The credits for Super Mario Odyssey rolled, for me, on Monday night. Since then I’ve smashed words onto a page only to delete them and start again. Because I can’t seem to find the right words to explain how this game made me feel or why I think you should play it. And you should play it. If you don’t have a Nintendo Switch you should go right now and buy one just to play this game.
I remember being 10 or 11 and sitting on the floor of my parents’ bedroom. They had a TV cabinet in their room which is where the SEGA was situated. I’d spend afternoons in that room on the floor playing Super Mario Bros. I’d almost always get to the first castle after hours of trying, I’d die numerous times and finally…. I’d be told Princess Peach wasn’t in that castle. Weekends were spent watching my dad find his way to Bowser time and again. It enthralled and frustrated me each time. Super Mario Odyssey brought up all those childhood feelings: the joy, the elation, the frustration.. and I hadn’t even started playing the game yet.
Here’s the basic premise:
Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach and an animated tiara. As Mario, you team up with Cappy to save the pair. You find a ship called the Odyssey which requires power moons to travel. You then follow Bowser from world to world trying to stop him before he marries Peach. Each world is so immersive and wonder filled. You think you have a handle on the game and a new world changes it up. After the second world you think you know exactly how to find the coveted power moons only to have to completely change your thinking as you travel to the next place. There are dinosaurs, continual high fives to the original Super Mario Bros that we loved and just a general magic that covers the whole of Odyssey. The open worlds are whimsical and so incredibly beautiful. Each new adventure is like a new piece of art and I had to stop myself from constantly screen grabbing ALL THE THINGS.
You’ll explore under water kingdoms that reminded me of fairy dust, for some reason, and even come face to face with a giant T-Rex. There’s so much that this game lets you do, see and explore that when it is over it is almost impossible to pin point your favourite moment (mine was the fun twist at the end but for fear of spoiling I will say no more).
The story is rich. The characters are well thought out and developed (well, for some that is easy enough, we’ve known them for years… but the new faces get a great introduction). The twists are enough to frustrate but also delight you all at the same time.
How does it play?
The mechanics of the game are simple. The Switch encourages you to play with the joy cons removed and incorporates a host of motion control in to the action. This is the best way to play and for big battles I’d drop my Switch’s kickstand and do the motions BUT you can still easy accomplish tasks and move from world to world when on the move. Though your Cappy actions become slightly limited. The introduction of Cappy is pretty rad. You’re able to battle enemies using him in a variety of ways but you can also “capture” creatures for a limited time by throwing him on their head (if they don’t already have a cap on).
Good GREAT Game Design
My biggest struggle with games, most of the time, is that I find I reach a point in the play through that I just cannot get past. It seems almost impossible to complete the objective or finish the fight. No matter how many times I try or look at it I just cannot figure it out. It is, at this point, where I walk away and move on to the next thing. I never felt this way with Super Mario Odyssey. The game starts simply enough and each new world introduces a new skill you have to accomplish. Without even realising it the difficultly goes up. When there were big fights against Bowser’s thugs it was relatively easy to figure out what the objective was to defeat them. While executing might have taken a little longer it wasn’t blatantly obvious but also didn’t seem impossible. There was one particular task in one of the worlds where I needed to toss Cappy at a specific character and then make my way through some rotating ladles of boiling hot lava. I spent an hour trying to get this one right and constantly missing a jump or taking to long or or or. I could clearly see how to accomplish the play but just couldn’t get there. I put down my Switch, ranted and raved for 30 minutes and then picked it up and tried again. Success!
The mark of good game design is guiding the player down a path that allows them to steadily learn the skills they need to complete tasks while not spoon feeding you into moving ahead. Super Mario Odyssey does just this. There’s also a host more things in the world to explore and you’ll be able to either just focus on chasing Bowser or spending time exploring, enjoying side quests. When you finish the game there is a host of new adventures to keep you busy as well.
This is a game for everyone
The hardcore gamer will love its complexity and revel in the open world that they can explore. No doubt they’ll spend considerable time attempting to finish as fast as possible. The n00b is going to love it because you won’t hit that ceiling where you feel like you’re out of your league. You’ll get stuck, sure, but the game will guide you right through. Fans of Mario are going to love the nostalgia and the salutes to the original throughout the game. Kids are going to love it because IT IS A FANTASTIC GAME. There’s also an option to co-op if that’s your thing.
I spent around a week and a half of my life playing this game. I loved every minute. I finished with a giant grin on my face and that was how I looked most of the time playing it as well. It was magical. It was sometimes scary. It was beautiful. It was challenging. It was clever. It was fun.
Super Mario Odyssey is a master class in what a video game should be. It is truly a glorious piece of art.