The Nintendo 64 was a revolutionary gaming system that helped introduce gamers (along with other fifth generation consoles) to the world of 3D gaming. Compared to other 5th gen consoles, which were using CDs at the time, Nintendo decided to stick to its cartridge gaming, allowing kids everywhere to still enjoy the fun of fixing your game by blowing into the cartridge (which we did despite the explicit warning on every cartridge telling you not to do this. Let’s be honest, we weren’t very good listeners or readers). Staying with the cartridge caused a number of headaches for game creators, who were constrained by its small storage capacity. Despite these issues, the Nintendo 64 churned out some of our most beloved childhood games. We’ll be looking at the top best selling Nintendo game, Super Mario 64, and why we loved it so much.
After selling over 11 million copies, it’s clear that Super Mario dominated in sales (2nd place went to Mario Kart 64, which sold 9 million, a 2 million difference). Of course, it was one of the launch titles for the console, but as Pilotwings 64 (the N64’s other launch title) demonstrated, just because you’re the initial face of gaming for a new console doesn’t mean you’re immediately going to be popular. You need to deliver, and man, they really delivered with this game. Super Mario 64 gave us an ingenious open world to explore. It was MASSIVE, but not overly confusing, since most sections of the world were contained in paintings around the castle, meaning you didn’t have to traverse the Bob-omb Battlefield and Shifting Sand Land just to get to the front of the castle. Sometimes these worlds had a whole other level to explore within them. For example, Lethal Lava Land had a level within the volcano at the centre of the course, which, if you’re like any other kid, would stumble upon when you got frustrated with the level and said to yourself “I think I’m going to go jump in that volcano now” and was then immediately shocked by what you found.
Compared to the previous sidescrolling installments, Mario had a wide range of moves that you could perform. He turned into a bit of a gymnast, with back flips and side flips, running long jumps, jump kicks, hanging from ledges and bars, and to top it all off he had a fantastic triple jump! He could also ground pound, wall jump crawl, swim and…fly? Yes, our favourite plumber was able to fly if he donned the right cap. If you managed to gain the wing cap from red boxes, a triple jump would let you soar through the air accompanied to catchy music. You could also become encased in metal to dive down to the bottom of bodies of water, and even become invisible with the green and blue caps respectively. However, if you lost your own original hat, you would gain double damage from any enemy. Apparently the secret to being as amazing as Mario is in his hat.
The game also gave us a way to look beyond Mario’s blue butt by letting us control the camera angles in the game. At first, it just seems like a cool new game mechanic. However, later on in the game, you can find a room with a massive mirror in it, revealing that there is a cameraman following Mario around! The worst part is that the cameraman is a Lakitu, the little cloud-riding Koopa devil that would toss spike eggs at you in previous games. This revelation turns the game into a weird reality TV show, where you follow Mario through is wild adventures. Unfortunately, unlike real reality shows, you as the player and viewer are forced to sit through the boring things, like trying for an hour to get that star in Rainbow Ride.
Of course, you had a set number of lives, and, like any good game at this time, when you lost them all you were greeted with a game over screen. In Super Mario 64, this screen would morph into the start screen after a few seconds. The interesting thing about this game was that both these screens were interactive, allowing you to stretch and disfigure Mario’s face in a similar fashion a baby discovering faces for the first time might manipulate yours. During an exceptionally stressful session, it was always a bit of a relief to use the pinching hand cursor to pull Mario’s bottom lip up through his eyes then let it go. There was a way to get around dying quickly in the game: stockpiling lives. The game made it pretty easy to do so, as some worlds and even places around the castle had lives hidden that would respawn when you entered or left a painting. You could also collect coins, as once you got 50, you’d get another life. Unfortunately, restarting the game would reset your lives to 5, though it was easy enough to gain more green mushrooms.
The storyline was pretty straightforward, and like most of the other Mario games, Peach was kidnapped by Bowser, again (I think she just lets him take her at this point), and Mario has to save her, again (Mario needs to take a hint at this point). However, Bowser actually sets up shop in Peaches castle, taunting Mario to come and get him in the maniacal mish-mash of worlds that he creates as his own sanctuary (at least…I’m assuming that he made them, otherwise Peach is seriously messed up and Mario REALLY needs to stop chasing her).
Once you get past his maze, you get to face him on a floating bomb platform. Compared to previous games, he’s actually kind of chubby and cute, which doesn’t get any better once he goes all “Rainbow Bowser” in your last battle with him. To defeat the King Koopa, all you need to do is grab him by his tail, spin him, and toss him into the spiked hover-balloons that seem to be keeping the platform afloat. Once you do that, the balloons go all Hindenburg and explode, sending Bowser flying. Do it enough times and you can defeat him. Of course, defeating Bowser only once was never enough. You had to defeat him three times. You could expect the palm of your hand to be quite sore from all the spinning on the N64’s painful little joystick if it took you more than one try to cut him down in any of these battles.
When you finally manage to beat him a third time, you can free Peach using the power of all the stars. She will materialize and float down to you. For all his hard work, Mario receives…a kiss on his comically large nose, and….a cake. That’s it. He saved her life and that was his reward (I TOLD him it wasn’t worth it!).
Well, at least it’s better than being told by Toad that she’s in another castle, which you would then have to explore…and discover new worlds…and face new challenges…wait. That would be AWESOME. Someone needs to get on that.Until that happens, at least we have our speedruns and glitches and corruption playthroughs, right?