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How do Super Mario Galaxy’s motion controls work on Switch?

The Wii game’s arrival to Switch in Super Mario 3D All-Stars is complicated

Super Mario with a star in Super Mario Galaxy Image: Nintendo EAD Tokyo/Nintendo
Russ Frushtick is the director of special projects, and he has been covering the world of video games and technology for over 15 years. He co-founded Polygon in 2012.

The launch of Super Mario 3D All-Stars brings with it a long-awaited port of Super Mario Galaxy. The original Wii game was excellent, but also mired in an era dominated by motion controls. Even common abilities, like Mario’s mandatory spin attack, were assigned to a waggle of the Wii Remote, and collecting Star Bits meant painting the entire screen with a motion-controlled reticle.

Obviously, with a different control scheme — the Switch doesn’t support Wii Remote functionality — the system is limited in terms of what it can faithfully reproduce from the original game. So how does Super Mario Galaxy actually work on the Nintendo Switch? Does it ditch the motion controls entirely?


In Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Galaxy’s control scheme changes dramatically depending on whether you’re playing in docked mode or in handheld mode, so we’ll dive into each.

Playing Super Mario Galaxy in docked mode

Mario and Bowser square off in Super Mario Galaxy on Nintendo Switch Image: Nintendo EAD Tokyo/Nintendo

Whether you’re using a Switch Pro Controller or two Joy-Cons when playing Super Mario Galaxy, the results are the same. The original game’s motion controls, including the ever-present reticle, are back. This time, you’re able to move the reticle around the screen thanks to gyroscopic sensors, but effectively, it feels the same as it did when you aimed with the Wii Remote. While you can walk over Star Bits to collect them, you’ll have to use the reticle to collect any that are out of reach (which is usually much faster than chasing them down).

Some levels remain heavily dependent on motion controls, whether you’re balancing Mario on top of a rolling ball or riding a manta ray through an interstellar ocean. In these levels, the motion controls are mandatory. If you happen to be using a third-party controller that doesn’t come with a gyroscope, you won’t be able to play them. You can, however, complete the main game without playing through every single stage, for what it’s worth.

Thankfully, there was one consolation made in the name of removing some of the motion controls: Mario’s spin attack can now be activated with a button, rather than having to waggle the Wii Remote. Given that it’s his most prominent attack, this makes a huge difference in playability.

Playing Super Mario Galaxy in handheld mode

When using the Switch in handheld mode, Mario’s spin attack can still be activated by a button press, but the motion control requirements return for many of the unique levels. For example, rather than tilting your controller to steer your manta ray, you’re now tilting the Switch in your hands.

As for the reticle — for collecting Star Bits, activating certain obstacles, and selecting menu items — it’s controlled by the Switch’s touchscreen. This means having to move your hand off of one side of the controls to touch the screen at various moments, which can be decidedly clumsy, especially in moments that require careful platforming.

Unfortunately, neither solution, docked or handheld, is ideal, although it’s a testament to the quality of Super Mario Galaxy that the game is able to overcome these hangups. But if you’re totally averse to motion controls, know that you’ve been warned.

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