Let’s Talk About Super Mario Odyssey’s Ending

Super Mario Odyssey has been out for more than two weeks now, and it’s already solidified itself as one of the best reviewed games ever. It’s basically pretty phenomenal, but when I first started playing I felt like the storyline was a little jarring and antiquated when compared to the rest of the game. I mean, Bowser kidnapping Peach with the express purpose of forcing her to marry him seemed a little dark at first glance, something I was worried would only take a subtle but ever darker, misogynistic turn. I’m glad I held my tongue, though, because I feel completely different now that I’ve finished the game.

Before I get into the details, you should note: here, there be spoilers. If you haven’t yet gotten to the end of Super Mario Odyssey, turn back now!

Princess Peach has pretty much always existed for the express purpose of being saved by Mario (with few exceptions, like Super Princess Peach), and this is still true with Super Mario Odyssey, but with a welcome sort of twist. The whole premise of saving Princess Peach from Bowser is a tired rehashing of an even more exhausted narrative, even with the addition of Cappy’s sister, Tiara. That said, I’m absolutely convinced that Nintendo is aware of this, if not only because they don’t even bother to offer us much of a premise besides “here we go again.” They don’t explain why Bowser wants to marry Peach, or even why Tiara and Princess Peach’s dual-kidnapping is a thing (besides maybe that Bowser just wanted Princess Peach to look pretty for the wedding, of course). But the Super Mario series isn’t really known for its stories, is it? It’s known for its settings (Galaxy), its level design (64), its create new mechanics (Sunshine), its nostalgia (Bros.), and its puzzles (all of them, ever). Nintendo knows this, it’s evident in what little careless, almost lazy exposition they offer, and even though I initially wanted to cry out, “this story is problematic,” the ending made everything all right.

If you don’t already know, Super Mario Odyssey ends like this: Mario and Cappy arrive at a church on the moon just in time to interrupt Bowser as he’s trying to force the Binding Band onto Peach (disturbingly, there’s a whole audience of people watching this, outwardly expressing their horror and discomfort but doing absolutely nothing about it). A final battle ensure between Mario, Bowser, and eventually the entire freaking moon. After Mario prevails (as he “always does,” to put it like Captain Toad), he irritatingly tries to hit on Peach by offering her some flowers. And then so does Bowser. And then the two men start playfully and confusingly “fighting” for Peach’s affections. After only a few moments of this, Peach gets fed up, rejects both of them, steals the Odyssey, and takes off, leaving Bowser and Mario behind.

When I saw this, I screamed. What a perfect way to end such a borderline-inappropriate story, not to mention make it actually kind of empowering. But the story doesn’t end there, not really, because when the credits end and we return to the game, Mario and Cappy quickly learn that Princess Peach is missing once again, only this time she’s left to go on her own journey through the Kingdoms, this time on her own terms (which she literally tells you when you find her and Tiara in the Cap Kingdom).

This alone has inspired me to travel back through the worlds myself, and not just because of this brilliant story and the equally brilliant addition of the metal Moon Blocks. I love meeting Peach in each of the beautiful, wacky Kingdoms, and I love seeing all of the different NPCs that are visiting each other’s worlds. In this way, Super Mario Odyssey has a post-narrative narrative that has given me not only a reason to keep playing, but to fiercely recommend the game to anyone who asks.

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