The Top 20 Games of 2006-2011

As we round out the week, here comes our final Top 20 Games!

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 05/04/2012 13:00 5 Comments     ShareThis

1. Super Mario Galaxy (2007)

Super Mario Galaxy box art

And so, our winner of the final great game in Nintendo history is none other than Super Mario Galaxy. In the end, the game faced little competition (well none other than the equally remarkable Super Mario Galaxy 2) and it’s not difficult to see why: on every front Galaxy is a masterpiece of wonder, joy and imagination. Building from elements of Super Mario 64, Sunshine and Mario’s earlier entries, Galaxy crystalised Nintendo’s strategy for the future of gaming: not to simplify and water down games but to strip away the obsolete dimensions of gaming, lengthy menus, visual clutter, unneccessary sidequests, and instead offered a strong, cohesive, minimalist, visually sumptuous, expertly-designed adventure that offered just the right mix of challenge and reward. At the end of the day, it’s hard to find many gamers that have a bad word to say about Galaxy and it’s not hard to see why.

Why Kevin Knezevic loves Super Mario Galaxy

There’s a reason that Super Mario Galaxy is my favorite game of this entire generation. EAD Tokyo’s first stab at the series was a masterwork of level design and imagination. Under the careful guidance of Yoshiaki Koizumi (whose unique touch could be felt in both Link’s Awakening and Majora’s Mask), the team stripped the gameplay of Super Mario 64 down to its barest essentials, eschewing its open-world design for a more linear approach to stage construction. On the surface this might have seemed like a step backward for the franchise, but in practice it proved to be an inspired decision: not only did this approach allow EAD Tokyo to better control the pacing of the game, but it also helped capture the spirit of classic Mario better than any of the plumber’s other 3D adventures. The linear stages felt like the true realization of classic Mario gameplay in a 3D space, and the fact that they played out over a series of planetoids (or some other set of abstract platforms) suspended in the cosmos made each a unique and unpredictable experience unlike anything else at the time.

Of course, it also helped that Super Mario Galaxy was one of the most beautiful games to grace the console. Each stage, from the vernal landmasses of Gusty Garden to the cold debris of the Space Junk Galaxy, was as beautiful as it was vast, and the accompanying score made each feel that much more majestic. It’s true that its sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2, may have refined its approach to level design even further, but it was this game that set the bar and marked the beginning of a veritable renaissance for the Mario series.

Why Mel Turnquist loves Super Mario Galaxy

I’m a sucker for any Mario game. But this one took it to a whole new level. Instead of going through worlds in Peach’s castle or other places, this time you were taking a trip through galaxies upon galaxies. This was the first game you saw on the Wii and thought “My God…this is majestic!” The colors were perfect and bold, the starry skies were stunning, and the music… God, the music was amazing. The game was addicting to play, got increasingly challenging with every galaxy, and actually showed something that a lot of people forget about– it’s about the gameplay. While you had the other consoles adding on new graphics upon new graphics, inventing newer shades of brown to work with (the Brown is Real trope), and other kinds of bells and whistles; here was Nintendo with a game that may not be the most graphically stunning (though I still thought it was good…then again, I thought Super Mario 64 was a visual masterpiece when I first saw it when I was a kid), but it played and it played well. And that’s all that really matters with gaming– does it play? Then play away!

Why M. Noah Ward loves Super Mario Galaxy

As I saw more and more side-scrolling Mario games in the ’80s and ’90s, things started to feel a little too comfortable and formulaic. Bowser’s the villain, I’m playing as Mario or Yoshi, there are some new power-ups, eight worlds, probably a shortcut area…

Then Super Mario 64 released, and I realized how Mario could be redefined and invigorating again. The possibilities seemed vast… and then we got Super Mario Sunshine. Not high on my personal list, and for many others it was equally polarizing. Had the Nintendo 64 masterpiece been a one-time event?

Not at all. Miyamoto recognized the brilliance of the Donkey Kong Jungle Beat team and let them run loose in Mario’s world, and their gift to us somehow managed to tap into my ingrained love of not just Mario and his power-ups, but also outer space, divergent worlds and tricky puzzles. Even the story was upgraded with unexpected pathos!

For me at least, Super Mario Galaxy remains a sacred pinnacle of Mario gaming. And yes, its sequel only further refined a perfect recipe, but this was the original, with its wildly creative level design that thrilled me stage after stage, hour after hour, and it featured a masterful, gravity-defying camera and true harnessing of Wii’s horsepower. Not to mention that orchestral soundtrack! Wow. All Professor E.Gadd and F.L.U.D.D. transgressions were wiped away in my mind.

So, while I’ll always have a soft spot for side-scrolling Mario games– since they’re what I originally played when I was a little kid, what I now truly yearn for is Mario’s next 3D console adventure. I can’t imagine how the Galaxy games can be topped, but I’m keeping the faith.

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