Super Mario 64 Vs. Super Mario Sunshine: Which Is The Better Game?

When it comes to Super Mario games, each one is playable and special in its own unique way. But you live in a world where all types of media are competing for your time. If you're trying to decide which Super Mario game to play first, you have a hard choice before you. After all, Super Mario 64 was groundbreaking — a fun, expressive 3D game with excellent controls. And Super Mario Sunshine, while extremely different with its more story-driven plot and that FLUDD backpack, was also bold, innovative, and exciting.


Since both are now available in Super Mario 3D All-Stars for the Nintendo Switch, which celebrates Mario's 35th anniversary, this is a great time to check either one of the two out. But are you interested in 3D platforming to save Princess Peach from Bowser (again), or spraying water all over Delfina Island to clean up graffiti?

Here's a look at both Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine that will help you decide which game is worth your precious time. 

Super Mario 64

For a game that was released in 1996, Super Mario 64 stands the test of time. One of the first 3D platformers, the title was innovative at its release and still feels perfectly playable today. Metacritic gives it a 94 based on critic reviews and a 9.2 user score. One reviewer, Roland J., said, "It is not just a superb game; it's a piece of history."


A Eurogamer retrospective from 2013 praised its "sense of playfulness" and the fact that it is a "joy to control." The publication pointed out that Nintendo was able to re-invent Mario using a "more complete and pure" sense of momentum while allowing for discovery and delight. 

VentureBeat, near the game's 20th anniversary in 2016, made the case that the non-linear, "wildly ambitious" game served as a blueprint for the 3D games that came after. The little plumber experiences an all-too familiar tale in Super Mario 64, but he has more moves, more to explore, a good sense of progression, and so much depth. This is a game that is considered to be among the best of all time, so there are plenty of reasons you'll want to try this one.  


Super Mario 64 was quite influential. The Versed called it "the godfather of modern video games" because so many of its features — an independent camera, varied mission design, speed control, and an open world — were concepts it introduced to the video game industry. For all these reasons, Super Mario 64 is a game you should play.

Super Mario Sunshine

Super Mario Sunshine, released in 2002 on the GameCube, twisted the formula a bit. This resulted in largely positive, but more mixed, reviews. Sunshine's critic score on Metacritic is a very respectable 92, though user reviews bring it down with an 8.6. A GamePro review quoted by Metacritic hailed it as "a masterpiece of superior game design," citing its variety, creativity and a brilliant water cannon as reasons to pick it up. It makes "best of" lists, too.


Not everyone adored it, though. Polygon recently called the game one of the worst Mario games because it was "clumsy," lacking precision and featuring cumbersome controls. 

Even reviews from those who praised it have found faults. Inverse recently said it committed to a theme better than other open-ended 3D Super Mario games, but was a less-polished "black sheep." A Wired look back called it a "fantastic" title that, unfortunately, had to follow the enormous success Super Mario 64

In 2017, an A.V. Club retrospective noted that the game has more story-building than other Mario titles. It pointed to a certain "complexity and freedom" in its controls, but said that the game's peculiarities — like the FLUDD backpack and long, voiced cutscenes — made it a bit tedious.


Ultimately, Super Mario Sunshine doesn't get as many high marks as Super Mario 64. If you prefer an influential, bona-fide blockbuster, go with that one. Super Mario Sunshine is for those who prefer hanging with the quirky and fun but imperfect underdog.