It’s rare that a video game like "Super Mario Odyssey" comes around. While some game makers and studios excel in numerous respects, they very rarely reach the heights of perfection quite like Nintendo has. By expanding on gameplay themes from "Super Mario 64" and "Super Mario Sunshine," "Odyssey" delivers an experience that calls back to Mario’s rich 30-year history while showing players what’s next for Nintendo’s mascot.
"Super Mario Odyssey" follows Mario as he adventures across multiple worlds to save Princess Peach from Bowser. This time around, King Koopa wants to force Peach into marriage and is traveling across the planet’s diverse kingdoms to steal a wedding, literally. Anyone who has played a Mario game in the past will be immediately familiar with the story.
While the “save the princess” angle of every Mario title has been beaten into the ground, "Odyssey" manages to flip it on its head toward the end of Mario’s adventure. Regardless, "Odyssey" smartly places less of a focus on a deep storyline in exchange for placing a shiny new gameplay hook front and center.
Most Mario games introduce a new central gameplay hook, and this time around Mario has the ability to possess countless objects and enemies across multiple kingdoms using the hat-shaped Cappy. With a flick of the Nintendo Switch controller, Mario can embody creatures and objects with powerful abilities, allowing for a ton of unique and creative challenges. Can’t cross a bottomless pit? Take over a Bullet Bill and fly across the gap. Is a collectible out of reach? Stack up some Goombas to reach it. While the possibilities aren’t endless, there’s certainly enough of them to make exploration a joy, rather than a chore.
Exploration is the core challenge of each and every locale in the game. Mario and Cappy are tasked with finding Power Moons in every world to fuel their ship, the Odyssey. Each kingdom features a short series of story objectives that usually end in a fantastic boss battle and will always give players enough Moons to advance to the next kingdom. However, players can jump off the beaten path at any time, and will be heavily rewarded for their trouble.
There are hundreds of Power Moons and world-specific purple coins (which can be used to purchase new outfits and mementos for Mario), and even a handful of retro 2D Mario stages that have to be seen to believed. While some collectibles are easy to stumble upon, many require a keen eye and total mastery of Mario’s moves to obtain.
Mario is an acrobatic master, and controls like a dream. Directing Mario through challenging platforming levels has never felt better, and the sheer number of movement options helps players adapt on the fly to any situation. Mario can run, jump, dive, stomp, spin and wall kick to victory, and each of these commands can be executed in sequence to pull off some truly impressive feats.
Nintendo recommends playing with the Nintendo Switch Joy Cons separated to take advantage of the game’s optional motion controls, but the game feels just as great while playing in handheld mode or with a Pro controller. "Super Mario Odyssey" also allows for a two-player setup. Each player can hold a joy-con sideways, and can control either Mario or Cappy. This play style is great for anyone who might not be experienced enough to play the game well, like a young child. Under player control, Cappy is free from pitfalls, and can literally fly across the screen to defeat enemies and collect coins.
As great as the hat mechanic is, "Super Mario Odyssey" excels thanks to Mario’s responsiveness, giving players the opportunity to truly explore the meticulously crafted kingdoms.
Each world in "Odyssey" is a fully realized, unique environment with its own gameplay quirks. The best part about the kingdoms is their sheer variety, from the prehistoric Cascade Kingdom to the realistic Metro Kingdom. Each world is an amazing playground and they often feel like miniature games in their own right. There’s always something to see and do in the kingdoms, and the countless Moons, coins and challenges will entertain players across their 15-hour adventure.
Even though Mario’s adventure can be completed quickly, saving Princess Peach is only the beginning. After beating the game, players are given more Power Moons and challenges to find in each kingdom. For players who can't find enough moons to progress to the special post-game The amount of content is staggering and allows Nintendo to pack some truly difficult platforming challenges into the game for those who want it. The best part about "Super Mario Odyssey" is its inclusiveness: There’s something for everyone, and the game is as challenging as you want it to be.
"Super Mario Odyssey" is a masterpiece in every sense of the word. Nintendo has created a truly amazing experience, and one that pays homage to the Italian plumber while giving players a fresh, comfortable experience. If you love video games, you owe it to yourself to try it out. Everything, from the gameplay to the musical themes, is a delight to experience and will continue to impress for years to come.
Game: "Super Mario Odyssey"
Platform: Nintendo Switch
ESRB rating: E10+ (for cartoon violence and comic mischief)