There's an expectation that the next mainline Mario game is going to be at least a pretty great game. The real question to most Mario fans is where does a new game rank among the others? There's some stiff competition, as the series features games that many consider some of the greatest of all time, but I am happy to say that Super Mario Odyssey should shake up the debate.
Super Mario Odyssey is pure fun, plain and simple. The trademark crisp controls are here in Odyssey, making the vibrant, thematic kingdoms Mario ventures through a real joy. The classic Mario sound effects pack the right nostalgic punch, while the music puts you in the perfect mood for each kingdom. Exploring is rewarding and meticulously searching every nook and cranny never gets old.
A big reason there is so much fun to be had has to do with Cappy. After Mario's hat gets shredded and he is jettisoned from Bowser's airship, he lands in the Cap Kingdom. Turns out that Cappy's sister was kidnapped by Bowser along with Princess Peach, so he teams up with Mario to save the two. Mario and Cappy venture out to find their ship they name The Odyssey and chase down Bowser.
Cappy certainly helps fill out Mario's arsenal of moves. Mario can throw Cappy in a variety of different ways to strike out at enemies or other targets. Cappy can also be used as a platform to launch Mario just a bit further to extend a jump or give him some height when necessary.
Capturing enemies is what Cappy is most known for doing, of course. Just about every enemy you see, some friendly folk, and even plenty of inanimate objects out there can be taken over by Cappy. This can be as simple as Goomba or (as seen in the E3 trailer) as complex as a T-Rex. Every object captured by Cappy has its own unique set of abilities and uses for whatever world you find it in. Bullet Bills fly through the air to hard to reach places, Goombas can be stacked one on top of the other to get up somewhere high, Hammer Bros can cut through materials in your way, and ... I could keep this list going for a while. Suffice to say, you will see plenty of new things to capture in each kingdom Mario ventures through, each of which offer some awesome fun.
The amount of different mechanics on display through capturing enemies is quite staggering. Many of them have unique abilities necessary to get some Power Moon or another, and every form handles movement differently. It's not as though controlling Mario gets stale, but each time you capture a new enemy to then try to figure out the challenges in front of you feels like a different experience, while still wholly being a Mario game.
At a quick glance, you may find several of the kingdoms small and barren. The quick view you get coming in on The Odyssey definitely gave me that impression. I couldn't have been more wrong. There are so many things hidden in a large variety of places. Check cliffs, turn the camera at weird angles to get a different view of an area, and definitely make sure you're keeping an eye out for anything that catches your eye. There's a reason something catches your attention in Odyssey, and you should certainly pursue it.
Getting lost in that exploration is by far Odyssey's biggest strength. As you progress through the story, each kingdom has a few objectives to complete, some of which are optional but definitely encouraged as they open up the kingdom some more. Odyssey will point you in the right direction of where you go, but what you do on the way there is totally up to you. Something that would take you a quick five minutes, if solely focused on the objective, will take you over an hour with how many things will distract you. The number of times I went "What's that?" and found myself pleasantly surprised should be much lower, as I should have stopped being surprised after the 100th time.
Players are definitely rewarded for giving into the instinct of checking out what catches their attention. In doing so, you'll stumble across some neat challenge, a cool throwback, a one-off minigame you want to play some more, and just a ton of other fun things to experience. Odyssey is on the easy side, and if you're looking for a challenge, you'll definitely be rewarded by venturing off the beaten path.
Odyssey's a collectathon through and through, and racking up coins and Power Moons is incredibly satisfying. Each collectible has a proper reward for the effort put in, and it never gets old hearing the sound of finally reaching that Power Moon. These are used to progress through the game to unlock more kingdoms, as the Power Moon is the fuel for The Odyssey. After the game is complete, don't stop collecting as the Power Moons unlock more places to visit and other challenges.
If you're one who needs something more than to see certain numbers get higher the more you collect, Odyssey has you covered. Each kingdom has their own set of purple regional coins to collect that are used as a currency in the Crazy Cap stores to get outfits and hats for Mario, stickers to put on The Odyssey, and collectibles for Mario himself to put on display inside The Odyssey. Regular yellow coins can be used to purchase outfits and Power Moons, as well. Those looking for even more motivation will find an achievement system of sorts after the main part of the game is over to gain more Power Moons to unlock more items to collect.
Speaking of Odyssey in a more general sense, it is bursting with creativity. Around every corner is something unique, and there are plenty of mechanics I have not seen in other games. No idea wears out its welcome and many are taken to their natural limit, creating no tedium and leaving behind pure joy. I couldn't help myself from grinning at so many neat ideas Nintendo threw into Odyssey, including how they played on the nostalgia factor; they didn't simply have a "hey remember this thing" attitude but created some truly awesome experiences that were simply rooted in ideas of the past.
In the end, I have only one real gripe with Odyssey: the motion controls. They are the default way to use many of Mario's abilities with Cappy, and while they aren't terribly implemented, they still have the issues inherent with motion controls in the first place. Because they lack precision, they can create some frustration in a platformer like Odyssey. Knowing what to do to progress only to fail because you messed up the motion control isn't all that fun. Thankfully, if you're not a fan of motion controls, you can turn them off. The problem is Odyssey doesn't tell you how to pull off those moves without motion controls, at least nowhere I can find. Plus, there are some moves that must use motion controls, including a few of the captured enemies. In the end, the motion controls were not prevalent enough to impact my enjoyment of Odyssey, and those that enjoy motion controls will find them used well here.
Super Mario Odyssey is easily one of the best games I have ever played, and I'm incredibly jealous that this will be the first time some kids experience everyone's beloved mustachioed hero. Where it lands in the hierarchy of Mario games, nobody can know quite yet, but I can say with great confidence it will be in the debate of the greatest ever made. Odyssey isn't just for Mario fans, either; everyone should find some enjoyment in the awesomely fun experience that is Super Mario Odyssey.
Our Super Mario Odyssey review was conducted on Nintendo Switch with a copy purchased by the reviewer.
- Crisp, Precise Controls
- Exploration is Fun and Rewarding
- The Capture Mechanic Offers A Lot of Gameplay Variety
- Incredibly Charming at Every Turn
- Motion Controls Are Only Sort of Optional