It’s been a great year for Switch owners. We’ve seen new IPs like ARMS find an audience, unlikely crossovers occur, and classic Nintendo series like The Legend of Zelda, and now Mario, reimagined and reinvigorated.
Ever since Nintendo first unveiled Super Mario Odyssey earlier this year during E3, it was pretty obvious the game was going to be a blast to play. With the return of Super Mario 64 and Sunshine features like a fully controllable third-person camera, a health bar, and nonlinear open worlds to explore, Super Mario Odyssey is the perfect culmination of everything we love about 3D Mario games.
Beautifully Crafted Worlds to Get Lost In
In terms of the game’s presentation, I have played very few titles in the past that can match Super Mario Odyssey. The sheer amount of charm and convivial spunk Super Mario Odyssey presents itself with is overwhelmingly impressive. Nintendo undoubtedly pulled out all the stops for this action-platformer. All of the worlds are vastly different from one another and none of them fail to burst with personality. The game also manages to brilliantly mesh together Nintendo’s iconic cartoony art-direction with a pinch of realism, and thankfully, you can take pictures in photo-mode anytime you want. To add to that, Super Mario Odyssey’s musical score filled me with delight and satisfaction repeatedly during my time with the game. Whether I was casually exploring the depths of the sea or experiencing a jaw-dropping set piece, the soundtrack was executed damn near perfectly.
Super Mario Odyssey features more than enough worlds to explore, some larger and more interesting than others; but they all succeed at making you want to keep exploring. Finding level-specific coins and golden coins allow you to unlock a bunch of awesome, fanservice filled Mario attire, and even trinkets you can add to your ship. What is Mario’s ship you say? It’s how he travels to new worlds. However, you have to collect a certain amount of Moons in each world before you’re able to continue forward. After you’ve accumulated enough Moons you can upgrade your ship’s sail. You can always hang back and collect more Moons though, which is what I always found myself doing.
Speaking of Super Mario Odyssey’s varied worlds, there’s not an inch of them that wasn’t thoughtfully crafted. Worlds are showered with Moons to find, and thankfully, it never feels like a collect-athon. The game invokes a sense of discovery and wonder, so your travels never feel like a chore. After stepping foot into new territory you’ll often see a plethora of activities to take part in; it’s exciting, overwhelming, and most importantly, you never know what to expect. The game is also filled with subtle callbacks to the series’ renown history, and I constantly caught with a big grin on my face.
Gameplay at its Finest
Super Mario Odyssey changes everything we know about traditional Mario power-ups. Instead of collecting different power-ups throughout a level, you only have Cappy at your disposal. Lucky for us, Cappy is a fantastic addition to the Mario universe. Cappy can turn Mario into a slew of different characters and enemies, allowing for a multitude of gameplay variations. Whether you’re firing hammers as a Hammer Bro, or zipping across power lines as electric Mario, the constant mix-up of gameplay makes sure things never feel stale or repetitive.
It just sort of blows my mind that the game features so many different forms of gameplay. In the past, we were use to just a handful of different gameplay variations with each new Super Mario iteration. Sunshine adding F.L.U.D.D., Galaxy with low gravity, and Galaxy 2 with the inclusion of Yoshi. Super Mario Odyssey makes those new gameplay mechanics seem so small in comparison to what Cappy offers. Thanks to the power of Cappy, there are some segments in the game that feel more like a beat ’em up action title, others that are a puzzler, even some that feel like a racer. All of that, plus offering rock-solid AAA presentation, and the exquisite platforming we’ve grown accustomed to from mainline Mario games. There is simply not many negative things I can say about Super Mario Odyssey.
Although, if I must gripe about something, it’s the lack of homeworld. Super Mario Odyssey is mostly a spiritual sequel to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine (and somewhat even Galaxy). If you didn’t know, those games offer a homeworld you return to after completing levels and collecting Stars/Shines. Unfortunately, Odyssey is lacking in this category, which may or may not be a big deal to you. I just loved the idea of unlocking new areas to explore around Peach’s castle in Super Mario 64, and I was hoping for something similar to that in Super Mario Odyssey.
Yah! Wah! Woohoo!
Super Mario Odyssey’s platforming feels better than any 3D Mario game before it. Unlike Super Mario Sunshine, I never felt like I was cheated when I died. If I did die, I felt it was 100% my fault. Which brings me to the game’s difficulty. There are some seriously intense moments that had my adrenaline pumping as I did anything I could to prevent being hit with just one heart piece left. I never felt the game was too difficult, but instead the perfect challenge. Learning how to defeat bosses without the game blatantly telling you what to do was a nice change of pace. It seems Nintendo’s days of hand-holding are gone, which is awesome.
The game also implements motion controls and constantly asks you to play with the Joy-con separated. I tried it out, but in the end, I prefer a traditional experience. However, to do certain moves in the game, you do have shake the controller. These attacks aren’t a must, but I would have preferred if they were mapped to a button instead. Lastly, there’s a two-player option that allows another person to control Cappy. It’s pretty difficult to do, but a nice addition nonetheless.
Super Mario Odyssey is the best game available on Nintendo Switch, and just might be my favorite game of the year. It isn’t just a masterclass of level and sound design, it’s a celebration of the Super Mario franchise, and one of helluva celebration to take part in.