It’s not hard to imagine that the next Super Mario game would turn out to be really good. While the different styles of play presented in past titles resulted in people liking certain games more than others, I think most people would agree that there hasn’t been a bad core Mario game. Even with that in mind, I was not prepared for how much I was going to end up loving Super Mario Odyssey.
Odyssey brings the series back to the more open, sandbox style of Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine. However, it goes about it pretty differently than those games do. In the previous games, you would select a Star or Shine from a menu upon entering a level. Then the level would direct you to that particular collectible, sometimes even adding elements that were required to get them, such as Koopa the Quick showing up in the first level of Mario 64 when you chose the appropriate Star. Sure, you could get other from just exploring on your own, but the games really encouraged you to just select from a list and do what it said.
Odyssey throws that all out the window. Sure, there’s still a main story thread, which points you in the direction of this game’s collectibles, Moons, but just getting those aren’t enough to progress, and there’s only a couple per world. The rest of the time, it’s totally up to you to figure out what you have to do. And Moons can be literally anywhere. Sometimes they’re at the end of a long, difficult platforming challenge. Other times, you might just kick a particular rock and a Moon will fall out. And the whole time, it never kicks you back out to a menu.
The game also features a new collectible, Purple Coins. Each Kingdom has a shop called Crazy Cap which sells new costumes and souvenirs. The Purple Coins are used to buy ones that are specific to the Kingdom you’re currently in and can only be used in that Kingdom. Those costumes you can buy are mostly just for show, but there are a few that are required to get certain Moons.
The other big addition to the series is Mario’s new companion, Cappy. After failing to save Peach from Bowser, who is apparently marrying her this time, Mario’s hat gets destroyed. Thankfully, he lands in the Cap Kingdom, who’s native inhabitants are a race of floating, ghost like hats. Seriously. Cappy finds Mario and joins him on his quest, since his sister Tiara was also kidnapped. So, now Mario’s hat is alive.
Cappy enables Mario to do a bunch of new things, like throwing the hat to attack enemies or create a new platform to jump on. Most importantly though, Cappy allows Mario to “Capture” certain enemies and objects and use their unique abilities. Your first one is a frog, who you need to jump to a platform that’s way too high for Mario to reach on his own. The things you can Capture quickly ramps up to include classic Mario enemies, a tank, and even a T-Rex.
Capturing isn’t just for the novelty of it, it’s an integral part of the game. Many Moons can only be obtained by using specific enemies. A Moon could be in the middle of a sea of lava, completely unreachable by Mario. But, there’s sentient fireballs jumping around that you can easily throw Cappy to, and now you can freely swim through the lava.
There’s also some really good boss fights in the game, many of which use the Capture mechanic. One of my favorites is a giant mechanical caterpillar. By capturing a tank-like enemy which appears throughout the fight, you can shoot the weak points while driving sideways to avoid incoming fire. At this point, it barely feels like a Mario game anymore, and more like some kind of shooter. But somehow, it all works.
Getting through the game and seeing the credits is a relatively easy thing to do. You only need a fraction of the total Moons in the game to get to your final confrontation with Bowser, and there’s plenty of not obscure ones to get you what you need. Thankfully, after finishing the game, you unlock additional levels as well as tons of new Moons to collect.
If all of this didn’t sound good enough, it’s also worth mentioning how great the visuals and the music are. Every kingdom has a very distinct look, from the very cartoony looking Luncheon Kingdom to the weirdly realistic Metro Kingdom, home of New Donk City. None of the styles feel out of place, and it really does a good job of keeping the game looking fresh. The music is also wonderful, with relaxing tunes for the Lake Kingdom, but really kicking it up for boss fights.
It should be pretty clear by now that I love Super Mario Odyssey, but I do have one major complaint. Once I finished the story and started going for the more hidden Moons, I learned that a lot of them are in such random places that I have no idea how you were supposed to get them. There is a hint system in the game, which helps. There’s a bird named Talkatoo who will tell you the titles for each Moon, which gives a hint as to where they might be. There’s also Hint Toad, who you can pay fifty coins to and he’ll mark a Moon location on the map. Or, if you have an Amiibo, you can talk to a little Robot named Uncle Amiibo who will send that Amiibo out to find a Moon location for you.
So, there is plenty of help, but some of them are still so weird. The one that sticks out in my mind is in the Cap Kingdom. I had a hint from Talkatoo about a flying taxi cab. I search the whole Kingdom, thinking there would be a taxi that would take me on a trip somewhere. Turns out, you have to Capture a pair of binoculars and scan the sky until you see the Taxi flying around. Then, just look at it for a little bit and a Moon will fly to you. I’m sure there are people who will think I’m dumb for not being able to figure that one out on my own, but it’s just so random that I don’t see how I was supposed to figure it out.
Don’t let that little complaint turn you off from the game, however. Super Mario Odyssey is an absolutely wonderful game and one that everyone should play. If you have a Switch, this should be in your library. If you don’t, this is a great reason to get one. I still have a ton of Moons to collect, and I can’t wait to get right back to it.