Retro Scope: Super Mario 64

The game that triple-jumped its way into video game history!

By Robert Marrujo. Posted 12/12/2013 09:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

I used to spend hours making Mario do nothing. Peach’s castle went ignored, as Mario vaulted from the tops of trees and swam peacefully through the moat and into the little pool that the protective waters cascaded down into. It was, in a word, amazing. To really lend perspective, look at Super Mario 64 from a biblical sense; Shigeru Miyamoto and his team created something from almost nothing. With basically zero precedent to build off of other than Nintendo’s own Super Mario games, Mario 64 had to be crafted from the ground up using only the innovation and creativity of the designers working on it. It just took a little longer than six days to finish.

Take the camera, for instance, which itself was a landmark achievement. In a 2D game, placing the camera is easy because everything takes place on a flat plane. In Mario 64, though, Miyamoto had to step back and figure out how to position the camera to present Mario in a way where his every movement is visible to the player and facilitates fun gameplay. Plus, just to show off, rather than make the camera some omnipotent overseer, Miyamoto and company decided to peg Mario Kart flagman Lakitu as their Spielberg. As if just getting the thing to work wasn’t hard enough! It seems so trivial after literally hundreds of titles have been made in the years since that utilized a 3D camera, but even these little details that players are accustomed to today have roots in the framework created by Mario 64.

Camera Lakitu from Super Mario 64

Replaying Mario 64 is always refreshing. Even compared to games like Super Mario 3D World, the controls are smooth and responsive. Moving Mario around the screen became such an instinctual action for me after playing Mario 64. Whatever 3D Mario game I might be playing, I can always tell where my jump will land me, or how much to pull back or forward on the stick to force some insane maneuver that isn’t the normal way of getting through a stage (but is much more fun). There’s nothing like seeing my own hesitations and leanings mirrored on the TV screen. Mario’s arching side jump, backflip, long jump, and even his crawling made the character truly come to life in a way I never thought was possible as a kid. Even now, I’m shocked at the fluidity of the controls in Mario 64 compared to so many modern games. The advances in controls Nintendo developed here are truly timeless.

It wouldn’t be a Mario game without secrets, though, and who could forget the first time they finagled their way onto the roof of Peach’s castle without gathering all 120 stars? I spent hours trying to make Mario slide down that hill and wall jump his way to the top. When I finally found Yoshi, it was like I had peeked behind the wizard’s curtain; that’s it? He just stands there?! 120 stars for a cameo? Disappointment aside, poking through every painting and corner of the castle maintains Peach’s castle and grounds as the best overworld in any Mario game outside of Isle Delfino. MIPS, by the way (the rabbit in the basement), drove me nuts as a kid! When I saw that huge bunny in 3D World, I started having nightmare inducing flashbacks of darting back and forth trying to catch the little rascal. Sigh.

Every Super Mario game is somebody’s first, but whether someone started by playing New Super Mario Bros. or Super Mario Galaxy, Mario 64 is still one of the best titles in the series and worth a playthrough. Every element of the game serves to suck the player into its world. Flying with the Wing Cap, playing peek-a-boo with the giant eel, lobbing Bowser into explosives, and riding giant magic carpets are just a part of the thrills that made this game a legend. Anyone who has a Wii U can download this game through the Wii’s Virtual Console service, so there’s no excuse to have not played one of the most revolutionary titles ever made. Now go get to tugging on Mario’s big, squishy face!

One Response to “Retro Scope: Super Mario 64

  • 381 points
    Hyawatta says...

    The Greatest of All Time.

    Super Mario 64 is my favorite game of all time. I started playing it at the kiosk in Toys R Us, and I beat it in 3 days when it released. I gathered all 120 stars in 7 days. I played SM64 on a pair of Virtual I/O glasses that were made for the PC, but had an A/V input. I was very immersed into this game.

    I had played previous Mario games before, and I have played subsequent Mario games since. I acknowledge that the Galaxy games and 3D World are great, but I believe that I enjoyed SM64 more simply because I actually had more time to enjoy it back when I played it. The closest experience I’ve had to SM64 is Super Mario 3D Land because the portability allows me to continue to progress in through the game. I have 4 shiny stars and I’m working on the 5th.

    I have been able to show the Galaxy games to my little daughter and we have been able to play 3D World together, but like Tetris and Pac-Man, Super Mario 64 has something special that keeps it from being surpassed by its successors. I keep going back to it, even if only to watch the ending again. That alone brings back memories of playing through the entire game.

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