Super Mario Odyssey has captured our hearts and has instantly gained our approval in the 3D Mario space. The kingdoms are filled with such magic and wonder that we may find ourselves stopping just to take in the view.
When we come across a gem such as this, we often find ourselves wanting to know a little more about how it came to be. So, here are five fun facts (and one sneaky theory) about Super Mario Odyssey – Let’s-a-go!
Over the years, we have seen Mario games take on all different forms. Whether we’re playing a 2D platformer or a 3D platformer, a sports game or a puzzle game, Mario has always been a series that everyone can play. However when they announced Super Mario Odyssey back in January, Miyamoto stated in a Nintendo Treehouse interview that the sandbox style 3D Mario games are designed with a focus on core gamers.
After developing Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, they wanted to make the 3D Mario games more accessible to the casual market. Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 were the results of this new direction. These games had very linear worlds that required less exploration and focussed primarily on innovative platforming. Super Mario 3D World and Super Mario 3D Land continued this trend of casual 3D Mario appeal with similar gameplay. Do keep in mind that these games were released on the Wii, Wii U and 3DS systems; consoles that were marketed as more accessible to the casual gaming audience, so it makes sense for their flagship mascot to follow suit.
As we return to the current generation with the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has made an effort to shift its image. The Big N has been courting a lot more third party developers that are known for their core gaming experiences. Bethesda is the first company that springs to mind with Skyrim, Doom and Wolfenstein coming to the hybrid console. So as Nintendo changes their philosophy, so too does their mascot.
Nintendo wanted Super Mario Odyssey to be a game that immersed and challenged players. Having expansive worlds that allow the player to freely explore creates a level of depth that we didn’t see in Mario’s games during the casual years. Super Mario Odyssey harkens back to the original 3D Super Mario games, when Nintendo were still competing head-to-head with their competitors.
E3 2017 showed that Super Mario Odyssey is focussed entirely around this new capture mechanic, but the team at Nintendo tried many different prototypes for Mario’s new adventure. They had a long list of prototypes that they were testing, seeing what worked and what didn’t.
Their process involved working on each prototype for a few days to see how far they could go with them. They expanded on many different ideas and ultimately decided that the capture mechanic had the most potential.
The team at Nintendo discovered that the capture mechanic would encourage players to explore the kingdoms more meticulously. Once the player knew that they could control things by throwing Mario’s hat onto them, curiosity would lead them to throwing Cappy onto everything to see what they could and could not control. The developers wanted the player to throw Cappy onto everything they could see.
When we consider the differences between 3D sandbox Mario games and the linear games, there are varying opinions of what those differences are. According to the developers at Nintendo, a 3D Sandbox Mario game encourages exploration and experimentation.
Super Mario Odyssey contains over 900 power moons that can be collected in a variety of different ways. The game is designed to reward players who are creative and inquisitive with new areas, challenges and collectibles.
Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine also demonstrated this philosophy of encouraging exploration. I’ll never forget the first time I looked up to the sky in Peach’s castle, and Super Mario’s Odyssey’s acknowledgment of that brought a tear to my eye.
All of the kingdoms in Super Mario Odyssey have a sense of grandeur whilst also hiding hard to find areas. The Metro Kingdom reflects this ideology seamlessly, containing large open spaces on rooftops and hidden areas in tight alleyways.
At E3, Nintendo’s Kenta Motokura stated that they wanted to implement retro 2D sections as a contrast to the games 3D open worlds that players can freely explore. They wanted to implement an increase of required precision when entering these 2D sections and have players experience the shift in confinement as they progressed.
These sections also allowed for more variety when reaching different levels of a stage. Just having 3D platforms heading up a steep incline could have grown stale after a while, so these 2D sections allowed for different ways to achieve the same goal.
Nintendo also wanted to appeal to the nostalgia of Mario fans, which has become an increasingly apparent strategy as of late. With the shift from 3D to 2D reflects modern gameplay to retro, so too were they able to do this with the music. Having nostalgic NES style remixes of new soundtracks certainly pulls on devoted fans’ heartstrings.
Super Mario’s Odyssey’s Luncheon Kingdom seems to stand out in terms of its aesthetics. It has a very unique art style that is very much unlike the others. The Luncheon Kingdom drew its inspiration from the thrill of travel and food. In an interview at Gamescom, Yoshiaki Koizumi stated that when he travels, he looks forward to eating food that he has never eaten before and food that is unique to those countries.
As the Luncheon Kingdom is clearly heavily inspired by food, they wanted the kingdom’s music and aesthetics to reflect Europe (specifically Italy, which is famous for its cuisine). Taking in all that the Luncheon Kingdom has to offer, the inspiration isn’t hard to miss. This theme creates a unique flavour that we haven’t seen before in a 3D Mario game.
This one is mere speculation, but as soon as I heard the title “Super Mario Odyssey”, I immediately began wondering how the game would have been inspired by Homer’s “The Odyssey”. So I just couldn’t resist putting it in here to share my thoughts with all of you.
For those who are unfamiliar with this piece of Greek literature, the story follows Odysseus, king of Ithaca, who has just finished fighting in the Trojan War (remember that big wooden horse?). So now that the war is over, he must travel back to Ithaca and be reunited with his wife, Penelope. He travels to all different strange lands on his way back home. However back in Ithaca, Penelope and the people of Ithaca begin to believe that Odysseus was killed in battle and won’t be returning. A group of suitors then start competing for her hand in marriage and Odysseus must get back to stop them.
Now I know you didn’t come here to read about a 2800 year old book, but can you see the connections between this book and the newest Super Mario game? Let’s connect the dots:
Both Super Mario Odyssey and The Odyssey start off in the middle of a battle; Mario is fighting Bowser on his airship and Odysseus is fighting in the Trojan War.
After their respective battles, Both Mario and Odysseus travel from location to location on their ships (Mario has an airship and Odysseus has a boat – close enough). They both come across various challenges and meet many different people and creatures.
Mario and Odysseus are both trying to get to their final destination to stop a wedding (or a potential wedding in the case of Odysseus). When they reach their destinations, a final battle takes place that determines the fate of the main protagonists and their love interests.
Lastly, IT’S IN THE NAME!
Even if Nintendo didn’t purposefully reference the 2800 year old poem, and I am just a crazed fan reading way too much into this, I still like to believe that they made those connections on purpose.
It was a long fifteen year wait between 3D sandbox Mario games, but that just made Odyssey even more special. It’s fun to learn just a little bit more about this gem and it’s also fun to speculate. Hopefully, as we continue to digest this game, we’ll uncover more hidden secrets that will leave us smiling from ear-to-ear.