Over the holiday season we'll be republishing a series of Nintendo Life articles, interviews and other features from the previous twelve months that we consider to be our Best of 2020. Hopefully, this will give you a chance to catch up on pieces you missed, or simply enjoy looking back on a year which did have some highlights — honest!
This feature was originally published in September 2020.
As many Mario fans noticed yesterday, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is missing from the long-rumoured (and otherwise tasty-looking) Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection. Not only that, but it was also omitted the montage of significant Mario releases that appeared in the final few minutes of the Super Mario 35th Anniversary Direct broadcast.
The internet, predictably, wasn't impressed, with thousands taking to social media to voice their confusion at Galaxy 2's exclusion. The game is a favourite at Nintendo Life Towers; we waxed lyrical on its ten-year anniversary and it was one of our Staff Picks for Game of the (previous) Decade. Indeed, Nintendo Life readers voted it into the top 10 of their Game of the Decade picks.
So, while we're certainly not grabbing our pitchforks and preparing to march (with masks, of course) on Nintendo HQ, it still begs the questions: Why is it missing from Super Mario 3D All-Stars and why did Nintendo not mention the game at all in its historical roundup at the end of the Direct broadcast?
We present some theories as to why Super Mario Galaxy 2 is missing from Super Mario 3D All-Stars, for your consideration...
Theory #1: Nintendo just forgot about it
With so many Mario games over the past thirty-five years, it's hard to keep track of them all, right? The team that assembled the Direct must have just forgotten about it! They jumped on the Wii bandwagon when it released but had drifted away by 2010 - that Xbox 360 had some real winners, no?
Yes, it did, but no - of course Nintendo didn't just 'forget' Galaxy 2. The Japanese Mario 35th Anniversary account included it in a rather lovely lineup photo. Whether it was excluded in some (misguided, considering the internet's memory) attempt to not highlight to its omission from 3D All-Stars, or for some other reason entirely, it definitely wasn't a simple clerical error.
Theory #2: Nintendo wanted to keep the 'Medley' montage trim
The nostalgic 'Medley' at the end of the broadcast also omitted several other mainline Mario games, including New Super Mario Bros. 2, The Lost Levels (the 'proper' Super Mario Bros. 2 in Japan) and Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins. On that evidence, perhaps the team passed over anything with a '2' in the title (or anything that rhymes with '2', eh New Super Mario Bros. U?).
Obviously, many of us gamers are completionists who want everything included at all times - if something's not mentioned, then somebody made a mistake! Something that seems like an oversight or an intentional snub was likely omitted just to keep the montage lean.
Likelihood: 7/10 (although it's not much of a reason why it's missing from 3D All-Stars...)
Theory #3: It was left out of 3D All-Stars to save cartridge space
According to the Super Mario 3D All-Stars' game page on Nintendo's UK site, the game download weighs in at cool 4.871 GB. As the most modern game in the collection, it would be fair to assume that Super Mario Galaxy takes up the most space, so perhaps adding Galaxy 2 would have increased the overall file size enough for the collection to require a larger (and more expensive) cartridge for the physical release. Sounds possible, no?
Well, it's tough to say without knowing exact file sizes for each game in the collection, but it seems unlikely. Switch carts exist in a range of sizes, including 4 GB and 8 GB, but at this point in the Switch's life the cost difference to the platform holder would be negligible. Assuming that 3D All-Stars is coming on an 8GB cartridge, one would also guess that Galaxy 2 could have squeezed in that extra space.
Yes, everyone's looking to pull their belts in this year, but Nintendo's doing all right and we don't see this being a likely reason why Galaxy 2 would be AWOL.
Theory #4: Galaxy 2 is the victim of internal politics at Nintendo
Perhaps there's some sort of squabble going on within the development teams! Perhaps the staff behind Galaxy 2 have been disowned by Shigeru Miyamoto as Mario's creator and Galaxy 2 director Koichi Hayashida engage in a feud that's splitting Nintendo EPD in two, with poor Yoshiaki Koizumi caught in the middle! Perhaps it's all going down behind the scenes at Nintendo HQ!...
Er, no. Even if there were some internal dispute (there isn't), Galaxy 2 is an acclaimed company product with the potential to generate cold hard cash.
Theory #5: It's all part of a cunning plan...
The limited-time availability of the game--in both physical and digital formats, remember--is puzzling. The March 31st 2021 deadline to buy the game happens to coincide with the end of the financial year, and this approach will encourage anyone sitting on the fence to buy the game regardless, while also ensuring everyone pays full price for it - this one won't be part of any summer sales! Consumers are smarting from the economic events of 2020 and this Holiday season is going to be fiercely competitive between companies vying for your cash. With competition from a new generation of consoles, Nintendo wants to tie in as many people as possible for stocking fillers this year, and this limited-time tactic is one way to do that.
So, as a ploy to bolster Nintendo’s 2020 financials, it's certainly cunning. We’ve seen this limited-time release strategy recently with tiny digital (and free) game Jump Rope Challenge, but a full-fat first-party physical release is a totally different ball game. That Nintendo would prevent people who buy a Switch after 31st March 2021 from paying money for these games is unimaginable, though. We'd wager that the plan is to set them all separately—for, say, $15-20 each–from April 2021 onwards, and that Galaxy 2 will be magically added to the eShop lineup to soften the blow for everyone who jumped on the collection for fear of missing out.
Theory #6: The Galaxy 2 remaster wasn't ready in time
Galaxy 2 was supposed to be included, but the ol' global pandemic meant it couldn't be finished on schedule and had to be cut out. No, these remasters don't require the same resources as building a game from the ground up, but that doesn't mean they're easy or quick to pump out while working from home. Perhaps it simply wasn't ready in time.
Theory #7: It'll come later as a free download
Oof, now we're getting into wishful thinking territory. The idea that Galaxy 2 will come as a free download at a later date for anyone who purchased 3D All-Stars is tantalising, but unlikely.
Let's put it this way: if you were in charge of Nintendo's bottom line and someone suggested releasing one of the company's most critically acclaimed games as a 'free' add-on to a collection that's already sold millions of copies, what would you say? Something like "On your bike, son! They'll pay for it and they'll like it!", probably.
Theory #8: It's a marketing strategy to keep fans talking about it
Let's imagine two hypothetical scenarios, both conducted over a Zoom call with your pal.
Firstly, Nintendo releases 3D All-Stars with Galaxy 2 included:
"So, did you play 3D All-Stars yet?"
"Yep! Oh man, it's totes amazeballs. You?"
"Oh yus. Great collection. When's Breath of the Wild 2 coming again?"
Now the same scenario sans Galaxy 2:
"So, did you play 3D All-Stars yet?"
"Yep! It's good, but where's Galaxy 2, man?!"
"I know, right? I wonder if it's coming? I've been reading theories about why it wasn't included. Seems like a no-brainer. It's got to be coming, right?"
"I hope so! It's up there with the first game for me - maybe even better. I can't believe it's not included. The rumours said it would be, didn't they?"
"I think so? Argh, it feels kinda incomplete without it. I really hope..."
*Conversation continues for months
The fact is, Galaxy 2's exclusion generates long-tail chatter about the game that it wouldn't otherwise have: we're writing about it; you're reading about it. For all its oddball choices Nintendo generally knows what it's doing when it comes to generating buzz - and certainly making money. In a period when the company's release timetable has been disrupted, this and the game's limited-time availability will certainly keep it in the conversation. Clever girl.