I almost jumbled up my top five after playing the number five game for another couple hours tonight. I have a feeling that I’ll wish I had placed it higher–maybe even number one–when I get done playing it, but right now I think I have it at the right place for how I feel today. Like the title of this post says, it’s a sign of the times in my current gaming life. I’m just more interested in the games on the PC right now than I am in console games. I’m probably more of an expert on consoles and arcade games than I am PC games, but I think there’s an ongoing struggle in my head about that on an almost weekly basis.
There’s certainly a struggle between gamers of all stripes when it comes to consoles and the PC. The Xbox 360 has turned many former PC gamers into PC detractors, and that disappoints me more and more as this console generation goes on. The 360 is a crippled PC as far as I’m concerned. It’s a device that doesn’t need to exist. Had Microsoft invested all the 360 resources into making the PC a device as easy to use as an Xbox 360 (which arguably has its own set of usability issues), I think the entire gaming landscape would be an entirely different place, and one that Microsoft might have the control of that they’re wishing 360 would have.
It’s not a popular opinion. I’ve never been one to worry about that, though. I call ’em like I see ’em, and right now I see the Xbox 360 and the already dead Xbox as Microsoft’s biggest business errors. I think the PC has ultimately suffered terribly for it, and I’m not at all a fan of Vista because it seems to make things worse instead of better. I don’t think it’s too late to bring the PC back to where it belongs, and it’s possible Microsoft sees that too the way they’ve been handling Xbox Live lately. They seem to realize that maybe this PC thing is important still, but the next few years will tell the tale there.
That’s probably an odd way to lead into today’s pick, but I can say that this is easily the best console game I played in 2007. That it only got to number five on my list says more about me than it does about the sheer jubilant energy you’ll feel if you play this game…
5. Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario Galaxy is super happy fun times on a disc. When you play this game, a smile creeps across your face, and it never subsides. Well, maybe it subsides just a little when you’re in the hub world, but other than that, you’ll be grinning. Every level is a new adventure featuring some of what you know mixed with some of what you don’t and a small bit of “I wonder if I can do that?” Sure enough, you often can do just that.
The game is brilliant in a couple of ways that aren’t all that obvious as you hammer through galaxy after galaxy completing the next cool goal. It often makes you forget there’s a camera you can control. You just don’t need to. The game is almost always showing you the 3D playfield in just the right way to let you complete that next odd jump. You just bend your brain around whether up will get you down or down will get you up. Even then, you’re never really at a loss for what to do, even though the game doesn’t exactly put arrows on the ground tellng you where to go. The game also feels like it offers a vast amount of freedom even though the goals are usually narrowly focused. You’re always in total control of Mario and deaths come from your own mistakes. This is tried and true Nintendo game design because it never seems cheap.
I think part of the reason I don’t want to rate it higher is because as awesome as it is, the main design is very much like Super Mario 64, travelling from world to world via a hub. I really want a return to an even faster transition from level to level without any time spent in between. That’s me picking a nit that’s definitely my own personal preference, because the levels are so diverse and offer such awesome locations that I just want to get to them even faster than I do already. I could also do without any talking to anyone in the game, but I guess that’s what New Super Mario Bros. on DS is for.
The Wii remote makes another case for its place among future console control methods in this title too. You use it as a pointing device nearly the entire time you’re platforming. Better yet, a friend can grab the second Wii remote and do some star bit catching while you play. It’s a great way for moms and dads to help out the kids and helps bring everyone together to watch the glittering adventure unfold. Special levels use the remote in tilt functions too, and these controls add a really great change of pace to the regular platforming. Some of these uses are similar to what was seen in Mario Party 8 earlier in the year, but they still feel fresh and exciting inside Galaxy.
There’s no doubt that Super Mario Galaxy is among the best games of 2007. I need to play it through to completion to see if it’s as historically significant as its Game Rankings average suggests, but I’ve played enough to know where it ranks for me right now among the games I put major time into that were released last year. Nintendo has certainly made this the year of the Wii and it will forever be remembered that way. It’s hard to imagine a console selling out for as long as the Wii has ever again. Super Mario Galaxy will likely be remembered as the crown jewel of their 2007 lineup and rightly so. It’s Mario at his action-platform best.