Super Mario 64 was one of the first games that I truly got into growing up. It taught me a sense of discovery and I’ve no doubt put in 100s of hours into the game over the years and still manage to discover things that I’ve never seen before. In my opinion, this kind of mystery and adventure has been missing from subsequent Mario games. It’s exactly what I wanted from Super Mario Odyssey and thankfully it delivers.
When it comes to story and presentation, Super Mario Odyssey is the best we’ve seen in a 3D Mario platformer. There’s cut scenes (with mumbled voice), a genuinely interesting storyline that is unlike anything we’ve seen in a Mario game. There’s also a bunch of interesting (and hilarious) dialogue with your sidekick, Cappy. Oh boy, the graphics. I don’t know how this game is running on the Switch, but it’s so gorgeous. At a time where everybody else is trying to cram as many pixels into their consoles as possible, Nintendo is showing that art and creative visuals are still the most important thing when building a world.
If my memory serves me correctly, Super Mario Odyssey has roughly the same number of Kingdoms that Super Mario 64 did levels. It doesn’t feel like a lot when you look at it on paper, but there’s so much hidden within each Kingdom. Each Kingdom feels like a ‘greatest hits’ of the Mario franchise, borrowing little abilities and characters from each of the Mario games that have come before it. Just when I thought I’d seen everything or that a certain ability was getting a little stale, it’d throw something new at me.
The marketing of Super Mario Odyssey would have you believe that Cappy (and the subsequent things that you can capture) is the star of the show in this game, but he’s just here to enhance the experience that is laid out in the Kingdoms. For the most part, you’ll be able to move throughout the story quite swiftly, after completing a main objective (or two) and a boss or two along the way. Much like Super Mario 64, there’s a bunch of other Power Moons (the new stars), world specific coins (100 in each Kingdom) and other miscellaneous challenges to complete in each world. Each Kingdom also has a back story, and some key landmarks to discover. One of my favourite parts of the game was coming to a new Kingdom and pulling open the map, which has a history of the Kingdom, three key things to do a bunch of other genuinely interesting information.
Don’t get me wrong though, the captures are incredibly creative and unique (and unlike anything you’ve seen in a Mario game). There’s stock standard captures like taking over a Goomba, but there’s also some very level specific captures that you could never have even thought of. The first Kingdom sets the agenda with probably the largest capture in the game (we won’t spoil it but it’ll be obvious if you’ve been watching trailers).
One of the biggest differences to Super Mario 64 is the fact that there’s no real over world. When you think of Super Mario 64, you think of the world that you could explore as well as the ability to hunt down frames (and levels within them) There’s nothing really like that in Odyssey. For the most part, you travel between Kingdoms in a structured list. There’s the odd surprise or two in discovering Kingdoms (and they’re a nice surprise when they happen).
When it comes to the way that Mario controls, he’s never felt better. He’s got his entire arsenal of signature movements including the triple jump, back flip and long jump, but the addition of Cappy allows you to reach new places and take his movement even further. I can’t urge you enough that you should play this game with the split Joy-Con control scheme. I’d never think of using the controllers in this way, but Odyssey needs to be played this way. A lot of the movements of Mario rely on your Joy-Con being separate, and each capture has an ability hidden behind shaking the Joy-Con. You can pull most of these moves off using traditional controls, but they don’t feel as natural and aren’t nearly as easy to execute.
My only gripe with the game is the fact that it’s on the easy side. The punishment for dying is the removal of 10 coins, which doesn’t feel like punishment at all. You’ll often respawn right where you died, which means there’s really no reason to be worried about dying. It allows you to explore (or try and make ridiculous jumps) without the fear of dying, but it feels like the complete opposite to what we saw in The Legend of Zelda earlier in the year.
Nintendo have really pulled out all the stops. There’s co-op gameplay, which simply allows the second player to take over Cappy and a bunch of Amiibo compatibility (both in the form of the soon to be released Odyssey Amiibo line and existing Amiibo. You can unlock several incredible costumes that I won’t spoil, but are sure to play to the heartstrings of any Nintendo fan.
THE SWITCH VERSION OF THIS GAME WAS PLAYED FOR THE PURPOSE OF THIS REVIEW
I don’t know how Nintendo continues to do it, but they’ve managed to reinvent another classic franchise and push it further than imaginable. Super Mario Odyssey is the game that we’ve been waiting to play for more than 20 years. It feels like it borrows key elements from almost every Mario game that has come before it to create what is possibly not only the greatest Mario game, but one of the best 3D platformers of all time.