Gamachronicles: Super Mario (part 5)

Today we are going to focus on the first two 3D installments in the Super Mario series: Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine.

Gamachronicles are multi-part features on a famous or noteworthy game series, diving into some of its most memorable moments and providing additional perspective on its history.

Super Mario 64

Box art

Super Mario 64 was the flagship game for the Nintendo 64, and the first in the series to offer open world three-dimensional gameplay.

Producer/director and Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto conceived a 3D Mario game during the production of Star Fox in 1993 for the SNES. Super Mario 64’s development, took about three years, and the score was composed by Koji Kondo. A multiplayer mode featuring Luigi as a playable character was planned but cut.

Along with Pilotwings 64, Super Mario 64 was one of the launch games for Nintendo 64. Nintendo released it in Japan on June 23, 1996, and later in North America, Europe, and Australia.

Title screen featuring a giant floating 3D Mario head

Super Mario 64 is acclaimed as one of the greatest video games of all time, and was the first game to receive a perfect score from Edge magazine. Reviewers praised its ambition, visuals, gameplay, and music, although they criticized its unreliable camera system. It is the Nintendo 64’s bestseller by far, with more than eleven million copies sold through 2003, and it influenced an entire generation of games that came after it.

Mario’s fully 3D world was unmatched at the time

Interestingly, Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, considered using the Super FX chip to develop a SNES game which would have been called Super Mario FX, with gameplay based on “an entire world in miniature, like miniature trains”.

Instead, he eventually reformulated the 3D Mario idea for the Nintendo 64, not due to the console’s substantially greater power, but because its controller had more buttons for gameplay.

Super Mario Sunshine

Full box art

Super Mario Sunshine was the second fully 3D Mario game, and the only proper Mario game for the Nintendo GameCube.

Title screen

The game takes place on the tropical Isle Delfino, where Mario, Toadsworth, Princess Peach and five Toads are taking a vacation. A villain resembling Mario, known as Shadow Mario, vandalizes the island with graffiti as Mario gets blamed for the mess. Mario is ordered to clean up Isle Delfino, using a device called the Flash Liquidizer Ultra Dousing Device (FLUDD), while saving Princess Peach from Shadow Mario.

The roller coaster level

Super Mario Sunshine received critical acclaim, with reviewers praising the game’s graphics, soundtrack, and the addition of FLUDD as a mechanic, though some criticized the game’s camera. The game sold over five million copies worldwide by 2006, making it one of the best-selling GameCube games.

Walking along the rooftops of Isle Delfino

The game was the first lead directing role for Nintendo designer Yoshiaki Koizumi, following a ten-year-long apprenticeship working on various other games. In an interview about the development of Super Mario Sunshine, it was mentioned that the game’s development began with the idea of gameplay involving a water pump. However, at first the developers thought that the world was too out of character for Mario.

Koji Kondo and Shinobu Tanaka composed the score to Super Mario Sunshine. The soundtrack features various arrangements of classic Mario tunes, including the underground music and the main stage music from the original Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Sunshine was critically acclaimed by game critics. IGN praised the addition of the water backpack for improving the gameplay, and GameSpy commented on the “wide variety of moves and the beautifully constructed environments”.

Editors note: Despite the critical praise, I always felt this was the weakest (worst) of the core Mario games and pretty much everyone I know seems to agree. While every game has its fans, I suggest taking the “critical praise” with a grain of salt.

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