Super Mario Galaxy 2 is 10 years old today. A masterful Wii title from the console’s twilight years, the game represents some of the best qualities of its predecessors while laying the groundwork for future iterations to explore completely new directions. Beyond being one of the best of its series or genre, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is flat out one of the greatest games ever made. As such, it’s absolutely deserving of a look back.
It is immediately evident that Super Mario Galaxy 2 holds up gloriously. Pop the game in for another go yourself if you don’t believe me. Mario’s second intergalactic adventure still perfectly encapsulates the wonder, vibrancy, and plain old fun that the series is all about. Through dozens of colorful, elaborate galaxies, it’s quite apparent that Super Mario Galaxy 2 came to be after the developers behind its predecessor had way more ideas than they knew what to do with. There is so much to do, discover, and conquer — more than any 3D Mario title that came before it — and despite having more unique stars than any of its predecessors, the game simply refuses to falter. At no point does it feel bloated, fluffed up, or padded. Every star is a delight to earn, every galaxy a treat to explore.
I’ve enjoyed the pleasure of replaying both Super Mario Galaxy titles within the past year. For starters, they both play better than most titles out on modern systems. Beyond that, playing the two back to back shows a natural progression from the original game to Super Mario Galaxy 2. The first game is fantastic in its own right, but with the sequel, the designers and players both had valuable experience that was not wasted. The training wheels came off right away. While incredibly forgiving and a bit too linear for my liking, Super Mario Galaxy 2’s massive helping of platforming goodness contains many of the most challenging and rewarding moments in the series. Hair-raising prankster Comets, a whole world of cruel challenge galaxies, and 120 meticulously hidden green stars make a completionist run through the game a worthy feat for any Mario purist.
A masterpiece of a game, Super Mario Galaxy 2 also happened to be a perfect snapshot of the series at a crossroads, with many old and new core philosophies on full display. In a departure from the handful of wide-open levels in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy 2 shrank its hub world down to a nub, and then it took its predecessor’s preference for a few dozen smaller levels and made them more linear than the series had ever seen. Within a few years, Super Mario 3D Land and Super Mario 3D World fully embraced linearity with the return of flagpoles. There is also Cosmic Spirit, essentially an option to skip a few of the game’s hardest levels, which returned in other forms in future 3D Mario games in a bid to make the series as accessible as possible. While titles like Super Mario Odyssey show that the series will not continue down any path forever, Super Mario Galaxy 2 was more than just a refined advancement of its predecessor’s formula — it was a blueprint for the next few sequels.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a decade old, but the magic hasn’t aged a day. With rumors of Switch ports for its older siblings flying high, one has to hope that this fantastic game will not be left forgotten. A Switch port, hopefully coming out this year, could share an all-time great with a whole new generation of gamers, while reminding those who played it already just how wonderful a game it is.