In Mario games of old, you had to collect 1-Up Mushrooms to increase the number of lives available to our adventuring hero. These were sometimes difficult to find and often hidden away in hard-to-reach places, known and accessible only to the most skilled players.
But in Super Mario Odyssey, that’s all changed. Rather, when you miss that jump and fall off the world or get trounced by one too many Goombas, you lose coins rather than a life. Many have railed against this, saying it’s such a huge departure from the original Mario games that it changes the system entirely. But in the end, this change is a good one.
Is This a Capitalist Statement?
No, Mario losing money for your ill-timed leaps and poor decision making in the heat of a boss battle is not a capitalist statement. But it does make a powerful statement about something else: how Nintendo wants people to play their games, and who it wants playing them.
In all Mario games, death is certain. You’ll accidentally fall into lava, unsuccessfully dodge that Hammer Bro, or — and this is okay — you’re not good at moving quickly during more large-scale battles, and maybe sometimes you’re that person who passes the controller to another for these segments. This latter scenario is most popular with younger children who want to experience the thrill of Mario’s world but haven’t developed their motor skills yet.
Games like Super Mario Bros. U dealt with death by forcing a sort of co-op situation. If you were playing with two or more players, and one of you lost your life, your character would float above the world in a bubble. Any other player could pop this bubble to revive you. That way, you could all keep playing and carry any players that weren’t as skilled as you were.
But while Super Mario Odyssey does have a co-op option, it doesn’t play it like this. Instead, it’s changed its death system to something far more simple and more friendly for less-skilled players.
The mushrooms are not missed in Super Mario Odyssey. Mario has a “heart” that allows him to take three hits before he will die. Sometimes he’ll find a larger bonus heart that will grant him an extra one, and he can then take a total of six hits. This is particularly good to have during boss battles. But normally, when Mario dies, he’ll lose 10 coins.
This puts the onus on players to be vigilant in their coin collecting. But this isn’t a difficult problem to solve. Coins are everywhere in Super Mario Odyssey, and more often than not in very easy to reach places. He gets coins for defeating smaller enemies and breaking up rocks, and coin blocks are everywhere. In New Donk City alone there are so many, as each crosswalk signal is a secret coin block hidden in plain sight. So you’ll never run out of coins. And even if you do, Mario will still just return to his adventure as normal.
Ten measly coins is a pretty small price to pay, but it also does something bigger. It encourages experimentation and learning through failure. Go ahead, try to make that jump. If you miss it, no big deal, just try again.
Taking away the barrier of commodity makes Super Mario Odyssey an easier game for the less experienced, period. The worst it takes away from you for repeatedly biffing it is cash for new costumes. Now if only more games would adopt this strategy!