Today I turn 31 years old. It reminds me of one of my best birthdays ever…involving Super Mario 64! I remember walking into our local Microplay during the summer of 1996 and seeing one of the N64 test units running Mario 64. I knew right then and there that I HAD TO HAVE IT, and so my brother and I mowed a lot of lawns and picked up a lot of stones in our backyard to save up for it!
I think our dedication actually impressed our parents, as our lovely parents actually bought it for us for our birthday. It was THE MOST EPIC PRESENT EVER. We basically exploded with excitement. We ran downstairs, hooked it up on the TV, and got lost in Super Mario 64. After about 6 months of playing the game, we had collected all 120 stars – and that was before there were intent guides to direct you! Good times!
The story to this game is simple – Peach has invited Mario to the Castle for cake that she baked for him. When Mario arrives, Bowser has taken Peach hostage with the power of the Castle’s Stars. Mario’s job is to recapture all the stars to help release Peach and overcome Bowser’s invasion of the Castle.
In terms of gameplay, this is really one of the first good 3D platform games. You take control of Mario in 360 degrees and run, walk, swim, and jump your way through levels. Controls are fairly simple – one button jumps, another attacks, while another causes Mario to crawl. Using a combination of these buttons can cause Mario to do some pretty impressive feats such as wall jumping, sliding, and long jumping. Later on as Mario gets further in the game, power ups can be unlocked like the ability to fly, turn invisible, and turn into a heavy metal. All of these add new dimensions to gameplay.
In terms of game design, Mario finds himself in a giant multi-floor Castle that is littered with 15 large paintings. By jumping into the paintings, Mario is transported to a level where he is tasked with finding 7 stars – six based around completing a mission (e.g., beat a boss, win a race) while the last one is obtained by collecting over 100 coins in the level.
Not all levels are unlocked right away as many are locked behind doors. As you collect more stars, the doors become unlocked, allowing more access to levels. Levels themselves could be considered fairly simple in design now, but for being the first major 3D platform game, spawned and entire genre. Some examples include a mellow swimming level, a quicksand-filled desert level, a winter level (complete with ice slide), and even a level where you are riding a magic carpet through the sky!
As Mario gets further along in his quest, he-will occasionally need to face off against Bowser. Players need to navigate Mario through a obstacle course like level, and then battle Bowser head on. While the first two encounters are quite easy (Bowser only needs to be hit once each time), the final encounter takes three which can actually be a bit difficult. While only 70 stars are needed face Bowser and complete the game, there’re 120 total starts, and if you collect them all, you get a special prehistoric surprise!
In terms of graphics, this game still looks okay for a Nintendo 64 game, but was eclipsed by much prettier platform games later in the N64’s lifecycle like Banjo-Kazooie. Textures are pretty simple but they get the job done. The music is awesome, iconic, and memorable, and really help set the mood for each level. Mario sounds great with all of his jump and punch sounds!
Overall, Super Mario 64 is an excellent 3D platform game that, while fairly simple by todays standards, still holds up quite well and is a load of fun to play. It is an incredibly important game historically as it really set the tone for all 3D platform games to come. Compared to other N64 platform games, this is an excellent game, but there are a couple better ones (like Banjo-Kazzooie – which will be reviewed next year)! Nevertheless, I highly recommend this game and give it an 8/10 with a Historic Video Game Tag.
Final Score: 8/10