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Super Mario 64 Turns 20 Years Old

Updated on February 15, 2016

A Quick History

Super Mario 64 along with the whole idea of being able to control a character in three-dimensional space was a very experimental idea. Despite being an entirely new technology, Nintendo managed to nail the implementation of a full three-dimensional platformer. It was the first game to feature a fully controllable 3D character along with a big world to freely explore. Sure, some things like the camera was not what most people would consider good by today's standards, but for the time it was released it was pretty dang good. Everything taking into consideration, Super Mario 64 was a highly successful title that has since shaped the way of all 3D games.

The hard work on a somewhat experimental title paid off for Nintendo. From the amazing soundtrack (seriously, listen to this piece) to the graphical fidelity along with a detailed character to freely explore that world, the game was loved by fans all over the world. Super Mario 64 became the best selling game for the Nintendo 64 with almost 12 million copies sold across the world. The massive success of Super Mario 64 also resulted in a remake being made for the Nintendo DS in 2004 and a re-release of the game for the Nintendo Wii & Wii U.

A Change For the Better

What Super Mario 64 did for the game industry was great. It pushed the technology way ahead along with really showing how immersive and detailed a game can be. One could say that it inspired many other 3D platformers such as Spyro the Dragon, Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank and many others.

Although platformers are not as popular as they were in the late 90's and early 2000's, their initial popularity helped push the quality of video games as a whole. Thankfully we might now be seeing a return to 3D platformers akin to Super Mario 64 with titles such as A Hat in Time and Yooka-Laylee as gamers are showing an interest in these types of games.

Funding platforms such as Kickstarter.com is making it possible for developers to get public funding for games that otherwise would have a hard time being financed. With the popularity of such funding platforms we should see more games like Yooka-Laylee and A Hat in Time in the future.

Upcoming 3D platformer Yooka-Laylee by Playtonic
Upcoming 3D platformer Yooka-Laylee by Playtonic

The Current State of the Game

Although the game is shaping up to be 20 years old it is still widely popular on the video game streaming site Twitch.tv. It is not played in the traditional sense however, instead people are competing for who can complete the game as fast as possible. This phenomenon is known as speedrunning which has become a big thing in recent years, especially on streaming sites such as Twitch.tv.

The current record for completing the game with all 120 stars is held by Twitch.tv streamer Puncayshun with a time of 1 hour 40 minutes and 44 seconds. Puncayshun is not the only Super Mario 64 speedrunner. There are many others and together they keep pushing the boundaries of the game to complete it faster and faster.

Other than the game's spotlight on Twitch.tv it has also been a hugely popular game to Let's Players on YouTube, spawning numerous amounts of Let's Play series focusing on completing the old classic while commentating their gameplay.

Super Mario 64 in 1:40:44 by Puncayshun

What Platformers Today Can Learn From Super Mario 64

You would think that in the 20 years that the video game industry has had to improve on what Super Mario 64 first did in 1996 it would have far succeeded that of Super Mario 64, right? Well, even the newer Mario releases like Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario Galaxy are believed to be inferior to Super Mario 64 by some people. There are a couple of things that help explain why this is. Aside from the fact that the game is nostalgic to a lot of people, the game did some things different than future generations of 3D platformers.

In an interview with Giles Goddard, one of the developers that worked on Super Mario 64, he explains the internal development process behind the game. Months of development time was spent solely on fine-tuning the movement of Mario. Giles Goddard when asked about the movement of Mario is quoted as saying:

99% of the game is concerned with that. Most of Miyamoto’s time is spent on that, and the movement of the camera.

The fact that Shigeru Miyamoto himself spent so much time testing and fine-tuning the movement tells us that it was one of the most important focuses of the development process. Another important thing to consider is the fact that the controller was designed specifically for Super Mario 64 and not the other way around.

The newer games to many people feel dumbed-down in this sense. There is less overall control of the main character which gives a sense of less freedom to explore and experiment in the world. Super Mario 64 really went all out to provide the players with the best, most natural feeling of controlling the character.


The Nintendo 64 was designed around Super Mario 64.
The Nintendo 64 was designed around Super Mario 64.

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So to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Super Mario 64 this year, get out your old dusty Nintendo 64 and set yourself a goal to complete the game with all 120-stars!

Think of how far we have come in the world of video games and try to admire how much this game has shaped the way of the current titles we love and play.

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