It's that time of year again, folks. The days are short and cold, the nights are long and even colder, and one of the best places to be is in your nice warm house. Since you're there, you may as well break out the good ol' videogames and make those chilly winter evenings go by a little faster.
In honour of this, I'm going to be posting about one game each day in the run-up to Christmas, finishing on the magical day itself. Keep in mind that these aren't necessarily going to be games that feature Christmas (although some do). Rather, they're going to be a mix of winter warmers, personal nostalgic favourites, and games that echo some traditional Christmas pastimes. I'm sure other people will have their own winter favourites, but this is my unique list and I'm going to do my best to give a little history on each game and explain why they're featured here.
So, without further ado, onwards with day one!
Released in August 2002 in the US and October for us European chaps, Mario Sunshine was a bit of an oddity. Arriving a full six years after the first 3D Mario title (Mario 64), fans had plenty of time to build their expectations to enormous heights. For some, these expectations came crashing down when it turned out that Sunshine was a bit of a departure from it's critically acclaimed predecessor. No longer were you running around the Mushroom Kingdom, instead Mario got caught up in a spot of trouble while holidaying on the sun drenched Isle Delfino. Mistaken for his mysterious graffiti tagging doppelgänger, the long suffering plumber was tasked with cleansing the island of his impostors handiwork.
Gameplay wise things were very similar to Mario 64. You had to run, jump, swim, slide and butt stomp your way through a variety of tropical themed levels with the goal of collecting sparkling Shine Sprites. Helping you accomplish this noble endeavour was the anthropomorphic FLUDD. Essentially a water fuelled jetpack, FLUDD allowed mario to hover in mid-air, fly into the sky like a bottle rocket, and propel himself over water like a power boat. Also used for cleaning the aforementioned graffiti, FLUDD was Mario's essential tool and provided Sunshine with it's unique gameplay hook.
Add in the game's 'unique' cast, consisting of the bumbling native Piantas, water dwelling Nokis, Princess Peach and her entourage of Toads, and of course good ol' Bowser and Son, and you've got the makings of a great, if unconventional Mario game. Some criticised FLUDD, calling it a gimmick, while others claimed that the game felt rushed and disliked the new setting. Despite these concerns reviews were generally very positive and the game went on to become one of the Gamecube's best sellers.
Why It's Here:
C'mon, the clue's in the title: Sunshine. This is the ultimate videogame holiday. The sun drenched Isle Delfino is so vibrant, so colourful, that it genuinely warms my bones on a cold winters night. Just standing on Sirena Beach, with its tropical sunset and lilting Hawaiian style music wafting through the air, instantly transports me far away from grey and frosty England. The fact that I got the game on it's UK launch of October 4th only reinforces this warm feeling and my association of the game with winter.
Both the gameplay and graphics also hold up to the usual Nintendo standards. In other words they're pretty much timeless. With this in mind I'd highly recommend picking the game up, even today. Having said that, though, I do have a lot of nostalgia for Sunshine that may be clouding my judgement. I can see the 14 year old version of myself, controller in hand, bathed in the balmy glow of the old CRT after a long day at school. Exploring that magical tropical island is one of my defining gaming moments, and it's these memories that come rushing back whenever I even think about the game today.
So, do you agree with this choice? If not then what is your favourite 'winter holiday' game? Sound off in the comments and let me know.