How Super Mario Odyssey makes you want to explore

It’s been a few days since I “beat” Super Mario Odyssey, completing the main story, but I’m nowhere near done with the game. Not because Odyssey has such an extensive endgame — although the various challenges and boss rushes are certainly tough — but because I must have more moons.

Like many open-world games, Odyssey is chock-full of things to collect — specifically, glowing power moons and purple world-specific currencies. But unlike, say, tracking down the endless blast shards in Infamous or floating feathers in Assbadin’s Creed, Odyssey has actually made me want to collect all the things. Instead of feeling like a chore, Odyssey’s collectables feel like an integral part of the experience of exploring.

That’s because the feedback loop of exploring Odyssey‘s wonderfully animated and varied worlds, finding a strange corner or odd glimmer, and digging into a puzzle is just so compelling. Instead of players wandering around, trying to find collectibles, every moon in Odyssey feels placed with care.


Image: Nintendo

Some moons are simple, awarded after simple platforming or upon reaching certain checkpoints. You can even buy many from stores. But others are devilishly complicated, like a puzzle where I had to carefully goad a Piranha Plant into chucking fireballs at me, then dodge so it would light a pair of torches instead. There’s also another moon, which required me to carefully to carry a seed across the entirety of the ocean to a friendly farmer by a lighthouse, possess a nearby octopus to shoot a jet of water onto it, which caused a plant to grow and a moon to pop out. This is actually one of Super Mario Odyssey’s more normal tasks.

After a while, you do start to learn some of Odyssey’s logic: glowing birds will drop moons when you jump on them, and chasing a bunny down will reward you with a glowing crescent. Throwing your cap onto a scarecrow will unlock a timed moon chase of some sort. And even some recurring challenges, like impressing Goombette, can take on challenging forms: I once spent a solid 10 minutes trying to stack up enough Goombas before realizing I had to drop the tower of Goombas down a shaft with a spring at the bottom so I could add more of the walking mushrooms to the top before bouncing back out.


Super Mario Odyssey

That’s not to say that all the moon challenges are flawless; this is especially true of some of the races, and challenges where you’re trying to accurately trace a pattern by walking around. These aren’t especially creative obstacles. And after you finish the story, the game makes the chase easier, revealing the location of some moons on the map. But when Odyssey is at its best, you’re given just enough information and visual cues to figure things out for yourself. This preserves the triumphant high of feeling like you are “THE SMARTEST MARIO PLAYER ALIVE” when you find a hidden moon squirreled away.

But while the quality and care taken in each moon is important, the sheer quantity that Nintendo has in the game is also impressive. When I finished the main story, I was expecting to return to some areas to mop up what I had badumed would only be a few more moons that I had missed during my first playthrough; it turns out, I had barely found a third of them. The quality largely holds up through the game, too, and even after collecting a couple hundred moons, I’m still enjoying hunting them down.

It’s the same with the local currency, too. I may have been in the middle of a quest to save Princess Peach from the dastardly clutches of Bowser, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to drop what I was doing every time I spotted a couple of those purple coins floating in the distance. While Mario’s mission was no doubt important, unlocking new stickers or some slick new threads simply took priority every time.

So even though I’ve technically beaten Odyssey and once again restored peace to the Mushroom Kingdom, it still feels like I’m only just getting started with the game. After all, like any good vacation, there’s just so much left to see.


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