Here we are in 2021, at the tail end of Mario’s 35th Anniversary celebrations, among which was the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a collection of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a collection of some great games, that unfortunately got quite a bit of well-deserved flack due to the business practices around it – Nintendo making the game available for a limited time only, the lack of effort put into the ports, and the odd disappearance of Super Mario Galaxy 2. It’s been an interesting experience for me to revisit these games on the Nintendo Switch – a nostalgia trip to say the least.
Super Mario Galaxy was one of the games I most wanted on the Nintendo Wii back in the day. I remember hearing about it before I had the console, back before the game was released, and just being so intrigued – Mario in space? No way! I had no internet in the house back in those days, so I would have to use my mum’s office computer when she wasn’t using it if I wanted to check anything online. I remember looking at the Super Mario Galaxy Wikipedia page pretty regularly – the logo was the only thing uploaded at the time in terms of pictures, and it made me so excited. When Christmas finally came around and I had a nice shiny new Nintendo Wii under the TV, Super Mario Galaxy was the first game I bought in the Boxing Day sales. I was hooked. Exploring these sublimely crafted worlds was a joy, and the wild inventiveness of Nintendo’s developers boggled my young mind. I didn’t have a Gamecube back in the day, so Galaxy was the first Mario game I’d had since 64. It certainly lived up to its predecessor.
Galaxy is widely looked up to as the peak of the Nintendo franchise, where the developers were able to explore their ideas to their fullest extent, not beholden to any style of world or gameplay. For the player, it makes for an exhilarating experience – you never quite know what experiences await you from galaxy to galaxy, star to star. It’s a wild ride – one minute you’re riding a manta ray around a watery race course, the next your climbing over a giant bee and pulling out little bits of star from her fur. There’s nothing quite like it (well, apart from Galaxy 2, that is). The visuals were very impressive for their hardware, and the music was phenomenal. This was one of Nintendo’s earliest forays into an orchestral soundtrack (the Zelda series wouldn’t get the same treatment until 2011’s Skyward Sword), and boy was it a success. The music from Gusty Gardens Galaxy is widely heralded as one of the best pieces of video game music, and I have to agree – it’s triumphant, adventurous, exciting. There’s many other piece of music in the game that live up to those lofty heights as well. Truly a masterpiece in sound design.
Playing the game again recently on the Nintendo Switch has led me to realise that some of the controls and gameplay quirks are a little dated by modern standards – I often feel like I’m fighting the camera, much more than I remember feeling back in the day when I was playing this game obsessively, but I feel more frustrated with Nintendo here than with the game itself. For me, the point of a remaster or rerelease is to give us the experience that we think we had through our rose-coloured glasses. Update things so that they have the polish of more modern games – coming back to these fixed camera angles after the free-wheeling movement of Super Mario Odyssey does feel like a pain, and does hamper enjoyment a little. However, it’s important to look at games like this as a product of their time, and Super Mario Galaxy truly is a masterpiece. The imagination on display here is outstanding, and even with a few niggles, it still stands up as one of the greatest games of all time.