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 & 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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Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3

Needless to say, absolutely none of those problems leave a considerable mark on the thick creative coat of Wario Land: Super Mario Land 3. Its release marks not just a moment of discovery, when Nintendo came across a gameplay format that would give birth to its most consistent handheld platforming saga; it is also the point when the Super Mario Land series gained a firm purpose. After all, while the two entries that preceded it felt like lesser products that were, for obvious reasons, having trouble to replicate what was being achieved on consoles; Wario Land drops those pretensions to the floor and proceeds to do its own thing. In a character that is the antithesis to Mario, the company uncovered a sidescrolling quest that was, simultaneously, similar to what the plumber was used to pulling off and also quite different in every way. As it turns out, that is exactly what the Game Boy needed: an adventure that could not be experienced anywhere else but on the small screen, and that only had to live up to the bar set by itself.

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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 2: 6 Golden Coins

In spite of both the big and small steps it takes in the direction of getting away from comparisons to the giants that Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World are, the game simply cannot escape them. Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins is fun, and it occasionally exhibits signs of great originality and excellence, as it does in its stunning scenario variety and in its absence of linearity. Still, the fact that it does not really shine where it matters the most – that is, in its level design – and that its focus lies on gameplay that is way too similar to that of its console counterparts holds it back considerably. It is, by all means, a major improvement over the content presented in its prequel; and it appeared as a sign that the Super Mario line of handheld games was advancing quickly. Nonetheless, a major burst of creativity was still missing in order for the saga to truly find its footing in the portable world.

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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 Odyssey

Thanks to the impressive quantity of items to acquire in each kingdom (the dozens of moons and regional coins), Super Mario Odyssey often feels like a collectathon, but one that merges the exploration aspect that reigned over Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine with the linear goodness found in the most recent 3-D outings of the plumber. The meticulous design of its kingdoms, the cleverness of the capture mechanic and the doors of gameplay possibility that are blasted open due to it, and the fact secrets and new objectives are uncovered with every passing minute make Super Mario Odyssey an utter joy to play through, whether it is to those who will just clear its fifteen-hour adventure or to the daring gamers that will sink more than fifty hours into the experience to seek full completion. Super Mario Odyssey’s ridiculous abundance of ideas more than justifies the spectacular size of the quest Nintendo has put together.

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The Right Way

It is hard to pinpoint exactly when that tide began to shift and developers started looking at sidescrollers differently, but on the Nintendo camp that turnaround could easily be traced back to 2006’s New Super Mario Bros. The first original Mario sidescroller in a whopping fourteen years, the game – as its title plainly indicates – was marketed as a return to the stripped down platforming basics of the Super Mario Bros. trilogy.

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