SM64 is clearly the best in levels as you've stated, but I don't think Galaxy and Sunshine are better than SM64 (if that's what you're stating). SM64 exceeds Galaxy and Sunshine in almost every way to me. SM64 is the perfect 3D platformer experience. Galaxy is also amazing but not as good as 64, but it's closely behind. Sunshine is good, but only good, not amazing, just good.
Yes, my point was that SM64 had better levels than Sunshine and Galaxy. I wouldn't call it perfect. Too many bad memories with the camera.
Ive never played Super Mario 64; I have no say on the game. The main theme of the levels in Sunshine (2 extra shines, 2 red coins, etc) is the same, yes. But each place? Not at all! Yes, two are beaches, but each one has its own personality (if you would call it). Galaxy had none of this. Too much of it was the same. This is my opinion.
Sunshine took a tropical theme and added twists to it and called them "levels". Galaxy did the same thing, but with a space theme. From that viewpoint, can you honestly say that either game has better level design? The only real reason I prefer Galaxy over Sunshine is because of the orchestrated music and higher production values. I think when it comes to gameplay, they're pretty equal. Galaxy had a load of crazy power-ups and Sunshine was flat out more challenging.
When it comes to variety, Sunshine does is NOT more varied than Galaxy. Note that every level in Sunshine is just the same tropical setting with a twist (tropical island theme park is the best twist). Same for Galaxy. But it's all in space. You have the water level (in space), the fire level (in space), and the general staples (but IN SPACE!). As for linearity, Sunshine is the same. There are levels in Sunshine SO PAINFULLY linear (almost all of them) that makes me wonder if they forget all about SM64. All in all, Galaxy (and Sunshine) don't trump SM64 in level design. Not at all. But they do win in every other category that matters in a platformer.
I pretty much agree completely. SMG added that little storyline element that is so scarce in platformers, and had the overall fun-ness that was so much more above the crowd of other platformers, and about on par with SM64.
As for sunshine, I wasn't really saying it had nice levels all around more, that the theme park level as an example, was fun to play in. The thing that really sticks out to me in SM64 is that you can go back and be like, "hey I can mess around in here." But in galaxy, it's more of a, "Well, there's no room to mess around." And if there is, it's lacking.