And the best Nintendo game of the decade is…
1. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Nintendo, Wii, 2010)
As we soar and leap throughout the starry expanses of Super Mario Galaxy 2‘s opening level, we eventually find ourselves grounded on a cluster of planetoids; accompanied by Sling Stars, experimentation beckons in their catapulting properties. While the first provides a giant coin, the second suddenly throws Mario for a literal loop around the celestial assemblage, gracefully zig-zagging to-and-fro to the rhythm of a lofty orchestral score. Our ride ends without much fanfare, but before we know it, our blooming entrancement once again leaves our heroic plumber to the whims of the planets’ gravitational mercy, ignoring the nearby Launch Star’s signal to progress. There’s no purpose, no goal in this fruitless venture — the exact 3D gaming philosophy Miyamoto birthed in Super Mario 64: a game that’s fun even if you’re not progressing.
When considering such gravitational-based pockets were dotted throughout the previous Super Mario Galaxy (not the least in its stretchy Pull Stars), it’s no surprise its 2010 sequel wastes no time in such gleeful reprieves. Deviating from 3D Mario in its linear focus, Super Mario Galaxy 2 surges with imaginative panorama, zooming past exploding volcanoes as we dodge giant millstones and ride a Dash Pepper-powered Yoshi up roaring waterfalls. Yet for all its thrills, incidental bouts of playful freedom we frequently encounter compel all sorts of inquisitive childlike joy — I bounce on Cloudy Court’s drums and laugh as the Goombas spring alongside me, skate on Cosmic Cove’s frozen water and practice some tricks, and re-familiarize myself with Mario 64‘s Whomp Fortress.
All speak to Mario Galaxy 2‘s scope — it’s not necessarily “open” (or at least not in the vein of Mario 64 or Odyssey; true, we choose routes throughout the world maps, but most levels are railroaded), yet every last one of its individual microcosms in either one-and-done bouts of creativity or stirring environments captivates, compelling us to return again and again for thrills (timed records — a first for Mario — are prime for speed-runs) or discovery (hello, easter egg nightmare fuel!). It is simply grand, our speckled cosmos adventures and carefree escapades elevated to upmost relevance within ethereal visuals and a slice of heaven in its masterful orchestrals.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 isn’t perfect — the Wii motion segments are dated, and the uninspired Green Star hunt feels tacked-on (to 3D World‘s credit, its implementation was well more thought-out) — but this playful commitment to the best of both worlds for the sake of genuinely unbridled joy renders it the most outstanding, unparalleled, downright best Nintendo game I played this past decade. And knowing that I have another ten years to discover how the gang at Nintendo could possibly top this software with Switch and whatever else lies ahead leaves me ecstatic for their future.
Best Moment: Slimy Spring Galaxy is a memorable bait-and-switch– we trek through underwater sewage and navigate around unsightly jellyfish and anemone until emerging to a spectacular sunrise view among spotless fauna. I also like trying to Ground Pound that one Paragoomba mid-way through — doooooooown we go!
Worst Moment: Yeah, again, the Green Star hunt’s a pretty poor post-game. Of course, you don’t have to do it — they only pop up after you get all original 120 Power Stars, but then you miss out on World S…
Best Song: THE MAIN THEME! Although, it doesn’t play in game, so perhaps Sky Station Galaxy can take its stead? Cloudy Court and Starship Mario — the latter a favorite of Koji Kondo’s — are also up there.
Final Thoughts: For all my praise, I have no interest in a Galaxy 3; rather, I’d like for Nintendo to keep innovating on Odyssey. The potential there is unmatched!
Did your favorite game not make the cut? Why not drop by the next page to see if they were inducted via Honorable Mentions?