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Players: 1 (2 cooperatively)
Price: $49.99
Platform(s): Wii
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
ESRB: Everyone
Website: Wahoo!

While you’ve probably already read a baker’s dozen of reviews for the pleasant plumber’s escapades in outer space, this one’s different. Why? Well, unlike pretty much everybody else on the planet, I actually liked Super Mario Sunshine quite a bit and don’t just jump from Mario 64 to Mario Galaxy in comparisons like everybody else. In my mind, every game has progressed to reach this very moment to craft not only the best game the Wii has ever been graced with (Sorry, Twilight Princess fans, but this one has you beat), but also the best game in the Mario series ever. Super Mario World be damned!

What makes this game such a magical adventure, from its slightly slow start to its ultra awesome conclusion (I still haven’t gotten to the Luigi game yet), is how Nintendo managed to flip, both literally and figuratively, Mario from his side scrolling days of yore to now. Sure, Mario 64 did that just fine, but beneath the veneer of totally 3-D gaming done right, it still felt like a game that could have been done in 2-D if Master Miyamoto had decided to put it in that format.

Not so with Mario Galaxy, a game that utilizes the nunchuku and Wii-mote so well, that I’ve finally become a true believer. What Galaxy does with the physics and gravity of the minor planets and the overall scope of the larger ones is simply astounding. This is the overall leap from 3-D (Running completely around some planets—King Kai style—without falling off), that Mario 64 really wanted to be, and what Mario Sunshine came very close to nailing.

You start the game off learning that every 100 years or so, stars fall from the sky with the energy to power the entire universe. These stars can be harvested and yada, yada, yada, honestly, you won’t really care about the story (Even when Bowser comes into the picture with a flying airship), and will instead want to skip right to the gameplay, where you end up on a strange planet having to run and catch bunny rabbits, Mario 64 style. This is more a tutorial to teach you that, yes, you can run almost anywhere you want at certain times without the impending fear of falling off into the quasars, as some planets just work that way. It’ll take you about four minutes to get the hang of.

But that’s not saying that you can’t fall to your doom, though. On some of the larger planets, there are black holes directed right in the middle of them that if you fall off, you’ll get sucked off the terrain right to your death. If you think about it, it’s the equivalent of missing a jump in any of the Mario games—it means game over for you, bub.

And that’s why I said that every game in the Mario series has led up to this moment as just about every title has some sort of spark in its creative crevices located in this game. You have the down to Earth style of the first title, with its, get from A to Z momentum in Galaxy. You have aspects of going down into tunnels and coming out in brand new worlds similar to Mario Bros. 2. You have the sprawling, world map like qualities as found in Super Mario World. You even have the gimmicky Yoshi as seen in Mario Sunshine in Galaxy (One of my favorite special stars was called something along the lines of, “Random Appearance By Yoshi,” which is just about how I felt in Sunshine, too).

But the game that Galaxy apes the most, and veterans of the series will probably appreciate, is Super Mario Bros. 3, inarguably the crowd favorite when it comes to longstanding fans of the series. From its airship battles, costume changes, and overall sprawl of secrets and missions, some could argue that Galaxy is basically the spiritual successor to Mario 3, with no level emphasizing that more than the very early Bee Galaxy. It’s here that Mario dons his funny bee suit and has the ability to fly for a limited amount of time to reach certain objects in the level.

At one point, you even have to fly and crawl on the queen bee to pluck off little individual star pieces that are making her itchy. Immediately, memories of swimming underwater with the frog suit in Mario 3 jumped to my mind for some reason. And it’s not because the two are really similar in their objectives or anything like that, but more because that sense of wonderment and discovery, that sense that I’m having the time of my life with a plumber, overwhelmed me all over again and reminded me of just why I fell in love with video games in the first place. If anything, if you’ve become a gaming atheist and have lost all faith in the medium, play Mario Galaxy to revive that interest once again. Seriously, I had given up on Nintendo forever until I played this game. Now, all I want to do is play the Wii some more.

Another great thing is the boss battles, which I looked forward to rather than wished to avoid. Unlike in past Mario games, the boss battles in this one are abundant, and each one asks you to try something totally different to thwart your baddie. Honestly, by the time I had gotten to Bowser for the first time, I was already so pleased with the boss battles that they could have already stopped throwing them at me and I would have been perfectly happy. Similar to God of War 2—another great game that I totally urge you to play—the boss battles really emphasize the strength and abilities of the lead character as a great game should. Never have I felt more in tune with Mario than when I faced off against the bosses in this game, and I’ve been playing with Mario since the days he was simply called Jumpman.

I’d be lying if I said this game didn’t have its faults (Some of the galaxies are lackluster. I’m looking at you Ghost Galaxy), but there’s so much good going for the game, that you’d have to look far and wide to find another game of this caliber. And I mean Super Mario Sunshine far. As I said before, I actually liked that game. If you even remotely liked Sunshine, then you’ll absolutely love this one. Bar none, Mario Galaxy is the game of the year. It might even be the game of the decade.
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