Super Mario Galaxy — Nintendo’s Claustrophobic Cosmic Corridor

Matt Leslie
14 min readOct 1, 2020

We must begin, as any good retrospective piece in 2020 should, with an apology to the Nintendo Wii. Despite over a decade of near universal critical praise I have been unable to enjoy Super Mario Galaxy, and for the longest time I assumed this was a symptom of jerkitude towards the Wii controller setup. I didn’t enjoy having to sit up to use the pointer in an action game, I hated having to shake the controller to attack and assumed maybe this is one of those deals that makes more sense if you’re right-handed, and I found holding two separate objects with a wire drooping across my crotch uncomfortable. I dared to dream that maybe someday I would get to play this game with an Xbox controller and maybe then everything would click.

Well it took Nintendo a somewhat disturbing 13 years but that dream has come true! Super Mario Galaxy has received the half-hearted remaster treatment as part of the Super Mario 3D All Stars collection for the Nintendo Switch complete with 1080p presentation, 60 frames per second and the option to use a delicious dual-analog Pro Controller. After collecting all 120 stars in what I thought would be the optimal way to experience the game a familiar decade old feeling washed back over me. Mario feels slow, he comes to a halt with near laser precision, you can’t feel the dirt on his shoes, you drag him on top of Goomba with the camera placed directly overhead like a moustachioed mouse cursor and you wince as his hips creak straining to do a backflip. Turns out after all these years it wasn’t the constant need for fresh batteries or waggle induced wanker’s cramp that made playing Super Mario Galaxy uncomfortable; it was Super Mario Galaxy that made playing Super Mario Galaxy uncomfortable.

It’s surprising that more players don’t find that something is wrong when they gain control of Mario for the first time. Both of Galaxy’s 3D predecessors were slippin’ and slidin’ frictive playgrounds, with Super Mario 64 featuring a run cycle where Mario would lean into his turns like a motorcycle and Super Mario Sunshine strapping a custom waterslide creation tool onto the character’s back. It’s unlikely that the movement of Galaxy was a conscious choice during development but more something born out of necessity to accommodate the mind-bending game design concept that Shiggy and the…