Screenshot of Mario and Yoshi in Super Mario Sunshine
Screenshot by Prima Games

Super Mario Sunshine is the Best Mario Game and I’ll Die on That Hill

I can already smell the reaction to this.

Yeah, I said it. And I already know what the reaction will be; quite frankly, I don’t care. Super Mario Sunshine is the best Mario game to date and let me tell you exactly why.

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F.L.U.D.D. = Sweetheart

I will admit straight away that a lot of why I love Super Mario Sunshine is rooted in nostalgia. Like many others, I played it on the GameCube growing up, spending hours washing paint off walls and terrorizing the Isle Delfino locals by throwing pineapples at their heads. It has a special place in my heart because, as someone who suffered a lot of childhood trauma, it was one of those games I could play to escape reality for a little while. But that’s not the only reason I love it.

First, the characters. Immediately after landing on Isle Delfino with the intention of taking a much-deserved break from saving Mushroom Kingdom with Princess Peach and the Toads, Mario is apprehended into custody and accused of graffiting over the island. He then meets F.L.U.D.D., who is essentially a talking water pistol, and gets to work cleaning up someone else’s mess. This someone else looks suspiciously like Mario.

The dynamic between F.L.U.D.D. and Mario is so charming. The machine often drops weird little quips as you play, and you find yourself getting attached pretty quickly, especially during the dramatic story beats where it defends Mario; the lil’ guy is constantly going to bat for his pal. However, this ends up being to your detriment because – spoiler alert – F.L.U.D.D. dies at the end. But this just proves my point that Nintendo does a lot to flesh out the relationship because it is truly devastating. I remember first reaching that scene and crying my eyes out because the friend I had spent hours and hours with was gone. I also cried when I replayed it in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars pack in 2020.

Isle Delfino is a Ray of Sunshine

Then there’s Isle Delfino, a dolphin-shaped island that’s nothing short of a tropical paradise. It houses many locations, like Bianco Hills, where you fight Petey Piranha inside a giant windmill, and Pinna Park, a large amusement park where you literally get to ride attractions. What’s almost as fun as riding a rollercoaster in real life? Riding one in a video game.

Even the “home” location of Delfino Plaza is a delight to explore while taking a break from collecting Shine Sprites throughout Super Mario Sunshine’s various levels. There’s a fruit-throwing minigame, sewers you can explore, and even Yoshi eggs you can crack open if you’re far enough. A game where you can ride around on Yoshi and shoot fruit juice at the locals is a win in my book. If you can’t tell by now, I like terrorizing people in games; it’s fun watching them squirm.

There are also Easter Eggs scattered throughout Super Mario Sunshine, my favorite of which is Il Piantissimo, a man dressed up as a Pianta on Gelato Beach. If you played The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and remember the Hyrule Field Running Man – well, that’s him. Getting to Noki Bay, one of the game’s levels, is also a giant Easter Egg, as you must look up into the sun to get there, much like how you access the secret Tower of the Wing cap level in Super Mario 64.

Screenshot of Noki Bay entrance in Super Mario Sunshine.
Screenshot by Prima Games

Overall, I just think Super Mario Sunshine has so much heart, especially compared to other Mario games. I’m not saying they’re not great (especially Super Mario Galaxy 2 and Super Mario Odyssey, which I love), but there’s something about Sunshine that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside as you play. It truly is a delight to experience and writing this has made me want to do another playthrough. BRB, downloading it on my Nintendo Switch.


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Author
Meg Bethany Koepp
Meg was Managing Editor at Prima Games until April 2024. She began as a video games journalist in the UK in 2014, and went on to study Games Journalism & PR. In 2018, she moved to the USA, where she eventually joined Prima Games in May 2022. You'll now find her over at our sister site, The Escapist.