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Best of the Decade: Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy

Platform: Wii

Release Date: November 12, 2007

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo

Everybody that buys Nintendo consoles anxiously awaits those rare days when we get to unwrap the plastic covering a precious new proper Mario game. Mario may be in half of the games Nintendo releases these days, but his proper platforming outings, the ones for which so many gamers hold him so dear, are still fairly few and far apart.

There’s a reason for this. Every last one of Mario’s games has been stellar. Some perhaps more or less than others, but more than just about any other franchise in Nintendo’s stable, Nintendo keeps each of Mario’s outings fresh and unique.

The ultimate case in point is Super Mario Galaxy. Nintendo made us wait for this one. Like Super Mario Sunshine, Wii owners were left without a new Mario game at launch. Sunshine, while a terrific game, received an unusually tepid response from the masses, for a Mario title at least. This left people wondering what would follow. Had Nintendo lost their touch? Could they revive the magic of Super Mario 64 two generations after the landmark title had come and gone?

Indeed they could. 

I’ll admit that when I first heard the name “Super Mario Galaxy” I was a bit worried. Sending your franchise off into space is right up there with the most cliched ways to wring more life out of a tired idea. 

Moonraker anyone?

But that wasn’t Nintendo’s desire. No, they used the space theme as a convenient excuse to go absolutely bonkers with the level design and give Mario some of the weirdest, most fun areas he’s had to hop and bop in for a long time. All the worlds in the game are insanely creative and, thanks to the freedom offered by the space setting, liberties could be taken with gameplay as well.

Some of the most memorable moments in the game are when the levels start to play around with gravity. Whether it be small planets that Mario can hop around with low-grav ease or levels that shift gravity this way and that to seriously mess with the player’s head. 

It’s not just space-related thematics and obstacles that make this game interesting though. The limitless options offered by the lack of ties to the typical Mushroom Kingdom setting allowed Nintendo to create new environments, with appropriately fresh obstacles, for Mario to explore and navigate around. Whether it be a colorful level inhabited by bees where Mario gets a positively adorable bee suit or a level built out of children’s toys, Super Mario Galaxy was packed full of inventive places to roam.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that Galaxy is one of the prettiest games on the Wii and comes complete with a memorable soundtrack.

It wasn’t all window-dressing and gimmicks, however. One of the best things about the game was the sheer amount of stuff to do. It was plenty accessible for those less inclined to a challenge, but it was packed with tough optional objectives as well for those that wanted to sink their teeth into something more difficult. Unlockables and secret objectives were everywhere and it would take even the most dedicated many, many hours to see all of the wonderful things on offer in Super Mario Galaxy. 

Super Mario Galaxy is one of the finest platformers ever made, bar none. Its level designs are sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face, its challenges are enough to keep even the hardcore on their toes, and the vast reaches of space provide countless hours of entertainment.

Even more remarkable? They did it all again, and better, with Super Mario Galaxy 2. Not only were we lucky enough to get more than one proper Mario platformer on one console for the first time since the NES, but we got a sequel that surpassed the original in quality which, considering how high the first Galaxy set the bar, is flat-out amazing. The original Galaxy made this list instead of the sequel because of the wow-factor of being the first, but there can be little doubt that its sequel is even tougher, more vast, and more enjoyable, making it absolutely worthy of mention alongside its predecessor.

For quite simply providing one of the best platforming experiences of the last decade in a decade that was all too short on terrific platformers, Super Mario Galaxy is one of my Best of the Decade.

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