Is Super Mario Galaxy the Sequel We Deserved After Sunshine?
The Super Mario series has had a long history of outstanding games since its debut in 1985 with Super Mario Bros. We then got Super Mario World for the SNES and after that the revolutionary Super Mario 64, which brought the franchise into 3D. The bold changes didn't stop there though, and we fans received many more great 3D and 2D entries over the years. But in between all of those, there had to be changes. I’m not just talking about the process of entering an entire dimension; no, I’m talking about Nintendo’s tendency to change up its flagship franchises as seen with Zelda and occasionally Metroid. For example, in hindsight, Mario's original Nintendo 64 entry was pretty generic. Sure, there were a few new elements, like the two new enemies, Scuttlebug and the Sushi shark, but it was still very safe.
Flash forward six years later, and this is where things really gain momentum with Super Mario Sunshine. There was so much new in Sunshine, and not just with the new enemies, of which there were plenty, but also with the new setting, the FLUDD hover pack, and the fact that it takes place during the summer on a tropical island — which is yet to be replicated by Nintendo. Then, five years later, we got Super Mario Galaxy. Thankfully, Nintendo changed the setting again, taking the plumber into space and the overall experience cranked up to eleven. So that begs the question, is Super Mario Galaxy the sequel we deserved after Sunshine? If this is something you've ever wondered, you've come to the right place.
So let’s discuss Super Mario Galaxy. The game takes place in the great beyond, so Nintendo used the new setting to create all sorts of wacky level designs never seen before in the Mario series or the history of platformers, but that came at a cost. Many players fell in love with Sunshine’s controls, so they were disappointed to discover Mario could only move in nine directions. This differs from the expressive moveset of Super Mario 64, which was used to make exploration fun. It’s also worth mentioning that Super Mario 64 became less of a blast after Sunshine was released due to its sluggish controls. Why am I talking about an older game, though? It’s because Galaxy did the same thing by significantly reducing player freedom and focusing on tight-level design, and what’s special about that is how it still feels like a Mario game. From the goofy-looking enemies and colourful environments to the bombastic musical score, it’s all great.
I also think the Mario series has something other franchises would kill to have: the ability to change everything in a short time span. It’s unprecedented across most of the industry and even leads to stories like this one! As for what I prefer, it largely depends on my mood, but I have a lot of respect for both titles and envy those who were able to play them at release. I think Galaxy is the more creative of the two, but that could be because focusing on individual stages makes great design ideas more obvious. With a sandbox design, it becomes harder to tell what a good and bad idea is because the experience can feel unfocused. Either way, they’re still great games.
So how about this? Let’s see what others are saying! As of right now, Sunshine has a 92 on Metacritic, and Galaxy has a 97 on the site while being listed as a must-play by critics. However, that might not be the best way of answering the original query because while review scores do a good enough job of providing a lens into our opinions on games, they’re still a bit lopsided. So let’s use the internet. It’s hard to take steps across the web without coming across someone passionately reminiscing about Galaxy on Twitter, YouTube, and even Reddit. It’s even harder to find someone speaking fondly about Mario Sunshine. In fact, from my experience, I often see these people talking about it in the replies of tweets or posts instead of posting themselves. It seems like Sunshine is the black sheep of the Mario series, and it can be buggy, obtuse, and generally annoying to play.
On the other hand, Galaxy is much more refined, polished, and focused, with superb level design, a blissful score, and a great story even by Mario standards. But this article isn’t trying to decide which game is better; this article is trying to decide if Galaxy is the sequel we deserve after Sunshine.
So what do I think? I’d say yes. Galaxy is just more fun to play for me, I often see a lot of people talking positively about it, and I see a lot less talking about Sunshine. The developer at least deserved a little bit of a break, considering the amount of work that was taken away from level design and put into graphical fidelity. And if it makes everyone’s job easier, then doesn’t that answer the question right there? However, games are art, and art is subjective, especially when considering the Mario series' legacy. The answer to this question is anti-climactic; but what do you think? I still prefer Galaxy, and it seems many others do. So I’m sorry to disappoint you, but the answer is not a definite yes. It’s hard to answer a question like this with two of the best titles in the history of videogames. But isn’t it great that those games can bring a thousand-word article out of a fan? I think it is!