Super Mario 64

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Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 box cover
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Designer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Series Super Mario Bros. series
Release date(s) JP June 23, 1996
NA September 29, 1996
EU March 1, 1997
CN November 2003 ( iQue)
Genre(s) Platform
Mode(s) Single player
Rating(s) ESRB: K-A (Kids to Adults)
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, iQue, Virtual Console
Media 64  Mb (8  MB) cartridge, Flash card

Super Mario 64 is a video game for the Nintendo 64. It debuted in Japan on June 23, 1996, in North America on September 29, 1996, and in Europe on March 1, 1997. Along with Pilotwings 64, it was one of the launch titles for the new console. As the flagship killer game, it drove initial sales of the Nintendo 64, and has sold over 11 million copies in total.

Super Mario 64 was the first 3D game in the Mario series, and though it was not the first-ever 3D platformer, it helped to define the genre, much as Super Mario Bros. defined the 2D sidescrolling platformer. Super Mario 64 was considered so revolutionary that many consider to have set the standard for all later 3D platformer games and 3D games in general.

In going from two to three dimensions, Super Mario 64 replaced the linear obstacle courses of traditional platform games with vast worlds in which the player must complete multiple and diverse missions, with an emphasis on exploration. While doing so, it managed to preserve the feel of earlier Mario games, including many of their gameplay elements and characters. It is acclaimed by critics as one of the greatest video games of all time.


Super Mario 64 begins with a letter from Princess Peach asking Mario to come to her castle to receive a cake she has baked for him. When he arrives, Mario learns 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 realms, in which Bowser's minions keep watch over the stars. Mario searches for the portals, entering them to recover the stars. As he finds more stars, he can reach new places in the castle, eventually reaching Bowser when Mario recovers 70 stars. He defeats Bowser, rescuing Peach and restoring the power of the stars to the castle. Peach rewards Mario by baking the cake that she had promised him.



Mario's abilities in Super Mario 64 are far more diverse than those of previous Mario games. He can walk, run, crouch, crawl, swim, climb, and jump at great heights or distances using the game controller's analog stick and buttons. As jumping was Mario's signature move in earlier games, particular attention was paid to this move. Special jumps can be executed by combining a regular jump with other actions, including the extra high double and triple jumps (jumping two and three times in a row, respectively), the long jump, and backflip. There are also special maneuvers, such as wall jumping (jumping from one wall to another in rapid succession to reach areas that would otherwise be too high).

Mario has a number of physical attacks in addition to jumping. His basic attack is the punch, which becomes a jump kick when performed in mid-air. Attacking while running causes Mario to lunge forward. Crouching while in the air executes a power stomp (also called the ground pound). Crouching while running and then immediately attacking executes a slide kick, while crouching and moving the analog stick makes Mario crawl and enter small spaces. Mario can pick up and carry certain items, an ability which is used to solve various puzzles. Mario can also swim underwater at various speeds. His life slowly diminishes while underwater (representing how long he can hold his breath); he must find coins or air bubbles to replenish it, or return to the surface before drowning.


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. Scattered throughout the castle are entrances to courses and other areas, usually accessed by jumping into a painting.

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 favour. Mario gathers stars in each course; some stars only appear after Mario has completed 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 Mario collects stars, more areas of the castle are opened. Mario unlocks doors in the castle with keys obtained by defeating Bowser in special courses.

Mario is assisted in some courses by three cap power-ups. The Wing Cap allows Mario to fly, the Metal Cap makes him immune to most damage and allows him to withstand wind and walk underwater, and the Vanish Cap renders him partially immaterial and allows him to walk through some obstacles such as wire mesh. Some courses contain cannons that Mario can unlock by speaking to a pink Bob-omb Buddy. After Mario enters a cannon, he can be shot out to reach distant places. When Mario has the Wing Cap, cannons can be used to reach high altitudes or fly across most of a level quickly.


The development of Super Mario 64 took less than two years, but producer Shigeru Miyamoto had conceived of a 3D Mario game over five years before, while working on Star Fox. Miyamoto developed most of the concepts during the era of the SNES and considered making it an SNES game (see Super Mario FX), but decided to develop it for the Nintendo 64 due to the earlier system's technical limitations.

Development started by creating the characters and the camera. Months were spent selecting a camera view and layout that would be appropriate; the original concept involved the game having fixed path much like an isometric type game, before the choice was made to settle on a free-roaming 3D design. The first test scenario used to try out controls and physics involved Mario and the rabbit Mips, named for the MIPS processor in the Nintendo 64 (this scene remains as a minigame in the final game). Reliable information about Nintendo's new 3D Mario first leaked out in November 1995, and a playable version of Super Mario 64 was presented days later as part of the world premier for the Nintendo 64 (then known as Ultra 64) at Nintendo SpaceWorld. The basic controls had at this point been implemented, and the game was reportedly 50% finished, although most course design remained. At least 32 courses were planned, but the number turned out lower in the final game, as only 15 could fit.

Shigeru Miyamoto's guiding design philosophy behind Super Mario 64 was to include more details. Many were inspired from real life; for example, one character is based on director Takashi Tezuka's wife who "is very quiet normally, but one day she exploded, maddened by all the time [Tezuka] spent at work. In the game, there is now a character which shrinks when Mario looks at it, but when Mario turns away, it will grow large and menacing." Super Mario 64 is also characterized by featuring more puzzles than earlier Mario games. It was developed simultaneously with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but as Zelda was released years later, some puzzles were taken from that game for Super Mario 64.

The music was composed by Koji Kondo, who used new interpretations of the familiar melodies from earlier games as well as entirely new material. Super Mario 64 was one of the first in the series to feature the voice acting of Charles Martinet. It also features Leslie Swan as Princess Peach and Issac Marshall as Bowser (unlisted in credits).

The characters speak more in the English version than in the Japanese version. Sometimes different things are said, like Mario's "Bye bye" became "So long-a King Bowser!" There are other differences, some of which remained in the English release of Super Mario 64 DS.


Super Mario 64 is often counted as the first among games such as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Metroid Prime and Sonic Adventure to have brought a series of 2D games into full 3D while maintaining their signature feel. The game was designed with the earlier Mario titles' maneuvers, power-up blocks, level themes (such as grassland, lava, desert, and so on), enemies, and other characters in mind. Super Mario 64's translation of traditional 2D platforming action into 3D was hailed as a great success by many players, and the game itself went on to effectively drive sales of the N64 console.


Super Mario 64 was praised in the gaming press, and is still highly acclaimed. It has collected numerous awards, including various "Game of the Year" honours by members of the gaming media, as well as Nintendo's own bestseller Player's Choice selection. It has placed high on many "greatest games of all time" lists, ranked #1 by Next Generation Magazine, #5 and #1 in Nintendo Power issues 200 and 100 respectively, #1 by Super PLAY, #5 by IGN, and #5 by Electronic Gaming Monthly. EGM awarded Super Mario 64 a Gold award in its initial review, and in Edge, the game was the first of only five games to ever score a perfect 10/10. GameSpot called Super Mario 64 one of the 15 most influential games of all time.

Impact and legacy

Super Mario 64 set many precedents for 3D platformers to follow.

Unlike 2D games, 3D games must emulate a real perspective of characters and events. Most existing 3D games at the time used a first person or fixed perspective, but the platform gameplay of Super Mario 64 required the use of a free camera. The game world is therefore viewed through an in-game video camera operated by Lakitu. Lakitu handles the camera automatically, but the player can change the perspective manually when necessary, since the camera programming occasionally makes the view get stuck behind walls or at odd angles. This was a useful innovation, as other games were sometimes unplayable due to an unfixable bad camera.

The Nintendo 64's analog control stick allowed for more realistic and wide-ranging character movements than the digital D-pads of previous consoles, and Super Mario 64 exploits this feature extensively. For example, Mario's speed varies depending on the degree of tilt of the control stick. The range and direction of many other movements can be controlled as well. The Bowser battles exhibit this by forcing the player to rotate the control stick in circles in order to swing Bowser around and throw him into mines placed around the arena.

Super Mario 64 was also notable for its sense of freedom and non-linearity. This was initially unfamiliar to many people, among them voice actor Michael Grayford of Liquid Entertainment:

Super Mario 64
When I first played Mario 64, I was very turned off. There were too many places to run around and too much stuff to do, and I didn't really see the point or the spirit of the game. I tried it again later, though, hearing from everyone how fun it was, and ended up playing it all the way through to the end. I was highly pleased. Each level brought some new unique cool gameplay element and I was never bored.
Super Mario 64

Warren Spector, former lead designer at Ion Storm Inc., gives the following explanation for the game's influence:

Super Mario 64
It's not possible to squeeze this much gameplay into a single game. Mario has, like, ten things he can do and yet there's never a moment where you feel constrained in any way. 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. And the way the game allows players to explore the same spaces several times while revealing something new each time is a revelation. Any developer who wouldn't kill to have made this game is nuts.
Super Mario 64

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 was an inspiration for other game designers. For one example, Martin Hollis who produced and directed GoldenEye 007 says that "the idea for the huge variety of missions within a level came from Mario 64."

Remakes and sequels

Super Mario 64 was first re-released in Japan on 18 July 1997 as Shindou Super Mario 64. This version added support for the Rumble Pak and included voice acting from the American version. In 1998, Super Mario 64 was re-released in America as part of the Player's Choice line: a selection of games with high sales sold for a reduced price.

A remake for the Nintendo DS called Super Mario 64 DS was available for the handheld system's launch in 2004. Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario were added as additional playable characters, and the game featured additional stars and courses, touch screen mini-games, and a few minor multiplayer modes.

Super Mario 64 is one of a few games that has been confirmed to be downloadable for the Wii's Virtual Console service. This release is a port with no major changes, except for compatibility with the Gamecube and Classic controllers, and the ability to run in 480p.

Super Mario 64 2 was planned for the Nintendo 64DD, but canceled due to the failure of that peripheral, as well as a lack of progress in development. Super Mario Sunshine for the Nintendo GameCube built on Super Mario 64's core gameplay by adding a water pump device and add-on nozzles, similar to the Caps.


Because of Super Mario 64's great popularity, rumors about glitches and secrets spread rapidly after its release. The most infamous rumor is that Mario's brother Luigi is an unlockable character in the game. This rumor was fueled by a blurry text on the pedestal of a statue in the castle courtyard that supposedly read "L is Real 2401", which caused rampant fan speculation. (Upon closer inspection, the blurry texture appears to either be illegible, or read "Eternal Star.") IGN received so many questions and supposed methods to unlock Luigi that the staff offered a bounty to anyone who could prove that Luigi was in the game. The number of false codes submitted to IGN dropped dramatically; no successful method was uncovered.

Photoshopped pictures of Mario with a green tint have been presented as evidence of Luigi being playable, but no one has been able to accomplish this feat in the game. Nintendo has consistently denied Luigi's playability, and never commented on the meaning of the supposed "L is Real 2041" except for the April Fool's Day 1998 issue of Nintendo Power. In this issue, the "April News Briefs" section says that the cryptic phrase will be discussed on page 128, but the magazine only has 106 pages. The "April News Briefs" section also featured a facetious article entitled "Luigi 64," commenting humorously on the rumors. Luigi is a playable character in the enhanced remake, Super Mario 64 DS. Among other Mario references, the suspicious texture reappears in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game based on a heavily modified version of the Super Mario 64 engine.

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