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Super Mario 64

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Super Mario 64
Artwork of a horizontal rectangular box. Mario flies with his Wing Cap power-up in front of a blue backdrop with clouds, a Goomba, and Princess Peach's Castle in the distance. The bottom portion reads "Super Mario 64" in red, blue, yellow, and green block letters.
North American cover art
Developer(s)Nintendo EAD
Director(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
Producer(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
Programmer(s)Yasunari Nishida[1]
Yoshinori Tanimoto[1]
Artist(s)Yoshiaki Koizumi
Satoru Takizawa
Masanao Arimoto
Yōichi Kotabe[2]
Composer(s)Koji Kondo
SeriesSuper Mario
Platform(s)Nintendo 64, iQue Player
ReleaseNintendo 64
  • JP: June 23, 1996
  • NA: September 29, 1996
  • EU: March 1, 1997
iQue Player
  • CHN: November 21, 2003

Super Mario 64[a] is a 1996 platform game for the Nintendo 64 and the first Super Mario game to feature 3D gameplay. It was developed by Nintendo EAD and published by Nintendo. Super Mario 64 features 3-dimensional freedom of movement within a large open world based on 3D polygons. It builds upon the Mario tradition of gameplay elements, visual style, and characters. As Mario, the player explores Princess Peach's castle to rescue her from Bowser.

Director Shigeru Miyamoto conceived a 3D Mario game during the production of Star Fox (1993). Development lasted approximately three years: one on design and two on production. The high-fidelity graphics were created using the Nichimen N-World toolkit. The score was composed by Koji Kondo. A multiplayer mode featuring Mario's brother Luigi was cut, but rumors spread of his inclusion as a hidden character. As one of the launch games for the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 was released in Japan on June 23, 1996, and later in North America and Europe in September 1996 and March 1997, respectively.

Featuring a dynamic camera system and 360-degree analog control, it established a new archetype for the 3D genre, much as Super Mario Bros. did for side-scrolling platform games. Super Mario 64 received critical acclaim as one of the greatest video games of all time. Reviewers praised its ambition, visuals, gameplay, and music, although they criticized its unreliable camera system. It is the best-selling Nintendo 64 game, with more than eleven million copies sold by 2003. Numerous developers have cited Super Mario 64 as an influence. It was remade as Super Mario 64 DS for the Nintendo DS in 2004, and it has been ported to other Nintendo consoles.


Mario in one of the courses, Whomp's Fortress
Courses, such as Whomp's Fortress, require the player to navigate chasms.

Super Mario 64 is a 3D platform game in which the player controls Mario through various courses. Mario's abilities in Super Mario 64 are far more diverse than those of previous Mario games.[3][4] The player can make Mario walk, run, jump, crouch, crawl, climb, swim, kick, grab objects, or punch using the game controller's analog stick and buttons. Special jumps can be executed by combining a regular jump with other actions, including the double and triple jumps, long jump, backflip, and wall jumping to reach high areas.[5][6] Underwater, Mario's life energy represents how long he can hold his breath, slowly diminishing while underwater and replenishing when he comes back up to the surface.[7][5] 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 as well as friendly creatures that provide assistance or ask favors. The player gathers stars in each course; some stars only appear after completing certain tasks, often hinted at by the name of the course. These challenges include defeating a boss, solving puzzles, racing an opponent, and gathering 8 red coins. Collecting stars unlocks more of the castle hub world.[7][5] The player unlocks castle doors with keys obtained by defeating Bowser in special courses.[5] There are many hidden mini-courses and other secrets within the castle, which may contain extra stars required for the full completion of the game.[8]

Three special cap power-ups appear throughout many stages. The Wing Cap allows Mario to fly; the Metal Cap makes him immune to most damage, allows him to withstand wind, walk underwater, and be immune to noxious gases; and the Vanish Cap renders him partially immaterial and invulnerable, and allows him to walk through some obstacles.[5] 1-up mushrooms hidden in various places such as trees may chase Mario through the air or else fall to the ground and disappear shortly if not collected.[9] Some courses contain cannons from which Mario can be shot at distant places.[10]

Plot and setting

Super Mario 64 is set in Princess Peach's Castle, which consists of three floors, a basement, a moat, and a courtyard. The game begins with a letter from Princess Peach inviting Mario to come to her castle for a cake she has baked for him. When he arrives, Mario discovers 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. The Power Stars are hidden in the castle's paintings, which are portals to other worlds where Bowser's minions keep watch over the stars. Mario explores the castle for these portals to enter the worlds and recover the stars. He gains access to more rooms as he recovers more Power Stars, and once he gets enough, he breaks the curse of the Endless Stairs that blocked the entrance to the final level of the game. After Mario defeats Bowser in the final battle, he obtains the Jumbo Star which gives him the Wing Cap, and he flies back to the castle. Peach is then released from the stained-glass window above the castle's entrance, and she rewards Mario by kissing him on the nose and baking the cake that she had promised him.[5][6]


Shigeru Miyamoto at the 2007 Game Developers Conference
Producer and director Shigeru Miyamoto

In the early 1990s, director and producer Shigeru Miyamoto conceived a 3D Mario design during development of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) game Star Fox (1993). He considered using the Super FX chip to develop a SNES game, Super Mario FX, with gameplay based on "an entire world in miniature, like miniature trains".[11] He eventually reformulated the idea for the Nintendo 64, not for its substantially greater power, but because its controller has more buttons for gameplay.[12][13] According to engineer Dylan Cuthbert, who worked on Star Fox, no game titled Super Mario FX had ever entered development, but rather "Super Mario FX" was the code name of the Super FX chip.[14] At the January 1993 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), where Star Fox made its debut, Nintendo's booth demonstrated a 3D polygon animation of Mario's head.[15]

Super Mario 64 was developed over approximately three years, with one year spent on the design concept and approximately two years on production.[11] Production began on September 7, 1994, and concluded on May 20, 1996.[16] According to Miyamoto, most of the time there were approximately 15 to 20 people working on the game.[17] Development began with the characters and camera system. Miyamoto and the other designers were unsure of which direction to take; months were spent selecting a camera view and layout.[18] The original concept involved the fixed path of an isometric-type game such as Super Mario RPG, changing to a free-roaming 3D design.[18] Levels were sketched by course director Yoichi Yamada; he and the level designers then took notes on the key elements of each level.[19] The game is mostly a free-roaming design, with some fixed path elements—particularly to coerce the player into Bowser's lair according to programmer Giles Goddard.[18]

When we were stuck on talk of the spectacular 3D graphics of Mario 64 and racing games, we saw a huge hit in the form of [Bandai's] Tamagotchi — a tiny key chain boasting pictures made up of no more than 10 or 20 dots. At that time, I thought that Mario 64 had lost to Tamagotchi. [laughs. Miyamoto quickly adds in English: "I'm serious."]

—Shigeru Miyamoto[20]

3D graphics were created using the Nichimen N-World toolkit running on a Silicon Graphics workstation.[21] To assist in making Mario's model, Yōichi Kotabe, illustrator and character designer for the Mario series, made a 3D drawing of him from various angles and directed the creation of the character models.[2] The team placed high priority on Mario's movement and, before levels were created, they tested and refined Mario's animations on a simple grid. The first test scenario for controls and physics involved Mario interacting with a golden rabbit, named "MIPS" after the Nintendo 64's MIPS architecture processors; the rabbit was included in the final game. The developers tried to a multiplayer cooperative mode, whereby players would control Mario and his brother Luigi in split-screen, but could not make it work satisfactorily.[22] To assist players with depth perception, the team positioned a faux shadow directly beneath each object regardless of the area's lighting. Assistant director Yoshiaki Koizumi, who created and animated Mario's 3D model, described the feature as an "iron-clad necessity" which "might not be realistic, but it's much easier to play".[23] Super Mario 64 is one of the first games for which Nintendo produced its illustrations internally, instead of by outsourcing.[24] 3D illustrations were created by Shigefumi Hino, Hisashi Nogami, Hideki Fujii, Tomoaki Kuroume, and Yusuke Nakano.[25]

Miyamoto's guiding design philosophy was to include more details than earlier games, using the Nintendo 64's power to feature "all the emotions of the characters". He likened the game's style to a 3D interactive cartoon.[26] Some details were inspired by the developers' personal lives; for example, the Boos are based on assistant director Takashi Tezuka's wife, who, as Miyamoto explained, "is very quiet normally, but one day she exploded, maddened by all the time Tezuka spent at work." In the game, the Boos shrink when Mario looks at them, but when he turns away, they grow large and menacing.[11]

Super Mario 64 features more puzzles than earlier Mario games. It was developed simultaneously with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time but, as Ocarina of Time was released more than two years later, some puzzles were taken for Super Mario 64. Information about Super Mario 64 was leaked in November 1995, and a playable version was presented days later as part of the Nintendo 64 premiere (then known as the "Ultra 64") at Nintendo Space World. At this point, the basic controls had been implemented and the game was 50% finished, featuring 32 courses, though only about 2% of mapping was complete. Miyamoto had hoped to create more courses, but only 15 courses could fit.[11] According to Nintendo of America chairman Howard Lincoln, Miyamoto's desire to add more was a major factor in the decision to delay the Nintendo 64 release from Christmas 1995 to April 1996.[27] Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi later commented, "Game creators can finish games quickly if they compromise. But users have sharp eyes. They soon know if the games are compromised. [Miyamoto]asked for two more months and I gave them to him unconditionally."[28]

Music and sound

Koji Kondo at the 2007 Game Developers Conference
Composer Koji Kondo

The music was composed by veteran composer Koji Kondo, who created new interpretations of the familiar melodies from earlier games as well as entirely new material.[29] Yoji Inagaki was solely responsible for the sound design, tasked with producing hundreds of sound effects. According to him, the average Nintendo 64 game had about 500 sound effects.[30] As such, Inagaki resorted to modifying already existing sound effects from professional sound effects libraries, such as The General Series 6000 Sound Effects Library from Warner Bros. and Sound Ideas, and Series 1000 Sound Effects Library from Universal Studios.[31]

Super Mario 64 is one of the first games to feature Charles Martinet as the voice of Mario. It features the voice of Leslie Swan, then senior editor of Nintendo Power, as Princess Peach, who wrote the English text.[32] Coincidentally, Martinet also provided the laughing sound effects for Bowser and Boo, via The General Series 6000 Sound Effects Library from Warner Bros. and Sound Ideas, whose pitch was modified to low and high accordingly.[31]


Super Mario 64 was first released in Japan on June 23, 1996 as one of the three launch games for the Nintendo 64, alongside Pilotwings 64 and Saikyō Habu Shōgi.[33] It was later released in North America on September 29, 1996 and in Europe on March 1, 1997.[34] It received critical acclaim and is the best-selling Nintendo 64 game.[35] During its first three months of sale in North America, the game sold more than 2 million copies and grossed $140,000,000 (equivalent to $231,000,000 in 2020) in the United States by December 1996,[36] becoming the best-selling video game of 1996 in the United States.[37] During the first three months of 1997, it was the second-best-selling console game in the United States at 523,000 units.[38] It was the best-selling game in the United States between 1995–2002, with 5.9 million units sold in the US by 2002.[39] At the 1999 Milia festival in Cannes, it won a "Gold" prize for revenues above €21 million or $27,000,000 (equivalent to $43,000,000 in 2020) in the European Union during the previous year.[40] By May 2003, eleven million copies had been sold worldwide.[41] Super Mario 64 had become the second most popular game on Wii's Virtual Console by June 2007, behind Super Mario Bros.[42]


Super Mario 64 received positive pre-release reception. Larry Marcus of Alex. Brown & Sons recalls Super Mario 64 being the most anticipated title of E3 1996, claiming that there was a field of teenagers "jostling for a test run".[68] Jordan Devore of Destructoid also praised the unveiling of the game directed by video game designer Ken Lobb, who described the game as much more wide open than traditional Mario games.[69]

Ever since, the game has been continuously acclaimed in the gaming press. It earned numerous awards, including various "Game of the Year" honors by members of the gaming media, and in Nintendo's own best-selling Player's Choice selection. It has been placed high on "the greatest games of all time" lists by many reviewers, including IGN,[70][71][12] Game Informer,[72] Edge,[73] Yahoo! Games,[74] and Nintendo Power.[75] Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded it a Gold award in its initial review, and in Edge, Super Mario 64 became the first game to receive a perfect score.[47][48] At the 1997 Computer Game Developers Conference, it was given Spotlight Awards for Best Use of Innovative Technology, Best Console Game, and Best Game of 1996.[76] It won Electronic Gaming Monthly's Game of the Year for both editors' pick and readers' pick, and Nintendo 64 Game of the Year, Adventure Game of the Year, and Best Graphics.[77] British magazine Maximum gave it a "Maximum Game of the Month Award", making it the only import game (predating its international release) to win that honor, and called it the greatest game the magazine had ever reviewed.[78] Digitiser ranked it the best game of 1997, above Final Fantasy VII as runner-up.[66]

Common praise focused on the presentation, and criticism was directed at the camera system. Nintendo Power lauded the graphics, sound, and gameplay, but noted the learning curve of the shifting camera.[61] Next Generation Magazine praised the score, graphics, lack of loading pauses, and scale, but said the game was less accessible than previous Mario games, frustrated by the camera's occasional, erratic movements and lack of optimal angle.[60] GamePro particularly praised the combination of unprecedented technical performance and art design, calling it "the most visually impressive game of all time".[54] Maximum found its strongest points were the sense of freedom and the fact that its replayability reveals new areas and challenges.[67]

Video game publications and developers praised its design and use of 3D gameplay. It is acknowledged by for pioneering the transition of a 2D series into full 3D.[79] Maximum commented that "The old 2D platform genre is essentially dead with the arrival of this game. The limitations inherent with the genre have been swept away in the wake of Mario 64."[67] In the 3D transition, many of the series's conventions were rethought drastically, placing emphasis on exploration over traditional platform jumping, or "hop and bop" action. Though some disputed its quality, others argued that it established an entirely new genre for the series.[80] Time focused on the realistic kinetic animation and the controls provided by the integration of the new pressure-sensitive controller, calling it the "fastest, smoothest game action yet attainable via joystick at the service of equally virtuoso motion", where "[f]or once, the movement on the screen feels real".[81]

Next Generation named Super Mario 64 the greatest game of all time, saying it "is the first true 3D game to play as good as the 2D games of the 16-bit era. ... As such, it represents the new high-water mark of both gameplay and graphic sophistication".[82] In 1997 Electronic Gaming Monthly ranked it the 4th best console game of all time, arguing that it had breached the entire genre of 3D gaming while working virtually flawlessly except the camera.[83] GameSpot called it one of the 15 most influential games of all time, rating the original at 9.4 and the Wii Virtual Console version an 8.[84][56][85] Game Informer commented that even a decade later it offered hours of entertainment. They also commented on the camera system, stating that by present-day standards the camera system "would almost be considered broken".[52] Game Revolution's retrospective review described the graphics as "beautiful", but criticized the camera, saying "it doesn't work as well as it should".[86] Super Mario 64 placed 6th in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 greatest Nintendo games of all time".[87] In 2009, Game Informer named it the 13th best game of all time.[88] Official Nintendo Magazine described it as a "masterpiece of game design", stating that Nintendo was able to take its "number-one 2D franchise and convert it flawlessly into 3D".[89] Michael Grayford of Liquid Entertainment stated he was initially "very turned off" by the openness, but came to like it, writing that "each level brought some new unique cool gameplay element and I was never bored".[90] Warren Spector, former lead designer at Ion Storm, stated it was "not possible to squeeze this much gameplay into a single game" and "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". He also praised the exploration aspect, commenting that "[allowing players to] explore the same spaces several times while revealing something new each time is a revelation".[90]


Three screenshots demonstrating the virtual camera system in Super Mario 64
Instead of staying behind Mario, the camera rotates to show the path.

Super Mario 64 was key to the early success of and anticipation for the Nintendo 64,[52][83][89][91][92] spurred by a feverish video game press.[93] The console defied the rule that a wide variety of launch games were necessary for broad appeal. The Nintendo 64 launched with only two games, and Super Mario 64 was its killer app.[93] It eventually lost much of its market share to Sony's PlayStation, partly due to its cartridge and controller design decisions, which were reportedly implemented by Miyamoto for Super Mario 64.[79]

In 2012, Super Mario 64 was among the 80 entries in the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Art of Video Games exhibit.[94]

Though not the first 3D platformer or 3D Nintendo game, PC Magazine's K. Thor Jensen considers Super Mario 64 to be the first truly realized 3D platformer, by these criteria: innovations in player-character personality; intuitive, perfectible gameplay; and integration of camera control into core gameplay, which he called the medium's true evolutionary leap.[95]


Super Mario 64 set many precedents for 3D platformers[79][83][96] as one of the most influential video games. GameDaily wrote that it "defined the 3-D platform experience".[97] GamesTM said many game companies, including Nintendo, have tried to develop a platform game to match Super Mario 64[98] such as Rare's deep analysis of its gameplay mechanics while developing Conker's Bad Fur Day (2001).[99]: 8:10 

Super Mario 64 is known for its nonlinear, open freedom. Its central hub world provides a safe tutorial and a level selector, and is a staple of the 3D platform genre. Its mission-based level design inspired game designers such as Martin Hollis, producer and director of Rare's GoldenEye 007.[100] Dan Houser, a prominent figure in the development of the Grand Theft Auto series, stated, "Anyone who makes 3D games who says they've not borrowed something from Mario or Zelda [of the Nintendo 64] is lying."[101] Tetsuya Nomura, a leading designer at Square Enix, stated in 2016 that Super Mario 64 prompted the creation of the Kingdom Hearts series.[102][103]

Super Mario 64 introduced a free-floating camera that can be controlled independently of the character.[96] To increase freedom of exploration and fluid control in a 3D world, Super Mario 64 designers created a dynamic virtual video camera that turns and accelerates according to the character's actions,[104] operated by the in-game character Lakitu.[6] This camera system became the standard for 3D platform games.[7] Nintendo Power stated the camera control scheme is what transitioned platform games into 3D,[105] and that the game, along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, "blazed trails" into the 3D era.[106]

Edge said Super Mario 64 changed "gamers' expectations of 3D movement forever".[91] The Nintendo 64's analog stick affords more precise and wide-ranging character movements than the digital D-pads of other consoles, and Super Mario 64's use of this was novel. At the time, 3D games generally allow the player to either control the character in relation to a fixed camera angle or in relation to the character's perspective. Super Mario 64's innovative controls are fully analog and interpret a 360-degree range of motion into navigation through a 3D space relative to the camera. The analog stick allows for precise control over subtleties such as running speed.[107] Electronic Gaming Monthly in 2005 ranked Super Mario 64 the most important game since they began publication in 1989, stating that, while there were 3D games before it, "Nintendo's was the first to get the control scheme right."[108]

In July 2021, a pristine, sealed copy of Super Mario 64 was auctioned for $1.56 million, the largest amount ever paid for a video game.[109][110] Heritage Auctions's video games specialist said, "It seems impossible to overstate the importance of this title, not only to the history of Mario and Nintendo but to video games as a whole."[111]

Rumors and glitches

Rumors about glitches and secrets spread rapidly after the game's release. A pervasive rumor that Luigi is unlockable,[112] was debunked.[113] Unused assets for Luigi, however, were discovered in the game's files from the 2020 Nintendo data leak.[114] Players used glitches to reach previously unreachable parts of the game, including a coin that had not been collected until eighteen years after release.[115] Speedrun techniques include the backward long jump.[116] Pannenkoek2012's highly technical analysis of Super Mario 64 glitches and mechanics has been covered many times in the video game press.[117][118]


A version of Super Mario 64 was used as a tech demo for the 64DD floppy drive at the 1996 Nintendo Space World trade show.[119] Like Wave Race 64, Super Mario 64 was rereleased in Japan on July 18, 1997, as Super Mario 64 Shindō Pak Taiō Version[c]. This version adds support for the Rumble Pak peripheral and includes the voice acting from the English version.[120][121]

In 1998, Super Mario 64 was rereleased in Europe and North America as part of the budget Player's Choice line. It was released on the Wii Virtual Console service in late 2006.[122] This release added enhanced resolution and compatibility with the GameCube and Classic controllers.[85] The Shindou version was rereleased in September 2020 on Nintendo Switch in the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection.[123]

Super Mario 64 DS

An enhanced remake, Super Mario 64 DS, was released for the handheld Nintendo DS in 2004. Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario are additional playable characters, and the game features improved graphics, slightly altered courses, new areas and enemies, more Power Stars to collect, touchscreen mini-games, and a multiplayer mode.[124] Reviews were mostly positive and, by March 2008, 6.12 million copies had been sold worldwide.[125][126][127]

Fan projects

In 2015, a fan remake of Super Mario 64 was created in the Unity game engine. The project was taken down following a copyright claim by Nintendo.[128][129] In 2019, fans decompiled the original ROM image into C source code, allowing Super Mario 64 to be natively ported to any system. In 2020, fans released a Windows port with support for widescreen displays and 4K resolution.[130] Nintendo enlisted a law firm to remove videos of the port and its listings from websites.[131] Fans created ports for several more platforms, including Nintendo 3DS,[132] PlayStation 2, PlayStation Vita, Dreamcast, and Android.[133]


A sequel was planned for the 64DD.[134] In July 1996, Nintendo insiders stated that Miyamoto was assembling a team consisting mostly of developers who had worked on Super Mario 64.[135] Miyamoto mentioned at the 1997 E3 convention that he was "just getting started" on the project.[136] The project was canceled due to its lack of progress upon the commercial failure of the 64DD.[134][137]

Super Mario 64 successors include Super Mario Sunshine (2002) for the GameCube and Super Mario Galaxy (2007) for the Wii, building on its core design of power-ups and open-ended gameplay.[138][139] Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010) includes a remake of Super Mario 64's Whomp's Fortress level.[140] Super Mario 3D Land (2011) and Super Mario 3D World (2013) are departures from the open-ended design, instead focused on platforming reminiscent of 2D games.[141] The Nintendo Switch game Super Mario Odyssey returned to Super Mario 64's open design.[142]

See also


  1. ^ Japanese: スーパーマリオ64, Hepburn: Sūpā Mario 64
  2. ^ Nintendo Power scored Super Mario 64 4.5/5 twice for graphics/sound and theme/fun, 3.8/5 for play control, and 5/5 for challenge.[61]
  3. ^ Japanese: スーパーマリオ64 振動パック対応バージョン, Hepburn: Sūpā Mario 64 Shindō Pak Taiō Bājon


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