How Nintendo used natural movement to make Super Mario Odyssey’s platforming feel juuuust right
Why does tossing an apple back and forth feel so good? How about cracking your knuckles, jumping on a trampoline, or having a good stretch? All of those movements give you a feeling of tension and release. The resistance in your body builds, and then it all lets go. Even movements as simple as breathing in and out can create that feeling; it can relax you if you focus on it.
Nintendo has, deliberately or not, connected the satisfaction in real movement to Mario’s platforming. Almost every move in Mario’s repertoire and many of his captures use this tension / release model that make moving around so engaging.
Let’s take the cap toss for an example. The tension builds as Cappy spins away from Mario, then releases as he comes back. If you hold Cappy out and take a mid-air dive, all the tension releases in an oh-so satisfying bounce on the hat. I could literally do it all day. The ground-pound jump works the same way, the tension building as Mario falls to the ground and releasing with a very high, springy jump. The Uproot builds tension as his legs stretch up and release with a small flip in the air. The Tropical Wiggler builds tension with a horizontal stretch and springs back with a “whruuup!”
And then there’s the Pokio. What’s interesting is that Odyssey has been readying you for this bird’s mechanics throughout the entire game with other captures. New Donk City’s yellow pole and Luncheon Kingdom’s Volbonians (those fork people), all taught you the fling mechanic in isolated sections before bringing them all together in this one awesome bird. His fling is so satisfying that it’s almost sad when you have to leave the capture and move as normal Mario again.
Super Mario Odyssey makes you feel nostalgic, and not just because of its references to Super Mario 64 / Super Mario Bros. It reminds you of the days when simply moving yourself around was fun. You know, when you skipped, jumped, climbed, and ran around just for the heck of it. It’s that gut feeling that explains why Mario remains the king of platformers.
What moves / captures did you find enjoyable in Super Mario Odyssey? If you found this article interesting, here are some great YouTube videos that inspired my thoughts on the subject:
“The Design Behind Super Mario Odyssey,” by Mark Brown
“What Makes Mario Odyssey’s Pokio so Satisfying?” by Daryl Talks Games