Mario’s journey in Super Mario Odyssey is a true epic, leading him through almost twenty total new Kingdoms, each beautiful and unique in their own way. As our adventures with Cappy & Co. come to a close, it’s time to reminisce about what we enjoyed—or didn’t—about each. Here are our thoughts on how every kingdom in Super Mario Odyssey shapes up.
A boring level with an even more boring name, I just can’t get into the Snow Kingdom. I mean I can, in that, I can access it whenever I want because I have enough Power Moons, but interest-wise, it’s dead to me. The play area seems vast but it’s actually pretty small, and the snow makes it feel featureless and dull. I am not a fan.
I’m a little torn on the Sand Kingdom. It’s cute, but it’s also heavy on the “benevolent cultural tourism” Nintendo seems to be so fond of, built on a Dia de Muertos theme borrowed from Mexican culture (with a few non-canon flourishes like Maoi-inspired statues and Egyptian style pyramids). I’m not sure how to feel about that part of the level, but the Kingdom does have at least one redeeming feature: as Breath of the Wild taught us, there are few things as fun as sand surfing, and in the Sand Kingdom, of course, there’s opportunity everywhere on the backs of the Jaxi. So it has that going for it at least.
Mario’s visit to the Cloud Kingdom is really too short to have much of an opinion on. It’s a nice, short trip to his first showdown with Bowser, and a pretty one at that. But that is all.
The Cap Kingdom is neither bad, nor good. It sits exactly in the middle of meh. That being said, it does have at least 31 Power Moons, so it’s not quite as useless as the Cloud Kingdom. Likely based on London or another English town, it has a certain charm, but it’s too dark and misty for me to want to visit for very long. I guess it retained a lot from its source material.
The Lake Kingdom is pretty, but a bit small, and the transition between the water and the lake’s inner plaza can be a pain in the butt. On the bright side though: mermaids. It’s also the first level where Mario can capture a Cheep Cheep, one of the funnest transformations in the game.
Something about this Kingdom reminds me of Yoshi’s Island, most likely the palm trees, and rich tropical color palette. Mario doesn’t stay in this level long, only collecting 35 total Power Moons, so there isn’t much to go on in terms of ranking, but visually at least it’s entertaining to explore.
This level doesn’t serve much of a purpose outside of a major boss fight, but oh, what a boss fight it is. It’s not particularly challenging (none of the game is, really), but the Kingdom’s spooky atmosphere is something to be experienced, and the giant dragon is a refreshing visual change of pace both for the game and the entire series.
These levels lose some points with me for being so dark and empty, but win them back with some of the cooler bits, like the purple coins, which resemble Star Bits in this Kingdom (an adorable homage to Super Mario Galaxy). I also enjoy Mario’s loose relationship with gravity as he walks on the surface of the moon and, let’s face it, transforming into Bowser is one of the most shocking but awesome parts of the entire game.
The verticality of this level is fun, but the overall design has changed how I view Super Mario forever. Based on Mario’s first-ever appearance in the original arcade Donkey Kong, New Donk City of the Metro Kingdom resides in close proximity to the Uncanny Valley, where throngs of too-human-for-my-comfort yuppies crowd the sidewalks, slick foyers, and lawns. Worse, Mayor Paulina looks anime while Mario still resembles more of an American cartoon style, and the inconsistency, however insignificant, drives me up a wall.
That being said, it’s hard to deny that the Kingdom features some significant game highlights, including the Donkey Kong 2D throwback level and Mayor Paulina’s performance with her band. That fireworks show is pretty awesome too.
They say you shouldn’t go chasing waterfalls but in this level I definitely suggest it, because you can do so on the back of a giant dinosaur. This Kingdom, as one of the earliest, is extremely short, but you really can’t beat the scenery. There’s literally a waterfall going through the rib cage of a Triceratops. That’s some fancy Flintstones shit.
This world is pretty cool anyway because it’s a wooded robot utopia and I am a sucker for all things set in the woods. I also love that there are essentially two levels, the canopy and the forest floor. But the icing on the cake is definitely the soundtrack, which has the swinging cowboy edge of a Clint Eastwood movie. It’s a fun one to visit just for the music.
I’m also a huge fan of the end boss, the flowers-obsessed robot saucer, Torkdrift. What’s it with Nintendo and flowers, huh?
The most lavish and among the most beautiful of all the Super Mario Odyssey levels, Bowser’s Kingdom is built heavily on historical Japanese architecture and visual themes, including pagodas, tiled roofs, and traditional Japanese castle featuring a moat, tea house and garden. There’s even a Jizo statue (the statue form of Mario’s tanuki suit from Super Mario Bros. 3) that Mario can transform into. The Kingdom’s industry is also listed as “Hanafuda cards”, an homage to Nintendo’s origins as a trading card company. How cute is that?
I like the Seaside Kingdom in particular because it feels like a vacation on the French Riviera: sand, surf, warm sunlight. It’s practically a beachside postcard. All it needs is the bottle of Corona. There’s even a game of volleyball by the shore.
Even better is the fact that with that Glass Tower and the Gushens, which send Mario high into the air with a burst of water, you can get an amazing view of the whole landscape.
I’m an easily amused woman of simple tastes: I like food and bright colors. The boss fight of Luncheon Kingdom, which sees Mario dodging food and bird bile in a giant cooking pot, is delightful, but arguably the best feature of the level is those corn cobs that serve as rolling logs over the soup-lava. The Luncheon Kingdom also allows Mario to transform into the iconic Hammer Bros., one of the better Super Mario Odyssey moments for the nostalgic Nintendo fan, and even into one of those Lava Bubbles, for a surreal moment of retro WTF.
It seems fitting, somehow, that the best level in Super Mario Odyssey is basically a Nintendo Disneyland. I got very lucky—somehow I managed to get through the game without any spoilers, so the Mushroom Kingdom was a glorious surprise. Even luckier, the big reveal came while both of my sisters, with whom I played the original Super Mario 64, were visiting, so we got to relive those memories together. I couldn’t believe how perfect some of the Kingdom’s smaller details are. From Peach’s Castle, to Yoshi’s rooftop egg, the blocky old Mario costume, even the music cues: heck, there’s an exact replica of the courtyard that once led to the haunted mansion, and they even swapped the Power Moons for Stars. It’s perfect in every way.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.