I have been playing Super Mario Odyssey a lot, and it’s a great game. You can read Reiner’s Super Mario Odyssey review right here, which echoes many of my own thoughts, but for a more personal perspective I wanted to share why its more than just a great game. To put it simply, it makes me happy.
When ranking Mario games, I still place Super Mario Galaxy at the top. That game took its genre’s namesake – the platform – and reimagined it, placing Mario on planets with questionable gravity. It was insane and still is 10 years later. I had a good time with the follow-up, Super Mario 3D World, but it lacked the personality of Marios prior. It felt familiar to a fault, despite having some fantastic platforming challenges. Super Mario Sunshine remains, to this day, the only 3D Mario game I did not complete to the 100-percent mark. It reimagined Mario’s core mechanic, jumping, in a radical way, but I was happy to put it down after completing the final Bowser confrontation.
Super Mario Odyssey is clearly a product of the Super Mario 64 school of Mario. It features a collection of large (but never overwhelmingly large) worlds that contain an impressive collection of secrets. I played a lot of 2D Mario growing up (Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden Coins, in particular) but it wasn’t until I played Super Mario 64 until that I felt like I was controlling magic. I still remember playing Super Mario 64 for the first time at a Walmart kiosk. I was blown away by being able to do a triple-jump while my father impatiently tried to hurry me to check-out, and an older man behind me patiently waited his turn.
Odyssey recalls some of my first Super Mario 64 experiences, not so much in its structure, which is familiar, but it in the way it is able to frequently surprise. The less said about the game’s finale the better, but it left me literally giggling while my daughter cheered beside me.
Which brings me to another reason why playing Super Mario Odyssey makes me so happy – my daughter loves it. She had a million questions for me while watching me play. I started a new game for her and she was excited when she was able to turn into a frog, but was ecstatic when she beat her first Broodal boss. When I took the controller back, she asked me every few minutes, “Have you saved Peach yet?”
The game’s cooperative mode is also perfect for the style of cooperative play I enjoy with my young daughter. She is an active participant in the action, but not so much that she hinders my progress. I can still play with the reckless Mario platforming abandon I have been cultivating since 1996, and while she controls Mario’s hat, she is able to move around, attack enemies, collect coins, and just generally help. To play Mario and hear her say, “Dad, I am going to take care of those Goombas for you. Let me know if you need help,” just fills me with fatherly pride.
During one particularly harrowing boss battle, my daughter stood up beside me emphatically shouting, “Jump!” every time an obstacle came near. It was the way I felt when I played Mario 64 with my brother, eagerly cheering one another on as we tried to toss Bowser into the mines that circled his arenas.
Nintendo is an expert at playing off the nostalgic impulses of the players that grew up on its adventures (i.e., me), and that is true with Super Mario Odyssey – but it does feel new. It’s not a retread of Super Mario 64, but rather recalls the way I felt when I played Super Mario 64 20 years ago, and seeing some of those same emotions through my daughter’s eyes has been an exciting trip.
You can quantify all those important gameplay elements like how it controls well, its consistent framerate, its gorgeous visuals, and its pace of reward is impressive, but ultimately, as I play it, it just makes me feel calm and happy, which is exactly what I wanted from a new Mario adventure.
For more of our Super Mario Odyssey features, click the links below.