Mario has been on numerous adventures throughout the 30+ years he’s been around. He’s fought countless enemies, thwarted untold plots to take over the Mushroom Kingdom and rescued Princess Peach more times than we could possibly count. His newest adventure takes him to even more places he’s never been before.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before. In Super Mario Odyssey Bowser had kidnapped Princess Peach one again. He’s trying to force her to marry him. He’s teamed up with a group of evil bunnies called the Broodals and they’re scouring the planet for a numbef of different items to give Peach the best wedding any kidnapped girl could dream of. It’s up to Mario and his new friend Cappy to track them down, stop them and save the day.
The big hook in the game is that Mario is now accompanied by this new character named Cappy. He’s a hat, but gives Mario the ability to more or less possess any person or creature he encounters (as long as they’re not wearing a hat). In doing so Mario gains the ability of that creature so he could possess a Hammer Bro and use his hammers to smash solid rocks in the way or taking over wiggler like creature will allow Mario to stretch really far to reach over large gaps in the world or around walls he normally couldn’t. Each of these creatures are featured in levels that coincidentally take advantage of those abilities and it allows the designers to do some really clever and creative things with the level design.
The best thing about Mario Odyssey and the level design is that what you’re given is not a series of linear levels, but a series of mini-sandboxes. Each level has a pre-defined goal that you’re trying to complete, such as getting to the boss at the end, however there’s so much more. Hidden throughout each level are various power moons. You use these moons to power Mario’s airship, the Odyssey. They’re hidden throughout each level and there are hundreds in total for you to find, over 800 of them to be exact. Much like the Korok Seeds from Breath of the Wild they’re hidden everywhere in some pretty obscure places. Most of the time there will be some indication that you’re around where they are. If they’re not out in the open they’re usually indicated by a faint glow. A block, or a rock, or a mysterious circle in the ground that is glowing isn’t something you’d normally find so chances are there is a power moon hidden there. You just have to figure out how to uncover it.
This approach brings a breath of fresh air to the typical Mario formula where there was one singular objective to complete and few ways to achieve that goal. Now instead of trying to figure out the best possible path to get the objectives you’re rewarded for exploration. The levels are big, but not so big you get lost and can’t find your way back to where you were. There are things hidden everywhere. Each world has you trying to collect a certain amount of Power Moons, but there are so many you’re virtually guaranteed to have enough to move on to the next world without struggling to find them.
The checkpoint system has also gotten an upgrade as well. Not only do these checkpoints refill your health and give you a place to come back to should you die, but they also serve as fast travel points. This means that while you’re exploring for all the Power Moons in a level you’re also unlocking places that allow you to move very quickly around the map.
There are plenty of similar objectives in each world to accomplish. Tracking down a special returning character (familiar to anyone who’s played any 3D Mario game since Galaxy) will net you a Power Moon. Finding the mostly visible, sometimes hidden, 2D sections of each level will net you a Power Moon. These sections also inspire thoughts of Super Mario Maker in that each costume Mario can wear is also presented in 2D meaning that when the inevitable release of that game comes these costumes had better be in it. There are secret paths, stacks of Goomba to use to charm a lady and many more. All these secrets will award you with more Power Moons that you can use to power the Odyssey’s engines and track down Bowser.
Each world feels varied and different while having many similar elements. The Luncheon Kingdom is filled with sentient forks and pools of glowing pink lava. The Metro Kingdom has Mario traveling around New Donk City (which has the best ending segment of any Kingdom, in my opinion) talking to life sized humans and Pauline, who is now the mayor of the city. While the sheer number of environments could make it feel like a disjointed mess the overall theme of the game really ties everything together and in context it all makes sense.
I actually ended up playing the game both single player and co-op with my six year old son. The second player can take control of Cappy and move him around the levels independently of Mario. He acts essentially as if Mario had thrown him so if he encounters an enemy he will cause Mario to possess them. It can lead to some frustration, but my son knew if I said I needed control of Cappy that he had to let me use him for a minute. Then once I was finished he could go back to smashing blocks, collecting coins and flying around the levels. If you have a good co-op partner it can be a lot of fun. I probably played through a third of the game in co-op and had a really good time with it.
The game doesn’t end once the credits roll either. That ending. Boy, that ending. I don’t want to spoil it, but it was fantastic and has some great music. The game really opens up after you’ve finished the main story. There are some really great throwbacks to previous Mario games, a nice costume, and some truly fun easter eggs to be discovered. You can go back to each world you previously visited and collect more Power Moon and coins. Plenty of little places you probably didn’t look before. I can almost guarantee you didn’t see everything when you first played through the game.
Super Mario Odyssey is a great throwback to classic Mario games. It’s an extension of everything that Nintendo has learned from Super Mario 64 all the way through Super Mario 3D World. The variety of locales that you visit feel familiar and refreshingly new at the same time. There really is something here for everyone and plenty to see and do no matter your skill level. Super Mario Odyssey truly lived up to it’s name. It was hard to see where Nintendo would take the series after Galaxy, but this game was simply in a word, fantastic.
Review copy purchased at retail
Played through the full story, collected more than 200 Power Moons
Total Play Time 12 hours (dozens more to come)