Super Mario Odyssey for the Switch is described as a "globe-trotting adventure," since Mario jets to and from several different countries in his strange world. But Super Mario Galaxy 2, which celebrates its 10th anniversary, offers a more literal take on "globe-trotting." Mario flies between hundreds of planets and planetoids that are so compact, he can run their entire circumference in a matter of seconds.
Entire levels are built out of these space-rocks, each of which contains a bright, imaginative Super Mario-style ecosystem. Super Mario Galaxy 2 isn't just a successful follow-up to 2007's Super Mario Galaxy: It's one of the most successful Mario games of all time. Some fans list it as the best Mario game, period.
To be completely fair, we might just be looking back on Super Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2 in the throes of nostalgia. Both games are stuck on the Wii, a system that's entombed in dust at the back of many entertainment centers. The recent rumors of a possible remaster for Super Mario Galaxy (as well as other Mario games) are welcome, as they'll give us a chance to closely examine whether Mario's first journey to space holds up.
The tittle-tattle surrounding the rumored remaster branches into two main categories of discussion. One, Why isn't Super Mario Galaxy 2 being remastered? It's a valid question. Super Mario Galaxy is revolutionary, but Galaxy 2 is sublime. The inclusion of unique power-ups like the Cloud Flower and a Yoshi that doesn't dissolve in water arguably make the second game more fun and exciting than the first..
The question that comes up in Galaxy Remastered discussion: Is this Nintendo's way of preparing us for a Super Mario Galaxy 3? What would a Super Mario Galaxy 3 even be like?
It's simple enough to shrug off the query with, "Well, Mario would fly between planets like he does in Super Mario Galaxy and Galaxy 2. What more do you need?" Here's the thing that's easy to forget about Super Mario Galaxy 2, though. It's not just a sequel; it's a perfected version of Super Mario Galaxy. The team spent so much time perfecting the systems for the first game, they decided to make a second game that used their scrapped ideas. That's why Super Mario Galaxy 2 suits the title it was developed under: "Super Mario Galaxy More." If we got a Super Mario Galaxy 3 that just built off Galaxy 2, wouldn't it feel a bit derivative and "done?" Could it be the giant leap over Galaxy 2 that Galaxy 2 is over the first game?
Maybe. Maybe not. But does Galaxy 3 need to be a huge, innovative leap over Galaxy 2? When I think seriously about what I'd like from a Super Mario Galaxy 3, my answer always comes to, "Well, I just want more Super Mario Galaxy." The sub-series is built on such a unique idea, and I can't imagine I'd get tired of the free, weightless thrill that I experience whenever I see Mario jump from one planetoid, then wheel around another in a short orbit before landing. Heck, The Little Prince, Super Mario Galaxy's obvious (if unconfirmed) inspiration, is one of my favorite novels; if I never get tired of reading about the Prince travelling from planet to planet, why would I ever get tired of seeing Mario do it?
Speaking of the Prince, it sure would be something if, in Super Mario Galaxy 3, Mario talked to a fox about the heartbreaking burdens of love and friendship. Okay, that's a little heavy, but it ties into something I really do want to see in Galaxy 3: The return of a story. Rosalina's storybook interludes are the one feature the original Galaxy holds over Galaxy 2. They're short, they're sweet, and they're illustrated in a wonderful watercolor style. I believe the stories are the main reason people love Rosalina as a character: she's one of the few Mario characters to have ever expressed any kind of intense emotion during a mainline game, even if it was through a storybook. Obviously, nobody goes to a Mario game in hopes of a magnificent tale, but what little we have is told perfectly through the characters' pantomimes. Even the small dramas in Super Mario Odyssey (especially near the end of the game) exude personality. Nintendo is an expert at telling stories without breaking the flow of a game, yet it rarely exercises that talent.
Developer Shigeru Miyamoto is infamously anti-story in Mario games—which is why most of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is guided by the star Lubba, bless his chonky soul—but Miyamoto has largely transitioned into a mentor role, and seems less interested in upending games mid-development than he used to be. If the hypothetical Galaxy 3 team wants to bring a story to the game, Miyamoto might simply say "Well—" instead of outright stopping them. I hope so.
The more I think about the possibility of Super Mario Galaxy 3 delivering the story content Mario Galaxy 2 denied is, the more passionate I become about the idea. I suppose my first wish for Galaxy 3 is "more story," which goes to show I already believe Galaxy 2 isn't lacking. That said, I'd love to see traditional power-ups in Galaxy 3. Cloud flowers, Bee suits, and Rock suits are all nice, but give me a Galaxy Hammer Mario, a Galaxy Tanooki, or a Galaxy Frog Mario. (Lots of watery planetoids in the Galaxy series!) Bring back Yoshi, of course, but in the rainbow of colors made famous by Super Mario World. Flying Blue Yoshi! Fire-breathing Red Yoshi! And the rest! (Sorry, Yellow Yoshi. You kind of suck.)
Super Mario Galaxy 3 is one of those potentialities that constantly takes up real estate in the back of your head. You're not aware of it most of the time, but when someone mentions Super Mario Galaxy in any context, it comes screaming to the fore of your brain and suddenly you're obsessed with "What Ifs." That's me, now that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is 10 years old.
I feel like Super Mario Galaxy 3 will never happen—and yet something in me still believes we'll hear the spine-tingling words, "Oh, and just one more thing" at the end of some Nintendo Direct in a post-pandemic world. And when Mario Galaxy 3 finally arrives, it'll be worth the decade-plus wait, because it'll give us more of what we fell in love with the first—and second—time around. That's all we need.
I gotta believe, and so do you. Woo-hoooo!
Major Game Releases: May 18 to May 22
Here are the major releases for the week of May 11 to May 15. Want to see the complete list? Check out our full list of video game release dates for 2020.
- Minecraft Dungeons [May 26 for PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch]: This week's marquee release is a spinoff of one of the most popular games ever. Minecraft Dungeons shifts the formula from survival to dungeon crawling, but still retains its familiar blocky aesthetic. Mike chronicled its journey from Zelda-inspired 3DS game to Diablo-like dungeon crawler earlier this month. Check it out, and expect our full review on Tuesday.
- 2K Nintendo Switch Collections [May 29 for Switch]: BioShock, XCOM, and Borderlands all make their way to Nintendo Switch in yet another major rush of ports. BioShock is probably better enjoyed on a home theater system (preferably in the dark), but portable XCOM sounds perfectly divine… assuming that the user interface is handled properly. They will all be available together on May 29.
- Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition [May 29 for Switch]: Speaking of ports, Xenoblade Chronicles: Definitive Edition is also headed to the Switch this week. Monolith Soft's flagship RPG series has a small but passionate following, which is owed in part to its very strong historical pedigree—it was developed in part by the director of Xenogears—and strong style. I had qualms with Xenoblade Chronicles' graphics, but there's no denying that it's a great addition to the Switch's library .
- Shantae and the Seven Sirens [May 28 for PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch]: One more port for the pile: Shantae and the Seven Sirens heads to console after an exclusive stint on Apple Arcade. WayForward's venerable platformer is yet another series with a strong following, and it should do well on Switch in particular. Its graphics in particular are a delight.
Five Things You Should Know Heading Into This Week In Gaming
- It's Memorial Day! Holidays feels a little strange right now, mostly because it's difficult to go anywhere or gather with family, but it's nice to have a break nonetheless. The USgamer team is off today, which means we'll probably just be hanging around playing video games. I'm personally between games at the moment, but I've been thinking about picking up Valkyrie Profile again, if only to see that lovely sprite art again.
- Fortnite is pretty much the new Second Life. That's the only conclusion one can draw from seeing movie trailers debut in what is ostensibly supposed to be a battle royale game. If you don't remember Second Life, it was a massively online game that was positively inundated in advertisements, including lots of superfluous trailers. Has anyone gotten married in Fortnite yet? Googles. Yep, it's definitely Second Life.
- Final Fantasy 7 Remake sold very, very well. Last week, the NPD group revealed that Square Enix's big remake had the best launch month in the history of the franchise. That's pretty good in light of the immense success of the PlayStation 1, and the fact that the original Fantasy 7 basically had a 1:1 attach rate in Japan. It's easy to imagine Square Enix kicking down director Tetsuya Nomura's door and saying, "We want more of that." Let's just hope we see the next episode before the decade is out.
- You can try out Iron Man VR right now. The anticipated VR release spent some time trapped in the space between release dates owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it's now back on track for July 3. Its release will bring with a special themed PSVR bundle. If you're interested, you should go try out the demo, which is available now on the PlayStation Store.
- And finally, happy belated birthday to Pac-Man! Bandai Namco's classic quarter-muncher celebrated its 40th anniversary last week. The original arcade game was one of gaming's first true cultural phenomenons, bringing with it a tidal wave of merchandise, a cartoon, and one very bad Atari 2600 game. Pac-Man has since been supplanted by Mario, Minecraft, and GTA, but it remains an important gaming touchstone. And hey, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is still pretty great, too.
Axe of the Blood God for May 18, 2020
Axe of the Blood God is our official RPG podcast releasing every single Monday. You can find subscription info here. We also put out an Axe of the Blood God newsletter every Wednesday, which you can subscribe to here.
The Console RPG Quest continues with an exploration of one of Nintendo's less popular handhelds. Regarded as a bit of a tweener in its day, trapped as it was between the Nintendo DS and Game Boy, it has grown in esteem as fans have come to better appreciate its beautiful graphics and large library. But what about its RPG legacy? Tune in and listen as Kat and Nadia remember Pokemon Ruby, Fire Emblem, Final Fantasy Tactics Advance, Mother 3, and all the rest of the most important RPGs on the GBA!