Where The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild reinvented the Zelda experience, Super Mario Odyssey is a structured sequel to the original 3D game. After years of 3D Mario games following the Galaxy formula of smaller, more condensed platformers, Odyssey returns to the 64 and Sunshine era of free-roaming adventures. Although it’s been a while since fans have experienced a Mario game like this, it’s as if it’s never left. Super Mario Odyssey reacquaints gamers to a free-roaming 3D adventure that’s much bigger than we’ve ever seen before.
Super Mario Odyssey throws players right into the action. Bowser has once again kidnapped Peach aiming to marry her while traveling across the world, collecting various wedding sundries along the way. Our hero Mario has to stop this. But this time, he isn’t alone. Our hero is joined by the ghostly entity, Cappy, whose unique abilities helps Mario in both exploration and combat. Together, they’ll travel through several new worlds on Mario’s biggest adventure yet.
Super Mario Odyssey is a love letter to that Nintendo 64 classic. Odyssey follows the basic format established by Super Mario 64: Mario explores a series of open-ended world’s studded with jumping challenges, puzzles, etc. collecting rewards as he goes: in this case “Power Moons” to charge the ship and explore more worlds. This carries the entire experience of Odyssey; centering around the concept of discovery. Typical Mario games are known for platforming, but Odyssey is more about the freedom of exploration.
Once you land in a new kingdom, players can plot their own course through sizeable worlds. And every environment is beaming with life and color. From a kingdom made entirely of food to a kingdom lost to time itself, Nintendo outdoes itself by changing up their environments. Every kingdom has its own brochure, its own atmosphere, its own music; all blending together making each kingdom feel unique in its own way.
And how do players explore these new worlds? Mario’s moveset is simple to learn and difficult to master. Most of Mario’s classic moves return including the long jump, ground pound, side jump, etc. Mario has also learned some new moves along the ways including a ground pound jump that gives players that extra boost and a roll that Mario can use to speed up down slopes. Cappy adds a whole new layer of movements to Mario. Cappy can be thrown out for both combat and platforming. Once Cappy is thrown out, he can be held out for an extra jump. Finding out how to use Cappy to speed around each kingdom feels fantastic to control, but some moves are easier to perform with motion controls. A spinning hat throw requires a flick of the wrist, which is better than rotating the stick. You can play Super Mario Odyssey entirely without motion controls, but there are some additional skills that are locked behind motion controls. It’s a nuisance to have these moves locked to those who prefer playing without motion controls, but not enough to hinder the overall experience.
Cappy is also gifted with the power of possession. Instead of power-ups, Cappy is the central gimmick of Odyssey. When Mario throws Cappy onto an enemy’s head, Mario becomes the foe, and the player can control him. This strange idea allows Mario to transform into more than 50 different beings, each offering unique abilities. Each transformation is enjoyable – a testament to Odyssey’s design, variety, and functionality.
Mario is still amazing to control through these platforming worlds, but the bulk of the experience is becoming this treasure hunter finding power moons. With over 800 moons to collect, completionists have their work cut out for them. A few of these moons can be easy to find, like breaking a glowing box, but most are hidden as a reward at the end of a challenge or platforming sequence. If your exploration doesn’t resolve in a moon, you may find some coins, both regular gold coins and new purple coins. Each are useful in their own way. Gold coins are used to purchase extra hearts, moons, even unique outfits and hats. Purple coins can also be used to buy outfits exclusive to that world as well as souvenirs to decorate the Odyssey ship. Coins have always been present in Mario games, but this is the first time we see coins being used in a more rewarding way.
A wealth of post-game content becomes available after the credits roll. A new kingdom becomes available with its own wealth of amazing rewards and moons. Each previous kingdom also gains more earnable moons, activities, and platforming puzzles. Earning moons will give players access to another new kingdom with its own boss rush mode. And earning moons after that will unlock one final level that will challenge everything you’ve learned up to then. It’s satisfying to have your adventure in Odyssey continue well after the credits roll. What happens when you find every single moon in the game? One more challenge, but I’ll let you find out what that is.
Super Mario Odyssey is an absolute delight. It’s an open-ended challenge that never stops, even dozens of hours in. Like what The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild did before it, Odyssey offers a similar sense of scope. It’s a world that feels huge, but small when you get to know it, then huge again when you realize its density of secrets and challenges. Odyssey places you in this world and lets you roam free. Even after you think you’ve seen everything its had to offer, the surprises continue to pile up. Super Mario Odyssey is a fun game that put a smile on my face from start to end. If you get the chance to play it, take it.