Super Mario Odyssey is a 3D collect-a-thon platformer by Nintendo for the Nintendo Switch. Just know upfront that I have 100% completed the game in its current state as of the writing of this review but have been unable to play through it in co-op mode, so I’ll try to cover it as best as I can without spoiling too much for you. The plot, as is the case with most Mario games, is fairly simple and easy to follow. Mario is facing off against Bowser, who has kidnapped Princess Peach yet again. The opening starts with Mario being bested by Bowser and knocked down to a world full of hat people. You soon find out that Bowser has also kidnapped on of its residents, which is very dear to the hat fellow Cappy that explains much of this to you. It turns out his companion was kidnapped to be Peach’s tiara for a royal wedding. Bowser and his four bunny minions, the Broodals, are trotting the globe and stealing all the supplies they need for the ceremony. Mario and Cappy join forces in order to crash Bowser’s wedding plans, chasing him around the world to different kingdoms thanks to the help of a fantastical hat-shaped airship called the Odyssey. Can Mario save the princess in time, or will she become Bowser’s bride? ENTER THE ADVENTURE!
So you start out being gently guided through certain objectives early on in order to get you familiar with some of the basics of the controls and how you can progress through the kingdoms. In most kingdoms you’ll be exploring for all kinds of different ways to collect power moons that are used to power up the Odyssey. Once you get enough power moons in a kingdom you can use that power to travel to the next one, sometimes being given a choice of where to go next between two kingdoms. Power moons are obtained in a variety of ways. Some are hidden off of the beaten path. Some are prizes for winning miniature challenges. Some are in sub areas with more abstract design yet more focused objectives. Some are obtained by finding a picture clue in one kingdom and using it to decipher where the moon is hiding in another kingdom. You generally get three for defeating bosses. You can even just buy one at the store in most kingdoms! There are hundreds of power moons to collect and a large variety of ways to collect them.
There are also regional coins that you can collect in most kingdoms, either 50 or 100 depending on the size, that can be used to purchase exclusive items in that kingdom’s store. Each store has two different places to buy items. One is using the regional currency while the other uses standard coins. The regional coins get you special outfits and hats that can change Mario’s appearance, souvenirs to be displayed in the Odyssey, and stickers to place on the outside of the Odyssey. The standard coin items are generally other outfits and hats, a power moon, and a king heart that will up your maximum health from 3 hits to 6 until you go below 4 HP. Collecting other hearts or power moons will heal you. If you run out of health, fall into an endless pit, or touch fatal substances you’ll die. There are no lives but you will lose some of your coins. You can also pay Toad some coins to reveal the location of a power moon in the current kingdom. You can also talk to the bird Talkatoo to get hints on the names of power moons you’re missing, which sometimes will overlap with revealed locations on your map via the status screen. The limit on coins is 9999. After completing your main run through a kingdom and doing the story-related activities you can return and find new objectives have appeared which gives you many options for collecting even more power moons.
There are also tons of moves that Mario can do. I might not even know them all, but that’s why you have an action guide in the pause menu to look up whenever. Cappy and certain signs around the kingdoms will also periodically remind you of some of these techniques. Mario can run, jump, triple jump, duck, duck walk, roll, long jump, wall jump, ground pound, pound jump, back flip, side flip, midair dive, and probably even some more basic functions I’m forgetting off the top of my head. On top of all of this Cappy takes the form of your trusty hat after losing it in the initial brawl with Bowser. As a result, you get some fun new abilities. Your attack button throws Cappy forward to hit enemies and obstacles and pick up coins. You can hold the attack button to have Cappy spin in place at max distance for a while. You can make Cappy home in on nearby targets by shaking your controller after your throw. You can also swing your controller to the side to send Cappy spinning around you in circles a few times. You can even jump, toss out Cappy, hold down that toss button and then quickly hit the pound button followed immediately by the attack button again to dive at Cappy in mid-air, bounce off, and reset your jump once. But the most notable thing Cappy can do it stick to the heads of enemies, allowing Mario to possess them and use their abilities for himself. For example, early on you’ll take control of a frog which can jump very high and higher yet if you shake your controller. Another is controlling a goomba which can jump on other goombas to make tall, moving towers of goombas. What you can do depends on what you possess and often you’ll need to do this in order to obtain power moons, regional coins, and complete objectives. However, you can’t take possessed enemies through doorways to other areas or warp with them. If you try it you’ll just become Mario again. Sounds like both Mario AND Bowser have some tricks up their sleeves this time around.
Super Mario Odyssey has tons to love… like PEACH IN A WEDDING DRESS! There are tons of things to collect that are scattered all over the place in ways that constantly entice you to explore and reward you for doing so. Having the search for regional coins for incremental rewards to help punctuate the power moons helps each kingdom feel like a real accomplishment to slowly and carefully complete, yet the low requirements to continue mean that even novice or casual players can pick and choose what they want to do in order to progress. Yet it also forces you to do a few specific objectives to progress the plot so there’s still a sense of a difficulty curve and some structure to the game. I also really liked the pace of the game. There were some unexpected twists and turns in the game just when I was thinking I knew what was coming up next and it gives you some much-appreciated breaks with shorter or simpler kingdoms between some of the more major ones to help refresh you. The boss fights are a really fun way to play with the hat themes while being sparse enough to make each one either feel unique or like it was building on the last time you fought that boss. In fact, a lot of the things you do to get power moons will come back in more interesting or more difficult variations later on. Instead of feeling like recycled content they actually end up feeling like the concepts were thought out enough to warrant more uses for the other ways they thought to implement the mechanics. Mario controls so smoothly and the levels are just so freeing to explore and play around in. Coins are interestingly useful here for calling upon Toad for his services and helps you try and manage how badly you want to spend coins on help or save it for the stylish garb, which makes death still have some weight due to this also consuming coins. Talkatoo is another nice optional convenience that can keep you from using a walkthrough and feeling like a dirty cheater. And the checkpoint flags acting as warp points in the levels is incredibly handy. The level of polish and detail is astounding when you pay attention to it. So many little flourishes and one-off things that you’ll only discover through experimenting with lots of what-if scenarios. But that’s just it. If you can go somewhere or do something or… sometimes even so much as THINK of something… there’s going to be an acknowledgment for doing it. Nintendo has thought of damn near everything here and it shows. Even the hardest parts of the game are still reasonable and doable with some patience and practice. Hell, if I can do it then so can you.
That being said… you might not WANT to do all of it. Specifically the Balloon World minigame that was added in one of the game’s updates. Here you can hide a balloon in each kingdom and earn coins for people trying to find and pop it. You can also earn coins by searching for and popping other people’s balloons. This is great for grinding large sums of coins, but if you want to get to rank 50 in this then get ready to grind for quite a long time. Just imagine how mindless it gets popping 800 balloons. That’s not even counting any of your failed attempts to do so! It’s not worth the effort unless you’re compulsive in your need to 100% complete the game. I also don’t care for the way you have to wait and come back to kingdoms later on in order to get all of the power moons. Sometimes you even have to beat objectives and return just to get the landscape to change enough to make the regional coins accessible. This is just frustrating because I want to do everything in one go and instead I have to wait for it to exist in the level I was already playing. I also think the controls for some of the transformations can be a bit questionable, especially considering what they want you to do with them. It’s often just a case of practice makes perfect and finally overcoming these challenges feels rewarding, but it also can be infuriating when you feel like the mechanics fucked you rather than you fucked yourself. I got a little sick of the move reminders from Cappy while traveling to another kingdom. It’s mostly a loading screen disguise but it gets annoying to tap through the dialogue every single time until you get to the postgame. There’s also the nitpicky thing of what moons are collected and where. Essentially you have at least one moon in every kingdom that is found by warping to it through a warp painting found in another kingdom. That moon is redeemed at the Odyssey in the kingdom where it was found. However, for the moons found with the picture puzzles you’ll have to take a screenshot on the kingdom where you found the picture, go to the kingdom where the moon resides, collect it, and then go back to the kingdom with the picture in it in order to redeem the moon. It’s not hard, it’s just a tad unnecessary and inelegant, especially considering how well done the rest of the game is. Also… I really didn’t care for the huge abundance of outfits and hats. By the end of the game I had found a favorite outfit and just never changed unless I had to in order to get a moon. The one other thing I feel is worth mentioning is the length of the game. If you’re going for even at LEAST all of the moons, something beyond the casual playthrough just for the story, which I think is a common thing for collect-a-thon fans in the first place, then this does detract from the replay value. It’s just harder to play through the whole thing at a moment’s notice like you can with… say… Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie or something. So you may end up waiting longer between replays and that can harm its replay value.
But who am I trying to fool? I’m going to replay Super Mario Odyssey for sure, at LEAST for all of the moons and the bonus things to actually do that are fun and unique. There’s something about the playground style 3D collect-a-thon platformer that blends exploration with fun platforming mechanics… it just gets to me, man. It’s great. And this is a great example of how to do it. It’s also a great example of how this genre is only dead if game companies LET it be dead. It can still be financially viable and incredibly fun at the same time even in this day and age! It warms my heart that something like this can still exist. And it makes me feel great that I get to talk about it and actually sound like I love video games as much as I do for a change. Super Mario Odyssey is the amazing 10 our of 10 experience everyone has already told you about, and if you own a Nintendo Switch then this is WHY you should own one. I don’t do hype. You know that. Yet even I’M saying this game is that good. Me… a cynical asshole… praising this game as a 10 out of 10. I don’t do numbered scores either, but look what it has done to me! Just stop sabotaging yourself and play this game. Did I mention Peach in a wedding dress yet?