Super Mario Odyssey puts the player in the role of Mario as he travels across many worlds on his hat-shaped ship, the “Odyssey”, in an effort to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser, who plans to marry her. The game sees Mario traveling to various worlds known as “Kingdoms,” which return to the free-roaming exploration-based level design featured in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine and each feature unique designs, ranging from photo-realistic cities to more fantasy-based worlds. Each kingdom has Mario searching for and clearing various objectives in order to obtain items known as Power Moons, which can power up the Odyssey and grant access to new worlds. Checkpoints littered throughout each world allow Mario to instantly warp to them once activated.
In addition to Mario’s existing repertoire of moves, such as triple-jumping and wall-jumping, Mario is now able to throw out his cap, which is possessed by a spirit named Cappy. The cap can be thrown in multiple directions to attack enemies and can also be used as a temporary platform. When the cap is thrown at certain objects, enemies, or non-playable characters, Mario is able to take possession of them, officially referred to as “capturing”, allowing him to use unique abilities. For example, Mario can possess a Bullet Bill to fly across large gaps, a bolt of electricity to climb up electric wires, and a tank to fire at enemies. Throughout the game, Mario can pick up coins, including ones unique to each kingdom, to be spent on items such as new hats and outfits, some of which are required for completing certain objectives. The game also features cooperative play, in which a second player takes control of Cappy and can attack enemies independently of Mario. The game also features a photo mode that allows players to use a free-moving camera to take and save screenshots, with additional options such as filters and stickers. Use of the Odyssey-themed Mario, Peach, and Bowser Amiibo figurines each allow for special in-game abilities. All other Amiibo can be scanned to provide hints to finding Power Moons.
Unlike prior titles which send Mario back to the beginning of the level after finding each main collectible, the Power Moons are designed to be found in continual exploration, with the game having more major collectibles than previous one in the series. The lack of required Power Moons for game progression gave players a wider liberty to explore at their leisure rather than advancing the story-a new direction for the series and a design challenge for development staff. The developers wanted players to check everything that aroused their attention for secrets. Shigeru Miyamoto, the series’ creator, was not involved in the game’s daily decision-making, but the development team consulted him on the best ways to express a game concept. Miyamoto’s criticism was highly specific and critical, but offered as suggestions rather than ultimatums, and highly supportive overall.