Super Mario Galaxy

Game Description: Every hundred years a comet passes over the Mushroom Kingdom and rains down stars and stardust, and as Princess Peach and the citizens of the kingdom are celebrating the centennial event, Bowser and his legions attack by launching asteroids at the Mushroom Kingdom and crystalizing the Toads! Knowing that Bowser is after Princess Peach, Mario runs to save her. Things go awry as Bowser summons a massive spaceship, abducts Peach's entire castle and hits Mario with a massive magical attack. The next thing he knows, he finds himself on a mysterious moon high above the Mushroom Kingdom! Navigate Mario through a bevy of exciting new worlds and the depths of space, with all new enemies, power-ups and attack skills, as he collects the Stars needed to save Princess Peach!

Super Mario Galaxy Review

Super Mario Galaxy Screenshot (click here for more)

It's easy to dismiss Nintendo's Wii as a $250 gimmick. The console's "revolutionary" library is full of muti-platform movie tie-ins and remakes—not to mention the last minute control-swapping in The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Sure, the Wiimote can make first-person shooters more natural to play; it's also probably no small factor in Manhunt 2's infamy. (When you strangle a guy, it really feels like you're strangling a guy!) But the real test of the Wiimote is a game that showcases its unique features while integrating them so deeply into the gameplay that its uniqueness doesn't distract us. There haven't been any games that fit the bill. Until now.

Instead of traversing a castle and its grounds (Super Mario 64) or a polluted island (Super Mario Sunshine), Mario spends Super Mario Galaxy traveling through the cosmos. His adventures in outer space require him to grapple with the fickle quirks of gravity, which makes for some really fun and unique level design. The plumber in the red suit has always moved in a wide variety of directions—down into pipes, up vines, through blocks, over the heads of giant turtle monsters—but now he can walk upside-down. Sometimes gravity will pull him to the underside of a planet as he bounces or flies to it, making him stick like a fly walking on a ceiling. At other times, the only way forward is under: dead ends often turn into secret pipes and passageways when players take Mario to the other side of a planet. Although it's impossible to make anything on a flat 2D screen truly 3-dimensional, Super Mario Galaxy forces me to think of the gameworld as fully sided, like the real world I live in. Such geography was hard to get used to at first, but it stretched my problem-solving abilities and, frankly, broke platforming puzzles free from the box they've been stuffed in for 20 years.

While planet-hopping, players discover celestial features that not only flesh out the setting, but take advantage of the Wii's unusual control system in ways that feel more real than pushing some buttons and a thumbstick. Take the "pull star", for example. This shiny blue body hangs in the sky, and players can make it drag Mario toward itself by aiming the Wiimote and pressing the A button. By holding out my hand toward the screen, it really feels like I'm pulling Mario toward his destination. He can also spin—into enemies, wooden crates and big yellow Launch Stars that propel him to other planets in the galaxy. The player makes him spin by twisting the Wiimote from side to side as if opening a jar of pickles. This unscrewing motion manages to feel different and natural at the same time. It's not the kind of movement any videogame has asked me to do before, yet it fits so comfortably here. It's also very apropos: sometimes Mario finds metal screws in his environment that he can loosen or tighten by spinning like a human screwdriver on top of them.

Super Mario Galaxy updates Mario's universe for the Wii's new and unique technology, but while much has changed, there's a lot that's stayed the same. Our hero still has a wide variety of tools and weapons at his disposal. He can fly for a limited time as a bee, dipping down from time to time to build up lost strength, hopping from flower to flower and climbing giant honeycomb walls. Rainbow-colored stars make him invincible and silver mushrooms turn him into a tightly wound spring. In this form he bounces always, difficult to control, but a wave of accomplishment breaks over me when I finally—finally!—shoot him to the top of a pillar of stones and butt-stomp the column into oblivion to reach the secret underneath. Even my beloved Fire Flower makes its 3D debut, and brought a twin: the Ice Flower, which lets Mario walk on water.

If there's anything wrong with the game at all, it lies in the things that haven't changed. Some of its stages have been staples since the earliest incarnations of the series. There are fire levels and ice levels and desert levels and swimming levels, and how much a player enjoys them will depend on how much she's liked them in the past or how tired she is of seeing them. However, even in such familiar territory the developers change things up a bit. Mario has finally learned to ice-skate, so he's a formidable opponent in races against penguins and doesn't slip-slide on ice anymore. Also, he can jump into tornadoes of sand, propel himself high in the air ("Whee!"), and float down like samara from a tree. Levels I was sure would be boring did a lot of unexpected, enjoyable things. It was as if I were experiencing levels I'd seen a million variations of for the first time.

That, I think, is the strength of Super Mario Galaxy. It makes a veteran Mario fan like me feel like I'm playing a Mario game for the first time. It's like the seminal Super Mario 64 in that way. I'm glad that after 20 years, Nintendo can still make something old feel new again. Rating: 9.0 out of 10.

According to ESRB, this game contains: Mild Cartoon Violence.

Parents have nothing to worry about. There's no graphic violence, no sexual content, and no bad language whatsoever. There's some stereotyping of Italian immigrants (mostly in the voices of Mario and his brother Luigi), but that's the only objectionable content there is.

Mario fans will find plenty to love. Basic staples of the series are still here—the puzzles, the pipes, the quirky items, the acrobatic jumping—and enough has been added to make even those familiar things feel fresh and new. In particular, playing around in outer space with wonky gravity is a lot of fun.

Gamers who don't like Mario at all won't find anything in Super Mario Galaxy to convert them. Everything you dislike about the Super Mario series is probably still here, too.

Deaf and Hard of Hearing gamers should have no problems. All speech and relevant information is in text, and there are no auditory cues that don't have visual cues paired with them.

Super Mario Galaxy Preview Screenshots & Trailer

Expected release date: Novemeber 12, 2007 

Hyped features from publisher:

The ultimate Nintendo hero is taking the ultimate step ... into space.

Super Mario Galaxy Art Gallery

Super Mario Galaxy and Nintendo’s continuing critical dominance

Super Mario Galaxy

The arrival of Super Mario Galaxy marks the continuation of one of gaming's most beloved franchises. It also happens to mark the extension of Nintendo's remarkable streak of critical supremacy. According to the review aggregator site Game Rankings, the top-rated game for each of the last three console generations appeared exclusively on a Nintendo machine.

From newest to oldest, these are: Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, Metroid Prime on the GameCube, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. Were such data available for the 16-bit and 8-bit eras, that record would probably stretch back even further, with Super Metroid or The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past likely being tops on the Super Nintendo, and Super Mario Bros. 3 or the original Super Mario Bros. taking the crown on the old-school Nintendo.

Based on this mixture of hard data and (in the case of the 8-bit and 16-bit eras) informed speculation, I've compiled this list of factoids. (Note: Although my choices for the top-rated 8-bit and 16-bit games will be criticized, I tried to hedge my bets a little by picking what are widely considered the top two games from both eras. This is reflected in the following percentages.)

Of the top-rated videogames from each of the last five console generations:

1) 100% are Nintendo games

2) 100% star Mario, Link, or Samus

3) 100% are sequels (if we consider Super Mario Bros. a sequel to Mario Bros.)

4) 90% were directed, produced, or designed by Shigeru Miyamoto

5) 80% are first-party Nintendo titles

6) 70% are platforming games, at least in part

7) 60% are 3D iterations of franchises that began in 2D

8) 50% are adventure games, at least in part

9) 50% contain the word “Super” in the title

10) 40% contain the word “Mario” in the title

So what does this all mean? For one thing, it would seem to suggest that the surest path to critical success is to have Shigeru Miyamoto make a platforming game sequel for Nintendo starring Mario, Link, or Samus that has the word “Super” in the title. Maybe we’ll see a Super Zelda Bros. Prime on Nintendo’s next console, perhaps involving Samus running through Hyrule stomping on Goombas.

On a more serious note, I think this just goes to show that the minds at Nintendo can—when they pool their collective intellectual assets—create absolutely amazing games. Despite all the criticism it has received over the past decade for alienating third-party developers and failing to provide a sufficient quantity of high quality titles, Nintendo can still be counted on to produce at least one shining star of a game each console generation.

I'm no Nintendo fanboy. In fact, most of my favorite games fall completely outside this list. Nevertheless, I can't deny being impressed with what Nintendo has managed to accomplish with its three biggest franchises. Can this streak possibly continue? We'll have to wait and see. The current cycle isn't over, and it's always possible that a new non-Nintendo game will shoot to the top of the rankings. This medium is filled with such a rich variety of styles and genres, however, that I'd be incredibly surprised if the highest-ranked game of the next console generation still stars Mario, Link, or Samus. But if anyone can pull it off, it's Nintendo.