Super Mario Odyssey marks the first 3D Mario game since Super Mario 3D World in 2011, and arguably the most important Super Mario game since Nintendo used Super Mario 64 to bust the plumber into 3D and launch the N64 way back in 1996. It's the marquee title meant to show off the capabilities of the Nintendo Switch and redefine the classic series for an an entirely new era, which is no small feat considering how many times Nintendo has had to do that over the course of three decades.
And they've done it -- they've done it in such a way that everything about Super Mario Odyssey feels as natural and obvious as rolling out of bed and as strange as a moon covered in low gravity rabbits; as familiar as jumping up into a question mark block and as wild as riding a stone lion through purple lava.
Super Mario games constantly confront you with new ideas, whether it’s a new place to explore or a new ability that changes the way you interact with the world around you. And Odyssey exemplifies this more than any game in the series before. It’s simply bursting with wild creativity. One minute you’re driving a tank down a rain-slicked city street, the next you’re dressed as a clown while trying to guide sheep across the desert. At one point you literally possess a giant slab of meat.
But through all of this strangeness — and Odyssey can get really weird — the game remains a constant delight to play.
Odyssey is a 3D Mario in the mold of Super Mario 64, with a structure that consists of a series of large, discrete, and somewhat open worlds. There are two key elements that make it distinct from other Super Mario games in the series.
One is a new character: Cappy, a sentient hat that allows Mario to possess objects and characters. It essentially replaces the power-up system from past games. Toss the hat on a Bullet Bill and you become an unstoppable rocket bursting through walls and enemies. Throw it on a frog and you can leap to even greater heights, while looking completely adorable. Many of the game’s puzzles are designed around figuring out how to utilize this strange array of abilities to get around.
We could call Super Mario Odyssey a collection-based 3D platformer, but something about that comes dreadfully short when trying to capture the spirit of a body-hopping hallucinatory ride through a series of increasingly strange kingdoms populated by sentient utensils and top-hatted rabbits. A simpler explanation might come a little closer, or at least make more sense to more people. This thing is Mario.