In the mid-90s, video games were just starting to make the jump from 2D to 3D. If you go back to a lot of those early 3D games, the controls were experimental and awkward - nobody really knew the best way to make 3D games work, until Nintendo came along with Super Mario 64 and literally defined how 3D platforming games should work.
Now, 20 years later, Nintendo has released Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch - a spiritual sequel to Super Mario 64, and the most refined 3D platformer to date.
The story in the game is mostly unimportant, per usual - Bowser has once again kidnapped Princess Peach, and is planning a wedding for them. It’s Mario’s job to rescue her, and he has the help of a new friend, Cappy - a living hat from the Cap Kingdom.
Cappy’s abilities are the biggest change in this new game. You can throw Cappy like a boomerang for an attack or a platform to jump on, but when Cappy hits certain enemies, Mario and Cappy “possess” them - so you can swim around as a fish, waddle around as a Goomba, or even inhabit a T-Rex and rampage through a stage. Many puzzles require you to use these special abilities, and they each feel just as intuitive as controlling Mario directly.
There are so many big worlds in this game, but instead of feeling separate and empty, they are all teeming with life and secrets. If you feel like just wandering around the Sand Kingdom, you’ll likely be rewarded for your curiosity. That said, you never feel directionless - Nintendo is fantastic at showing you exactly what you need to do to proceed through the game. I never once felt lost or confused.
For a character that is nearing 40 years old, I’m amazed at how Nintendo keeps using Mario to make fresh, standard-setting games that still stay true to the originals. They’ve shown once again that Mario still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve - or in his hat.