If something is special to you, you want to be able to experience it in the purest way possible, momentarily free from everyday concerns and responsibilities, and most of all from the constant, uninterrupted din of the internet. But there’s getting to experience a game fresh and then there’s what Mario fans have been doing ever since Super Mario Odyssey released.
Sensitivity over “spoilers” has been growing and mutating for decades now, though in recent years it’s ascended to an entirely new level, with fans crying “spoiler” at even the most mundane things. In part that’s because of how news travels through systems like Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. It’s also no doubt resulted from the proliferation of fandoms. People don’t just like Star Wars, or watch a hit show like The Walking Dead, or play a big video game like Odyssey. Many of them are now also fans. They’ve steeped in the micro-cultures of our preferred subject matter as hype, controversies, and memes permeate their various newsfeeds on a daily basis.
Just as this spoiler culture has become a part of every entertainment community, it’s also been warped through the lenses of those groups, and the spoiler culture around Odyssey is particularly bewildering.
Nobody will complain if you tell them that Mario jumps in the new game, but if you mention that he fights Bowser, some people start to get nervous. “I know Bowser is in the game and I’m sure you will fight him, but again, surprise is part of the fun,” said one person on the Nintendo Switch subreddit. People debated just how much of a Bowser boss fight could be revealed before it counted as a spoiler—what he looks like? How you battle him?—but many decided it was important to err on being overly cautious, hence the spoiler warning in the thread’s title.
That thinking led to several zero-tolerance rules across different Mario subreddits about posting spoilers, or anything that might be construed as such. The result was spoiler warnings over lots of bizarre things. Take this tree, for instance. When have you ever seen someone put a spoiler warning over a tree?
Fans have also been careful about spoiling what’s not in the game. The apparent absence of Boos and Bob-ombs was also considered top-secret. Not to mention general complaints about the descriptions that preceded spoiler warnings like “You won’t BELIEVE what is under this rock at X Kingdom” and “Behind this painting.”
OK, it’s time for a real spoiler. You’ve been warned.
Before I’m accused of not thinking that spoilers for Super Mario Odyssey matter, let me put one on the table: when Mario possesses Bowser. It’s a cool moment that comes as a genuinely thrilling surprise, not just within the context of Mario lore but as a culmination of the Cappy possession mechanic. Definitely don’t go shouting from the rooftops about that part.
People have been taking that infraction extremely seriously. Near release a video surfaced on YouTube about the final boss fight whose thumbnail showed Bowser with Mario’s mustache. “JFC WHY WOULD YOU SPOIL THIS WITH YOUR CLICKBAITY THUMBNAILS!! YOU PEOPLE MAKE ME SICK!” read one of the comments, with lots of similar ones beneath it.
It feels like a fundamentally different kind of spoiler than, say, the fact that the inside of the Odyssey case contains the lyrics for its main theme song. That was information at least one person wished they’d been able to discover for themselves. “You spoiled the lyrics being inside the Odyssey case,” wrote the commenter. “And didn’t put the pic after the break! I understand it’s minor and Odyssey’s hype is past but it was just a few days before the game came out, why not let people discover that on their own?”
In another extreme case, one person even called out the game itself because of the painting warps that connect players to Kingdoms they haven’t visited yet. “I really wish the game itself hadn’t spoiled the Mushroom Kingdom for me,” the person said. “I found a painting in the food kingdom that took me there early.” They had decided to go on media blackout and were foiled anyway. “The game spoiled itself. :(“
In Super Mario World on the SNES, you could access a hidden area called the Star Road early in the game to unlock different warps, including one to the final level, Bowser’s Castle. The first time I did that it felt like wonderful little serendipitous surprise, a feeling Nintendo has proven itself able to recreate even decades later with Odyssey. The thought of the game spoiling itself never crossed my mind. It was more of a tease of things to come.
I didn’t blame Nintendo for advertising the fact that Mario could ride Yoshi on the cover either. It’s the difference between every charming detail in a game and the specific secrets it’s waiting on you to reveal. As the sequel to one of the biggest gaming series’ of all time, on a brand new Nintendo console, featuring the company’s most iconic character, of course people are going to be amped. But some Odyssey fans have taken things to an absurd new level.