2017 saw not one, but two incredible Mario games come to the Nintendo Switch. The recently released Super Mario Odyssey has turned out to be one of the greatest 3D platformers and Super Mario games of all time. On the other hand, the totally unexpected Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle completely blew players away with its stellar turn-based tactical gameplay.
Both of these games are an absolute treat to play and deserve a spot in any Switch owner’s collection of games. Both feature classic Mario characters as we’ve never seen them before, an energetic world to explore, and – bizarrely – both titles feature evil rabbits seeking to cause as much chaos as possible. However, only one of these games can be the best Mario title of 2017.
Mario + Rabbids is a strategy game similar to X-COM, Advance Wars, and Fire Emblem. This game has classic Mario characters and their Rabbid counterparts exploring a jumbled-up Mushroom Kingdom as they get into strategic battles on a grid-oriented battlefield. The substantial differences between the controllable characters and the high amount of customization available to each allows for a wealth of unique play-styles. While this game can be difficult at times, Mario + Rabbids rewards players for mastering its rich and diverse combat system.
On the other hand, Super Mario Odyssey is a refinement of the 3D platforming genre that was first invented 20 years ago in the form of Super Mario 64. Odyssey rewards players for exploring each kingdom and experimenting with the game’s mechanics by having a borderline absurd number of secrets and hidden areas. This game delivers perhaps the best 3D platforming experience in the history of gaming while simultaneously saturating a player in the kind of childhood joy and wonderment that only Nintendo can provide.
Tone and Style
The only give away that Mario + Rabbids was not made directly by Nintendo is the absence of their logo from the side of the case that the game comes in. Ubisoft – the developers of the game – painstakingly recreated the charm and atmosphere of the Mushroom Kingdom in this crossover title. Even though Mario + Rabbids could not exist without the presence of Ubisoft’s titular creatures, their crass actions and behavior frequently detract from the experience. The game would better and more tonally consistent if they were less involved.
Super Mario Odyssey, conversely, feels like a constant celebration of one of gaming’s most popular mascots. Practically every costume is a callback to one of the extremely diverse roles Mario has held. Each kingdom in the game is also brimming with the kind of sugary creativity that only Nintendo can conceive and execute with such mastery. Numerous elements contribute to making Odyssey a masterpiece, but at its core this game is pure, concentrated fun.
Over the course of Mario + Rabbids, the Rabbids cosplaying as classic Nintendo characters do grow on you, and their hijinks become endearing — to an extent. While Rabbids are widely known as the “Minions” of gaming – even though they predate the movie Despicable Me by four years – their presence in a today feels much more out of place than during their 2006 inception. Mario + Rabbids‘ only substantial flaw comes from the random and gross-out humor of the Rabbids feeling even more annoying and unnecessary when placed alongside some of the most enduring characters in the history of video games.
The biggest and perhaps only criticism applicable to Super Mario Odyssey is that it has too large of a scope. There are nearly a thousand Power Moons, a collectible and means of progression through the game. The Moons function as a reward for beating a boss, exploring the game’s levels, or solving a puzzle. However, sometimes a Moon will just be out in the open, with little effort or problem-solving needed to obtain it. The abundance of Moons diminishes the reward of finding them a bit, and the game would lose very little by trimming down the number of Moons present.
Super Mario Odyssey is a solid contender for the best game of 2017 and a more enjoyable experience compared to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. However, Mario + Rabbids is a more interesting title to pick apart. It feels like a game that shouldn’t exist, yet somehow stands as one of the best titles on the Switch to date. In the end, the two games hold their own: Super Mario Odyssey is definitely a masterpiece, and Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a surprising and thought-provoking gem of a game.