Super Mario Galaxy: An Unconventional Platform Game

Posted: February 8, 2013 by lusarzewicz in Uncategorized

Super Mario Galaxy takes the game play of a conventional 3D platform game and turns the formula on its head. As with all Super Mario games, the initial set up begins with Bowser, Mario’s nemesis, capturing Princess Peach. Bowser takes Peach deep into space where Mario cannot find her. It is up to Mario to save her. In Super Mario Galaxy, Mario has to maneuver through various areas to find stars that allow him to travel to further galaxies.

As with most platform games, Mario follows a very linear path. However, the unique nature of Super Mario Galaxy stems from the fact that during game play, Mario travels from one small isolated planet to another. This decision gave the developers an opportunity to create a new game play experiences within each planet. Contained in each large level, in which the end goal is to obtain a star, the player travels through multiple smaller levels, or planets. On each planet there is an objective that the players needs to accomplish to unlock a portal that will transport them to the next planet. Some examples of a planet objective are collective five pieces scattered across the planet to create the portal to the next planet, or defeating a mini-boss. Additionally, the type of platform game play is unique to that specific planet. Mario could travel to a planet that allows him to walk in a complete circle around the planet, a 2D planet that uses original Super Mario Brothers platform game play, and a planet that changes gravity when Mario enters different zones represented by colors. These are just a few examples of the extremely varied and creative types of platform game play in Super Mario Galaxy.


Super Mario Galaxy also utilizes features exclusive to the Nintendo Wii controler. To attack Mario has a spin move that stuns enemies for a short period of time. This spin move is not activated by the user pressing a button on the controller, the user has to physically shake the Wii-mote. The user can also use the Wii controler to aim at on-screen objects and drag them towards Mario. Various physical interactions with the game are littered throughout the game and enhance Super Mario Galaxy beyond just a typical platform game. As a result of these physical interactions integrated into the game, I would consider the game to fall under both Mode 2: Functional Interactivity; or Utilitarian Participation with a Text and Mode 3: Explicitly Interactivity; or Participation with Designed Choices and Procedures in a Text of Zimmerman’s Model of interactivity.


Another aspect of Super Mario Galaxy that I find intriguing is the lack of frequent death. In most platform games it is very common for the player to fall to their death if the user makes an error in their game play. Since Super Mario Galaxy uses gravity to allow the player to explore underneath each planet, falling to death is very uncommon during game play. Instead, the game uses more puzzle oriented challenges that are somewhat uncommon in typical platform games.

  1. suzannescott says:

    Generally, you do a great job of offering a clear description of the gameplay (which is often difficult to accomplish). Where this needed some expansion is in your application of Salen and Zimmerman’s modes of interactivity. In particular, I think you could have consider how the Wiimote complicates these modes/categories, and pushed your analysis on these two modes further, rooting them in specific examples from your play.

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