Game on ’til the end of the world

We’re all going to be spending a lot more time indoors, so why not play the greatest video game of all time, says Will Mapplebeck.


Super Mario Odyssey is the greatest game of all time. Fact.

Forget box sets, this will give you more joy, more entertainment and a greater sense of achievement than all six seasons of the Sopranos.

If you are locked down, self isolating or socially distancing you need to buy a Nintendo Switch, order a copy and play this till your fingers drop off. Even if you’re not a fan of videogames, and I know a lot of people aren’t, it will astound.

As with all Nintendo games there’s a strange, hackneyed story that provides some narrative. Bowser, a villain who looks like some kind of deranged cross between a turtle and a dinosaur, has kidnapped Princess Peach – blonde heroine with a dash of girl power – with the intention of marrying her against her will. You spend the game travelling between worlds, chasing Bowser and his unhappy would-be bride and collecting Power Moons to keep your airship moving.

Along the way there is some of the most beautiful level design I’ve ever seen in a video game, times when the sheer invention overwhelms. With a shake of your controller, Mario can turn into everything from a high jumping frog to a destructive T Rex. He can sprout wings, turn into a fizzing bolt of electricity or transform into some kind of Easter Island-style Moai and wobble to his goal. It’s colourful, cheerful, surreal fun, executed brilliantly.

Every so often there is a nod to Mario’s 2D roots, when you enter a pipeline and end up in mini platform games that look like Mario’s Super Nintendo heyday, jumping flaming barrels and punching your way through walls.

This reinforces that Odyssey is a post modern take on Mario, endlessly recycling iconic game moments – you can even buy costumes and items from the Italian plumber’s previous console outings – culminating in an ending that isn’t really an ending.

The final boss battle passes and you just keep on playing as Odyssey continues to throw ever more difficult challenges at you, including some you play online against other players from around the world.

At one point, midway through the game, Mario enters a world that looks very much like ours. A modern urban environment called New Donk City where he can climb tall buildings, go to a concert, ride a scooter or take part in a jump rope competition. It looks beautiful, sun reflects off pavements, bored office workers chat on street corners and car horns honk distantly, think of it as Grant Theft Auto but without the violence and bad language.

Of course, there are faults with Odyssey. The two-player mode doesn’t really work and at times the camera angles are slow to catch up to the action, but these are soon forgotten.

I’ve played nothing quite like it. Super Mario Odyssey is less a video game and more a work of art.

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