Mario’s deadline is almost here. The plumber’s year-long birthday party ends on March 31, and Nintendo are serious about shutting down the festivities. Super Mario 35 will cease to exist entirely after that date, while Super Mario 3D All-Stars will be pulled from the eShop for some reason.
There’s still time to buy the latter, which means there’s time to weigh in on a debate that’s spawned in its week. Upon playing through the three classics included in the bundle, there’s a fierce split in the Mario fanbase over Super Mario Sunshine. The GameCube classic holds a lot of nostalgia for some players, while others see it as a weak link in the franchise.
For those who have never played and are considering grabbing the collection, don’t be swayed by the bad buzz: Super Mario Sunshine is actually one of Mario’s best games.
For the uninitiated, Super Mario Sunshine is a major departure for the franchise. While it still features your average running and jumping, it largely revolves around new mechanics. Mario gets a water pack which can be used to clean up gunk around a bright seaside town. New nozzles allow Mario to hover over gaps or shoot forward at high speeds.
The naysayers aren’t entirely wrong. One common knock against the game is its somewhat obtuse controls. Players have to stop and switch to an over the shoulder view to shoot Mario’s water cannon. That was already clunky in the GameCube era and it feels even worse now. The game also largely shies away from more traditional platforming, saving the pure experience for specific side levels.
Those complaints are valid, but they wash over some of the game’s unique strengths. The gameplay may be non-traditional, but that’s what makes it stand out. Rather than dotting environments with little platforming sections, the mechanic allows for some clever level design that thinks outside the box. One level takes Mario to a hotel complete with its own casino. Another is set on a pier, letting Mario jet ski around on the back of a squid. The levels are open summertime playgrounds, making the game feel like a prototype for some of Super Mario Odyssey’s levels.
The water powers themselves are a delight too. Nintendo is especially adept at taking one idea and finding several applications for it. That’s exactly what happens with the F.L.U.D.D. here. It can be used to clean goo, fill a Piranha Plant’s belly with water, spin slot machines, and more. The additional nozzles even rethink the limits of Mario’s movement abilities, creating some of the series most enjoyable mobility techniques.
One could wax poetic all day about how the water mechanics successfully mix things up, but the real star of the show is its vibes. Super Mario Sunshine is a pure vacation. Every level is drenched in warm light, sandy beaches, and calm water that still looks impressive today. On top of all that, there’s the game’s tropical score, which might be the best soundtrack in the series. Toss in a truly memorable story featuring a star turn for Bowser Jr and you’ve got a game that sticks with you for more than just its jumping.
With so many games centered around high-stakes battles and challenges, Sunshine is a literal breath of fresh air. The platforming challenges are still there for purists, but it’s a game that encourages players to kick up their feet and soak in the scenery. Considering that we all missed the summer due to stay-at-home life, Super Mario Sunshine is a perfect way to catch some lost rays while you wait for the winter blues to clear up.
Just make sure you grab it before March 31. Who knows when Nintendo will decide to sell it to fans again.