Super Mario Odyssey Review: Defining a Generation

Super Mario Odyssey is the product of overwhelming love, uncompromising discipline, and unceasing dedication to push the envelope. In this reviewer's opinion, it's Nintendo at its best. It's a game that serves as a convicting example of what the creative human mind is capable of, and it's going to inspire generations of artists, developers, engineers, and programmers to elevate their own work. Most importantly, it's going to make people happy, and set the imaginations of young people all over the world on fire.

There's a defining, qualitative magic about Super Mario Odyssey that we're all looking for when we boot up a game. From the moment your eyes take in the light from the opening menu screen, it seems that light and goodness are all that there is. Memories of the day fade away; images of men holding weapons and the red and white breaking-news banners on television all become irrelevant; past concerns and anxieties for the future can wait, because now it's time to play and to explore.

If you can believe it, Bowser has once again made off with Peach in a giant airship, and he's taking a tour through the various kingdoms of the world to collect everything he needs for the perfect rogue wedding. Peach's tiara is a living being (named Tiara) from the cap kingdom, and her big brother Cappy has joined forces with Mario to put an end to this wedding. It's a simple setup, but it does offer more urgency than what we're used to in a Mario game.

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If you've been a long time Nintendo gamer and Super Mario fan, there are several things worth pointing out about Odyssey straight away. Without spoiling anything, I will say that the water-based kingdoms are some of the strongest in entire game. Typically in any Mario game the water levels are the slowest-going and something that you have to "get through" in order to get back to the fun bits. This is not the case in Odyssey. Likewise, Bowser's castles and stages have always been a bit boring to me; stone and lava everywhere, every time. Bowser's domain in Super Mario Odyssey is my favorite area in the game, and I can't wait for you to see it.

If you were to wander into any forum or message board where players discuss their favorite kingdoms in the game (which I don't recommend because, duh, spoilers!), you'd see a huge variety of answers. There are so many areas to explore in Odyssey, and they each have their own aesthetic, secrets, collectibles, inhabitants, and enemies. The sheer variety in Super Mario Odyssey, not only in its settings but also in its gameplay and platforming challenges, is utterly staggering. It's something that will take you by surprise on an almost-constant basis.

Those platforming challenges, by the way, range wildly in difficulty and execution. Some are basically self-driving pleasure-tours meant to introduce you to your surroundings, while others demand such precision as can only be expected from the most seasoned platforming veterans. Do not take anyone who says this game is easy very seriously; they just haven't made their way to the more devious end-game challenges.

The straight path, as it is -- the main story path from beginning to end with no deviation -- is pretty forgiving. When you first enter into a kingdom you will have a certain number of moons you must collect before the Odyssey (your ship) can make its way to the next area, and you will typically obtain the moons you need simply by pushing through the main areas leading to the kingdom boss.

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Every kingdom presents new and surprising ways for Mario to use the "cap-ture" ability. Mario can possess everything from Goombas to dinosaurs, and every captured enemy has a skill, attack, or property that will greatly enhance your mobility or effectiveness in battle. The platforming in Odyssey is as tight as it's ever been, and that would have been enough, but the ability to capture and control your enemies and surroundings adds so much depth. It never gets old.

The Broodals, a company of dangerous long-eared wedding planners, will be your recurring adversaries throughout the adventure. Like most Super Mario villains they're given very little backstory, and that's just fine. They're the Broodals. They've been hired by Bowser to collect everything he needs for the perfect wedding, and they're not going to let you get in the way. Boss fights in Odyssey scale considerably as the adventure wears on, but they are mostly meant to entertain, not challenge. It's not until the end-game that you get to experience some truly tricky boss fights.

Speaking of the end-game, let me just say that when you beat Super Mario Odyssey, it is far from over. There are so many moons to collect, and more than one surprise kingdom waiting for you to explore. Kingdoms will change, too, once the presiding boss has been disposed of. Additional challenges, areas, and characters will present themselves to you over time. Perhaps the most impressive thing about Super Mario Odyssey is its ever-escalating pace. You will play for weeks and come away from each session feeling like there's more to do and to explore than when you started.

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(Photo: Neiteio via ResetEra)

I said that Super Mario Odyssey is Nintendo at its best, and I meant that. It will surprise and delight you; it will make you smile; at one point it may even scare you! This is the kind of game that makes you fall in love with gaming all over again, and I can't tell you how deeply touched I am to know that this will be the first Super Mario game played by an entire generation of young people. If you need proof that Nintendo has reached an unprecedented apex of quality and development, this is it.

WWG's Score: 5 / 5

5 moons