GOTY 2017: The Top 10 Games of the Year - #5
Welcome to the Ninth Annual Silicon Sasquatch Top 10 Games of the Year list! After months of discussion and yet another marathon five-hour meeting, we've finally narrowed down the 10 games that we feel best represent the best and most important that 2017 had to offer.
#5 - Super Mario Odyssey
Nintendo EPD | October 27th, 2017 | Nintendo Switch
Director Kenta Motokura told The Verge that his team explicitly presented us with a chill, relaxed Mario who's having a blast while saving the world. There's really no better description of Super Mario Odyssey.
I loved the variety of each Odyssey Kingdom. Even though the Super Mario Galaxy games literally gave Mario a universe to ground pound, the small planetoids mimicked the vastness of space rather than embodying it. By sticking to one planet, Odyssey focuses on making each new Kingdom lively and unique. Mario meets new races, buys local fashions, and stuffs his airship with stickers and statues. He’s presented as a tourist, which perfectly fits the theme of a worldwide adventure. I’m not sure if the planet is supposed to be the same one where other games take place. Regardless, Odyssey makes the effort of broadening Mario’s world that it reminded me of Super Mario RPG and its unique inhabitants on several occasions.
The plot is as razor-thin as any Mario game, but Odyssey adds a dash of agency by letting us change Mario’s outfits. It’s a seemingly small feature that has an outsized impact. Historically, Mario’s rarely more than his typical, corporate-approved character design. Sure, he’s been a frog and a cat, but those were temporary skins tied to a specific power-up. This time, the clothes in Odyssey afford hundreds of costume combinations—from a Waluigi outfit to a space suit and everything in between. The developers encourage remaking Mario to our liking. He’s no longer just Mario, but rather our Mario. What felt like taking Mario out on loan is flipped: we now share his image, and we can change it however we want.
Such newfound freedom of customization demonstrates that Mario can be changed by his travels—just like in real life. And while Cappy, the new BFF/body-possessing partner, allows Mario to become everything from Goombas to Wigglers, possession is a natural extension of the power-up mushroom and less thematically interesting than customization.
In the past, Mario looked the same at the end of his quest as he did at the beginning. But by the conclusion of Odyssey, a hundred different players can have a hundred different styles of Mario and a hundred differently decorated airships. It’s long been an industry trend to let players customize characters, but it’s especially striking to permit the usually straight-laced Mario to triple-jump around shirtless, for example. And yes, Mario has nipples.
Previously, Mario games weren’t interested in giving players a choice. There was one way to reach a star, one method of beating a boss. Nintendo used to hold our hand through its idea of the optimal experience. Yet in 2017, Nintendo found its own method of open-world design: keep its strength—flexibility—but eschew its shortcoming—bloat. There’s not one piece of content in Odyssey that feels exhausting. It all just comes together.
Arguably the best Mario since Super Mario 64, Super Mario Odyssey sits at a comfortable fifth slot on our list, and only because it practices a gingerly form of rebellion. Some rules are broken, but not all of them. Still, this is one Odyssey worth taking. – Aaron Thayer