Depending on who you ask, Super Mario Sunshine is either a great game or complete trash.
This vibrant 3D platformer, released initially on the Nintendo GameCube in 2002, is the second 3D Mario game after the almost universally-loved Super Mario 64 in 1998. Sunshine added a whole host of new features to the traditional Mario mix, which is why it sows such division. Then there’s criticism pertaining to repetitive challenges, unfair difficulty, and the horrible voice-acted cut-scenes.
And look, those criticisms are rational, sure. But there’s so much to love about Super Mario Sunshine, too – and with the game coming back with Super Mario 3D All-Stars this year, a whole new generation of gamers will be able to experience that magic for the first time.
But what exactly is that magic of which I speak? Well, hold on to your red hats and strap in your water-spraying devices, because I plan to let you know right here…
1) The Gameplay is Creative and Fun
The gameplay in Super Mario Sunshine has got to be some of the most creative in the entire franchise. The game equips Mario with a FLUDD water device, developed by Luigi Mansion‘s fictional professor, E. Gadd. Using this device, you must clean up the goop encasing large areas of Isle Delfino and defeat your enemies to boot. But that’s not all that FLUDD is capable of.
Throughout the game, you can collect three additional nozzles that bestow upon FLUDD different abilities. From using the device as a water-jetpack to glide over chasms (or spray stuff below you), or even using it as a water-rocket to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, Sunshine is bursting with creativity and pure, all-out fun.
Another beautiful touch is this – by spraying the ground in front of you and diving on it, Mario can slide across the ground to move faster across the various locations. Nintendo truly maxed out the power of their purple box of magic with Sunshine, and with features such as this, satisfied our inner-children. In the end, isn’t that the reason we play video games in the first place?
2) Awesome Setting & Locations
Some fans complain that Sunshine doesn’t have as much variety in terms of level themes as Mario 64. And, to a degree, said fans are right. The whole game takes place on the island resort of Isle Delfino, very much your stereotypical tropical resort (well, aside from the goop, monsters, fantastical characters, you know). Given this, it’s only natural the game’s levels would retain similar and constant themes.
But the game’s locations are more varied than many gamers realize. From the wonderful Gelato Beach to the busy Ricco Harbour and to the goop-laden Noki Bay, every area in the game brings something new to the table. Whether that be the duck-like Cataquacks from Gelato Beach or the fairground of Pinna Park, Mario Sunshine has experiences that stay with you due to its unique, varied design choices. It is beautiful but weird fictional world is truly unlike any other.
3) Zany Boss Battles
Speaking of the game’s locations, you can easily recall said locations due to their unique boss fights. This isn’t a Mario game where you fight Bowser every now and then – the game’s design truly shines when it comes to its unique cast of crazy boss monsters.
Take Petey Piranha, for instance. The anthropomorphic plant beast made his first appearance in Mario Sunshine, as the boss of Bianco Hills. And how do you beat him, do you ask? Well, you spray water in his mouth with FLUDD until he collapses and then ground-pound his belly button. As a kid, it was hard not to chuckle at the brilliant absurdity of the boss fight.
Then there’s Meely Mouth, the boss of Noki Bay. How do you tackle this hulking mass? It’s simple (in theory): clean his teeth using your trusty FLUDD device. One could go on forever on how memorable Sunshine‘s boss fights are and how cleverly to utilize the game mechanics. But life is short, and you need to be getting on with buying this game!
4) Super Mario Sunshine‘s Level Designs Are Wild
The ‘classic platforming’ stages brilliantly change the pace in Mario Sunshine. Since you rely on FLUDD for the majority of the game, these stages propel you out of your comfort zone with challenging platforming segments with plenty of large falls. There’s no water device to jet pack your way to safety here – you must time your jumps perfectly to proceed.
These stages are ‘classic’ in that they offer platforming akin to the 2D Marios of old. Because of the lack of FLUDD and reliance solely on Mario’s athletics, these levels remind one of the tensions of leaping over chasms and traps in Super Mario World. They’re tough compared to the rest of the game, but offer enough addictive challenge to have you try over and over again.
5) Super Mario Sunshine Is A Silly, Feel-Good Game
In the dark and divisive times that curtain our current existence, levity is an essential ingredient. Despite Mario’s battle to clear his besmirched name in Sunshine, there is a positive undercurrent that flows throughout the game. This can be attributed to a combination of things – from the game’s tropical vacation setting to the cute and charming characters you meet all the way to the game’s main goal of essentially cleaning up a graffiti-laden isle.
Nobody is threatening to destroy the world here. And while Princess Peach is indeed kidnapped (again), this time, it ties into a cute and humorous ‘lost-parent’ plot. To be brief, Bowser’s son, Bowser Jr., thinks that Peach is his mother and thinks Mario kidnapped her. The whole idea of Mario performing community service while attempting to clear his name is also one of the most absurd but charming plots in the series.
In other words, the stakes are the lowest they’ve ever been in a Mario game – but honestly, in the world, we’re living in, a bit of fun and all-round silliness goes a long way, right?
What are your favorite parts about Super Mario Sunshine? Do you think its the best 3D Mario game? Let us know in the comments below..