Super Mario Odyssey: Weird Done Right

Mike Massotto

One of the strange things about the Super Mario franchise is that it takes on many different forms: there are Mario games that are 2D sidescrollers (think classic Super Mario Bros.), Mario games that are 2.5D platformers, where the game is linear while still having a third dimension, and then there are 3D Mario games. Of these three categories, the 3D Mario games – such as “Super Mario 64” or “Super Mario Sunshine” – seem to be the most well received, and they tend to only appear once a decade. With the last truly 3D and nonlinear Mario game being released in 2002, fans have been clamoring for an experience like “Sunshine” or “64.” Enter “Super Mario Odyssey,” the new big reason to consider purchasing a Nintendo Switch this holiday season, as if “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” wasn’t reason enough.

“Super Mario Odyssey,” like any other Mario game, begins with the evil king Bowser kidnapping Princess Peach, and our Italian plumber friend Mario must save her. What separates “Mario Odyssey” from any other mario game is that this time he has some help from an adorable, supernatural top hat with eyes. With this strange hat, Mario is able to throw his iconic cap to perform various tricks and attacks; even more interestingly, Mario is able possess certain creatures he throws the hat onto. At first, this feels like a gimmick, but as you progress through the different worlds, the thought the developers put into this mechanic becomes more and more apparent. Every level has at least one unique creature that can be possessed with special abilities to solve puzzles, defeat enemies, and surpass the environmental challenges of that specific world. Ledges you can’t reach? There is an enemy in that world whose legs grow really long. Walls you can’t break through in your plumber form? That world has a rampaging T-Rex, and whenever you control it, the T-Rex gets a cute little Mario-stache above its monstrous jaw. The possibilities seem limitless, and it really makes each world larger than life with all the little alcoves and secret areas that are only accessible via unique creatures. In this sense, “Super Mario Odyssey” takes the cake for being the most creative and diverse Mario game to have ever been made in Mario’s 36 years of existence.

But while “Super Mario Odyssey” hits all the right spots for the most part, the game feels like it can’t decide on whether it wants to be an open-ended experience akin to “Super Mario 64” or if it wants to stick to the linear style of “Super Mario Galaxy,” the last great Mario game before “Odyssey.” While a lot of people adore both games, I personally would have appreciated if the developers behind “Mario Odyssey” had stuck to the “Mario 64” approach, as the game had been advertised as “the next big 3D Mario game”, and while “Galaxy” is technically a 3D Mario game, fans typically think of non-linear level design when they picture a 3D Mario game. This isn’t to say that the more linear levels of “Odyssey” are bad, but the collect-a-thon formula the developers went for doesn’t lends itself as well to a linear gameplay style.

The Mario games are always known to be good, regardless of what format they are produced in. While “Super Mario Odyssey” sometimes doesn’t know which style it wants to be at its core, it has certainly impressed me enough to compare it to the likes of the legendary “Super Mario 64,” which is an accomplishment in of itself. Simply by the merit of it’s gameplay and enjoyability, “Super Mario Odyssey” earns itself a well deserved 9 out of 10 from me. That’s all folks!


super mario odyssey