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Super Mario 64

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Super Mario 64
Artwork of a horizontal rectangular box. Depicted is Mario flying with wings on his red cap caused by the "Wing Cap" power up. He flies in front of a blue backdrop with clouds, a Goomba and Princess Peach's Castle in the distance. The bottom portion reads "Super Mario 64" in red, blue, yellow, and green block letters.
North American cover art, depicting Mario flying with a winged cap in front of Princess Peach's castle
Developer(s)Nintendo EAD
Director(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
Producer(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
Composer(s)Koji Kondo
SeriesSuper Mario
Platform(s)Nintendo 64
  • JP: June 23, 1996
  • NA: September 29, 1996
  • EU: March 1, 1997

Super Mario 64[a] is a 1996 platform game for the Nintendo 64 and the first Super Mario game to feature 3D gameplay. It was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo. As Mario, the player collects power stars while exploring Princess Peach's castle and must rescue her from Bowser. Super Mario 64 features open-world playability, degrees of freedom through all three axes in space, and relatively large areas which are composed primarily of true 3D polygons as opposed to only two-dimensional (2D) sprites. It emphasizes exploration within vast worlds, which require the player to complete various missions in addition to the occasional linear obstacle courses (as in traditional platform games). It preserves many gameplay elements and characters of earlier Mario games as well as the visual style.

Director Shigeru Miyamoto conceived a 3D Mario game during the production of Star Fox (1993). Super Mario 64's development lasted approximately three years; one was spent on designing, the next two on direct work. The visuals were created using the Nichimen N-World toolkit, with Miyamoto aiming to include more details than earlier games. The score was composed by Koji Kondo. A multiplayer mode featuring Mario's brother Luigi was cut, and rumors spread of his inclusion as a hidden character. Along with Pilotwings 64, Super Mario 64 was one of the launch games for the Nintendo 64. Nintendo released it in Japan on June 23, 1996, and later in North America as well as Europe.

Super Mario 64 received critical acclaim and is regarded as one of the greatest video games of all time. Reviewers praised its ambition, visuals, gameplay, and music, although they criticized its unreliable camera system. It is the bestselling Nintendo 64 game, with more than eleven million copies sold by 2003. Featuring a dynamic camera system and 360-degree analog control, it established a new archetype for the 3D genre, much as Super Mario Bros. did for side-scrolling platform games. Numerous developers have cited Super Mario 64 as an influence. It was remade as Super Mario 64 DS for the Nintendo DS in 2004, and it has been ported to other Nintendo consoles.


Courses such as Whomp's Fortress require the player to navigate chasms.

Super Mario 64 is a 3D platform game in which the player controls Mario through various courses. Each course is an enclosed world in which the player is free to wander in all directions and discover the environment without time limits. The worlds are filled with enemies that attack Mario, as well as friendly creatures that provide assistance, offer information, or ask a favor (such as peaceful pink Bob-omb Buddies). The player gathers stars in each course; some stars only appear after completing certain tasks, often hinted at by the name of the course. These challenges include defeating a boss, solving puzzles, racing an opponent, and gathering coins. As more stars are collected, more areas of the castle hub world become accessible.[1][2] The player unlocks doors in the castle with keys obtained by defeating Bowser in special courses.[2] There are many hidden mini-courses and other secrets, most containing extra stars required for the full completion of the game.[3]

There are three special cap power-ups that appear in certain areas on many stages. The Wing Cap allows Mario to fly; the Metal Cap makes him immune to most damage, allows him to withstand wind, walk underwater, and be unaffected by noxious gases; and the Vanish Cap renders him partially immaterial and allows him to walk through some obstacles such as wire mesh, as well as granting invulnerability to some forms of damage.[2] 1-up mushrooms hidden in various places such as trees may chase Mario through the air or else fall to the ground and disappear shortly if not collected.[4] Some courses contain cannons that Mario can access by speaking to a pink Bob-omb Buddy.[5] After entering a cannon, Mario can be shot out to reach distant places. When the player has the Wing Cap equipped, cannons can be used to reach high altitudes or fly across most levels quickly.[citation needed]

Mario's abilities in Super Mario 64 are far more diverse than those of previous Mario games.[6] The player can make Mario walk, run, jump, crouch, crawl, swim, climb, kick, or punch using the game controller's analog stick and buttons. Special jumps can be executed by combining a regular jump with other actions, including the double and triple jumps (jumping two and three times in a row, respectively), long jump and backflip. There are also special maneuvers, such as wall jumping, which is jumping from one wall to another in rapid succession to reach areas that would otherwise be too high.[2][7] The player can pick up and carry certain items, an ability which is used to solve various puzzles and swim underwater at various speeds. Mario's life energy slowly diminishes while underwater, representing how long he can hold his breath. He loses an eighth of his health per eight seconds, but is able to heal at the water surface.[1][2][8]

In Snowman's Land, the world classified as cold that has water, health drains significantly faster and keeps draining at the icy water surface rather than healing.[9][8]

Plot and setting

Super Mario 64 is set in Princess Peach's Castle, which consists of three floors, a basement, a moat, and a courtyard. The area outside the castle is an introductory area in which the player can experiment with gameplay, camera, and movement controls. Scattered throughout the castle are entrances to courses via secret walls and paintings.[1] Super Mario 64 begins with a letter from Princess Peach inviting Mario to come to her castle for a cake she has baked for him.[10] When he arrives, Mario discovers that Bowser has invaded the castle and imprisoned the princess and her servants within it using the power of the castle's 120 Power Stars. Many of the castle's paintings are portals to other worlds, in which Bowser's minions keep watch over the stars. Mario explores the castle for these portals to enter the worlds and recover the stars. He gains access to more rooms as he recovers more Power Stars, and he eventually traverses three different obstacle courses, each leading to its own battle with Bowser. Defeating Bowser the first two times earns Mario a key for opening another level of the castle. After Mario defeats Bowser in the final battle, Peach is released from the stained-glass window above the castle's entrance. Peach rewards Mario by kissing him on the nose and baking the cake that she had promised him.[2][7][11]


Producer and director Shigeru Miyamoto

In the early 1990s, director and producer Shigeru Miyamoto conceived a 3D Mario design during development of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) game Star Fox (1993). He considered using the Super FX chip to develop a SNES game, Super Mario FX, with gameplay based on "an entire world in miniature, like miniature trains".[12] He eventually reformulated the idea for the Nintendo 64, not for its substantially greater power, but because its controller has more buttons for gameplay.[13][14] According to engineer Dylan Cuthbert, who worked on Star Fox, no game titled Super Mario FX had ever entered development, but rather "Super Mario FX" was the code name of the Super FX chip.[15]

Super Mario 64 was developed over approximately three years, with one year spent on the design concept and approximately two years on production.[12] Production began on September 7, 1994, and concluded on May 20, 1996.[16] According to Miyamoto, most of the time there were approximately 15 to 20 people working on the game.[17] Development began with the characters and camera system. Miyamoto and the other designers were unsure of which direction to take; months were spent selecting a camera view and layout.[18] The original concept involved a fixed path like an isometric-type game (similar to Super Mario RPG), before the choice was made to settle on a free-roaming 3D design.[18] Levels were initially sketched by course director Yoichi Yamada; he and the level designers then took notes on the key elements of level, referring back to them as they designed the level for the game.[19] Although the majority of Super Mario 64 features the free-roaming design, elements of the original fixed path concept remain, particularly in the three Bowser encounters. One of the programmers, Giles Goddard, explained that these linear elements survived as a means to force players into Bowser's lair rather than encourage exploration.[18]

When we were stuck on talk of the spectacular 3D graphics of Mario 64 and racing games, we saw a huge hit in the form of [Bandai's] Tamagotchi — a tiny key chain boasting pictures made up of no more than 10 or 20 dots. At that time, I thought that Mario 64 had lost to Tamagotchi. [laughs. Miyamoto quickly adds in English: "I'm serious."]

—Shigeru Miyamoto[20]

3D graphics were created using the Nichimen N-World toolkit running on a Silicon Graphics workstation.[21] The team placed high priority on Mario's movement and, before levels were created, they tested and refined Mario's animations on a simple grid. The first test scenario for controls and physics involved Mario interacting with a golden rabbit, named "MIPS" after the Nintendo 64's MIPS architecture processors; the rabbit was included in the final game. The developers tried to a multiplayer cooperative mode, whereby players would control Mario and his brother Luigi in split-screen, but could not make it work satisfactorily.[22] To assist players with depth perception, the team positioned a faux shadow directly beneath each object regardless of the area's lighting. Assistant director Yoshiaki Koizumi described the feature as an "iron-clad necessity" which "might not be realistic, but it's much easier to play."[23]

Miyamoto's guiding design philosophy was to include more details than earlier games, using the Nintendo 64's power to feature "all the emotions of the characters". He likened the game's style to a 3D interactive cartoon.[24] Some details were inspired by the developers' personal lives; for example, the Boos are based on assistant director Takashi Tezuka's wife, who, as Miyamoto explained, "is very quiet normally, but one day she exploded, maddened by all the time Tezuka spent at work." In the game, the Boos shrink when Mario looks at them, but when he turns away, they grow large and menacing.[12]

Super Mario 64 features more puzzles than earlier Mario games. It was developed simultaneously with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time but, as Ocarina of Time was released more than two years later, some puzzles were taken for Super Mario 64. Information about Super Mario 64 was leaked in November 1995, and a playable version was presented days later as part of the Nintendo 64 premiere (then known as the "Ultra 64") at Nintendo Space World. At this point, the basic controls had been implemented and the game was 50% finished, featuring 32 courses, though only about 2% of mapping was complete. Miyamoto had hoped to create more courses, but only 15 courses could fit.[12] According to Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln, Miyamoto's desire to add more was a major factor in the decision to delay the Nintendo 64 release from Christmas 1995 to April 1996.[25] Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi later commented, "Game creators can finish games quickly if they compromise. But users have sharp eyes. They soon know if the games are compromised. [Miyamoto] asked for two more months and I gave them to him unconditionally."[26]

Music and sound

Composer Koji Kondo

The music was composed by veteran composer Koji Kondo, who created new interpretations of the familiar melodies from earlier games as well as entirely new material.[27] Yoji Inagaki was solely responsible for the sound design, tasked with producing hundreds of sound effects. According to him, the average Nintendo 64 game had about 500 sound effects.[28] As such, Inagaki resorted to modifying already existing sound effects from professional sound effects libraries, such as The General Series 6000 Sound Effects Library from Warner Bros. and Sound Ideas, and Series 1000 Sound Effects Library from Universal Studios.[29]

Super Mario 64 was one of the first games to feature Charles Martinet as the voice of Mario. It also features the voice of Leslie Swan, then senior editor of Nintendo Power, as Princess Peach, who also wrote the English text.[30] Coincidentally, Martinet also provided the laughing sound effects for Bowser and Boo, via The General Series 6000 Sound Effects Library from Warner Bros. and Sound Ideas, whose pitch was modified to low and high accordingly.[29]

Release and reception

Super Mario 64 was first distributed in Japan on June 23, 1996. The game was subsequently released in North America on September 29, 1996 and in Europe on March 1, 1997.[31] It received critical acclaim and is the best-selling Nintendo 64 game.[32] During the first three months of 1997, it was the second-best-selling console game in the United States, with sales of 523,000 units for the period.[33] It was the best-selling game in the United States between 1995–2002, with 5.9 million units sold in the US by 2002.[34] At the 1999 Milia festival in Cannes, it took home a "Gold" prize for revenues above €21 million ($27 million) in the European Union during the previous year.[35] By May 2003, eleven million copies had been sold worldwide.[36] Super Mario 64 had become the second most popular game on Wii's Virtual Console by June 2007, behind Super Mario Bros.[37]

Super Mario 64 has been praised in the gaming press, and it is still acclaimed. It has collected numerous awards, including various "Game of the Year" honors by members of the gaming media, as well as Nintendo's own best-selling Player's Choice selection. In addition, Super Mario 64 has been placed high on "the greatest games of all time" lists by many reviewers, including IGN,[49][50][13] Game Informer,[51] Edge,[52] Yahoo! Games,[53] and Nintendo Power.[54] Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded it a Gold award in its initial review, and in Edge magazine, Super Mario 64 was the first game to receive a perfect score.[41][42] At the 1997 Computer Game Developers Conference, it was given Spotlight Awards for Best Use of Innovative Technology, Best Console Game, and Best Game of 1996.[55] It won Electronic Gaming Monthly's Game of the Year for both editors' pick and readers' pick, as well as Nintendo 64 Game of the Year, Adventure Game of the Year, and Best Graphics.[56] British magazine Maximum gave it their "Maximum Game of the Month Award", making it the only import game (since Super Mario 64 had not yet been released outside Japan) to win that honor, and attested it to be the greatest game the magazine had ever reviewed.[57] Game Informer initially rated it a 9.75, but re-rated it a 9.0 a decade later in a "Retro Review".[44][58] The Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu rated Super Mario 64 a 39/40.[43] GamePro gave it a perfect 5 out of 5 in every category (FunFactor, control, sound, and graphics).[59] Common praise focused on the presentation, while criticism was directed at the camera system. Nintendo Power lauded the graphics, sound, and gameplay, but commented the shifting camera angle took getting used to.[60] Next Generation Magazine praised the score, graphics, lack of loading times, and scale, but felt the game was less accessible than previous Mario games, citing the camera's occasional, erratic movements and lack of optimal angle as frustrating.[47] GamePro particularly praised the combination of unprecedented technical performance and captivating artistic design, calling it "the most visually impressive game of all time."[59] Maximum found strongest points were sense of freedom and the fact that revisiting levels unearths new areas and challenges.[48]

Video game publications and developers praised Super Mario 64 for its design and use of 3D gameplay. It is counted by as one of the first games to have brought a series of 2D games into full 3D.[61] Maximum commented that "The old 2D platform genre is essentially dead with the arrival of this game. The limitations inherent with the genre have been swept away in the wake of Mario 64."[48] In the transition to 3D, many of the series's conventions were rethought drastically, placing an emphasis on exploration over traditional platform jumping, or "hop and bop" action. While its quality was disputed by some, it has been argued that it established an entirely new genre, different from that of previous games in the series.[62] Time Magazine focused on the realistic kinetic animation and the controls provided by the integration of the new pressure-sensitive controller, calling it the "fastest, smoothest game action yet attainable via joystick at the service of equally virtuoso motion", where "[f]or once, the movement on the screen feels real".[63]

In the same issue in which they reviewed it, Next Generation ranked Super Mario 64 number 1 on their "Top 100 Games of All Time". They explained, "Super Mario 64 is the first true 3D game to play as good as the 2D games of the 16-bit era. ... As such, it represents the new high-water mark of both gameplay and graphic sophistication."[64] In 1997 Electronic Gaming Monthly ranked it the 4th best console game of all time, arguing that it had cracked open the entire genre of 3D gaming while working flawlessly in nearly every respect, excepting only the camera.[65] GameSpot called it one of the 15 most influential games of all time, rating the Nintendo 64 version with a score of 9.4 and the Wii Virtual Console version an 8.[66][45][67] Game Informer commented that even a decade later it offered hours of entertainment. They also commented on the camera system, stating that by present-day standards the camera system "would almost be considered broken".[44] Game Revolution's retrospective review described the graphics as "beautiful", but criticized the camera, saying "it doesn't work as well as it should".[68] Super Mario 64 placed 6th in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 greatest Nintendo games of all time".[69] In 2009, Game Informer named it the 13th best game of all time.[70] Official Nintendo Magazine described it as a "masterpiece of game design", stating that Nintendo was able to take its "number-one 2D franchise and convert it flawlessly into 3D".[71] Michael Grayford of Liquid Entertainment stated he was initially "very turned off" by the openness, but came to like it, writing that "each level brought some new unique cool gameplay element and I was never bored".[72] Warren Spector, former lead designer at Ion Storm, stated it was "not possible to squeeze this much gameplay into a single game" and "no game has done a better job of showing goals before they can be attained, allowing players to make a plan and execute on it". He also praised the exploration aspect, commenting that "[allowing players to] explore the same spaces several times while revealing something new each time is a revelation".[72]


Instead of staying behind Mario, the camera rotates to show the path.

Critics acknowledge Super Mario 64 as a key contributor to the anticipation for, and initial success of, the Nintendo 64.[44][65][71][73][74] Lee Hutchinson of Ars Technica, a Babbage's employee during the console's debut, recalled the huge customer interest in it and its launch games: "If the gaming press was to be believed, Super Mario 64 was going to be the greatest game ever released anywhere, and it might also cure cancer and feed the world's starving children." In 2013, he wrote:[75]

Looking back, it's easy to criticize SM64 for some glaringly huge failings. The camera controls, frankly, suck. The limited amount of storage on the cartridge means that the textures laid over the game's polygons are blurry and often hideously ugly. In more than one level, 3D is abused far beyond reason, and playability is sacrificed for the sake of "gee whiz, look at that!" moments.

"It didn't matter. We sold out", Hutchinson said. Although the console only had two launch games, Super Mario 64 was its killer app:[75]

The rule that a console must have a broad spectrum of launch titles to appeal to the North American audience was generally true, but Nintendo found the exception: a single amazing title, with well-implemented 3D gameplay that most console players had never experienced, could bear the weight of the entire system on its shoulders.

Though the Nintendo 64 was initially successful, it eventually lost much of its market share to Sony's PlayStation. attributed this decline to Nintendo's use of cartridges and the design of the Nintendo 64 controller, which were reportedly implemented by Miyamoto for Super Mario 64.[61]

On May 5, 2011, Super Mario 64 was selected as one of 80 games displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of the Art of Video Games exhibit that opened on March 16, 2012.[76][77]


The game set many precedents for 3D platformers to follow.[61][65][78] GameDaily listed the game as one of the "Most Influential Video Games" and stated it "defined the 3-D platform experience, influencing numerous designers to create their own, original offerings".[79] GamesTM noted many game companies, including Nintendo, have tried to develop a platform game to match up to Super Mario 64.[80] Members of Rare, a second-party developer for Nintendo during the 1990s, reflected in 2013 that during the development of 2001's Conker's Bad Fur Day, they had drawn inspiration from their deep analysis of Super Mario 64.[81]:8:10

Super Mario 64 is known for its sense of freedom and non-linearity. A central hub, where controls can be learned before entering levels themselves, has been used in many 3D platformers since. In addition, the game's mission-based level design is an inspiration for other game designers. Martin Hollis, who produced and directed Rare's GoldenEye 007, says "the idea for the huge variety of missions within a level came from Super Mario 64".[82] In 2012, Dan Houser, a prominent figure in the development of the Grand Theft Auto series, stated, "Anyone who makes 3D games who says they've not borrowed something from Mario or Zelda [on the Nintendo 64] is lying."[83] Tetsuya Nomura, a leading designer at Square Enix, stated in 2016 that Super Mario 64 was the impetus for the creation of the Kingdom Hearts series.[84][85]

Super Mario 64 was the first game with a "free" camera that can be controlled independently of the character.[78] Most 3D games from the time use a first-person perspective or a camera that is fixed in position relative to the player's character, or to the level. To create freedom of exploration, and more fluid control in a 3D world, the designers created a dynamic system in which the video camera is operated by the in-game character Lakitu.[7] The camera system would become the standard for 3D platform games in the future.[1] Nintendo Power stated the camera-control scheme is what transitioned platform games into 3D,[86] and that the game, along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, "blazed trails" into the 3D era.[87]

Edge said Mario 64 the game changed "gamers' expectations of 3D movement forever".[73] The Nintendo 64's analog stick allows for more precise and wide-ranging character movements than the digital D-pads of other consoles, and Super Mario 64 uses this in a way that was unique for its time. At the time, 3D games generally allowed for controls in which the player could either control the character in relation to a fixed camera angle or in relation to the character's perspective. Super Mario 64's controls are fully analog and interpret a 360-degree range of motion into navigation through a 3D space relative to the camera. The analog stick also allows for precise control over subtleties such as the speed at which Mario runs. Super Mario 64 was one of the first games to implement the system.[88]


Rumors about glitches and secrets spread rapidly after the game's release. A common rumor, fueled by illegible symbols in the castle courtyard said to resemble the text "L is real 2401", held that Luigi was a secret character. The same texture reappeared in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. IGN received so much correspondence about Luigi that it offered a US$100 reward to anyone who could prove that Luigi was in the game.[89] The number of false codes submitted to IGN dropped dramatically, as Luigi's inclusion was found to be a myth.[90] The April Fools' Day 1998 issue of Nintendo Power contained humorous hoax claims about Luigi.[91] On July 25, 2020, unused assets for Luigi were discovered as part of the 2020 Nintendo data leak.[92] Some coins are impossible to obtain without the use of glitches, with one example not being collected until eighteen years after the game's release.[93]


A version of Super Mario 64 was used as a tech demo for the 64DD add-on at the 1996 Nintendo Space World trade show.[94] Like Wave Race 64, Super Mario 64 was rereleased in Japan on July 18, 1997, as Super Mario 64 Shindō Pak Taiō Version[b]. This version adds support for the Rumble Pak peripheral and includes the voice acting from the English version.[95][96]

In 1998, Super Mario 64 was rereleased in Europe and North America as part of the budget Player's Choice line. It was released on the Wii Virtual Console service in late 2006.[97] This release added enhanced resolution and compatibility with the GameCube and Classic controllers.[67] The Shindou version was rereleased in September 2020 on Nintendo Switch as part of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.[98]

Super Mario 64 DS

An enhanced remake, Super Mario 64 DS, was released for the handheld Nintendo DS in 2004. Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario are additional playable characters, and the game features improved graphics, slightly altered courses, new areas and enemies, more Power Stars to collect, touchscreen mini-games, and a multiplayer mode.[99] Reviews were mostly positive and, by March 2008, 6.12 million copies of Super Mario 64 DS had been sold worldwide.[100][101][102]

Fan projects

In 2015, a fan remake of Super Mario 64 was created in Unity. The project was taken down following a copyright claim by Nintendo.[103][104] In 2019, fans decompiled the original ROM image into C source code, allowing Mario 64 to be unofficially ported to any system and run natively, rather than through emulation. In 2020, fans released a Windows port with support for widescreen displays and 4K visuals.[105] Nintendo enlisted a law firm to remove videos of the port and its listings from websites.[106] Fans created ports for several more platforms, including Nintendo 3DS,[107] PlayStation 2, PlayStation Vita, Dreamcast, and Android.[108]


A sequel was planned for the 64DD.[109] In July 1996, Nintendo insiders stated that Miyamoto was assembling a team consisting mostly of developers who had worked on Super Mario 64.[110] Miyamoto mentioned at the 1997 E3 convention that he was "just getting started" on the project.[111] The project was canceled due to the commercial failure of the 64DD, as well as lack of progress in the game's development.[109][112]

Super Mario 64 was followed by games on subsequent Nintendo systems, such as Super Mario Sunshine (2002) for the GameCube and Super Mario Galaxy (2007) for the Wii. These games built on Super Mario 64's core design of enhancement items and open-ended gameplay.[113][114] Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010) features a remake of Mario 64's Whomp's Fortress level.[115] Super Mario 3D Land (2011) and Super Mario 3D World (2013) departed from the open-ended design and focused on platforming reminiscent of 2D games.[116] The Nintendo Switch game Super Mario Odyssey returned to Super Mario 64's open design.[117]

See also


  1. ^ Japanese: スーパーマリオ64, Hepburn: Sūpā Mario 64
  2. ^ Japanese: スーパーマリオ64 振動パック対応バージョン, Hepburn: Sūpā Mario 64 Shindō Pak Taiō Bājon


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