Review: Super Mario Odyssey

A lot has been said already about Super Mario Odyssey, a game that is every bit as much of a Nintendo Switch system-seller as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild has been, and yet the heapings of praise it has received fall short of doing the game justice--it's just that good. So let me join the ranks of reviewers who have said this before me--let me throw my hat in the ring, if you will--and tell you why you have to play Super Mario Odyssey.

Super Mario Odyssey is a joy to play. Like Christmas morning got-what-you-asked-Santa-for joy. Like not wanting to put down the game long enough to write a review joy. Super Mario Odyssey is fun and fresh and intuitive and challenging in a way that few games achieve and which is especially difficult for a franchise that spans decades. It takes a gimmick--Mario's iconic hat, which can now be thrown to "capture" enemies and objects--and builds a world around it. A playground, really. The worlds of Odyssey are playgrounds where hat-throwing is your key to everything from fighting enemies to solving puzzles, and along the way you can body-snatch bad guys to gain exciting abilities. Wanna be a T-Rex? You can be! Wanna be a Goomba, or a stack of 20 Goombas? You can do that too! Wanna be an onion? It's more fun than you'd think! Every transformation gives you a new way to play.

Hats aside, Super Mario Odyssey just nails everything about being an open world 3D platformer. There's so much to explore--and so many secrets to uncover--that you're constantly engaged, always finding new things to push, throw, capture, or ground pound. Mario's controls are easy to learn, and the game even convinced me to play with detached Joy-Cons (omitting the grip) to make the most of the motion controls. That's honestly becoming my preferred way to play the Switch--my hands can be wherever they're comfortable, since the controllers aren't tethered by the grip or a cord. Classic Mario skills return--the triple jump, the wall jump, the backflip--and are supplemented by a variety of hat techniques that are rewarding to master (unlike the FLUDD in Super Mario Sunshine, which became tedious at times).

Odyssey's co-op mode is another excellent feature. At any time, a second player can jump into the game and control Cappy (Mario's hat), while Player 1 controls Mario. As Cappy you're invulnerable, but you have to protect Mario and capture enemies for him, which requires actual communication and teamwork. It's much more inclusive than the co-op in Super Mario Galaxy, for example, which only let Player 2 collect and shoot star-bits as a lame magical cursor or something.

It's hard for me to put my finger on what makes Super Mario Odyssey so special. I've really enjoyed every Mario game I've played, but this one takes the Frost-Frosted Cake. I feel like I'm 10 years-old again and playing Super Mario 64 for the first time, but finding there's so much more to it than I imagined. In fact, it's hard not to compare Odyssey to Super Mario 64 (a likeness which the game clearly embraces, as you'll discover) with its open world nature and mission-based Power Moon-hunting. Mario games are just more fun when you can explore freely without the pressure of a level timer.

I can't recommend Super Mario Odyssey highly enough. It's packed to the brim with imagination, the worlds within are colorful and vivid, and it captures the magic that video games inspired when we were kids. If you have a Nintendo Switch, you owe it to yourself to play this game; if you don't have a Switch, well, there's never been a better time to get one. Grab your favorite hat and get ready for an unforgettable adventure in Super Mario Odyssey!

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