Super Mario Odyssey is a homecoming for 3D Mario games. We’ve had 4 3D Mario games since Super Mario Sunshine, but they didn’t have the big free-roaming levels that Mario 64 and Sunshine had. Odyssey feels like a sequel to Mario 64. A sequel that has the benefit of being able to pick and choose the best parts of all the 3D Mario games.
The game starts off with Mario and Bowser battling it out on top of an airship. As usual, Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, and Mario is there to save her. There’s a twist this time, though. Bowser is planning to marry Peach! Mario tries to stop this nonsense, but Bowser has a magic top hat, and Mario has no counter for it. Mario gets his red hat torn to shreds, and gets smacked down into Bonneton, home of the Bonneters, a race of ghosts with top hats. There is actually nothing close to a bonnet here. Here is where Mario meets Cappy, his new hat, with eyes, and an annoying voice. Cappy is the Jar Jar Binks of the game. He is a character made to appeal to kids. Thankfully, his talking scenes are limited.
The structure of Super Mario Odyssey is very similar to Mario 64 and Sunshine’s. You’re free to explore each level and find challenges to complete, which reward you with moons. Unlike in 64 and Sunshine, there isn’t a hub world connecting everything. Instead, Mario’s ship, the Odyssey, travels around the world through a menu, much like in Super Mario Galaxy 2. There also are no preset goals, different start points, or different versions of the levels, depending on what moon you want to get, like with stars in other 3D Mario games. Every level lets you grab whatever moon you can, in any order you can, and doesn’t restart the level after you get one. The only time different moons become available, is after you beat Bowser and see the credits.
There are 999 moons in the game, but you can beat Bowser with around 150. New costumes, levels, and a lot more moons only become available after beating Bowser. There are also levels which only have moons in them after beating the game. The main quest is actually kind of short and easy, so I urge everyone to go back through each level to get more moons. You’re really missing out if you stop playing after seeing the credits. The post game is where you will find the best moons.
999 Moons might sound like a lot of work, but a lot of them really aren’t very hard or time consuming to get. You can find moons on top of trees, by butt stomping the ground, and playing minigames You can even buy them at the store for 100 coins. They’re all over the place! Of course, there are also plenty of moons at the end of challenging platforming sections and as rewards after beating bosses. I think they’ve found a good balance for players of all skill levels to be able to beat the game.
Mario has the biggest arsenal of moves out of all Mario games in Odyssey. Mario can long jump, triple jump, dive, flip, and wall jump. He can even roll out of falls, so you can completely avoid stuns from falling, even off a skyscraper in New Donk City. There’s only a few moves missing, like 64’s punching and Sunshine’s fish flop. Throw in Cappy, and it starts feeling like you’re cheating. Mario can throw out Cappy and then bounce off him, like a trampoline. You can use this to more than double your jump distance. You can do a long jump, throw Cappy, dive and bounce off Cappy, and then do another dive off that, for example. Mastering this technique allows you to completely skip some platforming obstacles. Throwing Cappy while in midair also allows you to float for a moment, and turn mid jump, for even more acrobatic hijinks.
Of course, Cappy is more than just a hat shaped trampoline. Cappy is what enables you to “capture” things, the game’s big new mechanic. Capturing is basically possessing things. Cappy is a ghost, so that makes sense. You can capture everything from Goombas and Koopas, to electric sparks and poles on the streets of New Donk City. Nintendo has made a big deal out of the capturing mechanic, but it’s not like the whole game is about capturing. Capturing is really Odyssey's powerups. Instead of fire flowers and tanooki tails, you can turn into Para Goombas and Hammer Bros. I Think they’ve found a good balance between challenges involving capturing, and ones in which you platform jump as regular Mario.
Capturing isn’t the only way to play dress up in Odyssey. There’s a ton of costumes for Mario to wear. Some of these costumes have small perks, like faster swimming, but most are purely cosmetic. Some are required to get into some areas to get moons. For example, in New Donk City, you have to dress up in the Mario Maker costume, because they need someone who can fix stuff. I mean, like really fix stuff, not just the plumbing. There’s all kinds of costumes that reference nearly every game Mario has ever been in. There's Dr. Mario, Donkey Kong arcade Mario, Wario, Mario’s Picross Mario, and even Yoshi's Cookie Mario.
If there isn’t a costume that references a Mario game, there’s probably an NPC, sign, sound effect, or piece of Music that has it covered. Maybe it has become cliche to say, but this really is a celebration of all things Mario. There’s references to nearly every game Mario has ever been in here. There’s Mario Kart music, Galaxy sound effects, signs with Donkey Kong Country character names on them, and even characters like Captain Toad and Toadette show up. The only game I’m having trouble finding a reference for is Super Mario Sunshine. You’d think there would be a Shine, FLUDD, or a Pianta somewhere, but I haven’t seen anything.
There really aren’t that many levels, but most of them are really big. There are also a few that are very small, like the Cloud and Ruined Kingdoms. Every kingdom has its own unique theme, and even though the enemies and challenges might appear in other levels, they always feel like they fit right in. One my favorites is the Sand Kingdom. It has Egyptian style pyramids and a Mexican style village inhabited by Dia de los Muertos inspired skeleton people. It even references Sarasaland from Super Mario Land. The Cap Kingdom is also really cool looking. It’s almost all black and white, and has buildings with top hats on them. It looks like something out of a painting.
Odyssey doesn’t just have awesome 3D levels, though. There’s a bunch of awesome 2D Mario levels in here too. Sometimes, you’ll see a sort of fake 3D pixelated pipe you can go into, and when you come out the other side, you’re in an 8-bit style 2D Mario level. These levels are usually played on the side of a mountain or building, and you can turn corners in 3D. It reminds me of Viewtiful Joe. These aren’t just plain old NES levels, though. These levels can get pretty crazy. They like to play with gravity and going from 2D to 3D. They’re very creative. If you wondered where 2D Mario could go now that they’ve given everyone the tools to make their own with Super Mario Maker, here’s your answer. I’d love to see a 2D Mario with levels like these. And oh yeah, every costume has an 8-bit version in these levels. Talk about attention to detail.
The art style in Odyssey is strangely realistic. Warp pipes have chipped paint and rust on them, Toad’s mushroom hats have skin-like bumps, Bullet Bills are all scratched up, and you can see the strands in Mario’s hair and mustache. It’s kind of weird seeing such realistic details in a Mario game, but this is without a doubt the best looking game Nintendo has ever made.
They really outdid themselves with the music. There’s just so much original stuff in here. A lot of it doesn’t even sound like Mario game music, and that’s Ok. All the musical styles really fit the traveling theme of the game. Of course, the New Donk City Festival song, with vocals by Pauline, is awesome. My favorite is the Steam Gardens theme, though. It has that kind of Surf guitar sound I really like. I also love the Tostarena: Town theme, because it sounds like a mariachi version of Peach’s Castle theme.
I’m very impressed by the HD rumble in this game. I have games with HD rumble, but nothing like this. Everything has its own unique rumble. The rumble of a stack of Goombas changes depending on how many you have in a stack! It’s that detailed. I recommend turning the rumble strength to the max for this game.
Super Mario Odyssey definitely lives up to the hype. Everything about the game is just so good. Everything from the gameplay, to the music, rumble, and graphics is top notch. It has pretty much everything you could want in a 3D Mario game. This game really feels like the best Mario game Nintendo can make right now, and it’s definitely my new favorite 3D Mario game.