Super Mario Odyssey arrives on the Nintendo Switch tomorrow, and returns the series back to its roots — well, its 3D roots, that is.
“What’s the difference,” you may ask? While the Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario 3D titles have taken approaches to a gameplay style which make them more akin to the ex-plumber protagonist’s classic 2D titles, the original 3D Mario game was like a new beginning for the franchise. And while it did certainly take some inspiration from previous titles, such as Super Mario World‘s divergent goals within a level, it set itself apart by significantly changing or even doing away with some of the series’ more interesting aspects. For example:
- Stomping is Secondary – More than anything, Mario is known for his jumping ability — he’s not known by some as “Jumpman” for nothing, after all! And with that, several of his early adventures put his stories-high leaps to good use by having him stomp many of his foes to defeat them. But while that’s fine when you only have to worry about lining up with a foe horizontally when Mario is above them, adding depth complicates things. As a result, while Mario can indeed still stomp foes with a bit of added skill (in part due to a lower vertical leap), it’s usually secondary to Mario’s other moves — in Super Mario 64‘s case, a variety of punches and kicks that would follow him into Super Smash Bros.
- Less Power in the Power-Ups – When people think of Mario’s abilities, they often think of things like the Super Mushroom, which doubles his height and the damage he can take, or the Fire Flower, which allows him to chuck orbs of flaming death at his foes, all lasting until he takes damage or dies. None of that exists in Super Mario 64, however; instead, after activating specific switches, Mario can hit blocks to obtain special caps which allow him to fly, become translucent and pass through walls, or become a solid metal form that is invincible to enemy attacks and immune to sweeping river currents. While useful as tools for unlocking the solution to various puzzles, most do little for him in combat, and they leave him before long, whether you’ve been hit or not.
- Breathing – This one’s pretty simple — in the original games, Mario could survive underwater indefinitely. Heck, there were even cartoon episodes based on them that were spent underwater in their entirety, with no concerns over drowning. But in Super Mario 64, our hero channels his inner Sonic and has to come up for air or find bubbles, lest he suffer a rather unpleasant death as you hear his lungs begin to fill with fluid.
Those are just a few examples of how core mechanics that had been with Mario since most players were originally introduced to him changed when he went to full polygonal 3D, and there are still more to be covered, perhaps in a future installment. In the meantime, this should at least help illuminate that there’s more different between the two styles of gameplay than whether Mario can walk into the distance or not, and why some may prefer one style over the other.