Super Mario Galaxy 2Anyone who says they're a "gamer" (whatever that means, really) should be required by law to buy a Wii and play both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2.
It would be only be "required by law" until someone actually started playing, because after that, it would be impossible to stop.
I felt like Super Mario Galaxy was the most complete and interesting representation entry in the Mario canon, and it was, until now. Incredibly, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is better.
Here's a brief explanation of why these games are so brilliant, on the off chance that you haven't played either one. For starters, the world is incredibly coherent and internally consistent. Once you enter the game, you are inside the world, and not for one second will anything happen to take you out of that world until you quit playing the game.
Here's something else: every single level, every single object, has been given equal attention. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in SMG2 that isn't polished. There are no levels that feel half-finished, no game mechanics that feel tacked on at the last minute. In a gaming sense, it's always lush.
Speaking of game mechanics, they are incredibly diverse. Eli 8.10 has mastered a dizzying array of moves, and when he's controlling Mario, he does things that I would never even try. SMG and SMG2 both fall into the category of what I call "onion" games. Onion games have many, many layers, and the more you peel, the more you find. This is true for the Super Mario Galaxy series both in terms of game mechanics and the world itself.
Another wonderful feature of SMG2 is the diversity of levels. Some require precision, while others feature speed. Every possible move you can make, though, is needed at some time in the game.
Another huge draw, at least for me, is the childlike nature of the game. Childlike, not childish, in that many of the levels feature objects and enemies that children might have imagined, in a dizzyingly colorful world.
Somehow, these worlds always feel safe.
I don't mean safe in the sense that Mario never loses a life or never gets attacked. I mean safe in the sense that very few things in the grown-up world are completely safe, and we all miss that feeling at times. In the worlds of Super Mario Galaxy, nothing ever happens that reminds me of the real world. Nothing ever gives me a bad feeling.
There are no ghoulies.
If you're wondering how the second game specifically differs from the first, here's a short list. First, co-op play, which was already quite good in the first game, is even better now. This time, it's possible to retrieve gold coins and extra lives as well as stars, and if that sounds trivial, it's not trivial at all when you play. It's something new and substantial for the second player to do during a level, and it makes being second fiddle quite a bit more fun.
Second, in a subjective sense, I think SMG2 has more speed-based levels, and they're very, very fun. There are a few levels that give me the same feeling I had during the first Sonic game, which was so fast at times it was giddy.
Third, this game is both harder and easier than SMG. It's harder in the sense that the levels are more intricate--in a good way--and the combinations of moves and jumps required is definitely more difficult than in the first game. It's easier, though, in the sense that a spectral princess appears and offers to guide you through a level on auto-pilot if you fail a certain number of times.
I don't know the exact number for when she appears, but for us, it means whoever is controlling Mario is sucking. "There she is!" is always followed by plenty of laughing. For new players, though, it's another very clever way to keep them engaged in the game and progressing.
If you haven't played either game, I'd highly recommend starting out with Super Mario Galaxy first. It would be a shame to skip such a fantastic game just to start out with the latest version, and even though I like SMG2 more, it doesn't mean that the original isn't a must-play.
In a gaming time capsule, both of these games would belong in the front.