Super Mario Odyssey (2017)
A brilliant cap to Switch’s first year…
Mario returns in a new, flagship title that returns his series to a more open-ended format, while creating something fun and innovative along the way.
Developed by Nintendo EPD
Published by Nintendo
Released on Nintendo Switch
Although Nintendo’s latest home console has been with us for nearly eight months now, the company’s most iconic character hadn’t yet bounced off a koopa shell and into the system’s library until now. Super Mario Odyssey is the latest entry in the Bowser-busting plumber’s long-running game series, but it feels like this title has more pressure on it than other recent entries just by virtue of the fact that the Nintendo Switch already has more eyes and interest on it than the beleaguered Wii U. So…does Mario’s arrival on the Switch bode well for ol’ Jumpman?
Well…in a word, yes.
Super Mario Odyssey serves as something of a microcosm of the Nintendo Switch platform’s success this year thus far, and how dramatically Nintendo itself has turned things around in the minds of both the public and the gaming press in the eight months since the console’s launch.
After making such a demonstrable mark earlier in the year with the release of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo is now showing us — through their most iconic character —that fun is still something that, in the gaming world, they still do better than almost everyone else.
Design and Story
When it comes to narrative storytelling, the Mario series is not as complex or compelling as something like Nathan Drake’s adventures in Uncharted, but of course it has no reason to be. The story for Mario Odyssey isn’t fundamentally different from what we’ve seen before in the sense of the fact that you’re attempting to rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser, but it does play around those familiar notes in interesting ways.
Right from the opening cutscene, the game begins with Mario confronting his old nemesis once more, but we actually see him defeated by the Koopa king (who’s looking very sharp in his new wedding tux) as Bowser stomps on his hat and leaves him for dead. Bowser then goes back to planning a wedding for he and Peach, satisfied that Mario is now out of his way.
This is when Mario sinks into a realm called the “Cap Kingdom,” and where he’s met by his new friend Cappy. Cappy is basically a magical, anthropomorphic hat whose sister has been kidnapped by Bowser to serve as the captive Peach’s wedding tiara.
Cappy and Mario then team up to rescue both Peach and Cappy’s sister, which sees your new companion transform himself into Mario’s familiar hat, and grants our favorite plumber new abilities you’ll need to take the fight to Bowser in a new way.
Design-wise, Mario Odyssey includes an extremely imaginative perspective on level design. As the first “open-world” entry in the series since 2002’s Super Mario Sunshine on the GameCube, Odyssey returns to this form of gameplay in grand fashion, and the series of kingdoms you encounter all manage to serve as a treat for your eyes and yours ears as you embark on this worlds-spanning adventure, that feels enormous in scope even considering the game’s modest 5-gigabyte file size.
All in all, Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute joy for Nintendo Switch owners, and a celebration of Mario’s legacy that feels refreshing and new while also evoking much of what gamers have always loved about Mario’s games.
Hardcore devotees to both the Super Mario Galaxy series and 2013’s Super Mario 3D World will find a lot of familiar elements here. While the open-world in a Mario game hasn’t been seen in 15 years, the general perspective draws something of a compromise between the series’ 2010 and 2013 efforts.
When you begin a new kingdom, you usually start with a perspective behind the back, while some elements of challenges or specific rooms in levels will favor a slightly from-the-side perspective to mimic Mario’s 2D platforming roots. Camera control gives you a lot of options, though, and it shouldn’t be difficult to find a spot that gets you where you need to go.
In a true callback to Mario’s roots, though, are tried-and-true 2D sections that transform you into the familiar 8-bt sprite from the original Super Mario Bros. from the NES as you take on new challenges. These are fun and satisfying additions to the core game that help to diversify the experience at-large, and will definitely test your metal as a platform player.
The game also features amiibo functionality that can help you to find power moons or local kingdom currency, but thankfully, the new costumes granted by the little figures can be obtained in regular gameplay. If you don’t collect them, you don’t really need them.
The abilities granted to you by the inclusion of Cappy feel kind of like the addition of the spin attack granted by the Luma under your cap in the Galaxy games, but with the volume turned up to 11. Cappy allows you to quite literally clear enemies out around you in a full 360-degree arc, as well as serving as an additional platform if you need an intermediate step between you and an object or enemy you need to get to.
This is probably where the game feels most like an evolution of what we’ve seen before, but it also gives a degree of familiarity that makes it very easy to jump into particularly for series veterans.
While the game heavily implies for you that you should play using two detached Joy-Con controllers, a Nintendo Switch Pro Controller will work in 9 scenarios out of 10. However, the detached Joy-Cons do give just a little bit more control over Cappy, and that’s likely the most definitive way to play.
And of course, don’t think that your game is anywhere near complete after you defeat Bowser. If you really wanted to, you could likely consider the main campaign as something of a “tutorial” for the level of challenge that awaits you beyond the final boss, and you’ll need to put your skills to the ultimate test if you truly want to complete the game 100%.
In the end, to call Super Mario Odyssey anything other than a triumph does it a disservice. It plays with the expectations of a Mario game and changes them up, gives you new abilities that help to alter the gameplay in a way that’s not totally unfamiliar while feeling novel, and it may be the most fundamentally satisfying game in the series since at least the second Galaxy game. If you’re a Switch owner and find yourself at least intrigued by the concept of Mario’s latest adventure, then this is easily a no-brainer.
Super Mario Odyssey is the second legitimate Game of the Year contender released on the Switch in only eight months, and Nintendo is fighting with itself for which game between two of its signature franchises should gain that honor.
Impeccable design, a lot of fun collectibles, highly varied and widely explorable environments, new gameplay mechanics, portability granted by the hardware, and a whole lot of belly laugh-inducing humor on top of everything else all combine into an experience that has served as an incredible culmination of major releases found within the first year of the Nintendo Switch’s availability.
Bottom line? Super Mario Odyssey is a must-play, and if you’re at all inclined to explore all the kingdoms inboard the Odyssey, it can’t be recommended enough.
This review originally appeared as a video for GeeksAndGamers.com, and has been adapted into a written review.