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Super Mario Odyssey Review: Gotta Capture 'em All

Jump up, Super Star.

Review by Nadia Oxford, .

Need help capturing enemies, beating bosses, or moon-gazing? Check out our Super Mario Odyssey guides.

When I received my review code for Super Mario Odyssey, people asked me "Is Super Mario Odyssey like Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy?"

Now that I've finished the game and embargo is up, I can offer my answer: "Yes."

The "Odyssey" in "Super Mario Odyssey" has a double-meaning. It describes Mario's journey around the world, but it also recalls many of his past adventures, each of which is an odyssey by itself.

That's not to suggest there isn't a thick dusting of new experiences here, too. When you feel like you're re-treading old ground in Super Mario Odyssey, it's in the best possible way: Recalling past experiences, meeting old friends (how's it going, Captain Toad), going face-to-face with familiar enemies—and then gaining a whole new perspective when you take over their minds and gain control of their unique abilities.

"Do you ever wonder, like ... could Rosalina make a burrito so hot, even she couldn't eat it?"

Super Mario Odyssey would be a top-tier Mario game even without the presence of the sweet-mannered Cappy and his ability to "capture" each level's enemies and native fauna, but exploring each Kingdom with their aid is what makes Mario Odyssey "special" rather than "excellent." There are over 50 transformations in the game, each of which let you see Mario's world through a fresh set of eyes—and let you explore Odyssey's exotic terrain with a new pair of feet. For example, a tropical Wiggler can't jump or defend itself, but its ability to stretch its body, accordion-like (appropriate sound effects included), make it a champion at nabbing coins perched in precarious places. Overall, Odyssey's capture mechanic makes exploring your surroundings a treat; even the lowliest Cheep-Cheep can dive to the bottom of deep trenches with a swift grace two-legged Mario can never hope to match.

Some transformations are even utilized to call back to previous 3D Mario releases. Earlier, I mentioned Odyssey references Mario adventures from years past, and a good example comes courtesy of the Gushen enemy. When Mario captures this little purple octopus native to the Seaside Kingdom, he gains abilities nearly identical to the ones FLUDD bestows upon him in Super Mario Sunshine for the GameCube. Gushen-Mario can jet high into the air, zip across the water's surface, and render hazards like lava harmless.

"...and then she threw my stuff out the door and told me to fork off."

Playing around as a Gushen is just a fraction of what the Seaside Kingdom offers in terms of activity and exploration. It's hard to articulate just how dense Mario Odyssey is. It took me about ten hours to complete the game, but I finished the story with close to the minimum number of the Power Moons necessary to power up the titular Odyssey. I rarely had to "grind" for Moons: The little rascals are everywhere. Some are sitting in plain sight, while others must be won by solving puzzles, exploring crevices, or utilizing your sharpest platforming skills (I never found Mario Odyssey overwhelmingly difficult, but the later parts of the main storyline aren't always a cakewalk—and getting all the moons takes quick reflexes thanks to the return of challenge rooms clearly inspired by, again, Mario Sunshine).

The Super Mario and Legend of Zelda series have always borrowed ideas from each other, and Mario Odyssey's emphasis on secrets and exploration confirms the symbiotic relationship is thriving. Like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Super Mario Odyssey constantly tempts you to stray off the path. One minute you're searching for a Moon that's important to the game's story, and the next minute you're capturing a Paragoomba and fluttering off to the misty horizon of the Cap Kingdom because something shiny caught your eye.

No feathers, quills, or bristles. 0/5.

Resisting the urge to explore is made especially difficult thanks to Odyssey's clothing monopoly, Crazy Cap. The wacky outfits and hats available at this worldwide vendor inspire you to search high and low for each kingdom's special currency. Regular gold coins are plentiful in each level, but there are very limited quantities of specialized coins—and said coins are typically well-hidden and scattered.

How does Mario Odyssey's economy work if money is seeded over lava and on window ledges hundreds of feet in the air? Beats me. All I know is searching for special coins so I can buy Mario a cowboy ensemble serves as a much better motivator than being rewarded with a Moon / Star, which is what other Mario games typically give you for going out of your way.

Of course, despite the obvious cues Mario Odyssey takes from Breath of the Wild, the former's levels are much more compact than the latter's seemingly endless overworld. That's not a bad thing; despite the series' spiritual similarities, it's important for Nintendo to draw a line and distinguish the two. Breath of the Wild is more or less a uniform experience across its hundred-plus hours, whereas Mario Odyssey shakes you up every time you travel somewhere new. Every corner in the game is teeming with items and secrets, and every Kingdom requires you to bust out a new set of skills. The laid-back Cascade Kingdom is all about learning the ropes, the Luncheon Kingdom is about careful platforming and counter-attacking, and New Donk City is about climbing and exploration. And in a couple of instances, Nintendo throws a total surprise at your feet and you find yourself in a struggle you wouldn't expect in a Mario game.

Mario's magic hat is the happy sappy snappy way of going all over town.

And when the day is finally saved—following one of the most fun Bowser confrontations in the series' history—Mario and Cappy decide they enjoy each other's company too much to part ways. Thus begins the robust post-game content. I hope you don't have any major commitments for the rest of the year.

The Nintendo Switch isn't hurting for must-have titles, and Super Mario Odyssey is a proud addition to its library. Like Breath of the Wild before it, it takes you on a journey that's not short on cool sights, epic battles, and coy suggestions to "see what's over there." Pack a suitcase and get on board; there's so very much to do.

The Nitty Gritty

  • Sound: In my opinion, Mario Odyssey's soundtrack stops just shy of touching Mario Galaxy's epic orchestra, but it still comes very close. It's impossible not to get down to the Wooded Kingdom's '70s funk, and if you're like me, you're still singing Pauline's anthem, Jump Up, Super Star. Odyssey's sound effects are perfect, too. The perpetual sound of broths and stews bubbling in the Luncheon Kingdom are guaranteed to get your stomach rumbling.
  • Visuals: As you might expect, Super Mario Odyssey's graphics opt for style over realism. 99 percent of the time, the game looks great. Beaches boast crystal-clear waters and blazing sunsets, the Luncheon Kingdom looks good enough to eat, and the stormy, rain-soaked New Donk City is quite a sight. New Donk City's uniform residents still freak me out a little, though; their faces are just off enough to make me say "oh no." There's that 1 percent.

Super Mario Odyssey honors much of what makes other 3D Mario games great, plus it adds plenty of its own flavor to the Mario stew thanks to its capture mechanic. Mario Odyssey can keep you busy for hours and hours if you want it to, and you probably will. Outside of a few instances where the camera took on a mind of its own, I can't think of a moment when I wasn't enjoying myself while journeying with Mario and Cappy.

5 /5

Super Mario Odyssey Review: Gotta Capture 'em All Nadia Oxford Jump up, Super Star. 2017-10-26T13:00:00-04:00 5 5

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Comments 37

  • Avatar for link6616 #1 link6616 24 days ago
    I'm very tempted to do the bad thing and stay up till midnight to play my preloaded copy...

    But I do have to do my job tomorrows...
    And class...
    But... I'm actually keen for a Mario game and this is new.
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  • Avatar for Godots17thCup #2 Godots17thCup 24 days ago
    I want to inject this game directly into my bloodstream.
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #3 cldmstrsn 24 days ago
    So excited to play this! Just got a Switch and this game was the reason why. Since the NES and I was 4 or 5 I have always made sure to have a Nintendo for a new mario. The only time this didnt happen was galaxy for Wii. Those were dark days.
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #4 Toelkki 24 days ago
    Okay... how well does the game control? How much downtime is there (load times etc.)?
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #5 NateDizzy 24 days ago
    Must....resist...urge...to...spend money.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #6 SIGGYZtar 24 days ago
    I don't think I am ever going to complete the game, and it does not matter.
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #7 SIGGYZtar 24 days ago
    @NateDizzy Last day to pre-order with a $10 reward at Best Buy. Nintendo First Party games rarely go on sale in the first year and I don't think Target is allowing people to put this game in the b2g1 deal next week.
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  • Avatar for nathanstinson41 #8 nathanstinson41 24 days ago
    Glad to read this
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  • Avatar for Vodka-Tonic #9 Vodka-Tonic 24 days ago
    I can't wait to play, tomorrow!
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #10 mattcom26 24 days ago
    Wow this could be the biggest reviews day I've ever seen on USG. Can't wait for my Odyssey to start tomorrow.
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  • Avatar for NateDizzy #11 NateDizzy 24 days ago
    @SIGGYZtar Unfortunately, my buy-in wouldn't just be SMO, I'd also need to get a Switch; and right now, shelling out around $400 for vidja games isn't a smart financial move.Edited 4 weeks ago by NateDizzy
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  • Avatar for MarioIV #12 MarioIV 24 days ago
    2017 might not just be the best year in Nintendo's history, it's the best year in any company's history!
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #13 SIGGYZtar 24 days ago
    @NateDizzy You can use that $10 coupon on a Switch. But yeah, I see what you're saying.Edited 4 weeks ago by SIGGYZtar
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  • Avatar for Kalas95 #14 Kalas95 24 days ago
    The check had to be huge!
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #15 nadiaoxford 24 days ago
    @Toelkki Heh, I should remember to get a little more technical in my reviews. There are a bunch of control options in Odyssey, but since I played mostly in handheld mode, my setup was very traditional. My husband, however, favours the separate joy-con setup, which Nintendo is pushing pretty hard. This is the easiest way to make use of Cappy's motion-based moves (e.g. homing into nearby enemies), but whatever method you choose is responsive. Basically, Mario's been famous for its bang-on controls since day one, and Odyssey isn't an exception.

    Downtime / load times: Very little. When you capture a Moon, you're not booted out of a level (though a few story-based moons will send you back to the Odyssey's parking space). There's a bit of load time in between travelling to Kingdoms, which Nintendo disguises as Mario and Cappy talking about "skill review."
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  • Avatar for Dorchadas #16 Dorchadas 24 days ago
    I'm extremely glad I put in for Friday and Monday off months ago before I knew the SMO release date. It's like an extra present in addition to getting to play the game!
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  • Avatar for nadiaoxford #17 nadiaoxford 24 days ago
    @Kalas95 Indeed. 33 "Perfect" Mario Odyssey scores on Metacritic, 33 big fat cheques for all of us who wrote the reviews. "Nintendo made a great game" is just too crazy to consider; we're actually in cahoots. Congratulations Inspector Gadget, you've unearthed the conspiracy. Know a good place to buy a unicorn that dispenses cocaine from its horn? This cash is burning a hole in my pocket.Edited 2 times. Last edited 4 weeks ago by nadiaoxford
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #18 cldmstrsn 24 days ago
    @nadiaoxford top notch reply! haha. people who believe that is how it works baffle me.
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  • Avatar for Nuclear-Vomit #19 Nuclear-Vomit 24 days ago
    Nadia, I really do enjoy the goofy and whimsical screen shot captions, you come up with. I'm glad the traditions of Electronic Gaming Monthly and Computer Gaming World has not died out.
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  • Avatar for fstim82 #20 fstim82 24 days ago
    @Toelkki Not much Nintendo experience I take it?
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #21 SIGGYZtar 24 days ago
    I'll be excited to use my Gamecube Controller on this game. https://twitter.com/GameMansion1/status/923579707735576576
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #22 SIGGYZtar 24 days ago
    @nadiaoxford He just wants Caty to review it so somebody can pour a bucket of cold water over this bonfire.
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  • Avatar for The-Challenger #23 The-Challenger 24 days ago
    Hmmm...so tempting, but I don't know if can afford another ~$100 (CAD) video game right now.
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  • Avatar for admiralsnackbar #24 admiralsnackbar 24 days ago
    I've finished a handful of the puzzles and have learned that this game is incredible. Very very pleased, deserves the score!
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  • Avatar for Tetragrammaton #25 Tetragrammaton 24 days ago
    *sigh*

    Like I NEEDED another excuse not to work tomorrow. Mario+Stranger Things 2? Goodbye real world.
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  • Avatar for Folkenhellfang #26 Folkenhellfang 23 days ago
    @NateDizzy Stuff like this is the only real reason for money! Go get it!
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #27 NiceGuyNeon 23 days ago
    *runs around in circles screaming*

    *faints*

    *dreams of Jump Up, Super Star*

    *wakes up*

    *runs around in circles screaming*

    GUYS YES! I'm so tempted to play this now. My copy is probably going to arrive tomorrow, but I haven't been able to commit time to play games properly since early September. The law school grind is insane. I'm actually hurt that I will have to wait until after Finals, but even worse is that I kind of want to play Witcher 3 and now I'm going to have to make the biggest judgment call of all: Mario Odyssey or Witcher 3 (or you know, maybe even Nier, a dark horse). I ONLY HAVE SO MUCH TIME DURING MY BREAK!

    Still though I'm happy with the reviews in general so....

    *runs around in circles screaming*
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #28 NiceGuyNeon 23 days ago
    @cldmstrsn dude, these people are the worst

    "Hey, journalists are corrupt people accepting million dollar bribes for positive reviews!"

    "Hey, leave our multi-millionaire racist YouTubers alone, they fight for integrity in games journalism!"

    Like... HOW? How can any person think like this without an implication of sheer stupidity on their part?
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  • Avatar for cldmstrsn #29 cldmstrsn 23 days ago
    @NiceGuyNeon seriously! good luck with finals btw. Hope you do well and you can reward yourself with either sweet witcher action or get into this gem of a Mario game.
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  • Avatar for MetManMas #30 MetManMas 23 days ago
    @NiceGuyNeon I adore Witcher 3, but if I was in that position I'd probably go with playing Super Mario Odyssey.

    Witcher 3 is wonderful, but it's also a massive time sink and might make you resent the law school grind once it sinks its claws in you. Super Mario Odyssey will be a lot quicker and easier to pick up and play as you wish.
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  • Avatar for LBD_Nytetrayn #31 LBD_Nytetrayn 23 days ago
    @Kalas95 Because if there is one thing Nintendo is known for in this day and age, it's opening their wallets so people online will talk about how much they love their games.
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  • Avatar for Flipsider99 #32 Flipsider99 23 days ago
    @MarioIV Hey hold on, let's not get crazy here! This was a good year for Nintendo... but there's also some consoles called the NES and SNES, or a game called Mario 64! There's been some damn fine years for Nintendo!

    But yeah is a pretty good one.
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  • Avatar for Toelkki #33 Toelkki 23 days ago
    @fstim82 NES, SNES in the 1990s and Wii, Wii U, 3DS, Switch even now? I'd say that's enough Nintendo experience. I just don't consider it a given that Nintendo's games control the way I'd like them.

    The main reason I asked the questions from@nadiaoxford was because I didn't like the emphasis placed on listing the individual transformations, taking room from justified review mainstays like controls, implementation's technical competence (and 'plot'). I appreciate the context given w.r.t. Zelda, but if that bloats the review beyond its allotted word limit, maybe place it in a companion article, something that I see frequently.

    The closest mention to how the game controlled I saw was in the summary with the camera. After posting my original comment, I've seen comments on other sites how some actions are limited to using motion controls (no clue if that's true or not). That sounds like something worth mentioning in a review, unless the review's intended as supplementary material. Controls are no less essential to the experience than graphics and sounds.

    I'm not getting this game, at least not yet. I had made the decision before this week, and comparing it to Mario 64 (which I didn't play until on Wii and for that reason I am justified in not liking it) did it no favours. At least it sounds more interesting than BotW.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #34 NiceGuyNeon 23 days ago
    @cldmstrsn Thanks!
    @MetManMas I think you're right. I love the first two Witcher games so much, and I bought Witcher 3 without having the proper graphics card to run it. Now I can run it and I have zero time for it... it sucks!

    Still, Mario is so easy to get into and I could probably finish it during the break without rushing. Good news is I won't have to decide until like December 20th so I can flip flop every day until then!
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  • Avatar for gukingofheart #35 gukingofheart 20 days ago

    All transformations
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  • Avatar for SIGGYZtar #36 SIGGYZtar 20 days ago
  • Avatar for fstim82 #37 fstim82 16 days ago
    @Toelkki The motion controls are completely non-essential. You can climb a little faster by shaking the controller. You can throw the cap by a single shake of a controller, or just press Y. You can throw in a circle attack by shaking both controllers to the same side, or you can spin with the left stick and then hit Y. For the most part you won't even need the more "advanced" moves like the spin anyway. Throwing up and down are probably motion exclusive, but I don't think I've even done that and I've completed 95% of the game.

    The bigger issue for you would be that if you didn't like Mario 64, I'm not sure this game is going to be your jam either. 3D Mario is kinda 3D Mario...
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