Nintendo’s past decade had its low points, but the highs were incredible, giving us a crop of great games that have etched their legacies into the medium’s storied and growing history. Long-dead series like Donkey Kong Country and Kid Icarus made their compelling returns, titles like Xenoblade Chronicles and Fire Emblem: Awakening stood at the top of their genres, and of course, games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey cemented themselves as some of the best of all time. If you ask me, one Wii classic in particular, Super Mario Galaxy 2, belongs in that last category. What better way to close off our Games of the Decade series than by going all the way back to the start, with Nintendo’s first masterpiece of the 2010s?
After starting off development as a loose, slightly remixed follow-up to the original game, Super Mario Galaxy 2 became a full-fledged sequel once the designers went wild with new ideas for stages, obstacles, and power stars. We all know and love the final result. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is one of the best platformers ever built, a colorful, robust, and exceedingly creative journey from start to finish. Building off of Super Mario Galaxy’s mechanics and design, the game assumes that players know what is going on and tests them throughout its swaths of content with one skillful level after another.
Above all else, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is just fun, to an almost unbelievable extent. Players see some of Nintendo’s best level design firsthand while running around on Yoshi, scouring for hidden star pieces, and rocking through extensive platforming challenges. The challenge was there for those who wanted it, too, with loads of world-altering comets that remixed levels with unforgiving win conditions. The gameplay and world design never stumble through nearly 50 different galaxies. Behind the variety of worlds, the quality of each level, and the sheer volume of stuff to do, Super Mario Galaxy is on another level.
Dropping into a new galaxy is a marvel every time. Each is wildly different from the last, with its own quirky residents, fascinating planets, and power stars that are a joy to collect. At no point in its life was the Wii a technological colossus, especially not in 2010, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 excelled anyway by championing beautifully designed, vibrant galaxies. Worlds ranged from serene and bleak to lush and lively, and they all left lasting impressions behind the strengths of their fantastical environments. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is one of Nintendo’s best, with sweeping, flourishing arrangements fit for the adventure’s cosmic proportions.
Super Mario Galaxy 2’s overwhelming quality hammered home the duology’s brilliance. One of several bright spots in the latter half of the Wii era, Super Mario Galaxy 2 set the bar for the 2010s sky high right out of the gate. Nintendo faltered here and there afterward, but they were able to live up to and surpass those standards by the time the decade wrapped up. Now, the 2020s begin with the Switch firing on all cylinders. Should Nintendo sustain that, we’ll be celebrating a few more earth-shattering classics like this one once the door closes on the 2020s.