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Nintendo pushed its most celebrated franchise in bold new directions

By the end of 2002, with my Year 9 school holidays on the horizon and my “Spice” orange GameCube controller in-hand, I’d come to a firm decision: Super Mario Sunshine was my favourite game. It wasn’t just better than Super Mario 64 (a game I only recently finished); it was the very best game I had ever played. …


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Revisiting the classic game 23 years later

You used to be able to rent consoles from the video store. Remember that? It’s a sentence that makes me feel old, a concept that grew old and outdated before video shops disappeared. In 1997, my family rented a Nintendo 64 for a night from the local Blockbuster for $20, along with two games: Super Mario 64 and Wave Race 64. It’s a nice memory from a childhood I sometimes struggle to remember the nice moments from.

On that night, I took my first tentative steps around the gardens of Princess Peach’s castle. There will never again be a bigger…


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How a humble button on the controller has influenced gaming culture at large and all game consoles going forward

I can’t say I would have stuck with Ghost of Tsushima — a game I ended up liking a lot despite its numerous shortcomings — if I hadn’t been so completely won over by its photo mode. The mode, which lets you meticulously frame and filter your photos, changing the time, weather, and the expression on protagonist Jin’s face, is brilliant. You can turn the game’s moments of levity, poignancy, and terror into singular pieces of art, or even create moments that didn’t really happen.

It’s also something I probably wouldn’t have bothered with at all if it wasn’t so…


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The new Paper Mario is a game full of wide-open environments and tiny, terrifying spaces

There’s an obvious question to be asked about the Paper Mario series that I’ve kept coming back to as I play through the (very good) latest entry in the series, The Origami King for the Nintendo Switch. Back on the Nintendo 64, the “paper” angle was used to explain why Mario and other characters were 2D. It felt, quite transparently, like a smart framing device to save a bit of memory on the N64’s infamously small cartridges. But now, with each subsequent entry leaning in harder and harder to the concept of a world made from plant fibre, I find…


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The Last of Us Part II is a dark, violent game, but it’s also much more than that.


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Naughty Dog’s stunning PS4 swan song was worth the wait

There are specific moments from The Last of Us Part II that keep replaying in my head. There was one encounter with a group of infected (the game’s zombie equivalent) that escalated so fast and then ended so dramatically that I’m haunted by the image of the final, broken enemy crawling towards me, only to have its life ended by my boot. There are views that made me gasp, and a particularly neat visual trick used to convey height that I found delightful whenever I encountered it. I can vividly recall the first time I made a man explode, and…


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The famous plumber’s influence now extends well beyond games

During E3 2014, I met and interviewed Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto. At the end of our chat — comfortably the highlight of my career — I asked if he could answer a simple, obvious question for the kids’ magazine I was the games editor of at the time. What is it, in his opinion, that makes Mario the number one video game character in the world?

His answer, which he’s surely had to give many times over the years, stuck with me. “I think probably it’s because Mario’s actions — running, jumping, falling — are things that everyone in the…


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Reciprocation isn’t guaranteed, despite persistent efforts

In late March, the day after my copy of Animal Crossing: New Horizons arrived, my partner and I received a visitor to our home. The visitor wasn’t human, of course (we’ve been as responsible as possible throughout the current pandemic) — it was a cat, a shaggy grey kitten with big yellow eyes and a whiny little meow, sat atop the clear plastic veranda in our backyard. The cat had appeared once before, popping in for a visit soon after we moved in back in February, but after this reappearance it took to visiting daily.


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Alex Hutchinson talks about his career, his latest game, and becoming a member of the Google Stadia family

Journey to the Savage Planet is director Alex Hutchinson’s first game since 2014’s Far Cry 4, and a lot has changed in-between. While the industry has moved and shifted — Far Cry 4 was a cross-gen title, while Savage Planet arrives right near the end of the current generation — Hutchinson has moved and shifted with it, starting his own studio and then being bought out by Google to develop for Stadia right before their first title arrived.

This latest game is a fascinating piece of design, an exploration-heavy comic adventure that wears its rough edges well, and a solid…


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Sony’s FMV revival would be a great fit for a console that doesn’t exist

Erica, a long-in-development PS4 FMV game that recently and unexpectedly dropped on the PlayStation store at a low price and with little fanfare, is a forward-looking throwback. It’s part of a quiet renaissance of new FMV games that has brought the genre back and explored new ways to use live action footage in games (see also: Her Story, Late Shift, Tesla Effect: A Tex Murphy Adventure). It’s a moody, slightly muddy thriller that lost me for stretches, but which ended up being moderately compelling and pleasingly twisty. …

James O'Connor

@Jickle

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