Since the release of Super Mario Sunshine on the Nintendo Gamecube, I’ve been yearning for Mario to return to his more exploration-heavy roots. My best memories with Mario were exploring the Mushroom Kingdom while scouring its environments for collectibles and secrets. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the Super Mario Galaxy games and 3D World, but the more linear approach Nintendo took with those titles made me cherish my time with the more open design of Super Mario 64 even more. Thankfully, Nintendo has returned Mario to a more exploration focused design with Super Mario Odyssey, which may be Mario’s best adventure to date.
Odyssey opens with Bowser once again breaking into the Mushroom Kingdom and kidnapping Princess Peach. Were we really expecting anything different here? Although, Nintendo did take a more unique approach with Peach’s latest abduction. Bowser is forcing Princess Peach to marry him. Backed by his evil bunny wedding planners, the Broodals, Bowser drags Peach through a series of other kingdoms in order to collect all of the items he needs to pull off the ceremony. Mario sets out to pursue Bowser, accompanied by a living hat named Cappy, in order to save Princess Peach once again.
Cappy plays a very large role in Super Mario Odyssey, being not only a companion but also a major new mechanic to the series. He sits atop Mario’s head and harnesses the ability to possess enemies, creatures and objects within the game. Mario can use Cappy as a projectile attack to defeat enemies, but he can also use it to take control of an enemy in order to solve puzzles.
By simply tossing Cappy at an enemy that doesn’t already wear a hat, Mario can possess that enemy like some sort of charming poltergeist. Each enemy holds different abilities that can be used to progress through the various kingdoms and discover secrets. Not all enemies can be possessed, but the majority of them can. This features makes Super Mario Odyssey feel completely fresh and exciting.
As an example, Mario can toss Cappy at a caterpillar enemy and take control of it. In turn, this allows Mario to stretch out his body and reach far away platforms. Goombas can also be possessed and stacked on top of each other in order to reach tall ledges and even woe a lonely female goomba who’s looking for love. My favorite ability comes from a bird with a long pointy beak that jumps and sticks its beak into walls. Players will then flick the analog stick to shoot the bird in any direction and stab the wall where it lands, essentially allowing Mario to climb up walls. All of the abilities that come from enemies are unique, fun and cater specific challenges to them.
Similar to Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, Mario explores large open environments in the form of kingdoms. Each one has a unique theme and its own set of challenges. Not a single kingdom feels repetitive; all of them are very unique compared to levels found in previous Mario titles. Nintendo did an excellent job at making these environments fresh, fun and visually stunning.
Travelling in a large ship named The Odyssey, Mario must land in each kingdom that Bowser visits to search for clues of his whereabouts. The Odyssey is fueled by power moons that are hidden in each kingdom, so the goal is to explore the vast kingdoms in search of power moons in order for Mario to continue his pursuit. Power moons are basically the equivalent the stars from Super Mario 64, or shines from Super Mario Sunshine.
The beauty of Super Mario Odyssey is that Nintendo made these kingdoms even more open and free than in previous Mario titles. The game will give players hints as to where power moons are located, but only in major quests that lead to the kingdom’s major boss battle. After that, players are completely on their own in order to find the rest of the power moons left. Hint Toads reside in each kingdom after the big boss is defeated, which allow players to spend 50 coins to reveal the location of a random remaining moon. Once players collect enough moons to power the Odyssey, they are sent off to the next kingdom.
The game includes 14 kingdoms to explore along with three bonus kingdoms that unlock at the end of the game. Some of the kingdoms are relatively short with only a few objectives to complete, but the majority of them are very large and complex. In order to collect power moons, Mario will face a series of different challenges. Some moons are simply hidden within objects, while others require Mario to complete platforming or combat challenges to obtain them. Bosses will drop multi-moons, which are basically a cluster of three moons.
Each kingdom contains a different overall total of power moons, but the whole game itself contains around 900 total. In order to complete the game, players will only need to collect around 150 moons, but many more will appear after the game is finished. This number may seem daunting at first, but the largest chunk of moons are found in post-game content. Still, players have a TON of content here that will ask players to clock in a lot more time than it takes to roll the credits.
One thing I love about this game is that once a power moon is collected, the game doesn’t kick you out of the kingdom and make you return to it like its predecessors did. As soon as a moon is collected, players will continue right where they left off in order to pursue more. Super Mario Odyssey never takes you out of the game unless a boss is defeated and the game jumps into a cutscene.
Collecting coins has always been a staple of every Super Mario title, and Odyssey is no different. Coins can be collected in each kingdom and carried over through the entire game. Aside from power moons, each kingdom also has it’s own collectible purple currency that resemble the theme of the kingdom they’re in. Depending on the kingdom, there are either a total of 50 coins or 100 coins per kingdom. The more larger kingdoms usually include 100 instead of 50.
So what do these two types of currency do? Well they open up the microtransa… nah I’m kidding! Each kingdom has a Crazy Cap store that players can spend their coins in. Crazy Cap shops include new costumes and caps that Mario can purchase and wear. Every kingdom has its own themed costume that also opens up a hidden challenge behind a locked door in each kingdom. Players can also spend their coins on stamps and stickers to decorate the Odyssey. Some items require plain gold coins and carry over between each kingdom, while other items are exclusive to that kingdom and must be purchased with exclusive purple coins.
I had a lot of fun discovering the different costumes that Mario could equip in each kingdom. Some special costumes in Crazy Cap shops are throwbacks to Mario’s history, like the Dr. Mario suit and Mario’s classic colors outfit. There’s even an extremely cool classic costume found after the game is finished that brought a huge smile to my face. My personal favorite costume is Mario’s builder outfit from Super Mario Maker, which is usually my go-to look when I’m hunting for moons. Certain Amiibos will also unlock special costumes early for players who own them.
Super Mario Odyssey also tucks in a LOT of references from past games, including some that have never received the 3D treatment yet. I don’t want to name any here for sake of ruining the surprises, but most of them had me pretty excited once I saw them. Nintendo paints on the Super Mario nostalgia thick in Super Mario Odyssey and all of it was a treat to experience.
Speaking of references to past games, players will find 8-bit warp pipes sitting in several of the kingdoms. Once Mario enters these pipes, the game shifts perspectives into a 2D 8-bit Mario platformer that plays exactly how you would expect. These little challenges are a lot of fun and remind me of the painting feature found in The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds due to Mario hopping in and out a 2D plane. Some of the later 2D sections are pretty challenging and one of them happens within a special event in the Metro Kingdom that’s one of the biggest highlights of the entire game.
Visually, Super Mario Odyssey is a stellar looking game and one of the best in terms of graphics on the Nintendo Switch. The use of textures, particle effects and fog are really impressive. The game is very highly detailed to the point where I felt like playing in handheld mode was a disservice to the game. In terms of framerate, the game runs at a solid 60fps with rare minor dips in certain situations.
The music ranges from classic remixes to all-new tracks. The main Odyssey theme is one of the best themes in the entire series. All of the noises and voice samples in this game are spot-on and charming. Mario is extremely fluid and tight to control no matter which method you use. I personally preferred using the Pro controller myself for comfort reasons.
Which brings me to the ONLY negative I can find with Super Mario Odyssey. The game recommends players use the split Joy-con configuration to play the game. At first I questioned this recommendation. Why does it really matter? Well, some of Mario’s abilities can only be performed using split Joy-cons due to motion controlled actions. As a result, some of these moves can not be executed on a Pro controller, using the Joy-con grip or in handheld mode.
Yes, having actions exclusive to one control style is less than ideal. However, players can play the game to completion without using any of these moves. Some power moons hidden within the game DO require players to use these moves though. So for those who are pursuing 100% completion will find that there will be instances of being forced to pop the Joy-cons off and use them independently in order to collect a small number of optional moons in the game. At least Nintendo isn’t requiring anyone to purchase any added accessories, so this isn’t a huge issue, but still one I would rather not have.
One final note that I want to mention is the post-game content. Super Mario Odyssey wraps up in a really cool way in terms of the final boss battle. I was expecting another cliche Bowser fight, but you’ll be surprised how the game concludes. Once the credits are finished rolling, a new kingdom is opened up that I seriously cannot spoil for anyone reading this review. This end-game kingdom is so amazingly cool that it made my jaw hit the floor. Two other bonus kingdoms are also unlocked by continuing to collect power moons in the game. Overall, there’s a ton of content here to keep Super Mario Odyssey in your Nintendo Switch for months to come.
The main story in Super Mario Odyssey can be completed in around 7 to 8 hours, so it isn’t a very long adventure for anyone looking to wrap up the narrative. I personally reached the end of the game with 150 power moons. Still, I continue to crave more of this game, so simply reaching the end didn’t satisfy me at all. In other words, the game stays consistently addictive even after the credits roll. I found the game a little easier than the likes of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, but the end-game content really ramps up the difficulty. Those looking for a challenge may need to wait until after they finish this one.
Super Mario Odyssey is the Mario game I have been begging Nintendo for since I finished Super Mario 64 back in 1996. It’s large, full of fun unique challenges and jammed packed with content and nostalgia. The inclusion of Cappy injected a much needed dose of uniqueness to the series that makes it stand out among Mario’s previous adventures. There’s no denying it — Super Mario Odyssey is easily one of the best games in the franchise and the second must-own game on the Nintendo Switch. If this game isn’t a part of your Switch library, you’re doing it wrong.
Super Mario Odyssey was reviewed using a physical copy purchased by The Gaming Outsider themselves.