Following on from our reader-voted Top 50 Games of the Decade, Nintendo Life staff members will be picking their personal favourite Nintendo games between the years 2010-2019. Today, PJ takes us right back to the start of the decade…
Being asked to choose your favourite game of the decade should, in theory, be a pretty tough thing to do – especially if, like me, you’ve played an absolutely ridiculous number of games over the past ten years. And so it was something of a surprise that, when asked to do just that, one game suddenly leapt out of the jumbled mass of gaming memories that make up the majority of my brain, blasting up and out of the carnage, launching into clear space and crystallising itself in my mind’s eye as the clear and obvious winner. That game is, of course, Super Mario Galaxy 2.
I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised, really. I’ve said it often enough over the years; it’s quite possibly my favourite of all time, but these things get confused when you sit and think for too long or listen to external voices or try too hard to force it. How can I push something so obviously important as Dark Souls to one side? What about the majesty of Nier: Automata, Minecraft and Breath of the Wild? But really, going with my (considerable) gut, thinking with as clear a head as I’m now capable and spitting out the first thing I think of, it’s an easy choice.
Where 1985’s Super Mario Bros. laid the still-recognisable foundations of 2D platforming as we know it and 1996’s Super Mario 64 made the first properly successful jump for the genre into three dimensions, Super Mario Galaxy 2, for me, feels like a destiny fulfilled. Promises made and then kept in the most spectacular of fashions. It’s the ultimate representation of everything Mario that’s gone before it; pure unadulterated genius pouring out of the minds of Nintendo EAD.
We all know how it was meant to be Super Mario Galaxy More, a semi-sequel with just a year scheduled to get out the door, and we all know how those amazing minds at Nintendo – with the game’s engine and any teething problems firmly behind them with the 2007 original – were fully unleashed now, coming up with so many amazing ideas for levels that that 1.5 became a big fat 2. This is a sequel that does away with any pretence of narrative – even more so than most Mario games – with no intention of adhering to what was popular at the time (2010 was a big year for big open world, story-driven games); this is platforming in its purest form, and for me, this is Nintendo revealing the true potential of the genre, with countless possibilities for its potential future all laid out at once.
Every galaxy you blast your way into here – with a delightful shake of the Wiimote – is built around a concept so delightful that an entirely new platforming IP could be forged around it, and then it’s jettisoned out into blackness, never to be seen again in most cases. Super Mario Galaxy 2 gives you just enough of a taste to get you comfortable, just a little nibble of something delicious and then it whips your plate away and resets the table.
I distinctly remember being sat in my gaming chair – yes, I am a terrible, terrible person – and thinking back in 2010 that this was it for Mario; surely they could never top something this good. And, to be honest, they still haven’t. Odyssey comes close, a beautiful thing in its own right, but it’s not as pure a representation; there are distractions there. It allows for that open-world roaming, it’s got the collectables, knick-knacks, those bloody Broodals and far more of a story to break things up a bit. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is, in comparison, an undiluted stream of ferocious gaming perfection. It’s perfect for newcomers, easing them in gently and helping them where needed through Rosalina’s Cosmic Guide, but it’s also got plenty in store for smart-arsed veterans.
For a title released in the same year as Red Dead Redemption, Mass Effect 2 and Fallout: New Vegas – all beautiful games, and games that let the player make a thousand controller inputs that do nothing in the vastness of their worlds – here’s a game where every single button press is connected to something immediate. Every single interaction with Super Mario Galaxy 2’s levels is important. Whether you’re buzzing around dressed as a bee in the Honey Hop Galaxy, timing your jumps to the music in the Beat Block Galaxy, drilling through a planet to kill a boss, taking Fluzzard on his first flight or stringing together some tricky tongue grabs with your old pal Yoshi, nary a button press is wasted.
Ten years is a hell of a long time – especially in gaming – and yet returning, as I so often do, to this game it never fails to amaze me just how little, if at all, it’s aged. It feels perfect, it looks beautiful, makes perfect use of the Wii as a platform and that soaring, triumphant orchestral score – the Mario Galaxy Orchestra with a magical mix of old and new compositions – it genuinely feels like one of a handful of truly timeless video games.
It’s fitting also that it released right at the very onset of this mad, mad decade and has stood up to everything that’s come after, emerging victorious in my mind and – judging by its Metascore – many others, as the best thing that happened in gaming in the past ten years. I doubt there’ll ever be another Mario Galaxy; I mean, what on earth would they do to best this one? But I’m forever grateful that so many amazing minds got together and gave us this one so that me and my sons can sit in my little gaming room together and laugh and marvel and pass the old Wiimote and Nunchuk between each other as we enjoy this beautiful thing together.
It’s special. It’s spectacular. It’s-a Mario.