Reading other people’s reviews for this game is like looking into my soul: every cantor, every take, every turn of phrase a perfect reflection of my thoughts. We must have collectively played this game together on Christmas morning of 1996; little did I know 23 years ago I would begin a journey with 2,599,999 other people as we inserted that cartridge and began the Battle of Hoth.
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.
The first two games I wanted to review for the N64 were Mario and GoldenEye, but for completely different reasons. Super Mario 64 was the first time I played a game in a true 3D environment. I was so shell shocked that I couldn’t even figure out how to move Mario, smashing down on the analog D-pad while ignoring that round stick in the middle.
GoldenEye, however, is when my friends and I grew up. We weren’t going around finding stars and collecting coins but unloading entire clips into polygonal bodies as they squirmed in dramatic death sequences. Cafeteria time was dedicated to discussing tactics while trash talking about death match: those who dared to play as Jaws revered while those who copped out as Oddjob were belittled.
It became a cultural revolution. Everyone was playing this game, even your little sister who didn’t even know about Yoshi. And guess what: it’s still amazing.