It seems like yesterday when I bought a used Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 cartridge without boxes. This happened over 20 years ago, which makes me feel ancient, but also surprised that Super Mario 64 is still one of the best 3D platformer games.
Nintendo 64 and Super Mario 64 are 25 this year. Many people may not realize how innovative Super Mario 64 was because the video gaming business has changed so much in 25 years. This game set a high level and created a new subgenre, inspiring many others.
— MGaming99 (@gaming99_m) September 16, 2022
Super Mario 64 Is One Of The Most Professional 3D
Super Mario is a popular, profitable, and long-lasting videogame franchise. Each Super Mario game strives for quality while bringing in new technology eras, enabling long-time players and novices to find something new. Super Mario 64 introduced the world to 3D, a then-unconventional technology.
What makes Super Mario 64 wonderful besides its novelty? How could it harm so many gamers? Why has it survived? Let’s explore what makes Super Mario 64 an industry standard.
Mario 64’s 3D Jump
In games, jumping appears trivial. Donkey Kong, a 1981 Nintendo arcade game, was the first to feature a mustached character, “Jumpman.” Mario Bros., a 1983 arcade game, gave the character his name. 1985’s Super Mario Bros. cemented Mario as a pop culture phenomenon (NES). Super Mario Bros. solidified the leaping technique and platformer genre as videogame staples.
Super Mario Bros. added simulated friction to running and jumping to give the combo a unique feel. By tapping or holding the jump button, the player may regulate the jump height, giving more precision and diversity. This fluid and adjustable jump would become the bread and butter of every 2D Super Mario game forever. 3D required a different approach.
Super Mario Bros. uses a technology restriction to provide numerous options for Mario’s jump. This philosophy shaped the first 3D platformer. With 3D levels, players can explore more. That means that Mario’s basic jump has to be increased in Super Mario 64 to allow players to reach every corner more swiftly. By timing multiple hops in sequence, Super Mario 64 enables double jumping. If the player moved Mario while he jumped, he may triple jump.
Mario could lateral jump by shifting direction swiftly before jumping. If the same notion of shifting directions and jumping was utilized when Mario reached a wall, the player could wall jump. By crouching before a jump, the player can reach enormous distances, whereas crouching when Mario is in the air results in a ground stomp.
The double jump and wall jump was employed in 2D games before Super Mario 64. Polished mechanics and responsive controls make the biggest impact. All of the possible jumps are available immediately from the start of the game, allowing players to discover Mario’s powers by merely trying out all the buttons. No animation or movement delay is present in any jump. Even though there are many jumps, you can do each one with just two buttons and directional control. Players who have never played a video game may learn the controls in minutes, and the game has plenty of jump-based obstacles.
The gameplay of Super Mario 64 is sufficiently perfected that every later 3D Super Mario game will reuse the same control method. Super Mario Sunshine adds the F.L.U.D.D. to broaden gameplay but preserves Super Mario 64’s foundations. Super Mario Galaxy doesn’t add a new tool but instead plays around with gravity and perspective while preserving the jumps established for the Nintendo 64. Even Super Mario Odyssey adds Cappy to Super Mario 64. 25 years later, the same Super Mario 64 gameplay elements are utilized. The game’s success isn’t just due to its polished gameplay.
Not-So-Open But Enough
Super Mario 64 was the first 3D platformer and an open-world gaming pioneer. No game before Super Mario 64 offered free movement in all three axes (up/down, left/right, depth) and a fully immersive 3D world. By changing movement and perspective, the playing field becomes more exciting. Super Mario 64 made each level a sandbox where players can travel freely and interact with everything they see.
Super Mario 64 proved levels could have clear goals and a non-linear layout that encouraged exploration. Each level of Super Mario 64 was designed to instruct players and teach them about 3D perspective in games. Take “Bob-omb Battlefield,” for example. Upon entering the level, the player sees a large mountain. This mountain leads to the game’s first boss and Star. The scenario layout was designed to familiarise players with the new technology. Each level in Super Mario 64 is a mini-open world that you can explore at your own speed.
Super Mario 64 created the Collect-a-Thon subgenre, a platformer with dozens of treasures strewn throughout levels. Life Mushrooms, Coins, Teleporters, and Stars are in Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 established that exploring a 3D world can be rewarded. Rare perfected the Collect-a-Thon with 1998’s Banjo-Kazooie. This was one of the first 3D platformer classics centered on exploring every nook and cranny to gather everything, inspiring games like A Hat in Time.
Super Mario Bros. wasn’t about obtaining a high score and bragging to your friends, as was common at the time. The game has a linear progression and levels to beat to reach the conclusion. Super Mario Bros. enhanced the number of levels a game could have, delivering original material without worrying about replay value. Super Mario Bros. includes 32 levels, however, few are noteworthy due to technical limitations. Super Mario World has 73 levels. The game couldn’t make every level memorable, so it was easy to switch them around.
Super Mario 64 had 18 main levels and 6 mini-levels in Peach’s Castle (which we could think of as a level of its own). Super Mario 64 was the first Nintendo 64 game, thus reusing 3D resources is understandable. Without a precedent, Super Mario 64 creators may have reused material. Each Super Mario 64 level is unique and special. Separate colors, adversaries, and things help gamers recall each stage as a different area.
The emphasis on exploration allows level designers to radically modify some restrictions. “Tiny-Huge Island” reuses the same situation by shifting Mario’s size, allowing players to explore the same island as a giant and an insect. “Wet-Dry World” lets users alter water levels, affecting their courses. “Tick Tock Clock” speeds up or slows down platforms and traps depending on when the player enters the level entrance clock. Super Mario 64 did this with crawling technology 25 years ago.
We could write articles about each Super Mario 64 level. The same goes for the game’s iconic soundtrack, accurate controls, explorable center, and free camera introduction (as if a Lakitu Cameraman was following our mustache hero). Super Mario 64 remains one of the best 3D platformers 25 years later. Every 3D platformer that followed tried to emulate this innovative technique. Super Mario 64 is a rare illustration of how fantastic games may impact our life, even if we’re unconscious.