimentation is key, and almost anything goes in Super Mario Odyssey.
There are loads of new enemies too, including some very creative boss characters. For example, Bowser is protected by his latest minions, the Broodals – they’re his twisted wedding planners of sorts. They’re tough, gangster-like bunnies who form part of the series of boss fights. But there are many other boss characters to battle, and some pretty tough ones at that. The Mecha Wiggler – a giant, electrified Wiggler – was a particular highlight for me.
A Mario game wouldn’t be complete without a million things to do. It’s like having the world’s longest shopping list. Super Mario Odyssey sets a new precedent, with plenty of collectibles to keep you playing.
The most important collectibles are Power Moons. A different number of moons are hidden within each kingdom, found by completing short missions or uncovering secret areas. You have to collect a minimum number in order for your ship to move to the next kingdom. While some Power Moons are easy to come across – even by accident – it’s that little feeling of accomplishment, with no interruption to play, that inspires you to keep going.
Then there are kingdom-themed purple coins. There are usually 50 or 100 of these coins to collect in each kingdom, scattered in hidden, out-of-the-way places. You’ll need them to purchase costumes and souvenirs – more collectibles – from the shops, though they can only be spent in the kingdom in which they’re found.
The costumes are a delight. I must admit that, as a long-time fan of classic Mario, I was a little skeptical of changing up his attire. But Mario is versatile and totally pulls it off. He can don a ‘20s suit like a gangster or look the part as an astronaut. There are some very cool suits to unlock as you gain more Power Moons too. These can get pretty expensive, costing 1000s of gold coins. Souvenirs will cost you purple coins, too. There are a number of these items to purchase in each kingdom to complete your shopping list.
Mario’s adventures, particularly his 3D ones, are renowned for their graphics. Nintendo likes to push its mascot to the limit, and Super Mario Odyssey is no exception – it simply looks glorious. Whether it’s the mountainous backdrops, lush scenery, city skyscrapers, or even the detail of a Chain Chomp up close, Super Mario Odyssey always looks fantastic, at times even awe-inspiring. There are so many little touches, too, like water splashing on the screen near a waterfall, or Mario being covered in soot when he’s near smoke. Not only is it pure joy to play, it’s pure joy to behold.
The other thing about Mario games is that they offer their own special moments. In Odyssey, when you see Mario dance, or don a ‘20s-style suit, or even swim as a Cheep-Cheep for the first time, it makes you smile. When I stopped playing for a few seconds to write review notes, Mario would lie down for a rest (naturally). When a bird came and landed on his nose, I just couldn’t help but grin; I loved it.
The controls are good, though there is a slight reliance on motion controls for some reason. You don’t need to use them, but little tips keep reminding you about them, so it’s clearly encouraged. And it’s easier in some ways, with a few more moves up your sleeve than without the motion. For example, you can shake to throw Cappy; instead of going in a straight line, he aims toward the nearest interactive element. A lot easier. You can also send Cappy in a circle around you, a trick I found a little tough to pull off, and one I rarely used. In short, you don’t need the motion controls, so don’t feel like you have to use them – find the style that suits you best.
This is a lengthy review, but Super Mario Odyssey is a lengthy game. With so much to explore, this is a game that will keep players returning for hours, days, and weeks. I still have a lot to do but, importantly, I want to keep going further. I can’t stop thinking about it – and smiling. Simply put, Super Mario Odyssey is a fun, joyful game that everyone should experience.
Review: Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)
Mario is back in the biggest way possible. Super Mario Odyssey takes what we all know and love about Mario’s adventures and adds its own spin, with new moves, new enemies, and a shopping list of collectibles to keep you going for a very long time. It looks glorious, it plays well, and you’ll be smiling the entire time. If you haven’t already, you need to play this game now.