Just FYI: This article has some light spoilers -- we reference the fact that you fight Bowser at the end of the game, but there's nothing from the rad postgame stuff.


1. Mario's napping friends change from world to world

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If you've managed put down the Switch long enough to eat or sleep or pay attention to your loved ones, you might have noticed that Mario takes a nap if he's been idle too long. Something about a passed out plumber is irresistable to local birds, who will quickly make Mario's substantial schnoz their new perch. It's a nice touch from a company known for going the distance when it comes to animation, art design and pretty much everything else. But there's another wrinkle that makes these birds extra special. 

Because this is a video game, kingdoms in Super Mario Odyssey each have varying themes, and they all come with their own wildlife. Which means that the bird that sits on Mario's nose will be a different species depending on where he dozes off. Sleeping in New Donk City results in a visit from a filthy god damned pigeon, for example. The familiar Mario 64 penguin shows up in the Snow Kingdom, parrots populate the Cascade Kingdom, dapper little hat-wearing birds in the Cap Kingdom, and so on. 

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It's a beautiful touch, the kind of detail that Nintendo absolutely did not have to include at all. It is made a little less adorable when you realize Mario is blissfully unaware of how close he is to having a mouth full of bird shit. 

Birds don't land on Mario's nose in every single level. However, if you pick the right spot in the Seaside Kingdom, you'll get something even better.

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I don't want to exaggerate, but the fact that you can play fetch with a dog with your hat and take a nap afterwards might make this the most important game ever made.


2. Mario calls back to an old game whenever he gets a moon

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There are hundreds upon hundreds of moons to amass in Mario Odyssey, and after a while they all kind of blend together. But besides the color of the collectible, there's one other difference that's easy to miss: Mario's hand. At first glance it kind of looks like he's playing a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with the sky, but there's something else going on here. 

To figure out what these hand signs mean, we have to dive back into 3D Mario history.

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In previous 3D games, Mario would always celebrate in a particular way whenever he grabbed a star in a given game. In Odyssey, Mario celebrates in numerous ways, all referencing those previous games. The peace sign (or victory sign) is from Super Mario 64, the open palm calls back to Super Mario Sunshine and the fist evokes Super Mario Galaxy. This is the kind of detail that goes beyond pandering fanservice and shows Nintendo's genuine desire to respect and honor its long legacy. It's a commendable sentiment, even if it means respecting Super Mario Sunshine.


3. Fun with fossils

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This is a little one, but it's easy to overlook in a world where you can psychically dominate a T-Rex.  Peppered around the Cascade Kingdom are these breakable hunks of dirt that seem to have special patterns on them. Look closely and you'll realize that they aren't patterns -- they're fossils. 

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Of course the Mario universe's fossils are 8-bit pixel sprites. What else would they be?


4. The hidden features of Mario's ship

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In addition to being an allusion to Homer's epic journey, the Odyssey in Mario Odyssey is also the name of the ship that travels between kingdoms. You can add all sorts of stickers and trinkets to deck out the Odyssey throughout the game, but the ship itself has a few neat wrinkles, including a couple of secret entrances. 

Normally, you walk into the Odyssey through the front door:

But if you're feeling athletic, you can flip on top of the roof and groundpound your way in. 

For a fun throwback, head around to the rear of the Odyssey and press the crouch button on the exhaust pipe.

Around the front of the vehicle stands a globe used to travel and deposit moons. But if you use it in a way that isn't "intended," you'll get a nice little musical easter egg. 

The Odyssey is pretty comfy on the inside -- so comfy, in fact, that Mario falls asleep extra fast if you stand on the bed. 

Sleeping on a leather couch in a spaceship is almost as good as napping with a dog on a beach. Almost.


5. Copious costume references

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One of the unexpected joys of Mario Odyssey is seeing Mario dress up in all kinds of outfits while he continues on his adventures. While some of the costumes are straightforward color swaps -- you can dress in Waluigi's colors if pointy creepazoids are really your thing -- others act as sneaky easter eggs and references to Mario's past. Above you can see Mario's explorer outfit, which originated in Mario's Picross for the Game Boy in 1995. 

A bit more recently we had an awesome Japanese 3DS commercial, which featured clashy clothes that have since shown up in Mario Odyssey.

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Mario's chef costume looks, well, a lot like any old regular chef costume. But those big buttons and the red hankerchief tied around his neck makes it a clear shoutout to Yoshi's Cookie on NES. 

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Mario's mechanic outfit goes deeper into the weeds, as it's ripped straight from 1988's Japan-only Famicom Grand Prix II.

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Plenty of folks have figured this one out already, but it's worth noting that Mario's golf outfit can be seen on the cover of NES Open. 

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Your worst friends will tell you that the scientist gear is a reference to Rick and Morty, but it's really a replication of Mario's look in a Super Game Boy commercial from 1994.

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Mario's boxer shorts (and his faint, tiny nipples) were only revealed earlier this year, but this same outfit appeared in a official Nintendo digital wallpaper back in 2016. 

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Similarly, Mario's scuba gear was first seen in a Club Nintendo calendar that was sent out in 2015. 

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That calendar is also where we first saw Mario's samurai outfit. But we really should have known something was up when Shigeru Miyamoto appeared on Jimmy Fallon with Samurai Mario on his t-shirt. 

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Mario Odyssey has been in development for years. This is pure speculation, but these calendars and wallpapers and t-shirts sure make it look like we were getting a look at Odyssey concept art years ago without ever knowing it. Which means that if Nintendo ever puts out strange new official art in the future, you'll probably want to pay attention.


6. Stealthy musical moments

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Nintendo isn't shy about slapping you in the face with classic musical cues, but they can be subtle if they want to. What's especially impressive about this easter egg is that it's in plain sight, right in the menu that everyone can and will access. 

If those notes sound familiar, that's because they're from Super Mario Galaxy. 

This game just doesn't stop.


7. Game and Watch makes a cameo

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This one's easy, but it's another example of pleasant and unobtrusive fanservice. As you may have seen, whenever Mario engages in an activity that has an online leaderboard, a character in the style of Game and Watch appears. 

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Today the series is most famously represented by the flat 2D fighter in the Super Smash Bros. series, but the Game and Watch goes back to the handheld electronic gaming era of 1980. There were all sorts of games that came in cheap individual machines, which were pretty much Nintendo's version of those Tiger Electronics systems. So it makes sense that Game and Watch would be around for the various sports and minigames in Odyssey.

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The recognition of Nintendo's handheld past on the Switch is almost sweet enough to make you forget how infuriating it is to try to hit the volleyball 100 times. 


8. Details of New Donk City

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As one of the earlier kingdoms to be revealed, by now fans have dissected every inch of the NYC-ish New Donk City. The details here are still worth exploring, if only to spend more time in and around the weird normally-proportioned humans traveling the sidewalks.

More or less everything in New Donk City references the Donkey Kong series in some way. Billboards like "Diddy's Mart" and "Dixie Street" are crystal-clear references to Diddy Kong and Dixie Kong.

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They're far from the only Donkey Kong Country reps namedropped on the streets of NDC. Every street sign appears to be a reference to characters from the DKC games, from the sometimes-playable Cranky Kong to helpers like Rambi the rhino to the little-seen King K. Rool. 

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On top of all that, every single taxi in the city has this same license plate:

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Diehards will know 1981 as the year Donkey Kong first made it to arcades.

Seeing how New Donk City is packed with so many details, it wouldn't be surprising if there were a few bits we missed. Here's hoping Funky Kong Ave can be added in DLC. 


9. Clever incidental dialogue

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Much of Mario's charm comes from the world designs and the character animation (and the fantastic music, and the tight gameplay...), but it's no slouch in the writing department. The translation team at Nintendo's Treehouse has been turning in fantastic work lately, and Mario Odyssey continues that trend. What's more, some of its best dialogue is only triggered in certain situations, like when Mario is on top of a Sphinx's head, for instance. 

It really does seem like Nintendo planned for every eventuality. There's a big boss fight in the Seaside Kingdom that basically takes place across the entire map. But if you were to go out of your way to ditch the boss and find Captain Toad, he will actually reference the boss fight currently taking place.

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Another funny bit can be seen after you get a little too rowdy with this man's RC car. 

Maybe the best little written touch comes during the wedding at the finale (no, that's not a spoiler). Depending on what costume you're wearing, Bowser might comment on your choice of clothing. If you should say, wear Bowser's own wedding tuxedo, he'll compliment you on your fine taste. 

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But when you show up decked out in clown gear, Bowser will let you know he's not a huge fan. Can't say we blame him.

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If you really want to impress Bowser, you can wear Peach's wedding dress. 

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Should you put on a certain brother's duds, Bowser won't remember you at all. 

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Green Mario just can't catch a break.


10. Nintendo knows expert players are going to try to break the game -- and they reward those efforts

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In every Mario Odyssey comments section on every website across the internet, there's one thing everyone can agree on: watching speedrunners tackle Odyssey is going to be a blast. Never before has Mario had more movement tools at his disposal. With so many options for mobility (including skillful hat throwing/bouncing) you can be sure hardcore players will find countless exploits and level skips. Like this one:

You might think Nintendo didn't intend for players to triple jump off a railing, throw the cap, dive onto it and bounce into another dive to reach a platform for a shortcut. But at the end of that series of jumps is a gap in the railing, perfectly placed for anyone to see. They're inviting you to try to break the game, only to show you later that they're onto your shenanigans.

Okay, another example. In this Sand Kingdom level, you can backflip and walljump your way onto the top and skip over every obstacle. 

Pretty classic Mario stuff. I mean, who hasn't leapt over the screen to get to the warp pipes in the second level of Super Mario Bros.? Thing is, Nintendo knows you've thought of this. And they've left a little present for your hard work attempting (and failing) to break their game. 

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These coin caches can be found all over the place, and the more you have to go through to get there, the bigger the treasure trove that awaits you. 

Nintendo could have left these areas empty, or erected invisible walls to render them inaccessible. But instead they blew the doors open. Not only is experimentation possible, it's downright encouraged. The coins themselves are nice, but the sentiment of the gift is what matters. Those fat stacks are a message to the biggest Nintendo fans. "We see you, and we appreciate you for caring about our game enough to backflip walljump into a cap dive on top of this ancient ruin." And isn't that the greatest gift of all?




Tristan Cooper can be found on Twitter.