It’s not a blisteringly hot take to say that Super Mario Odyssey is one of the best platforming games ever made. From its mechanics to world design and gameplay structure, everything about Super Mario Odyssey screams all-time classic 3D platformer, so much so that there have been very few contenders that have ever come close to beating it. Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart, Kirby & The Forgotten Land and Psychonauts 2 have all come close, but none have exceeded Odyssey. Not even Bowser’s Fury could touch it, and we loved that expansion to 3D World.
Meanwhile, Super Mario Odyssey is an utterly perfect platforming experience from start to finish. Mainline Mario titles tend to be superlative platformers, and Super Mario Odyssey is no exception, to the point that no one would look at you funny if you said it was your favourite Mario game. Admitting to being a Super Mario Sunshine lover can feel like life and death out there, but saying you’re a fan of Odyssey tends to grant you safe passage.
Looking back at Super Mario Odyssey, it’s not hard to see why it’s become so universally beloved, as the gameplay refinement of decades of 3D Mario games that have come before it. Anyone with any experience of Mario in the past will be able to easily get to grips with his core moveset, but it’s how the introduction of Cappy builds on that established gameplay to create something new and fresh.
Being able to throw your hat around doesn’t sound like a compelling platformer hook (unless NetherRealm Studios wants to make a Kung Lao focused Mortal Kombat spin-off), but in Odyssey, it works like a charm. Being able to use Cappy as a means of either attacking enemies or as a stepping stone to reach distant platforms gave the game extra platforming versatility reminiscent of Super Mario Sunshine’s Hover nozzle.
Cappy’s usefulness is accentuated by the open design of Super Mario Odyssey’s Kingdoms, which allow for exploration and can be tackled in a variety of different ways. Sure, there’s some scripted sections, like the absolutely excellent “Jump Up, Superstar” section in New Donk City, but most levels give you the freedom to approach obstacles and challenges however you see fit. Super Mario Odyssey is also great at rewarding players for exploring, even if it doesn’t lead to a Moon, by dropping coins in hard to reach places. Odyssey constantly and successfully pushed the player into exploring and experimenting, making for a more satisfying experience as a result.
Super Mario Odyssey also features some of the best worlds in all of the Mario universe, with the bustling metropolis of Metro Kingdom feeling like a breath of fresh air compared to Mario’s traditional Mushroom Kingdom. Still, Mushroom Kingdom itself looks better than it ever was here too, even if you have to finish the whole game to get there first. Despite being five years old, the graphics on display in Odyssey are still some of the best you’ll find on the Switch outside of Breath of the Wild. Mario has never looked this breathtaking before.
This is without even touching on some of the excellent boss battles, the thrilling finale sequence or Cappy’s ability to take over enemies and use their powers yourself. There’s so much to see and do in Super Mario Odyssey that it’s surprising that there hasn’t been some kind of follow up. Then again, where else is there to go creatively after being able to possess a t-rex?
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