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11. Super Mario Sunshine
Nintendo | Nintendo | 2002
Mario's back with a second 3D adventure, full of unique charm
At its core, this game doesn't change the rules set up by Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 in any meaningful ways. What it does is use the power of the GameCube to make the levels look much better. Mario's headed for a vacation when he gets caught up in a Bowser-based conspiracy and kidnapping which make him look bad, and that tropical theme lends a pervasive joy to the adventure.
More importantly, the addition of a water-shooting backpack that allows Mario to hover and target distant objects throws an entertaining wrench into the formula. Using the water pack to hose off slime, sail above the levels and attack enemies keeps the formula very fresh and compelling. All the same, the game also stretches back to the series' classic roots by offering up simple, linear levels that strip away the backpack and set you on simple, linear goals that recall the original side-scrollers. It's genius.
Sure, the game lacks the gentle difficulty curve of Mario 64 and could stand to be longer overall, but it's an engrossing and clever game full of great variety. It's essential and irresistible gaming.
Get ready to play
What's to be said besides "welcome to another Mario adventure?" Some misguided bad press aside, it's difficult to imagine that anyone who gave a thought to the GameCube hasn't already treaded this path, but if you skipped it or put it down in a wash of frustrated expectations... stick with it. This is a rewarding journey.
Been there, done that?
If Mario's trip to the beach has you in a sandy mood, hit up Sphinx and the Cursed Mummy for more quality run-and-jump action. Its clever mix of Mummy mutilation and Zelda-style puzzles make it a worthy, but overlooked, platforming adventure.