A look back at Mario's original 3D odyssey

We're getting a sense of Mario's next adventure by contemplating where he's gone before.

You may have heard that Nintendo has a new Switch game coming out next week. It's called "Super Mario Odyssey," and odds seem pretty good that it's probably going to be fairly entertaining.

Right. Well, anyway, in all seriousness, Odyssey looks pretty spectacular. The central concept of Mario controlling enemies by throwing his hat at them promises to add a lot of variety to the gameplay without tacking needless complexity to Mario's own control scheme. Even more intriguingly, though, Odyssey will be the first sandbox 3D Mario game in 15 years; the last time he wandered around freely was in the somewhat poorly received Super Mario Sunshine. And before that, we had Super Mario 64, as seen here in this debut episode for N64 Works.

So what does it mean, precisely, for Mario to explore a "sandbox" game? That's the question I hope to answer in this video (and in the second part, which you'll see next week). Nintendo differentiates between Super Mario 64/Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy, and not for nothing; they've specifically positioned Odyssey as a follow-up to the former rather than the latter. What that means, precisely, and why Nintendo may have been reluctant to return to this style of game for so long, are the questions that drive this retrospective.

As with the other Works video series, N64 covers the chronology of U.S. releases for a platform (in this case, Nintendo 64). I don't intend to make N64 Works a regular part of my production rotation for the time being, but since Mario 64 was the first game released for the console and ties so specifically to Odyssey, this seemed like a good time to dip my toe in the N64 pool.

Please enjoy, and watch for part two next week. (Part three, which will specifically compare Mario 64 to Odyssey, will appear sometime in November.)