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Why the design of Super Mario Odyssey feels so good

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The secrets of one of the best games of the year

The latest episode of Game Maker’s Toolkit deals with the design of Super Mario Odyssey, and it’s a dense topic that could probably take up any number of hours. But the 12-minute video embedded above does a good job of explaining why the design of the game is so pleasing, and all the ways Nintendo gets out of its own way when creating these franchise titles.

Odyssey is a deep game with a number of novel interactions, but Nintendo was able to keep control of these down to just three buttons by filtering everything through the act of throwing your hat. Every other interaction is handled through the A button, so it’s easy to train yourself not to accidentally throw your hat at a character you’re trying to talk to. This means that, like all Mario titles, the game is easy to control but tricky to master.

The game’s difficulty is also impressively fluid, as nearly anyone can find the minimum number of moons to “finish” the story while the harder moons require near mastery of advanced techniques and precise movements. You don’t have to get better at the game if you want to keep things simple, but you will be asked to improve all of your skills if you hope to see everything there is to see.

How this was all accomplished is complicated, but the end result is a game that teaches you how to play and get better in a way that feels organic and enjoyable. There are no punishments, only rewards. And that’s why Nintendo games stand so far above much of their competition.