Nintendo's Finest Game Yet
(this was written back in 2008 on GameSpot - to see my more recent musings on this game, click here)
Super Mario Galaxy is an amalgamation of everything right with Nintendo and all its shady Wii schemes. It looks absolutely beautiful, it knows the limitations of the control scheme and uses it to its advantage, and it provides comfort that, indeed, Nintendo knows what it's doing. If the entire Wii generation ends up comparable to SMG, well, Nintendo will prove its point that the Wii really is a great idea.
While playing Galaxy, it is impossible not to realize that a lifetime of talent and practiced polish have led to the creation of perhaps the tightest gaming package ever. The game is an absolute marvel to play for Mario newcomers and veterans alike. It is chock-full of interesting new ideas and gameplay mechanics, and all of them work marvelously. For example, the very first thing introduced to players is the new gravity mechanic. Often, Mario will find himself on round planetoids, and will be expected to navigate around it. The ability to move around and not fall off anything gets rid of that age-old fear of accidentally dying through a navigation mishap.
In fact, the greatest strength of the game is that it fixes all of the problems with the previous games in the series. The camera is a work of art, the difficulty is perfectly suited to all players, there are loads of objectives at any given time, few (if any) of the stars are dull to obtain, and there is so much variety that you'll never get bored playing it. The amount of levels is staggering, and you'll never find yourself doing the frequently mundane activities found in Super Mario Sunshine. Just when you think you've seen everything the game has to offer, it does just one more thing that mixes things up and keeps things fresh.
The only problem I had with Super Mario Galaxy (a fixable one, at that), is that I saw things that I wished were expanded upon. At one point later in the game, you gain a power-up that allows you to fly. It is very fun and intuitive, but it is only used for one star. If Nintendo offered a download pack at some point with some new levels that centered around this great power-up, it would be solved. (At this point, the sequel seems very justified. The creators claim that they wanted to do a ton more with all kinds of ideas they had with the original, but they just didn't have the time to make such a humongous game as that would be. That's just fine.)
The point still remains that Super Mario Galaxy blows all of its predecessors out of the water and sets expectations for coming Wii games sky high. It is a truly out-of-this-world experience that deserves to be listed among Nintendo's best games, including Ocarina of Time. Go play it now, if you haven't already. It was a hard spot to take, but it has become my very favorite game of all time.