Super Mario 64

The transplant of an established and highly popular gameplay format from the world of two dimensions in which it had so greatly thrived to the then mostly unexplored universe of three dimensions had no blueprint, no instruction booklet, and no materialized result of considerable value. The company headed into uncharted territory and rather than coming out of it with an experience that was enjoyable yet immature, as it would have been expected, they emerged out of the fog of the unknown with a gem so polished and fully developed that its controls, structure, and content would, more than serve as the base to everything that was to come, be copied and pasted multiple times across more than a decade. It is one of those grand feats that at the time when it was performed already seemed to be a pretty big deal, but that in hindsight looks a whole lot like the material of some sort of legend that is too absurd to be true. Yet, Super Mario 64 exists as proof that it happened, and, to top it all off, it remains as purely fun as it was upon release.

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Super Mario World

Super Mario World may not be as groundbreaking as its immediate predecessor; after all, Super Mario Bros. 3 marked the moment when the franchise’s gameplay reached its fully matured state, and moments such as those are very hard to come by. Nevertheless, the game succeeds in taking massive steps towards further developing the framework that was already in place. The Super Nintendo’s superior hardware allowed the creation of more intricate levels that pushed the boundaries of what a stage of the franchise could contain; the introduction of Yoshi not only brought forth a new charming character, but also expanded the series’ gameplay considerably; and the complex construction of the title’s overworld, greatly aided by the various secret exits that its courses held, gave the adventure a level of freedom and exploration that had yet to be touched upon by the platforming genre. Through those means, Super Mario World succeeds in giving muscle to a structure that had apparently already reached its peak, proving that unlikely improvements that are made to products that seemingly cannot be further polished are sometimes just as impressive as the discovery of new territory.

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Super Mario Galaxy

Super Mario Galaxy is joy and enchantment in gaming form. It has no commitment to sense; no concerns about logic; and no regard for the mundane. Its sole pledge is to fun, and by taking the elements of the plumber’s universe towards the vastness and insanity of space, Nintendo gave its developers total freedom regarding what kinds of levels to build and what sorts of mechanics to explore. Consequently, in the arms of gravity and aboard weirdly shaped planetoids, the Super Mario franchise reaches for interactive entertainment at its purest form. It may not be perfect, but even the most avid players will have a hard time coming upon an adventure that produces surprises and moments of genuine awe with such uncanny consistency. Super Mario Galaxy succeeds in embracing all audiences and taking them into an outer space journey that feels epic, controls spectacularly, looks stunning, sounds like a grand symphony, and holds more gameplay ingenuity in its dozens of stages than many companies will ever get to put together in a lifetime.

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Mario Vs. Donkey Kong

The overall charming simplicity and the generally competent level design of Mario vs. Donkey Kong make it easy to notice that the game was never meant as a grand statement or as a fierce competitor for the crown of best Game Boy Advance title, but was – instead – planned from the get go as a kind of effort that is ideal to a handheld setting. The abundance of content found in it is delightful and the way its brief puzzle-platforming stages were made to be cleared within a handful of minutes turn it into an ideal portable experience. Consequently, although it is not technically impressive, for its lovable visuals lack in scenario details and its audio leaves something to be desired in terms of quality, it is very enjoyable to play through. Furthermore, it rescued, from almost total obscurity, a gameplay idea that was tucked away in an overlooked Game Boy title and made it available to a new generation of gamers, who were able to – through it – revisit, in fresher colors and in a new expanded format, the historic duel that, from inside an arcade cabinet, put Nintendo on the map.

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Mario & Luigi: Partners In Time

There are, of course, a number of areas where Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time could be better. A stronger and thicker script would give more purpose to some of its segments; a fully connected world, like the one from Superstar Saga, could have brought forth a bigger sense of freedom and worked far better than the linear portal-based traveling it employs; and the time-traveling quirk out of which it extracts its greatest new mechanic, the presence of Baby Mario and Baby Luigi, is visibly underused, as it fails to bring any other considerable ramifications in plot as well as in gameplay. Nevertheless, an evaluation of its components reveals a game that is strong, as its humor is undeniably sharp, its animations are lovely, its battle system is highly entertaining, and the puzzles that appear as the heroes explore the world are simple yet fun. Due to that, although it falls short of the greatness achieved by some of the other entries of the series, Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time is a very solid role-playing outing by the plumber.

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Super Mario Maker 2

Super Mario Maker 2 is a game that embraces each and every kind of player who has an appreciation for the franchise it celebrates: those who love Nintendo’s magical touch for coming up with some great platforming; the ones that like to perform speed runs or have their game-playing skills tested to their utter limit by ridiculously tough stages; audiences who find amusement in watching the gimmicks of automatic and musical courses unfold; and folks who want to experience what fellow gamers who like to wear their Shigeru Miyamoto hats will come up with. And that goodness comes in piles that are virtually endless. Although immensely entertaining for both the camps who lean towards playing or creating, the game comes off as particularly spectacular to fans who like to do a bit of the two. In that context, Super Mario Maker 2 is capable of orchestrating an infinite loop of excellence, for one activity inevitably feeds into the other, as creation leads to curiosity about what others are up to and going through some platforming fatally gives way to new level-design ideas. As a consequence, even if a few punctual improvements could have been made, there is no denying that the game succeeds in not just paying homage to what is perhaps the greatest gaming franchise of all time, but also to the fans who have been witnesses to its unlikely run of sustained greatness.

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Super Mario Land

Based around a format that, throughout history, has time and time again proven itself to be quite efficient, it is hard to call Super Mario Land a bad game. And its mesmerizing commercial success at the time of its release certainly shows Nintendo did quite well in bringing the world’s most popular platforming series to a handheld system for the first time ever. Nonetheless, although its status as the game that opened up the floodgates for that sort of transition is preserved, the value of its gameplay has been heavily eroded as time has passed. In spite of how it is certainly thematically weird, its oddity is not enough to make it remarkable; and despite featuring a couple of noteworthy detours, they have neither the prominence nor the frequency to turn Super Mario Land into a must-play. For those reasons, the plumber’s first portable entry stands solely as a curiosity for the character’s most avid fans; because anyone else is bound to be rather unimpressed by it.

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Super Mario RPG: Legend Of The Seven Stars

Consequently, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is a game that excels in countless areas. In materializing the rather unlikely marriage between the platforming world of Super Mario and the role-playing greatness of the classics produced by Square during the nineties, it ended up creating a sub-genre of its own: a class of games where thick scripts and turn-based battles meet exploration segments that marry the walking usually done in RPGs with external elements such as action and puzzle-solving. With that combination as its basis, the game assembles a quest that – more than any other Mario game before it – gives life to the Mushroom Kingdom while miraculously succeeding in embracing RPG fans and newcomers to the genre that are naturally attracted to games starring the popular plumber. And even if some of the role-playing quests undertaken by the character ever since have presented more alluring scripts and a wider deck of options, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars retains its position not just as a major pioneer, but as a classic due to how nowhere else in the usually fantastic sagas that were heavily inspired by it can one find such a pure balance between RPG traditions and the quirks of Mario’s universe.

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Super Mario Sunshine

As such, although Super Mario Sunshine is most of the times an excellent display of platforming greatness both in its open worlds and in its linear portions, it presents a few rough edges that can make it more frustrating than it should have been. Its controls, its camera (though not perfect), and the variety of its objectives show greater maturity in relation to Super Mario 64, but – at the same time – the excess of direction that its episodes possess takes away much of the joy that comes with the unexpected discoveries of unguided exploration. Nevertheless, the game is undeniably fun, often inventive, very challenging to those who want to fully complete it, and quite welcoming to anyone who just wishes to get to its end. Alongside those qualities, its brightest spot may be how even though it drinks heavily from Super Mario 64 in terms of structure, it is able to give its adventure a completely unique tone and feel within the franchise’s canon due to its great relaxed setting and F.L.U.D.D., its key gameplay component. Because of that, it is a must-play for absolutely everyone, as the well-designed experience found here cannot be had anywhere else.

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Mario Tennis Aces

With a good deal of extra care, Mario Tennis Aces could have easily been the best entry in the franchise’s history. Unfortunately, it is considerably held back by the fact many of its offline modes suffer from issues that are so primary one has to wonder how it was possible for a company as big and quality-focused as Nintendo to overlook them. Therefore, while the gameplay itself is stellar, presenting a perfect mixture of solid basics of the sport that are implemented in simple ways and absurd quirks that add a whole lot of excitement, splendor, and strategy to this world of rackets and courts, the content that surrounds it is, at best, problematic. As such, the recommendation of Mario Tennis Aces comes with massive caveats. If one is willing to jump into the game’s online mode and soak in all of the thrill and brutality of those courts, or if one wants to enjoy a great – though limited – multiplayer sessions beside great friends, the game has quite a bit to offer despite its hard-to-ignore faults. If one, on the other hand, is looking for a meaty single-player experience that brings equal levels of challenge, value, and enjoyment, Mario Tennis Aces will not satisfy.

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