A whole Galaxy of things!
Super Mario Odyssey was certainly a grand adventure. While I didn’t expect anything less from Mario’s Switch debut, I still left thinking it was the best game I’ve played this year. While the different gameplay elements may not necessarily be new (everything is very reminiscent of Super Mario 64), the way in which each kingdom brings totally unique challenges feels just like the classic games of Nintendo’s past.
Then you get to the ending of the game and a pretty big ripple can be felt. Nintendo has set up something that could possibly influence the rest of Mario going forward and it has gotten me curious about the implications.
Obviously, I’m going to spoil the ending of Super Mario Odyssey, so if you haven’t beaten it yet, be warned.
The entire plot of Odyssey revolves around Mario chasing down Bowser to thwart his marriage to Peach. Through your travels, you eventually end up going to the moon (where Mario, Peach and Bowser can somehow breathe) and barge right into the chapel where Bowser is waiting. After a pretty nifty boss battle in the core of the moon, shit hits the fan and everything starts to collapse. As a last ditch effort, Mario tosses Cappy at Bowser and the final challenge is basically an anime.
Yes, you control Bowser and a ridiculously awesome theme song plays with more music by the lovely Pauline. After this crazy experience, you’d think Peach would be ecstatic with Mario, but that doesn’t happen. When you finally return to the surface of the moon, Mario begins to slowly approach Peach, when Bowser suddenly jumps up and shoves a bouquet in her face.
Obviously Mario isn’t going to let that stand, so he shoves his own bouquet in her face. The two start to nudge and shove each other until Peach yells, “ENOUGH!” and walks away. I mean, holy shit! Did Peach just stand up to Bowser? If she had that kind of gumption, why didn’t she do this sooner?
I know the ending is supposed to be more hilarious than deep (Mario and Bowser both sort of embrace and cry as Peach walks away), but I mostly began to wonder what that action could mean for the future of the series. I would say the biggest let down with Odyssey is that the plot is basically the same crap we’ve seen for the past 32 years of Mario’s existence. Peach is still a prize and it is kind of insane how Bowser didn’t try something different.
That isn’t to say Nintendo hasn’t mixed things up, because a few past games certainly have. Super Mario 3D World actually let you play as Peach alongside the brothers and even the U.S. edition of Super Mario Bros. 2 had Peach as a playable character, not to say anything of the various spin-off RPGs that have seen Mario work alongside his greatest foe. Even if Mario 2 was all a dream, at least Nintendo has shown that they are willing to tinker with the formula.
I know Mario games live more on their level design and gameplay conceits rather than plot, but if we’re finally free of having Peach be a damsel in distress, does this mean we can get Mario games that focus on him being a hero to others instead of just his pseudo-girlfriend? Will we get Mario games that don’t rely on the Mushroom Kingdom for their aesthetic design?
That last one is very possible. Odyssey is the first game in a while to not showcase all the various mushrooms, bricks, bright colors or ghost houses of the past. Nintendo didn’t go for a more realistic tone, though, they instead created exaggerated versions of our world (for the most part). The various kingdoms look familiar, not because we’ve been there 1,000 times before, but because they are interpretations of things we see in everyday life. Since there are semi-realistic forests and beautiful sun soaked beaches, we are put at ease while exploring something unknown.
That being said, where else can this series go? If Peach is no longer the final goal and the Mushroom Kingdom is old hat, what is left? Will we get a return to Galaxy or another tropical getaway like Sunshine? Will poor Luigi be captured, with Mario called in to save his bro? What if we even get a job simulator with the brothers fixing pipes (granted, Mario isn’t a plumber anymore…)?
Better yet, what if we get a game starring Peach that isn’t based on outdated stereotypes of female emotions? While it would definitely be odd to have a game with Mario in the title not star the titular plumber, the possibilities are endless for where Nintendo can move forward. The simple act of Peach rejecting both Mario and Bowser kicks the door wide open.
I’m ready for Nintendo to explore some new ground with Super Mario. Odyssey was great in that it harkened back to an era of game design that was more focused on exploration and creativity instead of trekking down the more linear path that Galaxy started. For the next journey, I hope Nintendo can finally change the why instead of the how.