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Mario Sunshine is my all time favorite Mario game despite me never actually growing up with it. I never owned a GameCube as a kid (even though I always really wanted one) and had to make due with the ever so popular and accessible Wii titles. Those do in fact have a special place in my heart, no doubt, but I always looked at the GameCube library with an envious gaze. It was always there, right in front of me, but always out of reach. Of course, one day that changed. At the ripe age of 13, I got a GameCube, and soon after a copy of Mario Sunshine that I could call my own. And after sitting down and and immersing myself in yet another Mario classic I very quickly came to the conclusion that this game was complete dogshit and not worth my time. Like many others I had simply decided that this was the worst 3D Mario, and I was probably better off sticking with the games I actually grew up with instead of this boring stupid mess of a game.
Then 2020 came, and simply put... I was bored as fuck. Late into the year Nintendo announced that they would be releasing enhanced ports of Mario 64, Mario Galaxy, and Mario Sunshine. For some reason, despite this being a pretty lazy collection of emulated ports of 3 games I could have easily played on an emulator on my PC, I still bought the damn thing because dammit I love Mario. I decided I would 100% complete every single game on that collection as, aside from Mario Galaxy, I hadn't completed any of them.
When I booted the game up that fateful September I decided "You know what? Fuck it. I'm gonnna start with Sunshine. I know I'm gonna hate it but if I follow a guide maybe the pain will be slightly less pronounced." And so, my first true experience with Sunshine began, and it was a blast. Finally, after all these years, it clicked. After a few days I had finally completed Mario Sunshine... And after I completed every other game in the collection I did it again... And again... And again. Each time I play this game I have a big fuckin smile on my face, the kind of child-like wonder that no other game has ever been close to capturing.
I think I just have a soft spot for that GameCube era jank, despite me never growing up with the system. Wind Waker has always been my favorite Zelda and while I'm not a Smash guy myself, I've always sort of had this distant admiration for Melee. I guess something about the unrealized ambition many of these games had has always been something I sort of appreciate. As I grow older games feel smaller, no matter how large the world is I can always define the "end point".
Video games will never scratch that itch of impossibly large worlds with endless content, I came to that realization long ago. But that fondness for the games that will never be has made me appreciate how ambitious some games are, and even though I'll never love all of them... I can always respect them. I also like to think it's why I love games with incredibly dense mechanics and strong unnessesary worldbuilding. I can't just help but to respect the grind you know? All this is to say that Mario Sunshine in an "objective" lense may not be a 10/10, but goddammit it's a 10/10 in my heart, and I'll always love it for what it is, and what it could have been.