Such a Joy.
Everything is so playful in Super Mario 64.
LesLites’ Ranking: #1/100
I couldn’t figure out how to play.
I was standing in a Blockbuster at one of those trial console stations (where the controller was cemented with plastic to a frame to avoid theft) trying to get Mario to move. I had played every Mario game to date; why wasn’t this four-way pad working? I brushed against the stick in the middle by mistake, and my life was changed forever.
Seems a bit hyperbolic, right? It’s hard to explain why the transition to 3D gaming was so amazing as it’s now so ubiquitous. I had some strong debates with friends in the elementary cafeteria about how it was even going to be possible to make some franchises in three dimensions (in one particular instance, Ryan and I discussed Final Fantasy at length — we really could not fathom how a game like that would even work).
Not only did they pull off the transition, they made it even MORE enjoyable. Super Mario 64 made you feel like video games would never stop getting better.
One Mario is just half a Roger Stone.
Mario is invited to enjoy some cake with Princess Peach (they couldn’t have known that in 2019 🍰 and 🍑 would be emblematic of other things). He enters the castle in the distance to find that Bowser has stolen the Princess again for the fourth iteration. He has to enter paintings that teleport him to magical worlds to find stars that open deeper dungeons to where the Princess is locked away.
They must have been worried we wouldn’t get it. Instantly upon entering the game, we get a quick tutorial on how to operate the camera. It was probably a good idea because you fight that dang camera for the rest of the game; no ledge is safe to cross with a POV that continues to swirl as you move.
It’s easy to not go to your apparent next location (the castle) because you are too busy figuring out how Mario moves. This is where the entire joy of Mario exists: he moves with enough calibration for you to feel in control, but he’s slippery around the edges. You start stringing together multiple maneuvers because you are always a little off. A long jump leads to a back flip that leads to a somersault that finally leads to a safe butt smash.
The game is two fold: it’s figuring out the puzzles to unlock stars while using this cooky character’s movement patterns. Due to his calibration, you will always be doing last second attempts to save your character from steep falls or death. Just like the little over corrections you did in the side-scrolling game, these corrections lead to an endless amount of anxiety and achievement when you successfully survive. Just moving Mario around in this environment is rewarding enough.
The puzzles are great, too. There are seven stars in each world, and the title upon entering gives you hints of what you need to do to get them. The game has a little bit of everything: racing, linear aspects, collecting, open exploration, puzzles, hidden rooms and more for you to collect the stars. The variation in tasks with the ADHD movement of Super Mario keeps it interesting throughout.
The original open platformer still has it.
Other People’s Takes:
- Random Psych Tidbits: “The study performed by West et. al ( 2017) tested the impact of 3D-platform video game playing on the grey matter of older adults. The participants, aged 55 to 75 years, were put into three groups. The first group (8 participants) actively played Super Mario 64 for a 6-month period.”
- In My Video Game Shelf: “For this game, the score can only be 20/20. If you have never played this game before, you should do it or simply try it, because it is the ancestor of many recent video games.”
- Cold Cobra Reviews: “Then you start to explore, you climb a tree, you do double and triple jumps, backflips, hit a wall and see Mario comically shake his head afterwards… it was just, frankly amazing.”
Yeah, it’s amazing how well it has held up over the years. I played it a few months ago and I had a blast.
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Outside of some camera angles, the game plays like anything released today. It’s almost impossible.
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