Mario has always been a character synonymous with gaming. If you were to ask non-gamers what characters of games they have knowledge of, I bet Mario would come up quite often. All this preamble to say, Mario is well recognized in gaming, in no small part due to his large library of quality games. And so, every new Mario game has the benefit of learning from success and failures of the past…and the burden of outdoing the predecessors. After so many past Mario games as well as great games in 2017, does Super Mario Odyssey hold any distinction over either category? The answer….is an emphatic yes.
Shaking Up The Formula
There have always been constants to Super Mario games; Running, jumping over obstacles, collecting power-ups, rescuing a princess or some variation thereof. But for every constant there has been a greater or equal amount of “shake ups”. For example, Super Mario Bros./Super Mario World featured players running and jumping toward a goal in 2D. Move forward to Super Mario 64/Super Mario Sunshine. Still running and jumping, but now in a 3D plane toward multiple objectives rather than just one or two. So, how does Super Mario Odyssey shake things up this time? How about in many ways, including ways you would never expect?!
An Assortment of Apparel
The classic combination of the red hat and overalls have been a staple in Mario’s wardrobe, but Super Mario Odyssey dared to give Mario a wide array of outfits to choose from this time around.
The outfits you can wear in this game are plentiful! Unlike Breath of the Wild, the outfits are purely cosmetic, meaning you can have Mario dress in any way you like. That said, wearing certain outfits can trigger some cool scenes….
What’s even more cool, is that many of these costumes gathered are references to outfits that Mario wore in the past! A handful even reference other characters like Luigi or even Wario! Seeing Mario dress up in so many different outfits in all these different kingdoms never ceased to bring a smile to my face.
Evolving The Collecting Game
3D platforming games are famous (Occasionally notorious) for featuring a large amount of collectables for the player. After all, if the player has so much space to explore, why not utilize it to the fullest?
In past 3D Super Mario games, the players’ main goal was to find Stars (Shine Sprites in Super Mario Sunshine), along with other collectables to service finding the Stars. Finding these Stars can be as simple as following a hint to a story conclusion, or simply by finding something suspicious to claim your reward. Every game had a minimum for seeing the credits roll, but more for completionists. Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine both offered up to 120 to collect, Super Mario 64 DS had up to 150 Stars, and Super Mario Galaxy 1&2 both had 242 to collect. And what of Super Mario Odyssey? Why, the game boasts over 800 Power Moons (the equivalent of Stars) to collect!
So, how does the game stay interesting with so much to collect? Well, collecting has never been quite as fun as it has in this entry. There are many of Moons that will be collected for story completion, but there are many more to be found.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as conquering a tough obstacle course for a Moon, or finding a Moon in an obscure location others might have missed. Rather than a chore, finding Moons is by and large among one of the best parts of the game.
Mario platformers have always been good about giving a wide variety of locations to explore. But never quite as myriad as this entry! From forests with technology, to freezing deserts, to big cities where realism meets fantasy, even the common destination templates are turned on their heads.
Gotta Catch ‘Em All!
Last, but certainly not least, the feature that not only makes this Mario game stand out from the rest in terms of other Mario games and other games this year in general. That is the capture mechanic. This feature allows Mario to throw his hat and possess enemies, creatures, and even objects! This is significant, because each target that Mario possesses has different abilities and more importantly, gameplay styles!
With over 50 possible targets Mario can capture, there is no shortage of different gameplay styles available for players. And one of the greatest joys I got from playing this game was seeing what kind of abilities I could get next. Hell, Nintendo could release a full, lower budget game akin to Captain Toad’s Treasure Tracker featuring one of the possible captured targets, and I would very likely buy it. That’s a testament to the love put into this game. Taking gameplay that has already stood the test of time and just adding more and more.
And it has for this reason, made Super Mario Odyssey not only my favorite game this year, but my favorite 3D Mario game of all time.