In this series of 30 daily articles celebrating the upcoming 30th Anniversary of Super Mario, various members of the Nintendo Life extended family will share their memories and thoughts on the iconic franchise. First up is site editor Tom Whitehead.
I've confessed in the past, and will do so again - I've played a lot of catch-up in becoming a dedicated Nintendo fan. Growing up in the late '80s I had a ZX Spectrum (a UK system rather like a Commodore), then a SEGA Mega Drive / Genesis, a PC and then a Nintendo 64. Though I've explored retro libraries a great deal since, when growing up we were a PC and one console family (no Game Boy, either), and I was a SEGA kid during the infamous Bit Wars.
I adored the Nintendo 64, but there was a problem - it belonged to my older brother and he then went to University. As there was a rather beefy PC in the house that was my focus - the perils of Championship Manager and Tie Fighter - and I skipped the GameCube generation too. Yep, I'm a fraud.
When the Wii rolled around though, it drew me back into the console world and - with no hyperbole intended - changed my life. I spend my days writing about Nintendo because that system lit a fire in me, prompting me to rapidly catch up with retro classics, fall in love with the DS - and portable gaming as a whole - and become a dedicated fan of the company, spending a lot of money immersing myself in its systems and games.
Yet it wasn't Wii Sports that rocked my world and brought me back to console gaming, but rather Super Mario Galaxy. I'd enjoyed Super Mario 64, of course, and its 3D world had blown my mind, but it's Super Mario Galaxy that thrilled me and set me on a path to where I am today. Without its spark of creativity and its allure, there's a chance that the following years could have been very different for me.
I was a regular on various gaming sites back in the mid noughties, of course, and was very aware of the 'console war' - at launch PS3 was overly expensive, Xbox 360 was cheaper but had reliability issues, and then the Wii was a phenomenon. SD and graphically weaker, its motion controls went mainstream in a big way and made stock hard to find in its early days. By this point I had part time work and was dithering over which system to buy, with the Wii leading - money was tight, though, so I was being very cautious to make the right call. Then I saw a video review of Super Mario Galaxy.
It was my second 'wow' Mario moment, actually equivalent in power - to me - as when I first saw Super Mario 64. Technologically it wasn't a new dawn, but in terms of design and sheer artistic brilliance it was. I watched that video review over and over - as it captured the game beautifully - and I had to have it. The morning after I saw the review I went to the shops and bought a Wii.
So, I'm not someone who's first Wii memory is bowling with the family, or a round of Tennis - the first game I played was Super Mario Galaxy. The visuals were stunning and the music was incredible, yet it was the playful anarchy of its planetoids and gravity manipulation that truly drew me in - impeccably designed, it was as natural and fun to play as any video game I can think of.
It's a stunning achievement, and I think it'll stand the test of time. From its subtle but brilliant use of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk, to its tight controls, it's the complete 3D Mario experience. It set the bar so high that Super Mario 3D World, despite its strengths, struggles to be regarded with the same esteem. I'll never forget the precision of the Bee levels, and Gusty Garden Galaxy (with THAT music) may be my most treasured Mario environment of all.
When it comes to picking my favourite ever game, Super Mario Galaxy is definitely in the running for top spot, and its sequel is also a gem for the ages.
Super Mario Maker celebrates 2D Mario, but this broader Anniversary celebrates the franchise itself. I'm delighted with that, as it's given me the chance to share my appreciation for the out-of-this-world Super Mario Galaxy. Not only is it one of the greatest games ever made, but it sparked a passion in me that transformed my path in life. Not many games can do that.