Diverse kingdoms, engaging gameplay and charming narrative…

Since his debut in 1981, Mario has become an iconic figure in the gaming world, with each new installment in the franchise bringing fresh experiences to players. Super Mario Odyssey, released in 2017 for the Nintendo Switch, continues this legacy by delivering a captivating blend of innovative gameplay, rich environments, and charming story elements. This review delves deeply into the various aspects of Super Mario Odyssey, highlighting the gameplay mechanics, world design, story, and overall impact on the gaming landscape.

Gameplay: Innovation in Platforming

Core Mechanics

Super Mario Odyssey brings a fresh twist to the classic platforming gameplay that has defined the series for decades. The core mechanics are intuitive and responsive, providing a sense of fluidity and precision that is crucial for a platformer. Mario’s basic moves—running, jumping, and ground-pounding—are complemented by a host of advanced techniques like wall jumps, triple jumps, and long jumps. These moves feel natural and rewarding, offering players a satisfying degree of control and freedom.

Cappy: A New Dimension of Play

The most significant addition to Mario’s arsenal is Cappy, a sentient hat that Mario can throw to interact with the environment and possess various objects and enemies. This “capture” mechanic is a game-changer, adding a layer of creativity and strategy to the gameplay. Each captured entity offers unique abilities: a Bullet Bill for flying through obstacles, a Goomba for walking on ice without slipping, or a Cheep Cheep for swimming freely underwater. This mechanic not only diversifies the gameplay but also encourages experimentation and exploration.

Level Design and Objectives

The levels, or “kingdoms,” in Super Mario Odyssey are sprawling, open-ended playgrounds filled with secrets, puzzles, and collectibles. Unlike the linear levels of previous Mario games, these kingdoms invite players to explore at their own pace, discovering hidden Power Moons, coins, and regional coins. The design of these kingdoms is masterful, balancing guided objectives with opportunities for organic discovery. Each kingdom is packed with diverse challenges, from platforming sequences and boss battles to environmental puzzles and mini-games.

Collectibles and Progression

Power Moons are the primary collectible in Super Mario Odyssey, functioning similarly to Stars in Super Mario 64 or Shine Sprites in Super Mario Sunshine. Each kingdom contains a multitude of Power Moons, some hidden in plain sight, others requiring clever use of Cappy’s abilities. Collecting Power Moons is both the primary progression mechanic and a way to unlock new kingdoms. The game also features regional coins, unique to each kingdom, which can be used to purchase costumes and souvenirs, adding another layer of motivation for thorough exploration.

World Design: A Journey Across Diverse Landscapes

Kingdom Variety

One of the standout features of Super Mario Odyssey is the diversity and creativity of its kingdoms. From the bustling, cityscape of New Donk City to the vibrant, food-themed Luncheon Kingdom, each area is distinct and memorable. The kingdoms not only differ in aesthetic but also in the gameplay mechanics they emphasize. For instance, the Sand Kingdom features expansive desert landscapes and towering ruins, encouraging exploration and verticality, while the Seaside Kingdom focuses on underwater exploration and environmental puzzles.

Visual and Audio Design

The visual design of Super Mario Odyssey is stunning, with each kingdom boasting a unique art style and color palette. The graphics are crisp and vibrant, making full use of the Nintendo Switch’s capabilities. The game’s attention to detail is impressive, from the intricate architecture of the Metro Kingdom to the shimmering waves in the Seaside Kingdom. The audio design complements the visuals beautifully, with a dynamic soundtrack that adapts to the action on screen. Each kingdom has its own theme music, enhancing the atmosphere and immersing players in the environment. The voice acting, though minimal, is charming and adds personality to the characters.

Environmental Interactivity

Interactivity is a key component of Super Mario Odyssey’s world design. The environments are not just backdrops but integral parts of the gameplay. Players can interact with countless objects, from climbing poles and swinging on vines to breaking boxes and flipping switches. The kingdoms are filled with NPCs offering hints, side quests, and mini-games, making the world feel alive and engaging. This level of interactivity encourages players to experiment and explore every nook and cranny, often leading to surprising discoveries and rewarding secrets.

Story: A Classic Tale with New Twists

Plot Overview

The story of Super Mario Odyssey follows a familiar narrative structure: Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, intending to marry her against her will. Mario, with the help of Cappy, must traverse various kingdoms to stop Bowser and rescue Peach. While the basic premise is traditional, Super Mario Odyssey adds depth and charm through its characters and world-building.

Characters and Relationships

Cappy is a standout character, providing both gameplay utility and narrative charm. His backstory, involving the capture of his sister Tiara by Bowser, parallels Mario’s quest, creating a shared motivation. This partnership adds emotional depth and humor to the journey. Other characters, such as the inhabitants of each kingdom, are colorful and memorable, contributing to the game’s whimsical and light-hearted tone. The interaction between Mario and these characters often leads to delightful moments and enriching side stories.

Themes and Subtext

Beneath its playful exterior, Super Mario Odyssey explores themes of exploration, freedom, and perseverance. Mario’s journey across diverse landscapes symbolizes a quest for discovery and adventure. The game’s emphasis on capturing and understanding different creatures and objects can be seen as a metaphor for empathy and curiosity. The narrative subtly encourages players to embrace new experiences and overcome challenges, reflecting the broader spirit of the Mario series.

Impact and Legacy

Reception and Awards

Super Mario Odyssey received widespread acclaim from critics and players alike upon its release. Praised for its inventive gameplay, stunning visuals, and rich content, the game quickly became a bestseller on the Nintendo Switch. It garnered numerous awards, including several Game of the Year accolades, and is often cited as one of the greatest platformers ever made.

Influence on the Genre

Super Mario Odyssey has had a significant impact on the platforming genre, pushing the boundaries of what a 3D platformer can achieve. Its open-ended level design, innovative mechanics, and emphasis on exploration have set a new standard for the genre. Many subsequent platformers have drawn inspiration from its success, incorporating similar elements of freedom and creativity.

Continued Popularity and Updates

The game’s enduring popularity is a testament to its quality and replayability. Nintendo has supported Super Mario Odyssey with updates and additional content, including new costumes and mini-games, keeping the player base engaged. The game’s vibrant community continues to share discoveries, speedruns, and fan art, ensuring that Super Mario Odyssey remains a beloved and relevant title.

Criticisms and Areas for Improvement

Difficulty and Accessibility

While Super Mario Odyssey is designed to be accessible to players of all skill levels, some critics have noted that the game can be too easy for seasoned platformer fans. The abundance of Power Moons and the relative simplicity of many challenges mean that players rarely encounter significant difficulty spikes. Offering more challenging post-game content or adjustable difficulty settings could address this concern.

Post-Game Content

Although Super Mario Odyssey offers a wealth of post-game content, including additional Power Moons and harder versions of boss battles, some players feel that the replay value diminishes after completing the main story. Introducing more substantial post-game challenges, new kingdoms, or story-driven DLC could enhance the longevity of the experience.

Motion Controls

The inclusion of motion controls for certain actions, such as throwing Cappy, received mixed reactions. While some players appreciate the added immersion, others find it imprecise and frustrating. Providing more customizable control options or refining the motion control mechanics could improve the overall gameplay experience.

Conclusion: A Modern Classic

Super Mario Odyssey is a triumph of game design, blending classic platforming elements with innovative mechanics and open-ended exploration. Its diverse kingdoms, engaging gameplay, and charming narrative create an unforgettable adventure that appeals to players of all ages. While it has a few areas that could be refined, the game’s strengths far outweigh its shortcomings, solidifying its place as a modern classic.

The game’s ability to evoke a sense of wonder and discovery, combined with its polished execution, ensures that Super Mario Odyssey will be remembered as a landmark title in the Mario series and the platforming genre. Whether you’re a long-time fan of Mario or a newcomer to his adventures, Super Mario Odyssey offers a rich, rewarding, and endlessly enjoyable experience that captures the magic of video games at their best.