Retrospective – Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)

Space. The grand setting for some of the most beloved franchises in media history.

Whether you are thinking of voyages of discovery in Star Trek, or explosive battles and mystic forces in Star Wars, there is no doubt in anybody’s mind that setting your show or game in outer space allows for an immense amount of creativity and storytelling. When the Mario franchise finally broke out of its mold and went to space, it was a truly momentous time for fans.

Super Mario Galaxy released on the ever-popular Wii in 2007. Continuing in the steps of the 3D platforming genre, Super Mario Galaxy is a culmination of all that Nintendo had learned thus far about how to make a really good 3D Mario game. In between the release of Sunshine and Galaxy, Nintendo had experimented a bit with the New Super Mario Bros. series. This was their first foray into 3D Mario gaming again after a handful of years.

The game opens up during a nighttime festival, taking place in the Mushroom Kingdom. This beautiful event is quickly ruined by Bowser who, as usual, kidnaps the Princess and brings her into… space? Yes, they go into space, leaving Mario stranded in outer space without a clue where to find her. He quickly befriends star-like creatures called “Lumas,” and along with them, meets a new princess character named Rosalina. With her help, Mario embarks on a quest to gather stars and save the princess!

While the plot of this Mario game echoes what has come before, the new context it is placed in is very intriguing at first glance. You are effectively lost in space and need to travel to different worlds in order to find the princess. The inclusion of a new princess character in the narrative, however, adds some extra layers to the storytelling that hasn’t really been there before. As you continue your journey, you start learning more about who this Rosalina character is and how her backstory has lead her to this moment in her life. It is an exceptionally good story that you would not normally expect from a Mario game, and I fully support adding in these multilayered characterizations in these new characters to add a little more depth to the standard “save-the-princess” trope.

The music in this game is unparalleled, especially in comparison to other 3D Mario platformers. There are certainly riffs and moments in many of the tracks that harken back to the older days of Mario, but so much of it is wholly unique. The soundtrack just feels so grand and expansive; a lot of the music would work quite well if it was overlaid onto a JRPG. I remember finding a copy of the soundtrack in a thrift store once for a mere $2 and it was one of the best purchases I’ve made. I cannot count how many times I would just throw the CD into the player in the car and just get lost in the music.

Like many of the fans of this game, I was quite relieved that Super Mario Galaxy did not have a mechanic-changing gimmick like F.L.U.D.D. from Super Mario Sunshine. In fact, my favorite levels from Sunshine took place in these special stages where you did not have access to F.L.U.D.D. at all. Super Mario Galaxy basically takes how those sections controlled and ramps them up significantly, making the 3D platforming some of the best the genre has ever seen. Mario controls so well, even moreso than he did in Super Mario 64, and you can tell that Nintendo put their heart and soul into making the controls work so well. Even though you’re bouncing between planets and worlds with different gravitational pulls, you are still able to adjust quickly and continue moving fluidly. Many even prefer the platforming in Super Mario Galaxy to its successor, Super Mario Odyssey, and that says A LOT about the care that went into this game.

Super Mario Galaxy was so beloved that it even inspired Nintendo to put out a sequel game in 2010, appropriately titled Super Mario Galaxy 2. This semi-sequel offered up many updates and changes to the base gameplay while telling a new story. Many people consider Super Mario Galaxy 2 to be the superior game for that reason, and it is currently considered to be one of the best games ever released on the Nintendo Wii.

Super Mario Galaxy was certainly a pivotal moment in NIntendo’s history. Some people considered Super Mario Sunshine to be too much of a departure from the gameplay formula that Super Mario 64 excelled at. Galaxy – in many ways – proved to be a “return-to-form” for fans of the 64 original, and it is a beloved game even to today. Whether you dust off your Wii and play it with the Wiimote-and-Nunchuk or embrace the port on Switch, you are in for a wondrous and amazing adventure with Mario and these little star dudes.