Mario is the king of video games. Everyone knows that. Time and time again, Mario has completely annihilated every other game on the market. But for the past seven years, Nintendo has struggled to live up to that impossible level of expectation. With Super Mario Odyssey, Mario is back to reclaim his throne.
From the second you start the game, the sweeping orchestra knocks you off your feet and shoots your soul into the stratosphere. You can turn into enemies, run up waterfalls, and turn into a T-Rex! Come on, how can you not want to be playing this game right now? Every level functions as a platforming jungle gym, while also serving as a hub to smaller and more linear challenges. You have so many options of traversal. You can throw your hat and bounce off of it. You can roll down hills like a lunatic. You can triple jump, throw your hat, dive into it, bounce off, throw it again, and then dive. There is so much crazy stuff in here and yet Super Mario Odyssey still feels like it just barely scratched the surface of what its mechanics are even capable of.
During each level of the game, you can “capture” enemies by throwing Mario’s signature hat at them, allowing you to take control of them. Super Mario Odyssey revels in a rich sense of variety. One moment you are rolling around a world that looks like something straight out of a Tim Burton movie, and then in the next level, you are zooming around a frozen desert collecting purple coins so you can buy a cowboy hat for Mario. Every kingdom has its own brochure, atmosphere, music and enemies to capture.
Super Mario Odyssey is always indulging the player to play the game in their own way. Throughout the game there are Power Moons scattered around every nook and cranny of the level that you can collect to power up your ship. Some levels feel pretty tame compared to the wild originality of everything else. But even in these less inspired levels, there are Moons here that will just floor you.
The obvious crown jewel of the game is New Donk City, which is a level heavily inspired by the look and feel of New York City. It is an incredible setting to just bounce around in. You can jump off of taxis, swing on a street light, etc. Even the the walk signals are coin blocks. You can fling yourself between the skyscrapers, drive around on a little scooter, and hop through a crowd of people. Every alley, building, and manhole has something for you to discover. And it all culminates in a musical finale which will go down as one of the coolest and most uplifting sequences ever in a video game.
Super Mario Odyssey is not at all what I expected but I loved it anyway. It is the ultimate collectathon that is in equal parts comedic and wondrous. It is the kind of game I imagine other video game studios looking at and saying, “What are we even doing over here?” Even after you think you have seen everything it has to offer, the surprises continue to pile up. It not only brings dozens of new ideas to the table, but executes them with a child-like whimsicality.
By: Justin Landsman ’20