It does not get any more iconic than Mario in gaming, with the character even rivaling Mickey Mouse in how well known he is around the world. Mario had his roots in the 2D world, but the jump to 3D on the Nintendo 64 helped break ground we had never seen before. While Super Mario Sunshine was a disappointment to some, the two Super Mario Galaxy games are heralded as some of the best games of all time. It has been a long wait since Galaxy 2 for a true 3D Mario and now he is back and ready to blast off on a new adventure in Super Mario Odyssey.
The most recent of the mainline Mario games was Super Mario 3D World on Wii U, and despite the 3D included in the name, it was more of a linear 2D Mario style game in a 3D plane. Even Super Mario Galaxy had a lot of more linear style levels in its various galaxies, so it’s been a long time since we had a true 3D Mario in the style of Super Mario 64, with Super Mario Sunshine really being the last.
There are just some games where you know you have something special ahead of you from the opening moments and Super Mario Odyssey is a great example of that. The opening cutscene jumps right into the action as Bowser has already kidnapped Princess Peach and Mario is squaring off against him to try and rescue her from Bowser’s airship. Bowser’s goal this time is to put on the best wedding ever for him and Peach, which includes him going from kingdom to kingdom stealing wedding supplies. However, Bowser wins this battle and Mario is thrown off the airship along with the brand new character Cappy.
Cappy is from the Cap Kingdom and had his little sister Tiara stolen by Bowser as well, leading to him and Mario teaming up. You actually end up in this very kingdom to start with after falling from Bowser’s airship, which has a very cool black and white aesthetic. That is only a sign of what’s to come, as the worlds just get better and better.
With Cappy in tow, your goal is to repair the Odyssey ship that is shaped like a top hat. This is done by collecting Moons throughout the game, which are essentially the game’s equivalent of a Star. However, these are much more plentiful than Stars ever were. At first, it may seem like they are just handing these out, but once you realize the sheer number of these in the game, you will understand why. Compared to the 120 Stars in Super Mario 64 and 120 Shrine Sprites in Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Odyssey offers 999 Moons, which come in different colors for each kingdom, including a nice little easter egg with one of the post-game kingdoms. Some of the Moons you will be collecting, typically those earned from bosses, will be three Moons in one towards your Odyssey count.
For your initial playthrough of Super Mario Odyssey, you will make your way across 14 different kingdoms, which each feel very distinctly different from one another. We’ve seen a lot of these in trailers, with the Metro Kingdom and Luncheon Kingdom being two of my personal favorites. The Metro Kingdom itself has one of the best sequences in the entire game that you’ll just have to experience for yourself, all set to the incredible theme of the game “Jump Up, Super Star!” To advance to the next kingdom, you must find at least a certain number of Moons for that specific Kingdom that you can then use on the Odyssey to add another part to the sail.
Super Mario Odyssey has your typical 3D platforming that you would expect at its core, which feels as natural as it ever has this time around. The patented triple jump is back too, which is always a blast to mess around with. You never feel like you have a lack of control of Mario, which is incredibly important in a game like this where precision can often mean the difference of falling to your death or not. This is also helped by just how smooth the game runs, with it running incredibly well both in docked and handheld modes.
Taking notes from The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Super Mario Odyssey also embraces its 2D history with special 2D segments. These are done by entering pipes that connect you to walls that are entirely 2D. These are pretty short segments most of the time, but they bring in some interesting mechanics to make them rather difficult later on, with the transition back to 3D being seamless.
Mario has had a few different companions over the years, with Yoshi being the best of the bunch. That may not be the case anymore though, as Cappy is one of the best mechanics introduced to a Mario game ever, if not the best. Moving away from the typical power-ups system that we’ve seen throughout the Mario franchise, Cappy is essentially your all-in-one power-up, as you can use him in a variety of different ways.
Somewhat taking the role of the Fire Flower in past games, you can throw Cappy by pressing the Y button at any time that you have control of your hat. This can be used to knock out very weak enemies, destroy boxes, and such. The main attraction, however, is what we’ve been seeing in all of the trailers, the ability to take control of many creatures and even inanimate objects in the game. These can range from as small as a Goomba, which you can stack on top of one another to reach higher platforms, or even a T-Rex, and that’s only in the first two worlds of the game.
Later, you will take control of tanks that you can fire rockets from and woodpecker-like birds that you must use their long beaks to climb up walls. You can’t take control of everything in the game, but there are more than enough throughout the game. In fact, the last segment before the credits roll is downright amazing with what you get to possess and is something I absolutely did not see coming.
You can also use Cappy in other unique ways, such as throwing the hat in front of you and bouncing off of it to get higher elevation. The Metro Kingdom, which includes New Donk City, lets you throw Cappy at little posts that you can then bounce off of to maneuver around the city. The only real gripe at all about the game is that some moves are designed for you to use the Joy-Cons as motion controllers. You can technically do the homing attack or cap spin without, but it is much more difficult and less user friendly. I personally spent most of my time playing with the Pro Controller when docked or just the attached Joy-Cons when in portable mode and really didn’t have any issues with reaching certain Moons as a result of not using the motion controls, so it really shouldn’t be too much of a problem for players.
Taking the next logical step from the two player co-op that was pretty lackluster in Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Odyssey also offers two player co-op that lets player two take control of Cappy. This second player can move around and find coins and such to help out the main player, which is pretty cool as a way to explore the maps alongside your friend.
Cappy is also very important in the numerous boss battles in the game as well. You will face off against Bowser a few times of course, but his group of henchman this time are brand new to the series. Rather than using the Koopalings or Bowser Jr. again this time, the Broodals are introduced as a group of rabbits that show up throughout the game. Each of the group of five fight with very different styles, as well as a final combined form that you get to face later. My absolute favorite fight in the game though came near the very end at a time where it was completely unexpected and unlike anything we’ve ever seen in the Mario franchise before. While it felt like something out of another series entirely almost, it still managed to work to perfection in Super Mario Odyssey.
Some of the game’s later bosses can get rather difficult, which means you likely will be dying a few times at least. Lives have been removed entirely in Super Mario Odyssey though, but it in no way makes the game feel any less difficult. Instead of lives, you lose coins every time you die, which then leaves you with the predicament on whether to spend them elsewhere or not. Lives have never really been all that important in the 3D Mario games anyways, so this felt like a natural progression of the system more than anything.
Almost a forgotten art in the day of microtransactions and DLC, Super Mario Odyssey has a laundry list of unlockables that you can get in the game without ever having to spend a cent otherwise. The majority of these are costumes, which can be purchased at the Crazy Cap stores in each world. The Crazy Cap store includes two vendors, one which accepts the aforementioned general coins that you bring you back if you die and the other that only accepts kingdom specific currency that you must find in each kingdom.
Most kingdoms have 100 of these to find, which are often very cleverly hidden, while a few only have 50. The general coin vendor will offer new items for you to purchase the more Moons you earn, while the kingdom specific vendor offers a few different hats and outfits, as well as stickers to go on the Odyssey ship itself. The variety of costumes and the many homages included with them are awesome for longtime fans, making it well worth working towards unlocking them. Some of these costumes can be unlocked quicker with the use of amiibo, but they are still unlockable in game as well. In addition, you can use the amiibo by speaking to Uncle amiibo in the game to also get hints to where to find Moons if you want as well.
Coming years after the last true 3D Mario game, Super Mario Odyssey takes everything you love about the character and elevates it to the next level. Cappy is easily the best new addition to the series since Yoshi way back in Super Mario World and helps to make Super Mario Odyssey yet another game of the year contender for the Nintendo Switch in just year one of the console’s release.
Mario is as synonymous with Nintendo as the company is to gaming and Super Mario Odyssey is the best adventure yet for the red and blue suited plumber. Exploring the masterfully designed kingdoms is a pure joy and how can you go wrong with possessing a giant T-Rex? Super Mario Odyssey is yet another system seller for the Nintendo Switch already and is honestly one of the greatest and most joyful games I have ever played in my life.
10 Triple Jumps Out Of 10
Release Date: October 27th, 2017 (US)
Available Platforms: Switch (Reviewed)
Developer: Nintendo EPD