Funny To A Point – Super Mario Odyssey Is 2017's Most Political Game
Let's face it, folks: 2017 has been a rough year. From politics to world events to entertainment news, watching 2017 unfold has been a bit like watching Game of Thrones – only every episode is The Red Wedding, and the scene has been going on for 12 months instead of a few gut-wrenching minutes. The worse things get, the more thankful I am for video games, which offer the occasional and much-needed respite from reality.
That's not to say that video games can't or shouldn't address important real-life issues, like war, mental health, and which alien you would sex up if you were captain of the U.S.S. Hornball. It's just that every now and then it's nice to set aside the grueling choices of post-apocalyptic worlds and play something that is unabashedly fun.
Many gamers have pointed to Super Mario Odyssey as the elephant-sized suppository of joy that 2017 needed, including G.I.'s own Matt Miller, who recently made the case for naming it game of the year. After struggling to enjoy Zelda for the past few weeks, Odyssey's light-hearted romp sounded like just the ticket, so I triple-jumped right in while doing my best "Wahooooo!"
What greeted me in Odyssey, however, frankly shocked me. Sure, the mustachioed plumber appears as pudgy charming and oblivious carefree as ever, but beneath the saccharine-sweet visuals lies the most brazenly political game of 2017 – if not ever! I'm not sure why most video game journalists have glossed over Odyssey's outrageous political agenda (I'm guessing it's a conspiracy), but just like the series' previous hidden messages, I'm devoted to exposing the truth to my beloved readers. As such, I personally authorized and performed an all-encompassing investigation into the many political messages that bombard players in Super Mario Odyssey. Here are my findings.
POLITICAL AGENDA #1: CLIMATE CHANGE
Mario travels to a bunch of wacky mash-up worlds in Odyssey, but one of the first lands he visits beats players over the head with its ham-fisted political message. What message, you ask? I'll tell you right now! Tostarena is clearly designed to terrify players with its grim outlook on the ramifications of climate change. Think about it: A desert plagued by pillars of ice; a local population thrust into turmoil; a frozen-treat vendor forced out of business – we get it, Nintendo, you have an agenda! The only Inconvenient Truth here is that Nintendo has sacrificed fun gameplay to take a political stand. Sad!
POLITICAL AGENDA #2: FRACKING
Unfortunately, the political soapboxing in Odyssey's Desert Kingdom doesn't stop there. While not as blatant as its hot take on climate change, the in-game brochure for Tostarena contains a pointed argument against fracking, warning that "extensive hollowing underground" in the area has led to dangerous pockets of quicksand. Nintendo's goal here is shamefully apparent: Every time a player sinks to their doom, they will be slowly and subconsciously turned against the fracking industry. It's downright diabolical!
POLITICAL AGENDA #3: ENERGY
Despite the game's stance on climate change, Mario is still clearly pushing fossil fuels when it comes to energy consumption, which I can only assume is for his own personal gain. The evidence? Not only is the second world Mario visits called Fossil FALLS (hello again, subliminal messaging), but Mario frequently transforms into a bolt of lightning to zap around electrical grids – and there's not a solar panel in sight. If that's not conclusive enough for you, Mario spends the entire game mining precious Power Moons to fuel his ship. That's way worse than fossil fuels! Obviously the fat-cat energy lobbyists of Mushroom Kingdom have Mario in their pocket, and he's more than happy to shove renewable energy to the wayside in order to make them happy.
POLITICAL AGENDA #4: MASS SURVEILLANCE
Mass surveillance and personal privacy have become hot-button issues in the past few years, and Mario apparently isn't a fan of either. When he's not using his magic hat to take direct control of sentient creatures (so much for the Bill of Rights!), he's using it to spy on them via surveillance drones. These mobile cameras shoot way up into the sky to give Mario an unobstructed view into everyone else's business. But hey, he's the good guy, so I guess we should just happily hand over all of our private information to The Man, right? Nice try, Nintendo!
POLITICAL AGENDA #5: GUN CONTROL
It may technically be portrayed as bullet control, but Nintendo's stance is still blatantly obvious: The ranged projectiles are an ever-present threat to Mario, unless he controls them, in which case everything is fine. The fact that it's presented in an abstract way might fool you into thinking it's harmless, but trust me: Your brain knows what's going on.
POLITICAL AGENDA #6: GAMBLING
Oh look, another pet project for Mario: Pushing gambling on children. Today it's a few in-game coins to win a Power Moon; tomorrow it's your life savings at the nearest casino. How much do you want to bet Luigi is in Vegas right now setting up a Mario Bros.-branded hotel so that the two of them can reap the profits of an entire generation of tween gambling addicts? Wait, don't bet – see, it's already working!
POLITICAL AGENDA #7: INCOME INEQUALITY
Who better to try and sell trickle-down economics to the masses than a plumber? Nintendo once again opts for the heavy-handed approach when it comes to advocating its stance on the economy; every time Mario visits a new land, he plunders it for as much money as he can get, despite having already amassed a fortune in the thousands. That may not sound like much, but don't forget these are gold coins we're talking about! Sure, he may spend a few hundred coins here and there on souvenirs and hats, but the bulk of his ill-gotten gains are ferried straight out of the local economy as soon as he decides to resume his elitist, globe-trotting lifestyle – and you just know he's got a tax shelter set up in an offshore bank in Seaside Kingdom. And yet Nintendo wants you to believe that everything is hunky-dory with this scenario: Everyone else is too happy singing and dancing to notice that they're broke. Go figure.
POLITICAL AGENDA #8: JOBS
Mario's schemes to line his pockets don't end there. He also takes the side of soulless corporations when it comes to job automation. After all, why pay flesh-and-blood workers when you can replace them with robots that will do their jobs for free? Nintendo's rosy stance on automation portrays Steam Gardens as a veritable utopia, with robots merrily wandering around and watering the land's lush flora. All the unemployed gardeners and their now-destitute families? Nowhere to be seen. Funny how that works...
POLITICAL AGENDA #9: MILITARY SPENDING
Mario might be hoarding huge sums of wealth for himself, but he obviously has no problem spending taxpayer money on the military. Several New Donk City sequences feature an infinite supply of Uncle Sam-inspired tanks. Whenever Mario blows one up – or even just abandons it for a few seconds – a new one spawns in its place before you can say "budgetary accountability." I'm guessing someone holds shares in Lockheed Mushroom...
POLITICAL AGENDA #10: NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS
Mario's hamfisted support of the N.E.A. may seem a little out of character given everything we've learned about him in this investigation, but you've got to remember that ultimately he's still a video game star, and video games are obviously art. As such, Mario stands to reap huge benefits from the National Endowment For The Arts... if they like what he's doing. It makes perfect sense that he'd try to butter the agency up by scaring players with a vision of what the world would be like without the N.E.A. Enter Toadstool's Picture Match mini-game, where art of your favorite hero literally vanishes before your very eyes, leaving you to piece together your own hideous knock-off crap like the picture above. It's a shameless scare tactic, but effective nonetheless!
POLITICAL AGENDA #11: FORCED MARRIAGE Odyssey's storyline makes it clear that Nintendo is against forced marriage, which admittedly isn't a very controversial political stance. But can we take a timeout for a second and appreciate how much thought and effort Bowser put into the wedding? He traveled to like a dozen different Kingdoms to acquire the finest items – a priceless diamond ring, an extravagant dress, a massive bouquet of flowers. Most guys can't be bothered to show up for a cake testing, and that involves eating free cake! Alright, that's all I've got. Moving on!
POLITICAL AGENDA #12: CREATIONISM
Not only is Super Mario Odyssey relentlessly political – it also drags religion into gaming too! The evidence once again takes us back to Fossil Falls, where the game portrays cavemen and dinosaurs living together, an idea argued by Young Earth creationists. Granted, it's actually just a caveman costume that Mario wears, so I suppose it could really be a pro-science agenda, if the dinosaur was cloned. I'm still not sure, but either way I don't like it one bit!
POLITICAL AGENDA #13: WORMHOLE TECHNOLOGY?
Yeah, it's definitely a pro-science agenda. There's no other way of explaining the wormholes Mario travels through – clearly Nintendo is hoping to persuade players into supporting massive science and technology grants, which it probably hopes their next console will qualify for. Unless maybe it's drugs? The wormholes are attached to paintings after all... This kind of confusion is exactly why developers should keep politics out of their games!
POLITICAL AGENDA #14: MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION
Never mind; it was drugs all along. Mario frequently rides a massive green plant up into the heavens, where he twirls through the air and hops around on clouds – that's drugs for sure. Man, Mario's political platform makes no sense at all; how the heck is he picking what policies to advocate for?
POLITICAL AGENDA #15: PIRACY!?
Oh come on, Mario, really!? You're pro-piracy now? You can't advocate for piracy! That's political suicide! The video game industry hates piracy – you're never going to win Game of the Year now! Admit it: You're just taking outrageous stances in order to stay in the public limelight! No news is bad news, right? Well, you've backed yourself into a corner this time: How are you ever going to top this one?
POLITICAL AGENDA #16: ...
Hoo boy, I ain't touching that one!
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