Super Mario Odyssey beginner's guide: Hop aboard the good ship Mario!

The Nintendo Switch has brought many new people into the fold of modern gaming, which is awesome. Many gamers have fond memories of Mario's classic 2D sidescrolling adventures but skipped his transition to 3D. These games have a massive scale, with a huge world to explore and it can seem overwhelming at first. No worries! We have had our grubby paws on Super Mario Odyssey (opens in new tab) for a while and have been making a list, and checking it twice, to help newbies get up to speed. Check out these pointers and, before long, you'll be kicking Bowser to kingdom come.

Become Familiar with the Controls

Nintendo games are great at teaching people how to play, and Super Mario Odyssey is no different. The first world you visit, Cap Kingdom, is actually a brilliantly disguised tutorial. However, if its been a while since you have played a 3D platformer, we recommend taking a little extra time in this world to become familiar with the camera (right analog stick) and movement (left analog stick.) Additionally, getting your angles down when it comes to cap-throwing will be of huge help later in the game.

Use Motion to Perform Cap Moves

At the beginning of the game, players are welcomed with a screen announcing the optional motion controls. The text reads "try playing with detached Joy-Con controllers. The motion controls enable extra options!"

However, we've found that these controls are anything but optional. They enable Mario to perform all manner of devastating moves with his anthropomorphic hat, Cappy. They aren't tough to pull off when you are in front of a television. In handheld mode, though, they can be downright frustrating. In other words, your Switch isn't broken and, yes, the game does want you to literally rock your $300 gadget violently like its a Shake Weight. Be careful? Be careful.

Don't Stress out About the Moons

Instead of stars, this time around Mario is collecting moons. All told, there are around 800 moons in the game, with each world featuring dozens to discover. Don't stress out about getting every single moon on your first run through a kingdom! You'll have plenty of time to backtrack later and, psst, you may have even learned some new tricks that will make difficult moons easier to collect. Additionally, some moons are actually impossible to snag during your first try.

Greed is Good

In previous Mario games, every 100 coins got you a life and that was about it. Super Mario Odyssey switches it up and, in doing so, makes coins more important than ever before. Not only do you lose 10 coins each time you die, but you can use them to buy outfits, power ups and more. Leave no stone, or Koopa, unturned!

Additionally, each world has area-specific coins that can be used to buy even more outfits and power-ups, some of which are extremely important for progression through the game. When it comes to these special coins, prioritize the most important purchases. Each world has exactly the right amount of coins to clear out the shop. No more and no less.

Some Possessions are Temporary

Super Mario Odyssey, creepily, gives our hero the ability to possess monsters, animals and, uh, even hunks of meat. However, some of these possessions are temporary and the game doesn't let you know until you find yourself reverted back to the iconic, and squat, plumber.

When you've discovered one of these temporary possessions, use some careful strategizing to make the most of your super-powered moments. Make a lay of the land, figure out what you want to do and, then, go to town.

Not Everything can be Possessed

Speaking of Mario's horrific ability to consume the body and soul of enemies and friends alike, not everything you encounter in this game can be possessed. Here's a good rule of thumb. If something has a hat on, it is immune to possession. Everything else is fair game.

Of course, rules were made to be broken. Some of these hat-having enemies can be tricked to, quite literally, give up the ghost. Experiment and you might surprise yourself.

Take it Slow and Have Fun

Super Mario Odyssey is an absolutely enormous game and, despite what some folks on Twitter may tell you, it doesn't have to be beaten in one weekend. Take it slow, explore and have fun. Go outside, sans Switch, and enjoy the crisp fall weather. Go inside, sans Switch, and enjoy the second season of Stranger Things. Mario will still be there when you need him, just like he has been for the past 35 years.

What tips for beginners would you have included? Let us know in the comments!

Lawrence Bonk is a gaming and tech writer at iMore. He is owned by two cats and firmly believes in the "just one more slice" policy of pizza-eating. The coolest thing he's ever done was play Super Mario Bros. with Shigeru Miyamoto. He lost. Badly.

4 Comments
  • I wish I knew it emphasized motion controls at the start. May not have preordered. Motion controls are insane, a lot of the reason I was really let down by StarFox WiiU and couldn't stand it past the first level.
  • Have you been having trouble with the motion controls? Honestly, I'm much more of a handheld mode player and I've been kind of avoiding the motion controls so far. You can skirt around them if you've had plenty of experience with 3D platformers, I am finding. Though sometimes I want an accurate cap circle/slash thing but oh well. Honestly, I think Nintendo didn't realize, for some reason, how much of a handheld success the Switch would be(as per their early advertising) and maybe that philosophy leaked into the design of SMO a bit.
  • I have not been required to use motion controls, sure there is an emphasis on it but I don’t think they are fully required to actually complete the game. Pressing Y twice does the trick.
  • I hate those motion controls and being forced to use joycons even after I bought two pro controllers because I hate the joycons
    I want a refund, honestly but Nintendo was reticent. I'm about to give up on Nintendo. Zelda was amazing, but they have a really bad habit of forcing awful controls on us and failing to produce enough product to buy without the scalper premium
    Sorry folks, but steer clear if you don't like gimmicky controls and being forced to use joycons