Super Mario Odyssey’s Not-Quite-Optional Motion Controls Are Aggravating In Handheld Mode

Super Mario Odyssey’s Not-Quite-Optional Motion Controls Are Aggravating In Handheld Mode

The motion controls in the new Nintendo Switch Super Mario game are largely optional, but one key collectible early on indicates that the developers expect you to use them. Those motion controls are far easier to input when the Switch is connected to a TV than when it’s running in handheld mode.

The push for using motion controls for some of Mario’s moves is evident every time Super Mario Odyssey boots up. Before players can get going, a screen appears that recommends a free-handed split control scheme, the better to shake those controllers around.

Super Mario Odyssey’s Not-Quite-Optional Motion Controls Are Aggravating In Handheld Mode

The screen says “try playing with detached Joy-Con controllers. The motion controls enable extra options!” but they really mean “this is by far the easiest way to use the motion controls, which you don’t have to use but you kind of should.”

This is not a motion-control-centric game. The most important moves in the game don’t require any shakes. Mario’s basic running and jumping moves are all stick and buttons, as they have been for most of his adventures.

Odyssey‘s new signature element, Mario’s sentient cap named Cappy, can also be controlled with a button, at least at the most basic level. To toss Cappy at enemies or to use Cappy to possess other creatures and things, the player just taps a button.

You can also toss Cappy with a shake of a Switch controller, and shakes in certain directions can trigger more advanced moves that don’t have any button-based input options.

These directional shakes can make Mario toss the cap upward, or away from him like a wheel, or in a sharp homing curve toward an off-center enemy, or even around Mario in an orbital attack that can chop through a crowd of Goombas.

There are no buttons for those more complex throws, but you can get by without them if you don’t want to waggle and are ok with just tossing Cappy straight ahead.

Thanks to a tip from a reader we found that there is an unlisted way to do the orbital homing throw with stick and buttons by rapidly spinning the left stick before you hit the cap-throw button. We tried numerous possible stick and button inputs for all the other motion moves mentioned in this article and still can’t find any non-motion inputs for the rest.

There are also motion control-only moves for some of the many beings Mario possesses. When you take over, say, a frog, you’ll be shown that you can do a regular frog jump with the press of a button and a bigger jump by shaking the controller.

Regular button jump:

Super Mario Odyssey’s Not-Quite-Optional Motion Controls Are Aggravating In Handheld Mode

Motion jump:

Super Mario Odyssey’s Not-Quite-Optional Motion Controls Are Aggravating In Handheld Mode

In our time with the game we found a small number of the game’s hundreds of collectible Power Moons that appear to only be collectible using a motion control move. Chris Kohler, who reviewed the game, found a couple.

Laura Kate Dale at Kotaku UK told me that she also found a few seemingly motion-only moons among the 600 or so she’s gathered so far. I’ve grabbed 107 moons, and among those, found one.

In the shot below, you’ll see a moon hovering in the night sky that Frog Mario won’t be able to reach without a motion-control jump:

Super Mario Odyssey’s Not-Quite-Optional Motion Controls Are Aggravating In Handheld Mode

The moon is grayed out in the shot, because I already got it. Nevertheless, you can see me get it in this next clip. I do the button jump twice and can’t reach it. Then I do the motion jump and grab it. Since I already claimed the moon prior to recording, I get coins for my effort this time around.

Maneuvers in Mario Odyssey that are triggered by motion control tend to be supercharged versions of button inputs: bigger jumps, faster flying, etc. Utilising them can be a shortcut. Unfortunately, because of the versatility of the ways a player can use the Switch, they are not going to be easy to input for all players.

Players who choose to control the game as Nintendo recommends, with a Joycon controller in each hand, will likely find that triggering the motion control isn’t bad:

The motion controls work fine with the Switch pro controller as well, though you’ll see that certain lateral shakes are easier to input with one hand than two.

In handheld mode, however, shaking the controllers means shaking the system. And that means it’s no good. You’ll want to do a higher jump and you’ll have to hoist the whole unit. You’ll be surrounded by enemies and want to do Cappy’s orbit attack and you’ll need to shake the controller enough that you might lose sight of the on-screen action.

There are no options to just turn the motion controls off for these actions, though there is an option to turn motion controls off for the game’s camera (something that appears to only be relevant when looking at things in first-person). You can’t map Mario’s special moves to button commands. To do those moves, you have to shake.

This may not be a surprise to a people who have played other games made by the Tokyo-based Nintendo studio responsible for Odyssey. Their Super Mario Galaxy games mixed button commands and shake controls.

Their debut title, Donkey Kong Jungle Beat, was controlled by hitting a drum-shaped controller and clapping over its microphone.

It’s still something to get used to in Odyssey and something to be mindful of if you want to use Mario’s full arsenal, especially if you’re playing the Switch on the go.


  • Then how’s it a 10? If this is a issue why is it getting flawless scores? Cause it’s mario that’s why.

    • How is it an issue? It’s how you play the game; if you don’t want to use half the control options then that’s your prerogative but don’t blame the developers if those controls work just fine (which they do). This is like a player saying they don’t like using the trigger buttons on their PS4 controller and concluding ‘my character won’t do this action because I don’t want to press the triggers’. Ridiculous.

    • If you played the game and honestly thought it was crap, your opinion would matter. judging by your comment, I’m guessing you haven’t.

      The enjoyment I get from a game is literally the only thing that matters to me. And it’s extremely fun! 10 (or VERY close to it)

      • This is why review scores are meaningless and an inaccurate metric. People will rate things higher if their cognitive bias skews towards the enjoyable moments they remember or if they feel a perceived loyalty to something (A common cause of fanboyism). If their cognitive biases focus more on the negative perceptions then they will rate it lower.

        As you said though, in the end it’s just a question of whether you enjoy the game, problems and all.

        • Very true. And really, isn’t that all that matters? How much fun you have? I don’t know why I would even be playing games if it wasn’t for anything other than to have fun

      • Did I say it was crap? No, I said that IF this a fault in the game it shouldnt have a 10/10 score

        • My point remains, the “fault” in the game only matters if it takes away from the game at all. It doesn’t.

        • Every single 10/10 game has faults. I’d say you could probably find 10 faults in every game. So all games should be rated 0?

  • Typical Nintendo.

    “You can use the system all these different ways as long as you play exactly in the one prescribed manner we designed our games around”.

    Personally, Switch displaced the Vita for me. It’s 100% a handheld. I don’t even have the dock plugged in right now. And even when I did, I never played with the separated Joycons. It seems like a massive oversight that they’ve designed the game with the assumption that everyone will play it a certain way. What if I was a disabled gamer for example?

  • Of course – Nintendo! So let’s complain. If you’ve played it, the motion controls work fine in handheld. No need to fling your arms around. There is even an “option” to toggle the controls sensitivity so if you want to just give a little shake to perform moves – you can.

    Personally I think the moves work better in handheld then they do on the pro controller and joycon.

  • Separated joy-cons is already my preferred method of using the Switch… but after playing it for a few hours so far, I’ve discovered the motion controls aren’t really worth using anyway… i find myself not bothering with it at all.

    It’s just a little bonus to use motion controls that makes zero difference to the overall enjoyment of the game.

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