When you’re falling in love, you find yourself loving their flaws. The silly snort when they laugh, their illogical dislikes, a wrinkle over the nose. That’s the big difference maker; you fancy someone because you think they’re perfect, but you love someone when you know they’re not.
Super Mario Odyssey is pretty much perfect. Mario controls as perfectly as he ever has, bouncing elastically with flicks of the analogue stick, running and jumping with that textbook Nintendo feeling of an almost spiritual link between player and plumber.
Level designs are jam packed with secrets, challenges, jokes, sights and sounds. From the first level, to the final boss and beyond, the game is a constant barrage of meticulously crafted gameplay that could only come from the Nintendo creativity powerhouse.
This is the problem. Every second is brilliant, but every player will probably see all of it. After a cool moment, there are only two conversations you can have with other players. “Did you see this bit?” “Yeah, it was cool wasn’t it?” or “Did you see this bit?” “No, please don’t spoil it.”
People talk about flawed masterpieces. To me, there can be no other kind. Great art speaks about people, comes from people, and people are flawed beings. The games I love, really love in a personal, specific way, aren't perfect. That's why I feel like they're my favourites, and not simply the best.
Compare this to Super Mario Odyssey’s big stablemate on the Switch last year, Breath of the Wild. In Zelda, the systems and mechanics have been created with the same care, the world just as painstakingly built to be filled with interactions and experiences. However, the player is dropped into the world and left to explore.
I’ve put more than 100 hours into this game, but I still regularly see and hear about things I’ve never come close to. When I stumble across an enemy, with just the weapons I happen to be carrying, and just make it through the battle by the skin of my teeth, the experience is intensely personal. Even the sections which are more scripted offer multiple solutions, and can be discovered in different times and situations.
Of the games released in 2017, I finid it easier to say I love my personal Zelda experience, or the quirky weirdness of ARMS and Splatoon 2, than the slick brilliance of Super Mario Odyssey. These other games have big problems, which understandably put other players off, but seeing past those oddities or learning to love them makes the connection more personal.
Waiting until Salmon Run or Splatfest rolls around makes the moment of play all the more satisfying on Splatoon 2. Fighting through the tough singleplayer modes in ARMS made me “git gud” and enjoy the game more. Every time I heard someone call Breath of the Wild out for this mechanic or that, or for not being a real Zelda, my need to defend it grew stronger. Even the almighty Dark Souls had a brutal learning curve, impenetrable lore and a few incomplete sections.
Super Mario Odyssey is a supermodel. Its one of the finest games ever made. Unfortunately it will never be that cutie from the coffee shop I want to marry. It can never be my own personal favourite game.