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Super Mario 64 aged badly

Super Mario 3D All Stars, the sneaky compilation release Nintendo bestowed upon us in the previous month, contains high definition remakes of three classic Mario 3D titles: Super Mario 64 (N64), Super Mario Sunshine (Gamecube), and Super Mario Galaxy (Wii). I have a special place in my heart for Sunshine, despite the general hate the game got. However, I wanted to start where any brave gamer would start: at the beginning.

Super Mario 64 was one of the first full-fletched 3D platforming games that spawned a huge breed of games such as Conker, Starfox Adventures, Gex 3D, and so forth. It was released in 1996 (or 1997 for poor European fellows such as myself). Mind you, 1996 was thé Duke Nukem 3D year. The 3D revolution just started, and the Pentium and Win95 was beginning to attract mainstream attention.

It was an amazing experience back then (so I’m told), but it’s less so in 2020, when we’ve grown accustomed to proper camera handling and smooth 3D platforming. Mario 64 did get the HD treatment, and it looks rather nice and sharp. That does not prevent me from hating the game, though. A screenshot that explains some frustration:

Damn it, I want to read the sign, not stand on it!
Damn it, I want to read the sign, not stand on it!

Every. Single. Time.

For me, it’s just impossible to accurately guide Mario to where I want him to move. Does not compute. The tight ledges and awkward camera quickly makes things worse. There was no full ‘freedom’ camera yet, and jumping back from Mario Sunshine to the first 3D installment seemed to be a bad idea.

For instance, in the first water level, inside the sunken ship, there’s a star. Wanna go get it? Go ahead:

After (again) throwing with the controller, I had to ask my wife to do it. I admit, I’m pretty terrible at controlling characters in a 3D environment. My friends laugh at me while playing Breath of the Wild, but at least I managed to finish that game without a hassle, probably skipping the too difficult platforming sections. In Mario 64, many levels have cheap death traps that simply require accuracy.

It is in such a game that makes my bad navigational skills really ‘shine’. I adore Mario Sunshine but still struggle with handling Mario’s plethora of moves. At least in that game it’s okay (given you skip the FLUDD-less levels). There, I don’t have the feeling that I’m constantly fighting - and losing - with the camera.

I’m sorry Princess, but you’ll have to stay locked away in Bowser’s dungeon.

Categorized under: N64 Mario 64


I'm Jefklak, a high-level Retro Gamer, and I love the sight of experience points on old and forgotten hardware. I sometimes convince others to join in on the nostalgic grind. Read more about The Codex here.

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