Super Mario 64: Whole new worlds of 3D gaming

It was late 1996. The PlayStation and Sega Saturn had already been released in North America in 1995, and Nintendo fans were getting antsy. They wanted a new console that could match the 3D realms of the competitors’ consoles. On September 29, 1996, that console came along. The Nintendo 64 was all that gamers could have asked it to be. Better yet, one of the N64’s launch titles, Super Mario 64, largely gave birth to the revolutionary 3D platformer genre.

Super Mario 64 is rather different from the side-scrolling platformers that came before it. The controls make that obvious. Rather than use arrows to push Mario to the right of the screen and out of level after level, the player uses a joystick to send Mario in every which direction in every world. The motions are a lot smoother than in the Super Mario Bros. games and Super Mario World. Rather than hold down a button while pushing on an arrow to run, one merely pushes on the joystick to adjust Mario’s speed. The “A” button still makes Mario jump. However, there are a multitude of other jumps, such as the “long jump” that the player will learn about in-game. Signs placed throughout the world give the player valuable info. One must press “B” to read these signs. “B” is also used for attacks and picking things up and putting them down. The “C” buttons are used to control the camera angle – a rather fancy feature that comes along with 3D gaming.Super Mario 64 Big Boos Haunt


The action begins when Mario comes to visit Princess Toadstool in her castle. She had baked a cake for him. Unfortunately, Mario has to wait to eat his cake and to see the Princess. When he walks into the castle, a Toad tells him that Bowser has taken the Princess and locked everyone inside the castle’s walls. He is using a network of portraits to put his devious plans into action. The Toad tells Mario that Bowser and the Princess must be behind the first door with a star on it. If only it were so simple.

Mario opens the door and finds the first of 15 portraits. Each portrait is a gateway to a world. These gateways might not always be easily visible though. Mario gets to explore these vast 3D worlds where he must collect power stars. Power stars are the reward Mario gets for completing various missions. These missions might involve boss battles, footraces, puzzles, and all sorts of nifty tasks. The player will quickly get used to collecting 8 red coins in each world. Brand new power-ups will help along the way. After completing each mission, Mario gets thrown out into the hub world and must re-enter to go on to the next mission. There are also a few power stars hidden throughout the game. As Mario collects more power stars, he gains the ability to enter new doors with higher power star numbers on them. Can you get enough power stars to go defeat Bowser? The Princess is relying on you!

Super Mario 64 is not a particularly difficult game. As with almost every other game in the Super Mario series, accessibility is one of the game’s main qualities. That is what got the series through the 8 bit and 16 bit eras after all, and it continued on the N64. It is a big step from side-scrollers though. It’s more difficult in the respect that there are a lot more things to worry about and the game is simply more complex. That being said, the typical gamer could pick this up fairly easily. The game could be defeated playing a couple hours a day for several days. An all-nighter might be pushing it. Since this game has a lot of secrets, completing the game in its entirety is quite a task. There are 120 power stars overall, and some of them are pretty tough. It is indeed worth going back after you’ve beaten the game to pick them all up. At least there is a sizeable health meter in this game, and extra lives and replenishing coins are available throughout.

The graphics are unlike anything ever seen before. The colors are bright but not overwhelmingly so. The game doesn’t look excessively childish or over the top. Overall, it’s an attractive game and a big step up from the Super Mario games on the SNES. The graphics are shown off in a variety of environments – mountain, lava, desert, cave, lake, you name. All have their own unique feel. It’s the kind of place you’d just like to jump into and look around for yourself. Good thing Nintendo lets you do unprecedented exploring in the castle. You can “see” that a lot of effort went into this. The graphics themselves still don’t look too bad to this day. The frames per second rate, on the other hand, is not what we’ve become accustomed to, but it’s acceptable for the time that this was released.

If you’re like me, the music is an important but often overlooked aspect in any game. Super Mario 64’s music is no let down. While I have heard better, this soundtrack has a few epic classics without a doubt. All the songs are on my iPod, and they get played in my car every so often – albeit not as much as Donkey Kong Country’s or Super Mario Galaxy’s music. In any case the music is fitting and catchy and worth a listen in game or out of game.


Ultimately, I give this game ……………….………………………………………………………………………………………………………


                I think that’s a reasonable score. This game revolutionized 3D platforming, gave many people lots of great memories, and still has lots of replay value. Why didn’t I rate it even higher?  In upcoming years Rare would release multiple 3D platformers, which, I’m sorry to say, would blow Super Mario 64 out of the water. The game has its accessibility and feel-good environment going for it, and it would be a shame to forsake it. Still, Rare’s 3D platformers have so much that Super Mario 64 lacks – a bigger challenge, multiplayer, the ability to save at any time rather than only after getting a power star, much larger worlds, improved graphics, better music, and far more freedom. Rather than throw you out into the hub world, Rare’s 3D platformers let you keep on going after you get a collectible. While you can enjoy Super Mario 64’s vast worlds, you can lose yourself in the cavernous worlds of Banjo Tooie. When it comes to 3D platforming, freedom and lots of secrets are where it’s at. Super Mario 64 is a little simpler (and easier on the mind, one might say), but that’s not always a bad thing. There is always a good time to blow on this cartridge and put in your console or play it on Virtual Console if you have a Wii.


–          In the Princess’s letter to Mario at the beginning of the game, we see a first in the Mario series – Princess Toadstool signs her name “Peach.”

–          Super Mario 64 is among the best-selling video games of all time.

–          Although the Nintendo 64 was released in North America on September 29th in North America, Super Mario 64 was actually released on September 26th.

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