I was ten years old when Super Mario 64 first revolutionized 3D gaming as we know it. Leaping onto North American shores two weeks before my birthday, I vividly remember tearing into that plastic, snatching out the cart and sitting glued to my parent’s television for hours on end, slack-jawed and awestruck by what Nintendo’s mustached mascot could do in all his 64-bit glory.

Today, a mere two weeks after my 31st, I find myself overflowing with the very same emotions. Not necessarily because of nostalgia, sentimentality or anything similarly shallow. For the first time in nearly two decades, I’m overcome by a sense of wonder and excitement thought long snuffed out by the burdens of adulthood. Super Mario Odyssey has me feeling like a kid again, and every time I boot up my Switch is a little mustached reminder that being grown up doesn’t mean I have to grow out of my childhood passions.

So bust out your brochures and pack a spare set of overalls because we’re taking a time traveled trip aboard the Odyssey to discover what makes Mario’s latest Kingdom caper worth booking.

MARIO, PEACH AND BOWSER WALK INTO A BAR…

In a tale as old as time, back when mushroom headed men aimlessly wandered the halls of creepy castles in search of missing princesses, a distressed Peach finds herself forcefully betrothed to Bowser, and it falls upon the stocky shoulders of Mario to save her. Only this time the portly plumber’s not alone…

After losing his heroic headpiece in a top hat tussle, Mario teams up with swanky spook and super powered specter, Cappy, who has his own bone to pick with the matrimonial monarch. Together, they give chase in hopes of cornering the cantankerous Koopa King, hopping between Kingdoms to lay objection towards the sacrilegious ceremony and return Toadstool to her previous position as the Mushroom Kingdom’s most eligible bachelorette.

OLD HAT, NEW TRICKS

More than just a cute capped companion along for the ride, Cappy embodies Odyssey’s big new idea, resting at the crux of Mario’s top hat tossing talents. With a simple flick of your sidekick, Mario can bewitch beloved baddies into doing his bidding, opening the F.L.U.D.D. gates for fresh and exciting new gameplay mechanics. Swimming seaside slipstreams as a Cheep Cheep, thrashing Chain Chomps as a mighty T-rex, or smoochin’ lady Goombas as a ten foot stack of the bashful buggers are just a few of the creature comforts adopted throughout the red-capped wedding crasher’s caper.

My personal favorite? The adorable swooping samurai and my newfound woodpecker pal, Pokio! Its Pinocchio-powered pecks not only pack a punch, but can also poke through walls to help it fling and flutter to newfound heights. Since discovering each of the game’s capturable critters and doodads for yourself is half the fun, I won’t spoil much more than that. Just know each transformation is treated with the utmost care and craft, with levels perfectly tailored to capitalize on utilizing these newfound powers to their full potential.

The series shake-ups don’t end there, as our hatless hero also has a few new tricks up his sleeve, courtesy of his mind-possessing polter-pal. Beyond body snatching baddies, collecting coins and swatting lesser critters aside, Cappy can be used as a veritable jump pad, providing the plump plumber with even greater mobility than previously possible. When used in harmony alongside his already robust acrobatic arsenal, no platforming challenge is too daunting for the dynamic duo to take on headfirst. (Sorry, Luigi. Maybe it’s time you stuck to that career in ghostbusting).

POWER MOON MANIA

From your first steps in the Cap Kingdom’s Burton-esque town of Bonneton, it’s clear just how much work went into making Odyssey’s epic pop. This is no more apparent than in the Metro Kingdom’s fedora obsessed capital, New Donk City. Pulling off the artistic contrast between its semi-realistic aesthetic and Mario’s comically cartoonish proportions is reason enough to give this stage a super-shroomed shoutout, not to mention the Kingdom’s climactic cinematic celebrating the franchise in fantastic fashion — just one of many 2D side-scrolling love letters hidden down the game’s pixelated Warp Pipes.

Of course, as its many in-game brochures and maps will tell you, Odyssey’s a veritable tourist trap of lively locales and landmarks well worth visiting. Whether braving the blistering blizzards of Shiveria, strolling the sand-swept dunes of Tostarena or surfing the high seas of Bubblaine’s bay, each and every wonderful world wandered is a sight to savor, inviting compulsive exploration to the point disrupting Peach’s nefarious nuptials comes off a secondary side quest.

That’s no exaggeration either, as replacing the series’ staple 120 Shine Sprite set-up are hundreds of prolific Power Moons positively begging to be uncovered. Tactfully tucked away behind platforming perils, pitfalls and puzzles, these celestial collectibles are rewarded for both big and small feats alike, providing the fuel for powering through Odyssey’s well-oiled machine — quite literally in fact, as gathering enough of them feeds your balloon-bound airship for travel to the next coveted Kingdom ripe for discovery.

This focus on exploration is only further exacerbated by the fact our 1-Up boy finally kicked his shroom addiction, opting instead to pay the Glum Reaper a measly ten coin tax should he happen to bite the Bullet Bill. Coupled with liberally scattered checkpoints and relatively easy boss fights and you’re left with one of the most grounded and accessible Mario misadventures for all ages and skill levels to enjoy.

Speaking of boss battles, the majority of encounters are seductive spectacles involving creative use of capture abilities — from riding the waves of lava barfing birds to pelting mechanized wigglers with tank shells. Even the dapperly dressed quintuplet of wascally wedding planners, despite borrowing their attack patterns a bit too heavily from the classic Koopa Kid and mundane midboss Boom Boom, shine in their dastardly determination to keep your meddling misdeeds at bay.

JUMP UP, SUPER STAR!

Mario games rarely rest on their platforming laurels alone, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the mesmerizing music accompanying the red-capped renegade’s excellent adventure. In truth, Odyssey’s entire soundtrack is a symphonic serenade of nostalgic nods and memorable melodies begging to be blasted up to eleven.

Outside the insanely catchy, band-backed swing number “Jump Up, Super Star!” performed by famous Donkey Kong damsel and Mario’s maroon-clad mistress herself, Pauline, my two most cherished tracks consist of the funky fresh beats bustling through the Wooded Kingdom and Metro’s jazz jostlin’ jamboree. Bowser’s Castle also deserves a special shoutout for its many beautifully orchestrated inflections and Japanese influences, giving the entire stage a classically sinister, yet optimistic tone throughout.

One of the most addictive additions to Super Mario Odyssey is the ability to snap stylized screenshots of your cap casting adventure on a whim. With a simple tap of the D-pad, players can freeze a fragment in time to set up the perfect shot for scrapbooking their favorite Mario memories through social media.

Whether posing alongside a parka palling Parakoopa, narrowly escaping the boisterous blast of Banzai Bill or simply taking in the view of the candied Kingdom’s magmous mountain, there’s rarely a Kodak moment not worth stopping to capture in breathtaking bewilderment. Couple that with the dozens of unlockable cosplaying costumes spanning the jovial jumpman’s 30 year career and the creative opportunities for hilarious hijinx are limitless. Despite being perfectly suited for Odyssey’s thematic focus on travel, I can’t help but hope more Nintendo games implement similarly captivating features in the future.

YOU COULD SAY MY HAT’S OFF TO YOU

Unlike Breath of the Wild, which represents a completely new frontier for the legendary franchise to follow, Odyssey marks the finish line for a design philosophy 20 years in the making. Not only does it lovingly build off the accomplishments of its 64-bit ancestry, but manages to unequivocally surpass them in execution thanks to its incredibly polished presentation, exploration heavy platforming, innovative new capture mechanic and many magnificently designed Kingdoms.

Simply put, Odyssey is pure platforming perfection: the magnum opus of the 3D Mario formula that’s sure to capture the hearts of both the 64-bit faithful and a new generation of mustached maniacs for years to come.

So what are you waiting for? Jump up super high, flip that switch and let’s do the odyssey!

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  • Capture abilities increase Mario’s skillset fifty fold, letting you body snatch baddies on a whim
  • Each Kingdom is a sprawling sandbox begging to be explored
  • Enough platforming challenges and puzzles to make Meat Boy blush
  • As many Power Moons to collect as Zelda’s Korok Seeds, without the fecal fashioned face-slap
  • Dozens of cosplay costumes to give Mario some retro flair
  • Snapshot Mode provides endless fun long after the credits roll
  • Superb soundtrack that will leave you jumping for joy
  • Perfectly blends new ideas with nostalgic nods to the past
  • You read this review and still decided not to hop aboard the Odyssey

System: Nintendo Switch

Release Date: October 27, 2017

Categories: Action, Platformer

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

Written by Matthew Weidner

When it comes to playing and writing about video games, Matthew aspires to be the very best, like no one ever was. Writing for Nintendo Wire and the thought of one day finally achieving a perfect, no death Super Meat Boy run fills him with determination.

Matthew Weidner