15 Years Later, 'Super Mario Sunshine' Still Makes Me Smile

Mario’s first GameCube outing turns 15 this week.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/d33jya/15-years-later-super-mario-sunshine-still-makes-me-smile

I really want to love Sunshine, and I think I actually like it more than a lot of people. It still looks great, with all the bright colors and charming character design. And I really like Fludd, and I think it can be argued that Mario’s move set has never been better than in Sunshine. But the level design just doesn’t hold up. While the tropical island theme is charming as hell, I think the designers focused to much on how the levels look rather than how they play. The beach level may be gorgeous, but there a lot of it is just dead, uninteresting space. I almost feels like a step back from Super Mario 64 in that regard.

Still, I often feel like going back to it as well. It’s just so inviting. And even though Galaxy is probably a better game in most ways, I don’t think about it in the same way. I guess charm goes a long way.

I’m watching GiantBomb play through it as a group and it’s not painting the best picture of the game today. I remember it coming out and thinking it was an odd curiosity, but it didn’t grab my attention so when I finally got a GameCube in 2006, I had no interest in doubling back to play it. Today, the people who have similar tastes don’t see it favorably so I think I’m going to pass on it but I’m happy other people still find it enjoyable.

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Matthewmatosis’ summary of the game in his video review was spot-on: it’s the opposite of most games where it falters on the big picture stuff, but nails the artistic and mechanical details.

It has the best and tightest controls of any 3D Mario, stunning visuals for its time, and easily one of the best soundtracks Nintendo has produced. But some of the later levels are incredibly gimmicky, it’s frustrating to have no way to keep track of the blue coins you’ve found, and the secret shines involving ferrying a Yoshi across a body of water to play a godawful pachinko level are blatant padding of the worst kind.

I would genuinely like to see the concepts and mechanics of Sunshine revisited, with the overall level design brought up to the standard of the Galaxy games and 3D World.


thank you, Danielle.

Super Mario Sunshine feels like a perfect encapsulation of the GameCube era for me. The GameCube is probably my favorite console ever as it seemed to be a time when Nintendo was trying all sorts of weird things. Luigi hunting ghosts with a vacuum? Sure. A Donkey Kong platformer played with a set of bongos? Sounds great to me! A Starfox game where you’re barely in a ship and actually it’s about dinosaurs?* Um, odd, but I’ll try it. A psuedo RTS game about collecting plant creatures? Coolio. So a mainline Mario game that foregoes the Mushroom Kingdom, gives you a water-jetpack-gun-robot, and adds a whole slew of odd mechanics sounds perfectly GameCube to me!

Plus, it had a handle. That thing was alright.

*I know the actual story behind this game, but kid me didn’t and was completely thrown for a loop.


I had extremely fond memories of this game from when I was younger so last year I decided to go back and play it again to see how it held up. I was cautiously optimistic about how it aged, but almost immediately I was enjoying it as much as I hoped I would.

I mean just bouncing around Delfino Plaza and chucking fruit and trying out the different F.L.U.U.D. nozzles is just such a good time. And I really do think that game has some of the best platforming sequences in any Mario game, both the ones with or without the water pack; Extremely challenging sections that require a lot of patience (looking at you sand bird from hell).

It’s a lovely game with beautiful environments and great movement and I’m glad it exists. It’s a great example of how successful Nintendo can be when they get weird with their big franchises.

Great writeup, and I always appreciate Danielle’s advocacy for 3D platformers. I went back to Mario Sunshine and put in enough time to collect about 30 stars. I started off enjoying it most of the time with it, but I think the Watermelon Festival level is the one that kinda broke this game for me, and is a small encapsulation of why this game is sometimes so fun and sometimes incredibly frustrating. The game makes a great first impression, Mario’s moveset is fantastic and he is great fun to control. Some of the levels are great, especially on the first couple stars. However by the fourth or fifth world, (and ESPECIALLY Watermelon Festival), I realized how many of the levels are frustrating, annoying, repetitive and recycled (the platforming in the sky levels, the shoot evil Mario levels, the red coin levels), and how frequently the design is unforgiving when you die (getting kicked back out ot the overworld, and then having to venture back to the entrance of the sky platforming level from within each world over and over again).

This is a good game, but it clearly could have been a GREAT game with quite a bit more tuning and polishing. At the moment, I’m finding it sometimes really fun and inspired, and sometimes incredibly frustrating in its design.