Could a Mario game, known for its 2D sidescrolling style, be translated into a 3D adventure? Nintendo’s answer to that question was Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 was the main reason I wanted a Nintendo 64 as a kid, but little did I know that it would be the innovator of all 3D video games. Developers still periodically struggle with 3D games to this day, but Super Mario 64 executed every aspect with perfection. Today it is still widely recognized as the game that innovated not just 3D platformers, but gaming as a whole.
Super Mario 64 doesn’t have much of a story, but with it being a Super Mario game what more could you expect? Super Mario 64 starts with Mario receiving a note from Princess Peach that invites him to the castle for cake. Upon his arrival, Mario discovers that Bowser has kidnapped and trapped Princess Peach once again. Bower has taken control of the castle’s 120 Power Stars and is using their power to imprison Peach. To regain control of the stars, Mario has to jump into various paintings around the castle and complete objectives to recover them. After collecting a number of stars, Mario can begin to make progress through the castle, and towards the ultimate showdown with Bowser.
Princess Peach’s castle acts as a hub world linking Mario to the game’s levels via paintings. It’s a very non-linear way of advancing the game as it allows the player to explore at their own pace. Exploring the hub is extremely fun and you can easily waste time roaming the castle. While the hub is both fun and innovative, it is the ability to control Mario like no other Mario game that makes this game extremely playable.
Using the N64 Controller’s analog stick, Mario can walk or run depending on the pressure being applied. Mario can also use a variety of other techniques such as the ground pound, back flip, side jump, long jump, wall jump, etc. Having all these moves at your beckon call is awesome, however, it would ruin the game if they didn’t control well. Though that isn’t the case here, Mario controls flawlessly thanks to the responsiveness of the analog stick. Even swimming can be noted as a highlight in the game and actually made water levels fun.
All of these techniques are quite fancy, but they also come in handy when navigating the game’s 3D environments. In fact, mastering these new techniques is essential when trying to obtain all 120 Power Stars. Hidden within the paintings of Peach’s Castle are a variety of environments that range from a Bob-omb riddled battlefield to watery depths that hold a sunken pirate ship. The variety is quite stellar and the level design is extraordinary.
Each level contains six objectives, with a power star being the reward for completing each one. Objectives are varied in design, but some are constant throughout the game; boss fights and red coin hunts being repeat offenders. However, most you find by either just discovering them, or completing certain actions. Despite a little repetitiveness, most stars are unique and as mentioned before, you will need to have all your skills sharply honed to obtain every power star. Regardless, Super Mario 64 keeps things interesting and challenging most of the time, but most importantly, it’s just really fun to play.
Not only does the gameplay change up quite a bit in the 3D environment, but the graphics were also extremely important in its time. It is the first time that Mario would be rendered as a full 3D model, and it looked pretty good despite a few jagged edges; at the time this blocky appearance was the norm. Textures at times were a little on the muddy side due to being stretched and space limitations. Overall, Super Mario 64 handles this quite well compared to other N64 and Sony Playstation games.
I can’t finish this review without mentioning the soundtrack. Most tracks are an instant classic upon even a first listen with Jolly Roger Bay being one of the game’s standout tracks. It is a very fitting song to accompany a beautiful, yet somewhat haunting swim. Much like previous games in the series, the music was made to stand the test of time; it was catchy and likable in 1996, and the same can be said today.
4/5 D-Pads: Overall, Super Mario 64 is an amazing game. While it isn’t the best in the series, it certainly laid the foundation for future Mario games. It was innovative in its design and not only introduced a great 3D platformer, but also innovative hub worlds and camera control; two things that would help make Super Mario 64 one of the best games in the industry. Super Mario 64 is a must a must play for every gamer, so add that to your bucket list!