How Nintendo can make Super Mario Odyssey epic

Mario’s latest adventure could be his most important yet. Here’s how Nintendo can make it a success.
Screenshot from the new Super Mario Odyssey video game for Nintendo's Switch console
When you want to get ahead, get a hat © Nintendo
By Damien McFerran

Mario is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most famous faces on the planet, having starred in a series of million-selling video games over the past three decades – some of which are considered to be the best examples of interactive entertainment ever made.

Unlike early rivals such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Crash Bandicoot and Bubsy The Bobcat, the standard of Mario's adventures have never dipped below utterly essential. While the portly plumber doesn't have to worry too much about prior form, his next escapade has a lot riding on it. It's going to be on a new system, the Switch, and is therefore given increased significance when you consider that Nintendo's last console was a commercial flop, despite playing host to Super Mario 3D World, which perhaps ranks as his best ever appearence.

Anything less than totally mind-blowing is going to be seen as something of a letdown, and that's precisely what Nintendo will want to avoid when it comes to selling the dream of its new all-in-one system. Here are the things the Japanese giant has to aim for with this much-anticipated release.

Make it multiplayer

One of the things that made Super Mario 3D World so appealing was the fact that it featured support for up to four players, with each one scurrying around the colourful levels in search of secrets and coins.

What Nintendo has shown of Super Mario Odyssey so far appears to suggest that it will revert to the single-player experiences of old, which would be a real shame – especially given the strong social message of the Switch. Four-player co-op on a single system would be easy thanks to those delightful Joy-Con controllers, making this a potential smash-hit for office breaks and social gatherings. There's still time for Nintendo to reveal its multiplayer plans for the game, so let's keep those fingers firmly crossed.

© Nintendo

Hold back those surprises

Mario games rely on tried-and-tested mechanics, such as coin-collecting, transformations and of course that iconic head-stomp, but they've also been packed with neat and often unexpected surprises. Super Mario 64 popularised 3D gaming and analogue control, while Super Mario Sunshine introduced the FLUDD power-up which allows you to hose off graffiti and reach high places.

Mario's hat seems to be Super Mario Odyssey's ace in the hole; this sentient item of headgear has a little screen time in the trailer, and can be thrown to create a temporary platform. Given Nintendo's penchant for cramming as many ideas into its Mario adventures as possible, we'd guess that the legendary Italian has some other tricks up his sleeve as well.

Prolong the marketing magic

As well received as Super Mario 3D World was upon release, it actually got quite a lukewarm reaction from some sectors of the gaming press when it was first unveiled at E3 2013. Some bemoaned its apparent similarity to Super Mario 3D Land on the 3DS and lack of grandiose compared to Super Mario Galaxy, but such concerns were slowly and surely overcome as Nintendo engaged in a steady campaign of drip-feeding more news and features all the way up to the release date in November of that year. The result was a frenzy of hype and anticipation, so that when the game finally arrived it had obtained the interest of millions of potential players.

This tactic should be employed again with Odyssey; save key pieces of information and deploy them strategically throughout 2017 to ensure everyone is talking about – and waiting for – Mario's next adventure.

Mario's adventure will take him to some strange places in the new Super Mario Odyssey video game
Deep in the forest © Nintendo

Include amiibo support

Nintendo's take on the toy-to-life concept got off to an amazing start, with demand for the highly detailed lumps of plastic far outstripping supply. However, as the Wii U and 3DS release schedule has started to dry up, so too has the drip-feed of new figures, and there's been little in the way of hype leading into 2017. To make matters worse, rival brands such as Disney Infinity and Skylanders are also being scaled back.

Nintendo has confirmed that amiibo will continue to be supported on the Switch, and games like Super Mario Odyssey will be integral to maintaining their popularity. We've already got a wide range of Super Mario amiibo, but connectivity with the full range of figures would be amazing – something that was present in the superb Wii U release Super Mario Maker. If Nintendo wants amiibo to be more than just a footnote in the toys-to-life story, it has to keep the range alive by making these sweeping gestures. And besides, we demand a Mario figure with his new hat.

Don’t do a Sonic

The first trailer for Super Mario Odyssey got chins wagging because it appeared to have parallels with past Sonic the Hedgehog titles. 1998's Sonic Adventure placed Sega's mascot in a massive city packed with humans, whereas previous games had been rooted firmly in fantasy locations.

Some would argue this crossover with the human world would eventually lead to Sonic's lowest moment – that kiss with Princess Elise in 2006's much-maligned Sonic the Hedgehog – and we sincerely hope that Mario won't encounter any similarly embarrassing moments in his new adventure. A romantic entanglement with Birdo, perhaps? Let's hope Nintendo has more sense.

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