17 of Super Mario Odyssey's Costumes explained

If you’re lucky enough to own a Nintendo Switch, there’s a good chance you've spent the last week playing Super Mario Odyssey. In this globe-spanning adventure, Mario and his sentient hat visit exotic locations, meet interesting people, and control their bodies for your amusement.

Every location Mario visits offers an abundance of souvenirs which can be purchased with coins or the local currency, and these often take the form of apparel he can equip and run around in. What you may not have realized is that many of these clothing options are callbacks to earlier games in the Super Mario series. 

Spoilers for clothing options and some kingdoms in Super Mario Odyssey follow.

Black Top Hat, Black Tuxedo: Super Mario All-Stars (1993, SNES)

The first outfit Mario has access to apart from his traditional plumber’s (ah, excuse me! Workman’s garb!) is this dashing tuxedo. As you can see, he first wore this ensemble on the cover of Super Mario All-Stars, a compilation which collected all four of his NES adventures on a single Super Nintendo cartridge. This was the first time Americans had access to the Japanese sequel to Super Mario Bros, included in the package as The Lost Levels.

Caveman Headwear, Caveman Outfit: Super Mario World Animated Series (1991, Television Show)

Back when the Super Nintendo launched, kid’s cartoons were just part of the marketing machine, a quick way to earn some extra cash from a hot license. Mario already had a daily cartoon show featuring the voice of professional wrestler “Captain” Lou Albano, and when Super Mario World was released the TV series went to Dinosaur Land to tie in with the games.

The show is unremarkable and isn’t worth anyone’s time today, but the writers introduced some cave people for Mario and Luigi to protect from Bowser and the Koopalings. Mario’s prehistoric duds might be a reference to the spectacularly ugly cave people introduced on the show.

Sombrero, Poncho: Qix (1990, Game Boy)

When the Game Boy launched Tetris proved it was a great platform for simple puzzle games, and Taito quickly brought a port of their territory capturing game Qix to the handheld. Unique to the Game Boy version are score-based reward screens featuring Mario in a variety of, let's say, "international" costumes.

The easiest to achieve features Mario wearing a sombrero and poncho, playing a guitar while a buzzard lurks on a nearby cactus. The image was so striking it was featured prominently in the game’s commercial. What’s less known is that several other reward screens made it in the game, including Mario depicted as an Indian snake charmer, a Spanish bullfighter, and an African Mario somewhere on a wild plain.

Cowboy Hat, Cowboy Outfit: Mario Party 2 (2000, N64)

Mario’s Western wear seems to take inspiration from the box art for Mario Party 2, considered by many to be the best entry in the series. While his Stetson doesn’t feature his trademark M, the yellow bandana around his neck comes directly from Mario Party 2’s cover. All six playable characters have different outfits they’ll wear depending on which game board is selected. These include pirate, wizard, astronaut, and jungle explorer clothes in addition to their traditional outfits and the western garb shown on the cover.

Pirate Hat: Mario Party 2 (2000, N64)

Though it never appeared on any box art, the pirate costume appears to be another reference to Mario Party 2. The costume in Odyssey is more elaborate, but the hat seems to be modeled after his look on the pirate board. Mario doesn’t need a hook hand, but some players might have after hurting themselves playing the analog stick rotating minigames in the original Mario Party. Fortunately, these didn’t return in the sequel.

Explorer Hat, Explorer Outfit: Mario’s Picross (Game Boy, 1995)

The Game Boy was home to many types of puzzle games, and Picross might be one of the most interesting. It’s a bit like Sudoku crossed with Minesweeper, and you use math and deduction to figure out which blocks on a grid should be blacked out and which should be left blank to form a picture. Because it’s sort of like chipping pieces out of a stone block, Nintendo leaned hard on an exploration theme when marketing this game.

Mario is featured prominently in a late 1920s safari getup, complete with a pith helmet. This safari theme extended past the marketing, and you can see Mario’s helmeted face in the top left corner as you play.

Pilot Goggles, Aviator Outfit: Super Mario Land (Game Boy, 1989)

 Super Mario Land was an odd game, and it’s become something of an outlier in the main Super Mario series. At the time we only had the original Super Mario Bros. to compare it with, so the strange elements didn’t stand out as much. Instead of a Bowser fight at the end of a world, Mario may have to fight a boss in an autoscrolling shoot-‘em-up battle. To do so, he uses either a submarine or a single-engine propeller plane called the “Sky Pop.” Whenever he’s in the plane, Mario wears a leather helmet and aviator goggles that look very much like the ones he can purchase in Odyssey.

Scientist Visor, Scientist Outfit: Super Game Boy Commercial (1995)

The Super Nintendo had an excellent library, and it was augmented substantially in 1995 by the release of the Super Game Boy. This device plugged into the top of the SNES and allowed you to play Game Boy cartridges through your home console. The U.S. commercial is an example of Nintendo’s bizarre, over the top “Play It Loud” campaign, but international versions of the commercial featured Mario in a mad scientist getup playing Donkey Kong`94 with the big ape.

Builder Helmet, Builder Outfit: Super Mario Maker (Wii U, 2015, 3DS, 2016)

The most recent reference in Super Mario Odyssey comes from the Switch’s immediate predecessor. Super Mario Maker features all sorts of different Mario costumes, but the game’s box art shows him in a construction helmet and tool belt, just as he’s portrayed in Odyssey.

Golf Cap, Golf Outfit: NES Open Tournament Golf (NES, 1991)

The NES’s second golf game predates Mario Golf by eight years, but this is one of the first sports games ever to feature Mario on the box and as an in-game sprite. Mario’s distinctive overalls are colored to mimic the U.S. flag, with vertical red and white stripes and a star-spangled undershirt. This game may have planted the seeds that later blossomed into the Mario Sports series, including Baseball, Soccer, and Tennis.

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time these clothes have been referenced in a more modern game; the color scheme was also an option for Mario in Super Smash Bros.for Wii U.

Chef’s Hat, Chef’s Suit: Yoshi’s Cookie (NES, SNES, Game Boy, 1993)

Yoshi was a huge hit when he debuted in Super Mario World, and a couple of games came out near the end of the NES’s life to capitalize on that popularity. The lackluster puzzle game Yoshi doesn’t hold up well, but Yoshi’s Cookie is still a lot of fun even today. The game was developed by Bullet-Proof Software with Mario characters added later, and some of the puzzles were designed by Tetris creator Alexey Pajitnov. Players have to match rows or columns of tiles on a 5x5 grid, and the tiles all resemble different types of cookies. Like Mario’s Picross, Mario is shown in the corner, this time wearing a chef’s toque and uniform as he manipulates levers in time with the player’s movements.

Painter’s Cap, Painter Outfit: Mario Artist series (Japan only, N64, 1999-2000)

You might think this outfit is based on Mario’s appearance on the cover of Mario Paint, but you’d be mistaken. On that box, he’s wearing his traditional red cap and overalls, though the cap is spattered with yellow paint and is turned to the side. Instead, the painter’s smock and beret shown in Odyssey are a reference to an obscure series which never left Japan. The Mario Artist games were spiritual sequels to Mario Paint, and one even came with a mouse that connected to the Nintendo 64 and its DD peripheral. Mario Artist: Paint Studio is the most direct sequel to Mario Paint, and its box art shows Mario wearing an artist’s beret.

Space Helmet, Space Outfit: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins (Game Boy, 1992)

Super Mario Land 2 just celebrated its 25th birthday, meaning antagonist Wario is now old enough to legally rent a car. Mario’s second Game Boy outing saw him visiting several different worlds including a massive, toy-filled version of himself and a Halloween themed land with hockey mask goombas patrolling its graveyards. In the Northwest corner of Mario Land there’s a giant hippo statue, and it blows bubbles capable of carrying a human payload outside the earth’s atmosphere. These bubbles provide enough oxygen to get Mario to the moon, but once he’s out there he needs protection, which is where the space suit comes in.

The image on the left comes from the game’s manual. Mario first wore this while bounding across the moon and through a starfield in Mario Land 2’s Space Zone.

Mechanic Cap, Mechanic Outfit: Famicom Grand Prix II: 3D Hot Rally (Japan only, Famicom, 1988)

Mario’s shop coveralls come from an odd racing game that only released for the Famicom Disk System in Japan. Mario and Luigi drive in several races across lots of different terrain types, and the “Monster” dune buggy has been referenced in other games like Super Smash Bros. Melee. Originally a 3D title, the game made use of a stereoscopic visual trick and could be viewed with 3D glasses, similar to Square’s Rad Racer. The game’s artwork marks the first time Luigi is officially depicted as taller and skinnier than his brother.

Fashionable Cap, Fashionable Suit: New Nintendo 3DS commercial (Japan only, 2014)

When the “New” 3DS was launched in 2014, the US only got the XL version at first. Japanese consumers had the option of the XL or a smaller version with removable, fashion-oriented faceplates. These could be swapped to match an outfit or just to make the system look different, and this commercial focused on the new console’s exterior. Mario’s garish clothing is intended to highlight the myriad of color options available on the New 3DS.

Classic Cap, Classic Suit: Donkey Kong (Arcade, 1981)

While it doesn’t look much different from his standard look at first, the Classic outfit reverses the red and blue of Mario’s shirt and overalls. This gives him the same color scheme as his very first appearance in Donkey Kong, before he was even named Mario.

Doctor Headwear, Doctor Outfit: Dr. Mario (NES, Game Boy, 1990)

As mentioned above, Tetris dominated the early days of the Game Boy, but Nintendo had a problem; they didn’t own Tetris. The solution? Create a new puzzle game, different enough not to cause any legal problems, but with the same fast-paced action and addictive gameplay. It must have worked: Dr. Mario has appeared in some form on every Nintendo console since 1990 with the exception of the Virtual Boy. While it hasn’t hit the Switch yet, it was one of three classic titles announced for the launch of the Switch’s online service.

There are several other outfits you can unlock if you hunt down the hundreds of moons scattered through the kingdoms of Super Mario Odyssey, but most are other character’s costumes. There’s one more special reference to an earlier game in the Mario series, but it’s too good to spoil. If you haven’t found it yet, jump back in to Odyssey! Those moons aren’t going to collect themselves, you know.