May 24: The score for SMG2 has been updated to reflect the most recent reviews.
Finally, a reason to fire up your Wii
|% Critic Scores = 100||58%|
|% Critic Scores >= 90||100%|
In our recent article about Nintendo's long-running Mario game series, the 2007 Wii release Super Mario Galaxy 97 topped our rankings of the best-reviewed games in the main series. It wasn't just a good Mario title; the original SMG game still stands as the best-reviewed release of all time for the Wii platform -- well, it did, until this week.
Now, three years later, there is a new challenger for that title, and it's the sequel to that game. Out this weekend, Super Mario Galaxy 2 98 currently stands a point above its predecessor in our rankings, thanks in part to "perfect" 100 scores from many of the leading game publications. Nintendo rarely releases a direct Mario sequel for the same platform, but don't go into SMG2 expecting a rerun; most of all, what the two titles share is an abundance of ideas and creativity.
What exactly has all of the critics raving about this new game? We'll get to their comments in a moment; first, here's where SMG2 currently stands compared to other acclaimed Wii titles.
|1||Super Mario Galaxy 2||Platform||2010||Nintendo||98||9.5|
|2||Super Mario Galaxy||Platform||2007||Nintendo||97||9.0|
|3||The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess||Action||2006||Nintendo||95||9.2|
|4||World of Goo||Puzzle||2008||2D Boy||94||9.0|
|5||Super Smash Bros. Brawl||Fighting||2008||Nintendo||93||8.8|
|6||Rock Band 2||Music||2008||MTV||92||8.2|
|7||Metroid Prime Trilogy||Shooter||2009||Nintendo||91||9.4|
|8||Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition||Action-Adv.||2007||Capcom||91||9.1|
|10||Metroid Prime 3: Corruption||Adventure||2007||Nintendo||90||9.1|
Below, let's take a closer look at what game reviewers are saying about Super Mario Galaxy 2. The bottom line? Even though the underlying concept might be the same, the new game is not a retread, but instead offers a wealth of new ideas and challenges.
Galaxy 2 is a veritable creativity bomb, a megaton explosion of new ideas. --Wired
The basic concept at the heart of the 3D platformer Super Mario Galaxy returns intact: Mario navigates through a universe filled with mini planets, each serving as its own level and frequently incorporating gravitational effects in clever and unique ways. You will not see any repeat levels in SMG2; each tiny world has been designed from scratch.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 feels familiar, but there is so much that is different and new; it openly clashes against the definition of a Mario game, as well as the platforming genre. --GamePro
There's no denying that Super Mario Galaxy is the foundation for Super Mario Galaxy 2. The sequel uses the same engine, same controls, and same basic concept. So if anything, the reason why Super Mario Galaxy 2 is so damn fantastic is mostly due to the fact that the team learned from the first game: what worked, what needed fixing, and how to improve on such an already masterful Wii creation. The result of that effort is one of the most refined and most fulfilling videogame experiences of this generation. --IGN
Since Galaxy 1 did so very little wrong, keeping some of the old stuff is to be expected, but the fresh aspects of it work great, too, if not better than what they replace. --Games Radar
Galaxy 2 strikes a rare balance: the additions (Yoshi, Cloud Mario, Rock Mario) expand the devious obstacles you must overcome to collect level-unlocking stars, but the underlying design is just as solid as anything from Super Mario World or Super Mario 64. --1Up
The creativity, then, which Wired refers to above, comes in the design of each level, and the challenges each one presents to the player. And, as the critics have been quick to point out, there certainly appears to be no shortage of ideas in the new game.
The wealth of different objectives in Galaxy 2 is mind boggling. --GameSpot
It’s often a criticism to say that something is built from gimmicks, but the problem only actually arises the moment those gimmicks run out. In Galaxy 2’s case, they never do. This is a game that refuses to bore you, that can take you to the 60-star mark before asking you to do the same thing twice. It reuses assets, but almost never recycles ideas; you’ll never see another title so thrifty, or so gratuitous. --Edge Magazine
There is one notable difference from the first game, however. While SMG made an attempt at a narrative that ran through the entire game, SMG2 eliminates the story aspect almost entirely (save for the absolute basics, which you know by heart: rescue Princess Peach, who has been kidnapped by Bowser). To Wired, which admired Nintendo's storytelling ability in the first title, the lack of a more developed storyline seems like "a waste of talent." Yet other publications do not miss the narrative at all, feeling that the game's other aspects more than make up for it:
You're drawn along just as inexorably as by a narrative-heavy drama thanks to the sheer inventiveness of the level design, the desire to seek out more of this surprisingly beautiful world, and the addictiveness of capturing more stars.
When have you ever played a Mario platformer just for the story? --IGN
Critics are thrilled by references to Mario games past that are scattered throughout the game, and are especially happy about a prominent role for Mario sidekick Yoshi in the new game.
Mario’s trusted steed is back, and was perhaps my favorite new feature of the game. --Game Informer
After Sunshine, it’s the right Yoshi – the one that makes you feel super-powered but precarious all at once. --Edge Magazine
Just as Mario’s abilities get used in expansive and varied ways that still feel natural, the same can be said for Yoshi, as he finally returns to deserved prominence in a core Mario title.
The entire Super Mario line-up is there in one way or another, making us giggle while enjoying every moment of it. --Cheat Code Central
While gameplay is roughly similar to that in the first SMG title -- you spend the game collecting stars for completing levels, until you have acquired a certain number (in this case, 70) -- there are some small differences, including the incorporation of more two-dimensional gameplay, which pops up from time to time throughout the game, and is a highlight, according to critics.
These 2D levels are a great changes of pace from the free-roaming action and are as inventive and fun as every other section of this game. --GameSpot
The designers passionately embrace Mario's old-school legacy with 2D-style platforming that makes New Super Mario Bros. Wii look like a third-party budget title. --IGN
The biggest change is a return to a straightforward map (think Super Mario Bros. 3) to guide you through the levels, a departure from the first game's more open structure. The word "streamlined" keeps popping up in reviews, with most critics finding it to have a positive effect on gameplay overall.
Though it lacks the exploratory openness of the first Galaxy, it makes actually getting between levels a bit more quick and efficient. More akin to the progression in New Super Mario Bros. Wii, you're forced to fully explore almost every level you come across in order to collect enough Stars and Star Bits to move forward. --1Up
IGN adds that this new simplified approach also aids players who might jump back into the game after some time away, while GameSpot likes that it eliminates downtime. Wired, however, thinks the linear map is intended as a crutch for casual gamers, and argues that it "feels cheaper, smaller."
However, even if there's something you don't like, odds are you won't have to put up with it for long:
Much like the schizophrenic WarioWare series, the gameplay here is so disparate that elements you find pleasing may be seen once and vanish, never to return; the same holds true for the opposite end of the spectrum, as concepts that frustrate you will also be gone in a flash. --GamePro
To say that the actual controls of Super Mario Galaxy are smooth and responsive would be a gross understatement. --Nintendo Life
For those pretty well-versed in Galaxy and 3D Mario navigation in general, it will fit like one of Mario’s gloves, but for the unlucky few who are unfamiliar, its devilishly simple controls will still be easy to understand. --Games Radar
Nintendo's refined Mario's control to the point where everything he can do can be pulled off with second-nature ease. ... Yoshi has just as tight and intuitive controls, including the ability to tongue lash at objects and hooks using the Wii remote's pointer capabilities. --IGN
That publication also praises the new game's camera system, which has been refined and is more "fluid and intelligent" than the occasionally problematic system in the first game. Games Radar, however, notes that the camera can still be "slightly tricky."
New powers for Mario include a cloud suit and a rock suit, as well as a special drill. All are welcome additions, according to reviewers.
One of the few weak spots in the original Galaxy was a lack of interesting power-ups to play around with, but that has been rectified here. --GameSpot
The developers have inserted an absolutely staggering number of new gameplay twists for our fiery plumber to use --Nintendo Life
The power-ups in SMG2, however, aren't necessarily there to make things easier for you; frequently, they are required to complete challenges.
In previous Mario titles, power-ups acted as an advantageous crutch to help you overcome the obstacles in your way. If you struggled through a level, a mushroom or fire flower would help ease the pain. Not so in the Galaxy series: each power-up is only a means to an end. Instead of making things easier, they act as modifiers that simply reinvent some aspect of the game. --GamePro
Even though the game may have been streamlined in some ways, it still can be challenging to complete. Make no mistake: it can be a hard game.
It’s definitely harder than the first. In the early stages, this is a plus; Galaxy 2 gets you into some serious platforming much earlier in the game. ... On the other hand, as the game wore on, I often felt more frustrated than challenged. --Game Informer
The final worlds and some stars that are all completely unnecessary to finish the game can get pretty frustrating for non-Mario savants, but those areas are just gravy anyway --Games Radar
I'm torn by the level of difficulty found in Galaxy 2, as it takes what should be a very friendly game and turns it into something far more difficult than an unsuspecting gamer -- say, a large portion of Nintendo's newfound audience -- might expect. --GamePro
I don't think Galaxy 2 is actually that much more difficult than the first, it's just that a lot of the harder stuff ends up being part of the critical path. ... It's tough, but it provides you with more than enough tools to get the job done. --Giant Bomb
It’s hard, but for the best reasons, earning the right to frustrate through the sheer quality of its ideas. The increased difficulty is merely a by-product of the new knots in which the designers want to tie your brain. --Edge Magazine
Of course, the challenge of some levels doesn't mean that players should get discouraged; among other things, the game offers visual hints and a "play for me" mode:
Are there moments of hair-pulling frustration? Yes. In some stages you'll die in maddeningly rapid succession over and over again. But if you get too agitated, you can always let the game play for you. You don't get the same, golden star (instead a bronze, less lustrous one means you couldn't make it through on your own), but like any Mario game, persistence pays off. No matter what, you'll be able to get to the end. --1Up
The game does some smart handholding, providing entirely optional tutorials whenever a significant new gameplay concept is introduced. --Giant Bomb
IGN adds that the game's reward structure is well-designed, and the result is a game that is both accessible to anyone and truly rewarding for "hardcore completionists."
While the idea of a game playing for you might sound cheap, it's actually a very smart inclusion. --IGN
While SMG2 remains chiefly a one-player game, as in the first title, a second player can grab a controller and serve as an assistant, dropping in and out of the action whenever they wish. This cooperative mode has been expanded a bit since the first game:
Not only can a second player hop in and grab simple Star Bits, they can reel in 1up mushrooms and life-restoring coins, and they can grab, shake, and destroy weaker enemies. --1Up
You won't miss much if you want to keep this a single-player adventure, but at least you have the ability to give observers something helpful to do while you focus on the challenges. --IGN
Graphics and sound
According to critics, Galaxy 2 might be the new standard-bearer for Wii graphics. For example, IGN writes that SMG2 has "some of the best visuals the Wii has ever seen."
Seriously, this game looks amazing. --Games Radar
There seems to be a lot more polish to the levels, especially the scenery in the backgrounds of the various levels --Nintendo Life
This is a gorgeous-looking game. ... The attention to detail is outstanding. --GameSpot
And the audio is good as well. 1Up and other publications admire the game's "sweeping orchestral score (which even includes new arrangements of classic tunes thrown in simply to tickle the nostalgia of long-time fans)," while IGN notes:
The soundtrack is even more intense with far more orchestral and studio recordings than the last game.
Like all game soundtracks should, this further enhanced a superb experience, even for a reviewer who normally doesn’t notice background music all that much.
Galaxy 2 is a game you do not even have to touch the controller to enjoy. The sights and sounds are so enthralling that you can just sit back, relax, and take in everything. --GameSpot
This isn’t a game that redefines the genre: this is one that rolls it up and locks it away. --
Super Mario Galaxy was brilliant, but 2010's Super Mario Galaxy 2 is absolutely amazing. --IGN
Even if you discount the relative ghetto of middling games on the Wii, Galaxy 2 is one of the year’s top games on any system, and one of the few must-have reasons to buy a Wii… outside of weight loss and bowling, that is. --Games Radar
This is not only the new standard against which every 3D platformer must now be judged, but it also seamlessly integrates so many elements from Mario's 2D roots that it stands toe-to-toe with even its genre-defining progenitors. ... This is an instant classic that belongs alongside the best games Nintendo has ever created. --GameSpot
What do you think?
Are you planning on buying Super Mario Galaxy 2? Have you already played it, and, if so, how does it compare to the first one? Join the discussion below, or take a look at our rankings of previous Mario games.