Super Mario Odyssey is a joyous romp through a variety of charming and colorful locations that is impossible to play without wearing a constant smile on your face. Well… almost constant. Read some reviews of Mazza’s latest 3D outing and a fair few of them will probably claim that the game is too easy for the most part.
I’m certainly not going to be using this article to decry claims that the game can be a little easy at times – hell, some Moons are literally as difficult to obtain as getting dressed – but that largely adds to the sense of relaxing whimsy that most 3D Mario titles offer. Odyssey is not a complete cakewalk throughout, however, and there are several Moons that are about as relaxing to collect as a piece of hay from a massive stack full of needles.
Typically, and true to the form of its predecessors, Odyssey ramps up the challenge post-credits, especially on its final two bonus levels (more on those later), but even before the main quest is over the game is prone to the odd difficulty spike when you least expect it. Here are ten examples that will either have you shaking with PTSD-induced rage or have you shouting “git-a-gud” in a dodgy Italian accent. Either way, they were hard for me so leave it, yeah?
On the Eastern Pillar (Sand Kingdom)
If you’re going in level order, this is probably the first Moon in the game to truly test your skill to the limit. The level of precise timing and acrobatics I needed to collect this Moon was so high that I’m still not convinced that I did it in the most efficient way possible.
To gain your reward, you’re tasked with destroying a block on top of a pillar in the middle of nowhere. Conventional means won’t break it open, and the only way to succeed is by capturing a Bullet Bill and flying into it. The only problem is that there aren’t any Bullet Bills for miles, and the closest one I found was on the eastern side of the Tostarena Ruins by the Sand Pillar checkpoint.
— Alex Aldridge (@LalexBaldridge) November 4, 2017
To get the Bullet Bill over to that far away block, I had to stand near to his spawn point on the edge of a broken bit of wall and lure him over to me. First, and crucially, knocking his hat off as he approached me, I then had to perform a long jump followed by a cap throw/dive combo to a nearby pillar all while spinning the camera round mid-action to make sure I got my jump on target.
Simply throwing my cap on BB while stood on the pillar doesn’t grant enough time to fly all the way over to the block, so I had to perform another long jump off the pillar and quickly perform an inch-perfect 180 in mid-air to land the cap on the pursuing enemy. This then granted me just, and I mean just, enough time to hastily fly over to the block and smash it right before I turned back into a fat plumber and fell to the sand below.
A real bum-clencher of a Moon that seems designed with the smallest of margins for error that, admittedly, does look pretty cool when you pull it off.
Jump-Rope Genius (Metro Kingdom)
Harry already mentioned this bugger in his review, but I hate it so much that it’s getting another slating from me. The object of this Moon is simple enough – complete 100 successful jump-rope jumps. After the first 49, you might even think the execution is simple. Nope. Wrong. See you in an hour, chump.
Every jump after number 50 requires the most precise timing and an insane level of concentration. When you’re past 90 your neighbours will probably be able to hear your pounding heart right the way down the street. None of the precision is helped by the fact that, once the rope is at max speed, Mario will instinctively start the second phase of his triple jump every other button press. This means your time off the ground is unhelpfully lengthened and your rhythm is all askew.
Failure is the second worst facet of this challenge, as your rage and disappointment will never be entirely realized until you have to start again at the insultingly slow pace of the rope at the mini-game’s beginning. It’s not uncommon to alternate between scores of 75 and 15 purely because you’ll have been so into the fast rhythm that you can no longer get to grips with the slower rope speed.
The fundamental problem with this Moon is that it really just boils down to metronomic pressing of the jump button 100 times in a row – hardly a fun way to spend your time. Someone should probably have told that to the show-offs with five-figure totals at the top of the online Rankings Board. I’d bet my googly-eyed possessed cap that the top two players with scores of 99,999 achieved their scores like this…
Taking Notes: Up and Down (Cloud Kingdom)
Another Moon that, while not difficult on paper, has its challenge ramped up thanks to that bane of all things you actually want to see: the camera. You’re on a platform that moves up and down tasked with lobbing your cap on four musical note trios, placed at varying heights before a timer runs out. You’ll probably get the top and bottom notes easily enough, but it’s the two sets in the middle that really frustrate.
The camera isn’t the only element out to ruin your day here; the platform will only ascend after Mario ground pounds it – something that I forgot about on countless occasions. Given that your time to collect all the notes is limited anyway, there’s nothing worse than screaming at the TV for the platform to ‘get a ruddy move on’ before you realize that its stationary indifference is entirely your fault.
— Alex Aldridge (@LalexBaldridge) November 17, 2017
Once you add these two obstacles together and multiply them by a cap throw that just isn’t long enough without some motion waggling, you’ve got yourself a real stinker of a time. Oh, and how come the musical notes don’t play classic Mario tunes anymore? That would at least make the challenge more palatable than its current guise of ‘Failure in C Major’.
Secret 2D Treasure (Mushroom Kingdom)
Well done, Odyssey – you made me hate 8bit Mario. To be fair to this Moon, most of the 2D sections in the game are easier than Mayor Pauline in a handbag shop, but this one is just taking the piss.
Throughout Odyssey, I was reluctantly accepting that achieving the game’s seamless transition between 2D and 3D sections wouldn’t be possible if we’re able to use the D-Pad in the former, but that doesn’t mean I ever got used to playing 8bit Mario with an analog stick. It’s just wrong, and the utilization of the analog stick is where this particular Moon goes from confusing to absolute mind fuck.
You’re playing through a homage to SMB’s world 1-1, trying to keep up with a creeping darkness that acts as a time limit of sorts. Get caught in the light and Mario will drop off the 2D surface to a three-dimensional death in an instant. While relatively challenging on its own, it’s a specific segment where you’re running around circular platforms that your brain begins to melt.
— Alex Aldridge (@LalexBaldridge) November 19, 2017
Rather than behaving as you’d expect – press left or right to make Mario run around the circle in that direction – Mario’s movement is mirrored from the on-screen circle to the position of the analog stick. If you’re in the top left of the circle and you press right, Mario will not move. To duck while on the right side of the circle, you need to press left, not down. If that seems difficult to get your head around, try figuring it out while trying to simultaneously line up safe areas of the background and avoid rows of Fuzzies. Nightmare.
Iceburn Circuit Class S (Snow Kingdom)
Look at those cuddly Shiverians bouncing around the racetrack. Don’t they look adorable flailing their arms around, wearing their little hats and having such a lovely time… Oh, that bouncy bastard knocked me into the snow again!
I’ll let you in on a little secret – I don’t enjoy these silly bouncing races. They were dull enough when they were easy, but the final of the four races in the game sees you almost constantly stuck behind – or, worse, in between – two absolute oafs who seemingly roided up between races.
— Alex Aldridge (@LalexBaldridge) November 19, 2017
What was once a bland-yet-charming mini-game diversion suddenly becomes an all-out demolition derby of anger and tears. You have to get your bounces spot on to stand any chance of winning this race as the rubber banding becomes so ludicrous you’d think you were playing… well, Mario Kart.
Every time I played this race I found it practically impossible to gain any sort of lead until the very last lap, and that was only provided I was near perfect until then. Naturally, this meant that it was very difficult to tell if I was in an unwinnable race until I’d already poured a decent amount of time into it. A repeated issue with some of these difficult Moons is the time sink they require even in failure. We’ll get to the worst offender for that later…
Diving From the Big Pot (Luncheon Kingdom)
This is probably the coolest Moon on here, and it’s even cool if you fail to nail it several times. The best thing about it is that I figured out what I had to do accidentally once I saw the Toad Hint marker right on top of a pot full of soup and decided that I really wanted the Moon to require me to take a massive dive into it from as high a point as possible.
It’s a really difficult dive to line up – so much so that I ended up questioning if it was actually what I was supposed to be doing after a while, and had to get Talkatoo to confirm it for me.
— Alex Aldridge (@LalexBaldridge) November 18, 2017
Taking ridiculous leaps from high places in Odyssey is inherently and consistently fun, so failing this Moon feels a lot less aggravating than most others. Narrowly missing the pot from such a ridiculous height is still an exhilarating rush, dampened only once you have to begin the climb to the big pot again for another go.
Arrival at Rabbit Ridge (Dark Side)
Ugh. A boss rush mode. Yay. Haters of the Broodals rejoice because you’re about to fight every single one of them, in their hardest variants yet, one after another with no health pickups! Oh, and then you can fight them all in their RoboBrood mech again at the end. Fail, and it’s right back to the beginning for you.
The Broodals really aren’t difficult bosses, but there’s an additional level of anxiety ready to make things a lot more stressful for you once you know that your health is massively limited – a max of six hits and it’s game over – and that a death at any stage is the end, and subsequent restart, of a pretty long road. Being careless or cocky in the early stages can set you up for a really tough run, and messing up at the final hurdle is infuriating.
The ordering of the Broodals is quite off-putting for this boss rush, as the hardest foe is easily Topper, and he’s up first. The crazy amount of spinning hats you need to keep an eye on whilst simultaneously resisting the urge to stay up close for too long – lest he hit you with his massive AoE attack if you try anything more than two cap throws. Admittedly, if you get through him unscathed then the sailing gets smoother (Rango is weaker than that Johnny Depp movie), but trepidation is still needed.
The level of tension surrounding the final RoboBrood fight gives it a real edge and helps it become one of the game’s better boss fights. You’ll need to take down the legs of the mech using the projectiles of a captured Hammer Bro, and it’s a lot of fun, it’s just a shame it comes at the end of a slog through, slightly altered Broodal fights you’ll have already done too many times as it is.
Vanishing Road Rush (Dark Side)
Now we’re getting into the final two kingdoms in Odyssey, we’re coming up against the game’s most fiendish challenges. Remember that Moon you had to collect in the Metro Kingdom by driving the scooter around a road that would vanish after a certain amount of time? Well, now you’ve got to do that again… without the scooter. Oh, and without Cappy too.
You better get your long jump and dive ability down (which you probably should have by this point) because doing anything other than one of those two moves will almost certainly mean you run out of time. The window of time you’ve got to make it from one safe area to the next is so tight you’ll frequently end up inches shy of that last platform.
— Alex Aldridge (@LalexBaldridge) November 17, 2017
It can become quite finicky getting all the jumps right, as they all require holding the ZL/ZR button down to perform. Do this too early and Mario’s going to slam that Italian ass into the ground, killing the run and himself in the process.
To add to the difficulty of nailing all your jumps without error, you’ve got a small army of Sherm shooting at you. Their aim isn’t perfect, but it’s definitely off-putting. Like always, there are two Moons to gather in this warp pipe area, and the second Moon – Vanishing Road Challenge – is probably even harder to grab as it, naturally, requires you to take a more difficult route to victory. Do yourself a favour – aim to get that one first, as you won’t want to make more runs at this than necessary.
Fruit Feast on the Sinking Island (Dark Side)
Another old Moon re-tooled to become much harder, this time we’re headed back to the Sinking Island from earlier in the game but we’re taking it on as Yoshi this time, and that means two things: less mobility, and fruit collectibles to pick up on the way.
The collectibles aren’t really the problem with this Moon – they are secondary to the fact that Yoshi’s flutter jump isn’t quite strong enough to make it up a platform from a standard jump. What this means is that you’ll have to do a side somersault/flutter jump combo on every single level of the tower you’ll be frantically climbing.
— Alex Aldridge (@LalexBaldridge) November 18, 2017
Side somersaults aren’t too bad when performed in isolation but half a dozen required at speed, whilst avoiding obstacles and grabbing fruit, is a real test of skill and timing. To be honest, I didn’t even know Yoshi could do a side somersault until this level, so at least I learned something.
Darker Side of the Moon
This level is absolute hell. Arguably the hardest 3D Mario level ever created that lasts well over ten minutes and has no checkpoints. Nope, not a single one. Have fun playing the same seven minutes over and over again for hours on end knowing you’re still nowhere near the end. It’s no surprise that there’s an abundance of YouTube videos dedicated to skipping as much of this ordeal as possible.
The Darker Side is a test of everything you’ve learned in Odyssey up to this point with the hard-o-meter set to 11. At the time of writing, I’ve still not managed to finish it, and I’m starting to think I just don’t have it in me to bang my head against it any longer. This is a test of mettle for even the most skilled Mario player.
It’s not necessarily that any one part of the level is impossible, but more that the sheer amount of consecutive challenges thrown at you – almost all of which come with huge possibility of instant death – create an unforgiving grind that usually culminates in the disheartening sense that you’re so far back from where you just died upon retrying.
100% completion of Odyssey, therefore, is no mug’s game. No, sir. Sure, a good percentage of it is just finding Moons floating out in the open, but the final challenge of the game is mammoth and could prove to be a wall for many players. Make no mistake; the Darker Side of the Moon is not for the weak of heart… or me. I’m out.