Need help capturing enemies, beating bosses, or moon-gazing? Check out our Super Mario Odyssey guides.
Mario games are typically comprised of well-trodden biomes. Once you lace up your Goomba-stompin' boots and breeze through a few gentle levels, you can expect to visit ice-covered lands, swampy jungles, burning deserts, and waterlogged caverns.
These return visits are invariably fun, but admittedly predictable. In fact, one of the coolest things about Super Mario Odyssey is how much its Kingdoms play around with Mario's best-known environments. The capture mechanic also helps make Mario Odyssey feel new: Even a generic swamp level becomes something different when you tackle it with several pairs of legs instead of just one.
But most of the Kingdoms in Mario Odyssey are simply well-designed. Nintendo mapped out each one carefully and then stuffed them full of secrets. That said, there are some Kingdoms I'm happy to frolic in for hours, and others I gave only a brief backward glance when I completed the necessary story missions. That's not to say I dread returning to the "lesser" Kingdoms; it just means the best Kingdoms are that special.
You may already understand how I feel, so here are the Super Mario Odyssey Kingdoms ranked from best to "worst."
I'll bet one hundred gold coins that the Metro Kingdom / New Donk City is a favorite for most Mario Odyssey players. The whole area is a clever callback to Mario's origins as a girder-climbing hero, and its lively streets are stuffed with things to see and do. Putting aside the Festival sequence and the re-emergence of Donkey Kong's Pauline—both big-deal events on their own—it's just fun to let Mario hop up, off, and in between buildings. Visiting New Donk City always leaves me with a lot of questions, but like the real-world city that inspired its bustling streets and skyline, it doesn't pay to peer too hard into dark alleyways. I'm content with just saying "I Heart New Donk City."
I love the Cap Kingdom. Its fog-shrouded streets and gentle, rolling hills are delightfully soothing, and its natives, the Bonneters, are arguably the Mario series' cutest race. The Cap Kingdom is perpetually bathed in the light of a huge full moon, and ghostly buildings (all donning caps, of course) shimmer off in the distance. Paragoombas flap to and fro, making it easy to capture one and go exploring. I only wish this Kingdom was bigger.
I love swimming in real life, so I generally enjoy swimming in video games that don't make a concentrated effort to drown me (ahem, Sonic the Hedgehog). The Lake Kingdom puts Mario through some interesting transitions, including sudden switches from land to sea and back again (much of the level takes place in an underwater city with air-domes, as well as a quick and satisfying switch from Mario's flailing two-legged form to the sleek and quick body of a Cheep-Cheep. Cheep-Cheeps aren't much for attacking, and I bet they taste awful, but dang, they can swim like champs. Diving with these little fishes is a pleasure.
You visit the Mushroom Kingdom as a post-game reward, and it's a very nice visit. The Mushroom Kingdom is a high-resolution echo of Peach's courtyard from Super Mario 64, and romping around the greenery really hits your nostalgia where it lives. It's equally fun to seek out all the new areas on Peach's property. Nintendo, if you want to sell me on some easy-to-build DLC, I'm 1000% ready for a Super Mario 64 remake using Mario Odyssey's engine.
I initially found the Sand Kingdom a little empty and dull, but I warmed up to it (ha!) when I completed the level's story-based tasks. The Sand Kingdom is one of the bigger areas in the game, and all that territory is best covered with the help of a friend. I recommend finding Glydon and throwing yourself off a high peak (after you've captured the flying lizard), or hailing a Jaxi. If you hear the cry of a desert eagle, stop to admire its effortless flight—then throw your hat at it. It's worth it.
Bowser's feudal Kingdom is very interesting-looking. The sky's alight with riotous color, and the enemies you struggle against are heavily inspired by Japanese myth and culture. Bowser even has statutes of himself posing as the gods of wind and thunder, which tells you exactly how he views himself. It's odd that Bowser opts for a Western wedding in Odyssey given his all-out tribute to the East, but who's going to tell a 20-foot-tall dragon-lizard how to manage his marriage? My only complaint about Bowser's Kingdom is its linearity. Unlike the other kingdoms on this list, it funnels you in one specific direction: Bowser's doorstep.
Seaside Kingdom and the Lake Kingdom share similarities, but as a water-lover, I'm not complaining. I have too much fun jetting across the ocean's surface using the Gushen enemy's built-in propulsion system. When I want to dive down into the Kingdom's deepest trenches, I need only capture a Cheep-Cheep and off I go. Like the Lake Kingdom, Seaside gives you plenty of stuff to do on land and in the sea. Just don't get roped into a volleyball game. Beach volleyball sucks in Mario Odyssey, and it sucks in real life, too.
Cascade Kingdom is your first real challenge in Super Mario Odyssey, which is probably why it's such a laid-back area. Even the dinosaur that calls this thunderous land its home won't rouse from its slumber unless you force it awake with a little hat magic. The Cascade Kingdom is also heavily populated by Chain Chomps (who keeps anchoring them there?), which are a lot of fun to capture and fling at rock walls like a sling shot loaded with an 8-ball. Side note: Chomps are amongst the most dangerous enemies in the Mario universe, but both Mario Odyssey and Mario 64 force you to go face-to-face with them in the games' opening minutes. Wild.
I like the water. I like the moon. Big surprise: My astrological sign is Cancer. Mario Odyssey's Moon Kingdom is a quiet, peaceful land with low gravity and silvered plains. When you first arrive, the jangling of wedding bells makes the Kingdom feel almost haunted. The Moon is an eerily restful Kingdom—for about five minutes. Then things get serious. And again. And again.
Man, this Kingdom has the best music. It's nuts. The Wooded Kingdom is a weird clash of feelings and themes. It's part natural, and part mechanical. Similarly, it's simultaneously restful and stressful. I love navigating steel platforms and beams while flower petals rain down in an endless white shower. I also relate deeply to the Kingdom's natives: Sassy robot watering cans with anxiety issues. Actually, that sounds like the mascot creature for 2017 in general.
Lost Kingdom was the first locale that gave me repeated trouble in Mario Odyssey. The land is steeped in pools of purple mire, and one touch means death. Thankfully, Mario can capture Tropical Wigglers that grant him secure footing across small footholds. It's the only way to travel in the Lost Kingdom. Be careful where you throw your hat, though: There are walking bombs that grab Cappy out of mid-air and amble towards you before blowing up. Not my favorite Kingdom.
I've never been a big fan of Mario's ice levels. My aversion dates back to World 4 of Super Mario Bros 2, specifically the segment where you're expected to dodge a bombardment of Beezos while maintaining traction on the icy ground. Eesh. The Snow Kingdom offers more slippery shenanigans in addition to freezing cold water. Yeah, it's really the sort of thing that's probably more fun when you're not a Canadian who's facing down four months of actual slippin' and slidin' with every trip to the store. I'll say this much, though: The Shiverians are adorable.
The Luncheon Kingdom is the only area in Mario Odyssey that gave me noticeable camera issues. This Kingdom's layout is weird, the boiling fondue is a pain to avoid (and to navigate through when you capture a Fire Bubble), and the constant bubbling of the level's simmering soups and stews makes me hungry. Grumble grumble.
This Kingdom's diminutive size is the only reason it ranks so low. Otherwise, I'd score it as one of my favorite locations in the game. Oh, we're taking a detour from bright oceans and happy woodlands to visit a decimated kingdom lorded over by a dragon that looks like it'd be right at home sailing above Daenerys Targaryen's armies? Yeah, OK, I'm all about this.
Well. The view's nice. The ground's probably easy on the feet, too.