Why I Love Super Mario Odyssey
Never underestimate Nintendo. They are The Beatles and Hulk Hogan of video games. If you don't get Nintendo, you don't get video games. After the (commercial) disappointment of the Wii U, Nintendo had to come back strong with the Switch. And boy did they come through. After the staggering accomplishment of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Nintendo followed it up with what is easily one of the best games of the year, Super Mario Odyssey. Most developers and publishers can't manage one game that fits into that category. Here Nintendo have created two in the same year. If you don't want a Switch now, you clearly haven't been paying attention. Mario Odyssey is one of the greatest games in the illustrious history of Nintendo. It is a delight from start to finish, taking the player on a supremely colourful, vibrant and inventive journey. And hey, I know my Mario games! I have been playing them for almost as long as I've been alive. I remember buying Mario 64 in Electronics Boutique on Dawson St in 1997 and how life altering an experience it was. Odyssey will surely go down in history as similarly transformative for many gamers, new and old. I have bought every Mario game that has been released, so I can say with confidence that Mario Odyssey is up there with the best. It is on par with 64 and Mario Galaxy 1 & 2, and superior to Mario Sunshine and 3D World and Land. Let me explain why.
Nintendo make joyful games. They make games for everyone, no matter what age, sex or race. Their games are injections of pure happiness. Mario Odyssey is a dizzying experience, so rich and creative is the world. The game is a canny mixture of challenge and fun, where new players find just as much to love as old time players like this 31 year old Muggins. There is tremendous variety to be find in Odyssey, with worlds that call back to old adventures, as well as deliciously fresh levels. When Mario Odyssey was first announced I was unsure if the aesthetic would suit a Mario title. The focus on New Donk City, was I thought an ill advised choice to appeal to Grand Theft Auto fans. Why on earth would we want to see Mario interact with regular human beings? Well, I can now say that I was wrong. First because this world is not in fact the hub world, that it first appeared to be. It is just one of many worlds that you travel to. Second, because the gameplay is so damn on point and fun that you quickly adapt to the new environment. I particularly enjoyed scaling the many skyscrapers with a Mario yahoo!
While I finished the main story in two days, there is a wealth of riches to be found in re-playing the levels and discovering every secret they hold. There is a ridiculous amount to be done in each level, with dozens and dozens of moons to collect. The central mechanic of your partner in platforming, Cappy, being used as a weapon as well as a way to inhabit the bodies of your enemies is classic Nintendo innovation. Kirby fans will be familiar with the idea, and will find a lot to love here. I particularly love taking on the form of a twisty caterpillar in the last level to dodge dangerous lava pits. Big shout out to the final boss battle with Bowser! I think this is the greatest boss fight in any Mario game, and finishes with flair and a Metroid-esque escape from a series of collapsing platforms. Bowser's pitiful behaviour after being robbed of a wedding with Peach is hilarious and sweet, with Mario placing one hand on his back to comfort the silly old dinosaur.
Odyssey is superior to Sunshine for its smoothness. There are no jagged edges that provoke irritation or disappointment. Sunshine was a very good game, but failed to top its predecessor, and seemed more than a bit rushed in parts. Odyssey feels like a direct sequel to 64, with its emphasis on exploration and discovering every last secret in a world. This is not a nostalgic trip though, it is fresh and new and full of surprises. It is for this reason that Odyssey is above the last two main Mario titles, 3D World on the Wii U and 3D Land on the 3DS. They were excellent 2D/3D hybrids, but they were a disappointment in comparison with the forward thinking and innovation of Mario Galaxy 1 & 2. Odyssey is obsessed with going forward, with a breathtaking energy and beautiful heart.
Let me spend some words on my favourite worlds. Bowser's Kingdom recalls the best dungeons in the series' history, but does it better than it has ever been done before. The Japanese aesthetic is gorgeous, and the birds that you take control of lead to some of the best platforming in the game, using the pointy beaks to grab walls, flicking the control stick to launch yourself onwards and upwards. I adored Luncheon Kingdom for its colour, and its many devious challenges. A word on the 2D sections: they're delightful! Recalling the old 2D games, but also referencing Mario Galaxy. I love how Mario's different suits are represented in gorgeous pixel art. Oh yeah the many different suits are so cute! I particularly like dressing Mario up as a fedora wearing plumber!
Super Mario Odyssey is my favourite game of the year, closely followed by Breath of the Wild. I haven't had this much fun in years with a game. It is a game worthy of the highest praise. It is a colossal achievement in game design. Nintendo prove yet again that they are very likely the best developers working today. For their fearless innovation, for their open hearted joyous embrace of the light side of life. There is no grey, boring, soulless corridors or military bullshit. There is only bright, shining light, filling up your heart with a love for life. Take on the body of Mario, and be released from all negativity and depression. Jumping through the world with an insatiable love and a desire to set wrong things right. There is no great story here, but there is a powerful level of imagination on display. Nintendo, thank you for showing once again why you're the Kings of video games.