I’m not what most people would call a fan of “open-world” style games. They were fun back when Assassin’s Creed was still following the adventures of Ezio Auditore, and they were okay when the Inquisitor closed the Breach in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Nowadays though, I’m finding the whole open-world thing more tiring than anything else. So when I heard that the next Mario game was going in the open world direction, let’s just say I was less than pleased. It was the one direction I didn’t want to see the series go in, and was absolutely convinced that no good would come of it. That said, it’s a good thing I have absolutely nothing to do with the Mario games, because Super Mario Odyssey might just be my new favorite of the series. They’ve managed to do open-world right.
My main argument with most open-world games is just how empty they usually are. They usually gorgeous and a treat to look at, but they’re often sparsely populated and bereft of interesting things to do. I remember seeing the beginnings of these sorts of worlds Assassin’s Creed II, wherein most of the things filling out its world were basic side missions of no real consequence. Its Truth puzzles and assassin tombs filled it out just enough to make exploration worthwhile though. Fast-forward to the time of Dragon Age: Inquisition and things aren’t looking very good. I really enjoyed that game for its characters, combat and story, but I could have done without its absolutely massive lands. Aside from running into the dragons, running around in them felt like pointless padding and busywork more than anything else. In a word, it was tedious. This is thankfully not the case in Odyssey.
I hate to jump right to comparing it to Skyrim, but I really can’t think of a better comparison at the moment. Skyrim was open-world done right. It wasn’t just a space to run around in. The world was filled with stuff to discover and collect, and it was fun to explore because of that. Odyssey is very similar. It doesn’t have caves and tombs hiding around every corner, but there’s plenty to find and do in it. It’s landscapes are quite literally littered with Power Moons (Odyssey’s version of stars). Some are hidden, some are placed in out of the way places that require some creativity to access, and many are found at the end of platforming challenges of the sort that any Mario fan would recognize. These worlds aren’t the huge expanses like those found in Far Cry or the Witcher 3. Instead they’re like larger versions of the kinds of stages found in Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine. There’s enough space to stretch you legs, but not so much that the world starts feeling empty or boring. You’re never aimlessly wandering about. Like every good Mario game, Odyssey makes sure to keep you engaged.
If you’re already a fan of open world games, then you’ll probably feel right at home here. If, like me, you happen to dislike open-world style games, then don’t let that dissuade you in this case. While it does have a little less focus when compared to its predecessors, Super Mario Odyssey is still very much a classic Mario game in all the ways that matters most. It even has honest-to-goodness unlockables for its players to strive for. When’s the last time you played a game that did that? Long story short: Super Mario Odyssey incorporates the best aspects of open-world games while avoiding most of the pitfalls they usually fall into.
What do think of open-world games? What about Mario games in general?
Lede image from official Super Mario Odyssey website