‘Super Mario Odyssey’ is the ultimate Mario experience

Nintendo’s newest masterpiece delivers one of the best gaming events of the year


Photo by Matt Petras | Screenshot

“Super Mario Odyssey” represents a return to form for the Mario franchise, as well as a look to the future.

Written By Matt Petras, Co-Features Editor

There are more than a few delightful surprises in “Super Mario Odyssey,” but the game succeeds mostly because of its ability to be warmly familiar.

“Odyssey” merges various styles of gameplay from across the series and adds a big twist all its own with the ability to “capture” enemies. The result is a game that combines just about all of the best elements of the series while still remaining inventive and interesting – in a franchise filled with absolute masterpieces, “Odyssey” is probably the best.

Once the standard “Super Mario” plot-setup (in which Bowser captures Princess Peach) is plowed through, players are introduced to Cappy, a new companion for Mario. By throwing this sentient hat, Mario can possess various creatures (and some objects), including classic enemies like Goombas and Koopas as well as totally new creations.

This mechanic replaces power-ups – instead of picking up a fire flower to gain the ability to throw fireballs, for example, Mario spends his time becoming a T-Rex and smashing rocks. This switch-up feels like a natural evolution of power-ups, something that has been with the “Super Mario” series since the beginning. Instead of simply adding a new ability like power-ups did, capturing enemies completely changes the gameplay – every capturable creature has its own set of abilities and its own control scheme.

This keeps moment-to-moment gameplay fresh to a degree never before seen in a “Super Mario” game. After throwing his cap at a frog, Mario hops around and can jump incredibly high. By taking control of a Cheep-Cheep (the cute red fish in the “Mario” games), Mario can swiftly swim through water without needing to breathe air. Wackier characters give Mario the ability to fly, sift through lava and more.

The worlds in “Odyssey” are sprawling and lively with a lot of room to explore. There hasn’t been a “Super Mario” game that has offered such areas since the Gamecube’s “Super Mario Sunshine,” and it’s a welcome return. Still, there are deviations in these worlds that force players down a linear path, in which exploration is put aside in exchange for a focus on the platforming. In these moments, the game feels more like newer 3D games like “Super Mario Galaxy 2.”

There are also some lovely sections in which a pipe morphs Mario onto a wall, flat, 2D and pixelated just like in the original “Super Mario Bros.” While it’s easy to dismiss these detours as an indulgent nostalgia-trip, they’re genuinely fun and clever. While they control and look like the original game, there are some new mechanics at play, like upside-down gravity segments that add some variation.

Another new addition to the series is the ability to unlock adorable, silly costumes for Mario to wear. Most of these are references to past games – Mario can don his doctor costume from “Dr. Mario,” and his construction outfit from “Super Mario Maker.” These outfits don’t affect how Mario controls, but they add a little extra personality to the game that is greatly appreciated. Seeing Mario parade around in a pirate outfit, his underwear or a little football uniform (with a “64” on it, a clear reference to the Nintendo 64) never gets old.

“Odyssey” is a massive game, filled with some moments more extravagant and grandiose than any “Super Mario” before. There’s one scene in particular that’s by far the biggest and most over-the-top moment in the whole series – it’s so ridiculous and intense there is really no other sequence quite like it.

It’s difficult to deny that “Odyssey” is the best “Super Mario” game yet, as it’s really a mash-up of the series’ different styles over the years along with some new twists. Fittingly, there is only one aspect that troubles me:

How can Nintendo possibly one-up this game in the future?