Games-players will always argue among themselves about which is the greatest “retro” Mario game of all time.
For me it is a toss-up between Super Mario Sunshine (2002) and Super Mario World (1990) on the SNES.
Super Mario Sunshine is the 3D game; Super Mario World the 2D game.
And, personally, I think that Super Mario Sunshine is much better than Super Mario 64, because the GameCube‘s graphical power makes for a much more finessed experience. And also because the F.L.U.D.D. water jet is such a unique and fun gameplay device as to make this stand out from the other Mario games.
Sunshine is more challenging too – getting attuned to the controls, and jumping around in 3D space is a real test.
But what makes Super Mario Sunshine so great is the attention to detail. Nintendo always lavish layers of detail on their Mario games and Super Mario Sunshine is one of the densest Mario games ever made. It is so much fun, exploring, and unlocking new areas.
Graphically – although Super Mario Sunshine comes from the era of standard definition graphics – it’s still a beautifully constructed and coloured game, and a delight to the eyes.
You’d be hard pushed to find a better game on the GameCube.