Super Mario Galaxy first released on the Wii November 1st, 2007. It was Nintendo’s big holiday title for the Wii’s second anniversary, and the first mainline Mario game to hit shelves since Sunshine released on the GameCube in the Summer of 2002. In that five year gap of time, many fans wondered what direction Nintendo would take their favorite mustachioed plumber, though I think it’s safe to say no one expected the masterpiece that was (and still is) Galaxy. With its dazzling art direction, graphical fidelity, clever gravity-based platforming, and fully orchestrated music, Super Mario Galaxy launched the Mario franchise to new heights and proved that the Wii had more to offer than sports and party games. This cosmic game was so popular and beloved that Nintendo even re-released it as part of 2020’s Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection to celebrate the franchise’s 35th anniversary, but to the chagrin of fans, one 3D Mario game was notably missing from the collection – 2010’s Super Mario Galaxy 2.
The Piantas make their glorious return, and Yoshi doesn’t dissolve in the water. 10/10 game.
Released on May 23rd, 2010, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a game that was never supposed to exist. Miyamoto and his team originally wanted to release an updated version of the first game, called Super Mario Galaxy More (also referred to as Super Mario Galaxy 1.5). The plan was to re-release the game with reworked levels, along with scrapped ideas from the original Galaxy game. But as development progressed and new ideas were generated, the concept was expanded into a full-blown sequel – which was a first for the 3D Mario series. The 2D Mario series has had its own sets of numbered Mario games through the years, including the infamous Super Mario Bros. 2. However, starting with Super Mario World on the SNES, and then Super Mario 64 on the N64, Nintendo seemed to change both their naming convention and gameplay methodology.
Just like the game’s ideas, sometimes the characters are larger than life!
Gone were the days of the same-old side-scrolling adventure but with prettier graphics. Instead, fans were met with novel experiences that had never been done before. Mario 64 ushered in the age of 3D platforming with a variety of sprawling worlds and new abilities. Sunshine offered a new water-based mechanic with the F.L.U.D.D. machine. And Galaxy shot the plumber into the stars with some of the most inventive and expansive level design in the entire franchise. Before Galaxy 2 was even a sparkle in Miyamoto’s eye, we all wondered what the next console Mario game would be and what new ideas Nintendo had in store. Little did we know they weren’t done with Galaxy yet.
Galaxy-sized Bowser still had plenty of delights in store for Mario
While Super Mario Galaxy 2 is visually and technically identical to its predecessor, in many ways it was a refocusing of the Galaxy formula. Though the title says 2, it’s less of a direct sequel and more of a reinvention. Instead of traversing a series of larger, planet-based levels that fans had become accustomed to in the first game, Galaxy 2 is chock-full of traditional 2D platforming – much more so than Galaxy. Furthermore, the game is not narratively connected to its predecessor. The opening is told through the pages of a story book, rather than a bombastic cinematic opening. There is no Comet Observatory to traverse the stars and the mysterious Rosalina is nowhere to be found (though she is hinted at from time to time). Instead, you pilot a mobile planetoid in the shape of Mario’s head as you journey across the cosmos to save Princess Peach. The sequel also ditches the hub world mechanic found in previous 3D Mario games and implements a traditional map system like what you’d find in 2D Mario games such as Super Mario Bros. 3 and World.
Piloting a Mario-shaped planetoid is how you navigate the galaxy
While these changes can be a bit jarring at first, especially for fans of the first game, in many ways Galaxy 2 was a return to Mario’s roots. Before working on this feature, I actually booted up my Wii U to play the game for the first time in over a decade as a refresher. In addition to the changes mentioned above, I was shocked at how much more difficult this game is compared to Galaxy (which I had recently played on the Switch, and has been criticized for its easy difficulty). The levels in Galaxy 2, while relatively smaller in scale, truly test your platforming skills and often force you to think outside the box to collect the required number of stars needed to keep progressing through the game. Super Mario Galaxy was a visual feast that felt good to get lost in; Galaxy 2 is a technical challenge that requires your full attention.
The slide-levels are back, and they are quite fast
Super Mario Galaxy 2 also brought back the fan-favorite Yoshi (last seen in Sunshine) complete with his flutter jump and pointer-controlled tongue ability that doesn’t just eat enemies, but also lets you latch onto objects and swing through the air, adding entirely new mechanics to the already rich tapestry of Galaxy gameplay – and that’s not even mentioning the special fruits he can eat to unlock even more abilities! The Blimp Fruit lets you hover vertically in the air, the Bulb Berry illuminates hidden paths, and the Dash Pepper lets you run at super-fast speeds.
Sometimes you gotta be a blimp
Sometimes you gotta be a bulb
And sometimes you gotta go fast (…wait)
Mario also has a slew of new power-ups and abilities in Galaxy 2: the Rock Mushroom transforms you into a spinning boulder that can crash through enemies and obstacles; the Cloud Mushroom lets you jump farther, walk on clouds, and generate up to three clouds of your own to reach far away places; there’s also a Spin Drill that lets you tunnel through dirt to reach new areas and destroy armored enemies. Previous power-ups found in the first Galaxy game – like the Bee, Boo, and Spring Mushrooms, and Fire and Ice Flowers – are also present in Galaxy 2, making the sequel feel all the more grand and varied compared to the original.
Be sure to stay in your lane!
Given all of the updates and changes made to Super Mario Galaxy 2, I think it’s important to consider the legacy of this game, and that it should be remembered as much more than just a sequel to one of the greatest 3D Mario games. Not only does it stand the test of time on its own, it planted the seeds for the future of the Mario franchise. In Galaxy 2, you can see Nintendo toying with concepts that would later inspire the level design found in Super Mario 3D Land and 3D World, as well as the massive boss battles you encounter in Super Mario Odyssey. You can even see the birth of Skyward Sword’s flying Loftwing concept with Galaxy 2’s gliding Fluzzard levels, which require you to tilt the Wii remote as you control a giant bird. This legacy makes it all the more egregious that Nintendo chose to leave it off the table for the 3D All-Stars collection. But, if I had to think of a single reason why Nintendo might have opted to exclude Galaxy 2 from 3D All-Stars, I think the culprit might actually be Yoshi.
It’s all in the wrist
Even though the first Galaxy game runs perfectly fine on Switch, the pointer controls can still be less precise than what was capable with the Wii, forcing you to repeatedly reset the controller in-game on the fly. Thankfully, Galaxy doesn’t require you to use the pointer too often; however, it becomes absolutely necessary in Galaxy 2 when you’re controlling Yoshi’s tongue ability. There are several sections in Yoshi levels where you have to latch onto little flower hooks that flip you up into the air. Your pointing has to be exact, or you’ll fall back down – and often into a black hole, resulting in your demise. I wonder if Nintendo wasn’t confident in the Switch Joy-Con functionality to properly support such a fine-tuned mechanic, especially now that we know it took them 1.5 years to get Skyward Sword HD’s motion controls right – and that’s not even considering the Switch Lite and Handheld Mode players who would have to rely upon the touchscreen to control Yoshi.
Aiming and timing are essential in these sections
No matter the reason, it’s a shame that such an incredible 3D Mario game is forever locked on old hardware (and soon to be lost digitally once the Wii U eShop shuts down). Modern audiences deserve a chance to play Super Mario Galaxy 2 in all its glory, and they are primed for it after the success of 3D All-Stars. If Nintendo can port other motion-heavy games to the Switch like the first Galaxy game and Skyward Sword, and if they can reinvent Wii Sports as Nintendo Switch Sports, then they should be able to rise to the challenge and create a proper HD remaster for Super Mario Galaxy 2. It doesn’t deserve to be yet another Mario game missing from Nintendo’s best-selling home console of all time.