Super Mario Odyssey is the most fun I have had playing a video game all year. Maybe even for the past five or so years. Finally, Nintendo have brought an open sandbox adventure back to proceedings with Odyssey, channelling everything that worked so well in the Mario Sunshine game and Mario Galaxy series, expanding on all of it and putting together one of the most enjoyable and cohesive experiences a gamer can have. Like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, this is one of the standout titles for the Nintendo Switch, and a brilliant reason to pick up the console and indulge.
Nowadays, there are far too many games built around a focus of destruction, death, violence and gore. Sometimes, it’s nice to kick back and pick up something a little more fun, that takes you back to your childhood and allows you to let your mischievous side out. Super Mario Odyssey is the perfect example of that latter video game, combining a terrific structure with gorgeous design and charming the player behind the gamepad.
Your mission in Odyssey is a familiar one: Princess Peach has been kidnapped by the villainous Bowser who is intent on forcing her into an arranged marriage, so that he can hold ultimate power over all of those in the Mushroom Kingdom and beyond. The story takes some surprising twists and turns, which is arguably a first for this franchise, and the tale is immediately given a new lease of life when Mario loses his trusty traditional red cap, only to gain a new friend in new sidekick, Cappy.
What’s different about Cappy is that he can be thrown and used as a weapon to take out enemies, or thrown onto the head of 52 in-game people, animals, objects or other to allow possession of that ‘thing’ and unique abilities depending on who or what you’ve possessed. One of the earliest possessions for example is a frog who can jump up to extremely high platforms; then there’s a T-Rex who can smash through otherwise unbreakable rocks. The possibilities seem endless and with 52 beings to ‘cap’, you have to keep your eyes open if you want to try out each and every one of them. In becoming one with a number of different things, you’re not only presented with a series of challenges in your mission to collect as many Power Moons as possible, but given the opportunity to attack them from a number of different angles and really enjoy every minute of the search.
The intelligence and wit put into each moment of Odyssey is another reason why the title shines so well. There’s humour around every corner and the intricately designed environments you’re destined to explore really raise the bar for Switch games of the future. This is a 3D offering like none other on the platform. You’re going to want to make use of the screen capture function at least once in every world you come to, as they’re so beautifully put together, whether they’re bright and gorgeous or dull and dismal. The work that’s gone into making Odyssey is undeniable and something every gamer worth their salt should be begging to experience.
For those wildly familiar with Mario and all of his abilities of his past come a few new ones, along with the opportunity to use Switch’s motion controllers for Cappy abilities that can only be harboured if playing in that way. For handheld players, pulling off specific moves can be near-impossible without nearly flinging your console out of your hands, so indulging in every method of play style is essential if you’re to experience everything Odyssey has to offer.
It’s also worth remembering that there’s an option for a second player to jump into the action, with one taking on the role of Cappy and bringing him to life more than ever as an independent character. Being forced to share one camera, there are plenty of opportunities for hilarious moments, as well as real-life bust-ups if one player is taking things a little too seriously! Multiplayer mode may best be left for the easier to grab Power Moons, rather than those that require a lot of planning out and effort before capture.
On the subject of Power Moons, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there were a couple of hundred at most scattered throughout the various Odyssey worlds, but there are actually over 800 up for grabs. Some are in plain sight, whilst others will require strategic and logical thinking to unearth, let alone capture.
Whilst finishing the game’s main adventure is a feat in itself, that doesn’t mean the action comes to an end. There are many more hours of exploring and uncovering to do, as well as collecting each land’s various collectibles for your ship and cosmetic costumes that will sometimes even grant you access to areas that are otherwise unreachable. When you may think it’s all over, you’re likely just in need of a rest and an approach to the game with a fresh pair of eyes.
There’s not enough good that can be said about Super Mario Odyssey, and it’s without a doubt a game you have to play to really ever truly understand. The passion and love that the team who have brought this together have for Mario and the worlds that make Odyssey so special is undeniable and, if you’re looking for arguably the sharpest and most exciting Mario adventure of all time, you’ve come to the right place.
Super Mario Odyssey is available on Nintendo Switch from Friday, October 27.