Super Mario Odyssey Review
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: October 27, 2017 – 97% on Metacritic
The release of a new 3D Mario game is always a landmark moment for the video game industry. When Super Mario 64 released, it changed the way we thought games could be played. When Super Mario Sunshine came out, it changed our perspective on gameplay gimmicks becoming more than just a gimmick. When Super Mario Galaxy came out, it changed the way we thought 3D platformers should be designed. When Super Mario 3D World released, it showcased the potential for cooperative gameplay in a 3D platformer. Now, with Super Mario Odyssey releasing on the Nintendo Switch in what is the first true 3D Mario game since Sunshine, it has successfully woven all of the best parts of the previous games. Odyssey places an emphasis on discovery and curiosity – the game is as engaging or as linear as you want it to be. Like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this game lets the player decide how they want to play and adapts to their needs. There’s power in freedom, and Odyssey contains volumes.
Like any Mario game, Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and Mario, along with his new companion Cappy, has to save her. The flavor this time is that Bowser is going straight to his wedding with Princess Peach, and is stopping at the various kingdoms along the way to finish gathering what he needs for the ceremony. While simplistic, the story keeps you coming back with its engrossing charm. Plastered across every kingdom are posters of Bowser & Peach’s wedding that you can tear down. The whole story builds up to the classic “speak now or forever hold your peace” moment at the wedding ceremony, which of course, is the final boss fight with Bowser. There’s nothing special here, just like Breath of the Wild, because the true story is how the player learns the game, gets better, and traverses each world at their own pace. The story is a skeleton, and everything else fills in the meat on the bone.
“…the true story is how the player learns the game, gets better, and traverses each world at their own pace.”
Odyssey has a hybrid style between 64/Sunshine and the Galaxy series. Moons (the game’s objectives, like stars or shines) are literally everywhere. No longer do you load of out a level into a hub world every time you get a moon. Instead, you continue where you left off after a short celebration scene. A few moons take a while to earn, but most of the game’s moons are attainable in a matter of 30 seconds to a minute, making Odyssey a great game to drop in and out of when you have spare time. You don’t need to sit down for hours with this game – you can get a few moons in a short play session. That being said, there are 999 moons to get in this game, and you only need about 170 to complete the main story. No moon was too challenging, which I found slightly surprising, but in the post-game, the moons become much more challenging to get. The death penalty is only -10 coins out of your collective total, which I had over 5000 coins by the end of the game. I felt the difficulty more than double in some cases, which was refreshing. Now, about 250 moons in, I cannot wait to keep on getting more moons from each kingdom.
Each kingdom contains its own currency in addition to coins. These unique currencies can buy you kingdom-specific outfits for Mario, as well as trinkets and stickers to decorate the odyssey. These outfits are surprisingly fun to wear – something I thought that I wouldn’t care about when I got this game. From Mario Maker’s construction outfit to a Dr. Mario or Waluigi outfit, to even a caveman costume, there was a ton of thought and care put into this feature of the game. Collecting these kingdom-specific currencies is a challenge on its own, as these coins are collectibles in each kingdom and hidden all around the map. I often found myself forgetting about the moons and just looking for the currencies in each kingdom so I could unlock a sweet hat.
“From Mario Maker’s construction outfit to a Dr. Mario or Waluigi outfit, to even a caveman costume, there was a ton of thought and care put into this feature of the game.”
Odyssey is the second-best feeling Mario game to play, only behind Sunshine. Everything is extremely fluid and feels natural, except for the motion controls. One of the few gripes I have with this game is that it provides benefits to players who opt to use motion controls in their gameplay. Shaking the joy-con or the pro controller allows Mario to automatically lock on and attack his closest enemy (if in range), jump higher, jump further, and more. The good news is that the game is so well designed that even if you don’t use motion controls much (like me), the game is still very playable. At no point did I feel the need to use them, but there were moments when I knew that the area was designed with motion controls in mind.
“One of the few gripes I have with this game is that it provides benefits to players who opt to use motion controls…”
Other than that, all of Mario’s old moves are back and a few new ones as well. With the addition of Cappy, you can chain moves together to allow for some seriously cool platforming. Speedrunners’ are going to have a field day with this game. The movement is so smooth & natural that oftentimes I wasn’t even thinking of how to tackle a platforming puzzle, I just started doing it and did what I felt was right and oftentimes it worked. Other developers should take note; this is how you make your players feel. When thinking about controlling the character becomes secondary, it allows for full immersion.
“The movement is so smooth & natural that oftentimes I wasn’t even thinking of how to tackle a platforming puzzle, I just started doing it.”
Odyssey is a stunning game. Visual fidelity is nothing that Nintendo has hanged their hat on recently, and that continues with Odyssey. However, the art direction and attention to detail put into this game is industry leading. Like Breath of the Wild, Nintendo has done an incredible job of letting the player know where things are. Off in the distance the very first moment of the game, you can see several islands and interesting set pieces that immediately made me think “I bet there’s something over there” and more times than not, I was correct. Providing visual clues for the player to explore and providing the player all the tools to explore is exactly what made Breath of the Wild such a masterpiece, and it continues to be a defining and refreshing feature for Odyssey.
As well, each Kingdom has a distinct and colorful art style that harkens back to the days of colorful platformers. From New Donk City’s metro scenescape to the Luncheon Kingdom’s food-inspired landscape, Odyssey has managed to provide unique ideas and worlds in a Mario game once again. Nintendo has proved that you don’t need graphical fidelity like 4k visuals to create a good-looking game – they have been doing this since the Gamecube. Odyssey is a treat to play, and a treat to watch.
“Providing visual clues for the player to explore and providing the player all the tools to explore is exactly what made Breath of the Wild such a masterpiece, and it continues to be a defining and refreshing feature for Odyssey.”
The addition of the snapshot mode is something that many games are doing these days (see Assassins Creed Origins), but this is a fantastic addition to this game. Being as visually stunning as it is, doing something cool and freezing the frame as you manipulate the camera angle, apply filters, and take a picture is a great way to show awesome moments. Not only that, the ability to upload these snapshots directly to social media is a necessary feature that I’ve used a few times now.
Aside from the motion controls and the game is not as challenging as I wanted in the main story, Super Mario Odyssey once again has created a landmark moment for the games industry. Like its predecessors, Odyssey will be looked back on fondly and as a defining moment in games. It has changed the way we thought we could consume a 3D platforming game. Whether you enjoy this game in short bursts, long sessions, speed runs, or a combination of these, Odyssey always feels like an absolute joy to play. It’s hard not to have a smile on your face when you’re having as much fun as this. I can’t wait to jump back into the game and to keep on exploring. There’s an awesome post-game moment that I won’t spoil for those who haven’t played yet, but it’s very special. This is one of Mario’s very best outings and one that no gamer should miss. If you don’t have a Nintendo Switch yet, I’d recommend getting one for this and Breath of the Wild – two of the very best games ever made.
The best Mario game since Sunshine, Odyssey is one of Mario’s very best outings that nobody should miss. A near-perfect experience.
As I mentioned before, this game’s fluid movement allows for some insane speedrunning. The game has barely been out a month, and there are people already doing this. I’d encourage you to watch the whole stream recap below of Bounceyboy playing Odyssey.