Super Mario Galaxy is a platformer created by Nintendo and released on the Nintendo Wii in 2007. At the time of its release, Mario had platformed his way through a castle and a tropical island, so what was the logical next step? SPACE! Yes, like most series that don’t know where they can go next, Nintendo took the Super Mario series to space. Thankfully unlike most movie and games that make this jump, Super Mario Galaxy does a triple jump and sticks the landing gracefully. Receiving wide spread critical acclaim and the highest praises from fans, Super Mario Galaxy has become known as one of the greatest games of all time. The question is: does it deserve such praise…? Well yes, there’s no point dragging this on past the “Read More”. Super Mario Galaxy is truly a fantastic the game, the real question, just what makes it so good…?
Covering Gameplay first finally works out well for a game, because this is where Super Mario Galaxy shines. Now most people probably know how a Mario game plays. You run, jump, bounce on the heads of enemies and sometimes shoot fireballs. Super Mario Galaxy has all this of course, but it adds quite a bit to the formula. First and foremost, is given that Mario is now hopping between planets, asteroids and space junk, gravity and the lack thereof now plays a major role in Mario Galaxy. Most of the levels in Mario Galaxy are made up of planetoids that are small enough for Mario to completely run around, the gravity of each holding Mario onto it, even when he’s standing upside down. Jumping high enough will allow Mario to break out of the gravitational pull and into the pull of the next planetoid, which will flip him over and allow him to land feet first. With some clever jumping on a small enough planetoid, you can have Mario freefall on the edge of its gravity, looping around the entire thing endlessly. In terms of gameplay, this means that Nintendo could create a ton of new platforming challenges and puzzles. From running up walls and along ceilings, to swimming around in orbs of water suspended in space, to searching around entire planets for whatever item or pieces Mario needs to continue. It makes for unique and engaging gameplay, and it’s especially cool to switch gravity mid-jump and have Mario loop around a planet or building.
Of course you still collect stars in Mario Galaxy, especially now that you’re in space. But there’s a very different star that Mario gets early on, a sentient and adorable small star called a Luma. There are plenty of the little guys in this game, but the one that tags alongside Mario gives him the ability to do a spin jump! It sounds like a small addition, but Mario having a sort of second jump that also briefly lets him hover completely changes both how you play and how the levels are designed. Thankfully, this fun new skill is tied to the most simple motion control ever, just shake the Wii Remote, and that’s it. Nintendo seem to know that making elaborate motion controls a core part of the game would be a bad idea, so along with the spin jump, most of the motion controls in Mario Galaxy are easy and quick…most of them.
In addition, there are a host of new power-ups for Mario to collect! The Fire Flower is back of course, except it’s now on a timer, which is admittedly less fun. Returning as well is the Rainbow Star, which makes Mario invincible and run super-fast as usual, but it now comes with an amazing little tune. As for what’s actually new, we have the Bee, Boo and Spring Mushrooms, as well as the Ice Flower. The Bee Mushroom lets Mario fly for short period and stick to honey combs. Landing in water will depower you, while landing on a flower restores Mario’s flight gauge. The Boo Mushroom meanwhile, turns Mario into a ghost; letting him go through walls and turn invisible, just don’t get caught in the light. Lastly the Ice Flower is like the Fire Flower, letting Mario hurl balls of ice and freeze water instantly as he runs on it for a short time. What about the Spring Mushroom? Well…I’ll discuss that one shortly. While the power-ups are generally used pretty rarely by the game, they all make for interesting levels that often require creative use of their individual powers.
Unfortunately, creativity isn’t always good, and there are two new mechanics where Mario Galaxy loses a couple marks. The first is motion controls, specifically precision motion controls. The Super Mario series has always had levels that involved precise platforming, but due to the tight controls, they usually just required skill and a bit of luck. Mario Galaxy has levels like this as well, but it also has short (thankfully) gimmick levels that instead demand the same kind of skill, but with loose and unwieldy motion controls. There’s three types of these: ball rolling, ray surfing and bubble blowing. All three ask the player to uncomfortably bend their wrists and twist the Wii Mote every which way, requiring both quick reflexes and perfect movement to complete.
As for the second mechanic, it’s the aforementioned Spring Mushroom.Just look at Mario’s face in the top right of that picture, that look of terror is appropriate for this uncontrollable nightmare that Nintendo unleashed. As the name implies, Mario turns into a spring, a spring that constantly bounces and works like a slinky, flipping end over end. In this form, Mario does not stop moving; he is always bouncing and flipping all over, even when you’re not touching the controls. Pressing A with somewhat dubious timing will launch Mario high into the air, before he rockets back down to the ground. Now do nothing but precision platforming and jumping in this form, usually on small moving objects or with enemies coming right for you. Have fun! Thankfully there are only a small handful of levels using these mechanics, and the majority of the game is the good stuff.
The Wii might not have been the most powerful system, but that didn’t stop Nintendo from creating the most beautiful Mario game and one of the most visually pleasing games of the last generation. Even today, Super Mario Galaxy’s visuals still hold up due to the cell shaded, Pixar-like art style they went for. The game oozes with life and colour, with each level/galaxy having its own distinct look and feel. Being set in space very clearly gave the artists unlimited freedom to make whatever they wanted, and this results in a ton of unique areas for Mario to run around in. In one level you’re jumping between shiny giant apples, in another Mario is hanging out with adorable bees in a lush forest on a giant honeycomb, and then in the next level you’re in a neon green void where the level slowly builds and destroys itself. It all looks fantastic, and even the mandatory fire, ice, water and desert levels look new and interesting.
And bringing it all together is the main hub of the game, the Comet Observatory, which blends together a variety of different locations into one nice and relaxing place. The place starts off in complete darkness, but as you progress, the Observatory gains more life and colour which ultimately forms the most visually appealing and interesting hub in a Mario game so far. The best part is all the little collectibles scattered around the hub, making it fun to explore to, especially once you light up a new part of it. This culminates with unlocking the Red Star which lets Mario fly around the entire place, which serves as both a quick way to travel, and a treat for the eyes. Special mention should also go to how the characters and enemies look in Mario Galaxy. As I said before, they have a Pixar-like quality to them, making all the characters more vibrant and lifelike without adding much detail or realism to them. It’s telling that all of the Super Mario games to come out after stick to the same style and have barely changed, even with the jump to the Wii U.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly for the presentation, is the music of Super Mario Galaxy. It almost deserves an entire section on its own for just how spectacular it is. The switch to an actual orchestra is telling in the sheer quality jump, with some of the most bombastic, exciting and beautiful pieces to come out of video games. In a franchise as old as Mario, it’s hard to create new music that will be as loved by the fans as the classic music from the earliest games. Yet Super Mario Galaxy pretty much blows every previous game out of the water, and quite frankly none of the following games have matched this feat. It’s telling from how much praise it has received and how many fan and official remixes of every single track from the game exist, that Nintendo managed to create a whole series of new classics. I felt like just linking the entire playlist and telling you to click on any one track since they’re all great, but I decided to just go with my personal favourite:
Now I know what you’re thinking, the story in a Mario game couldn’t possibly matter. In most cases, I’d agree, but Super Mario Galaxy actually does a rather good job incorporating a story into it. Gone is the horrible voice acting and nonsensical story of Super Mario Sunshine, and in its place are just merciful grunts and the rare short line of dialog, with the story being simple but effective. Bowser actually comes off as somewhat threatening and has some fun lines; meanwhile Bowser Jr. isn’t insufferable this time around. New to the series is Rosalina, a mysterious space princess (?) who lives on and helms the Comet Observatory. She is also viewed by the Lumas as their mother, and helps Mario on his weekly journey to rescue Princess Peach, in return for finding the Power Stars that give the Observatory life. Of course she’s not being selfish, as once the Observatory is fully powered up, she can fly it to the center of the universe where Bowser waits in a surprisingly epic scene. Sure it’s nothing special overall, but for a Mario game, it’s pretty commendable. Especially when they somehow make a fight between a plumber and a turtle feel like a climatic struggle for the fate of the universe.
But by itself that wouldn’t be worth a 7.5 now would it? Instead, it’s the backstory for Rosalina that breaks new ground for the series. Simply having a backstory would be enough to make Rosalina the most interesting character in the series, but the story itself is really well done and accompanied by cute storybook visuals. The visuals, music and initial whimsy of the story mislead you into thinking it’ll be a simple cheerful tale. After all, you wouldn’t think a story about a young girl going off on a space adventure with adorable talking stars to turn around and hit you in the proverbial “feels”. But then again, you also wouldn’t expect a tale of dealing with loss, immortality, responsibility and new found purpose to be included in a Super Mario game, but there you have it. Much like with the music, it’s often hard for new characters to make a name for themselves in a long running franchise, but once again, Super Mario Galaxy delivers, cementing Rosalina as fan favourite character that Nintendo’s happy to bring back.
Over time, video games have become many things to many different people. But at their core, video games are about entertainment. “Fun” is an incredibly subjective word, and yet, one thing that all games should strive to be, is fun. And Super Mario Galaxy certainly hits it out of the park and into deep space when it comes to being fun. The various design teams for the series have always stated that this is their main goal when making a new Super Mario game, and they have pretty much always succeeded. But much like every other aspect of the series, Super Mario Galaxy kicks this into high gear, delivering what I feel is one of the most purely fun experiences in all of video games. It may not be my favourite game of all time, but if you were to ask me what game is the most fun to play, my answer would have to be Super Mario Galaxy.