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Super Mario 64

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Super Mario 64
Artwork of a horizontal rectangular box. Depicted is a flying cartoon man in blue overalls, a red shirt, and a red cap with white wings on the sides and the letter
North American box art depicting Mario flying with a winged cap in front of a distant castle
Developer(s) Nintendo EAD
Publisher(s) Nintendo
Director(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Producer(s) Shigeru Miyamoto
Composer(s) Koji Kondo
Series Super Mario
Platform(s) Nintendo 64, iQue Player, Virtual Console
Release date(s)
Genre(s) Platforming
Mode(s) Single-player

Super Mario 64 (スーパーマリオ64 Sūpā Mario Rokujūyon) is a platform game, published by Nintendo and developed by its EAD division, for the Nintendo 64. Along with Pilotwings 64, it was one of the launch titles for the console. It was released in Japan on June 23, 1996, and later in North America, Europe, and Australia. Super Mario 64 has sold over eleven million copies. An enhanced remake called Super Mario 64 DS was released for the Nintendo DS in 2004.

As one of the earlier three dimensional (3D) platform games, Super Mario 64 features free-roaming analog degrees of freedom, large open-ended areas, and true 3D polygons as opposed to two-dimensional (2D) sprites. It established a new archetype for the genre, much as Super Mario Bros. did for 2D sidescrolling platformers. Hailed as "revolutionary", the game left a lasting impression on 3D game design, particularly notable for its use of a dynamic camera system and the implementation of its analog control.

In going from two to three dimensions, Super Mario 64 placed an emphasis on exploration within vast worlds that require the player to complete multiple diverse missions, replacing the linear obstacle courses of traditional platform games. While doing so, it managed to preserve many gameplay elements and characters of earlier Mario games. The title is acclaimed by many critics and fans as one of the greatest and most revolutionary video games of all time.


Super Mario 64 is a 3D platformer where the player controls Mario through several courses. 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 that attack Mario as well as friendly creatures that provide assistance, offer information, or ask a favour (such as pink "peace-loving" Bob-omb Buddies). 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 coins. As more stars are collected, more areas of the castle hub world become accessible. The player unlocks doors in the castle with keys obtained by defeating Bowser in special courses. There are many hidden mini-courses and other secrets to the game, most containing extra stars needed to complete the game entirely.

Some courses have special cap power-ups which augment Mario's abilities. 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 unaffected by noxious gases; and the Vanish Cap renders him partially immaterial and allows him to walk through some obstacles such as wire mesh, as well as granting invulnerability to some forms of damage. Some courses contain cannons that Mario can access by speaking to a pink Bob-omb Buddy. After entering a cannon, Mario can be shot out to reach distant places. When the player has the Wing Cap equipped, cannons can be used to reach high altitudes or fly across most levels quickly.

Mario's abilities in Super Mario 64 are far more diverse than those of previous Mario games. The player can make Mario walk, run, jump, crouch, crawl, swim, climb, kick, 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 (jumping two and three times in a row, respectively), long jump and backflip. There are also special maneuvers, such as wall jumping; jumping from one wall to another in rapid succession to reach areas that would otherwise be too high. The player can pick up and carry certain items, an ability which is used to solve various puzzles, and swim underwater at various speeds. Mario's life energy slowly diminishes while underwater, representing how long he can hold his breath.

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 area outside the castle is an introductory area in which the player can experiment, testing his or her player skills. Scattered throughout the castle are entrances to courses via secret walls and paintings. Super Mario 64 begins with a letter from Princess Peach inviting Mario to come to her castle for a cake she has baked for him. However, 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. Many of the castle's paintings are portals to other worlds, in which 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 eventually traverses three different obstacle courses, each leading to its own battle with Bowser. Defeating Bowser the first two times earns Mario a key for opening another level of the castle. After Mario defeats Bowser in the final battle, Peach is released from the stained-glass window above the castle's entrance. Peach rewards Mario by kissing him on the nose and baking the cake that she had promised him.



The development of Super Mario 64 took less than two years, but it was reported that producer and director Shigeru Miyamoto had conceived of a 3D Mario game concept over five years before, while working on Star Fox.

Miyamoto developed most of the concepts during the era of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) and considered using the Super FX chip to make it an SNES game, but decided to develop it for the Nintendo 64 due to the former system's technical limitations. IGN said that Miyamoto had conceived of his idea as a proposed game called Super Mario FX. On his Twitter Dylan Cuthbert stated that there was never a Super Mario FX game ever in development, and that "Super Mario FX" was the internal code name of the FX chip.


The game's development began with the creation of the characters and camera system. Miyamoto and the other designers were initially unsure of which direction the game should take; months were spent selecting a camera view and layout that would be appropriate. The original concept involved the game having fixed path much like an isometric type game (similar to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars), before the choice was made to settle on a free-roaming 3D design. Although the majority of Super Mario 64 would end up featuring the free-roaming design, elements of the original fixed path concept would remain in certain parts of the game, particularly in the three Bowser encounters. One of the programmers of Super Mario 64, Giles Goddard, explained that these few linear elements survived as a means to force players into Bowser's lair rather than to encourage exploration. The development team placed high priority on getting Mario's movements right, and before levels were created, the team was testing and refining Mario's animations on a simple grid. The first test scenario used to try out controls and physics involved Mario and a golden rabbit named "MIPS" by the developers (named for the MIPS-type CPU used by the Nintendo 64), the latter of which was included in the final release of the game as a means to obtain two of the Power Stars. The developers initially tried to make the game split screen co-op using both Mario and Luigi. Initially, the two characters would start at separate points in the castle and work their way through the game together. However, developers were unable to make the gameplay work.

One unique challenge that the team encountered early on was related to depth perception, the team remedied through the use of shadows: Every object in the game has a shadow directly below it regardless of the area's lighting. Developer Yoshiaki Koizum would go on to call this feature an "Iron clad necessity" adding "It might not be realistic, but it’s much easier to play"

Miyamoto's guiding design philosophy behind Super Mario 64 was to "include more details" than found in games prior to the Nintendo 64. Some details were inspired by real life. 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, there is now a character which shrinks when Mario looks at it, but when Mario turns away, it will grow large and menacing." Super Mario 64 is also characterized by featuring 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 from that game for Super Mario 64.

Information about Super Mario 64 first leaked out in November 1995, and a playable version of the game was presented days later as part of the world premiere for the Nintendo 64 (then known as the "Ultra 64") at Nintendo Space World. The basic controls had at this point been implemented, and the game was reportedly 50% finished, although most of the course design remained. Thirty-two courses were created for the game. Miyamoto thought he would create more, up to 40 courses, not including bonus levels. The actual number turned out much lower in the final game, though, as only 15 courses could fit.


Super Mario 64 Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by Koji Kondo
Released November 6, 1996
Genre Video game music
Length 50:56

The music was composed by veteran composer Koji Kondo, who used new interpretations of the familiar melodies from earlier games as well as entirely new material. Super Mario 64 was one of the first games in the series to feature Charles Martinet as the voice of Mario. It also features the voices of Leslie Swan (then Senior Editor of Nintendo Power) as Princess Peach, who also wrote the English text for the game, and Isaac Marshall as Bowser. The characters speak more in the English version than in the Japanese version. In addition, dialogue and some sounds differ between the Japanese and English versions. Some of these vocal changes for the English release were brought to the Japanese Rumble Pak edition. When Super Mario 64 DS was released, all the voices were kept consistent in both the English and Japanese versions. The game's official soundtrack has 36 musical pieces including the title screen call voiced by Martinet. Like Super Mario World, Super Mario 64 has one main melody in its soundtrack (the music to Bob-omb Battlefield) which then has its own set of variations as heard in the "Snow Mountain" and "Slider" tracks. A slight hint of it can be heard when one grabs a star (much in the style of the Bob-omb Battlefield variation), also in the Prologue track about 11–12 seconds in.

Track List


Super Mario 64 has been commercially successful and is the best-selling Nintendo 64 game. By May 2003, the game sold eleven million copies. Super Mario 64 had become the second most popular title on Wii's Virtual Console by June 2007, behind Super Mario Bros.

Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 96.41% (22 revs)
Metacritic 94 of 100 (13 revs)
Review scores
Publication Score
Allgame 5/5 stars
Edge 10 of 10
Electronic Gaming Monthly 9.5 of 10
Famitsu 39 of 40
Game Informer 9.75 of 10
GameSpot 9.4 of 10
IGN 9.8 of 10

The game has been praised in the gaming press, and is still highly acclaimed. It has collected numerous awards, including various "Game of the Year" honours by members of the gaming media, as well as Nintendo's own best-selling Player's Choice selection. In addition, Super Mario 64 has been placed high on "the greatest games of all time" lists by many reviewers, including IGN, Game Informer, Edge, Yahoo! Games, GameFAQs users, and Nintendo Power. Electronic Gaming Monthly awarded the game a Gold award in its initial review, and in Edge magazine, Super Mario 64 was the first game to receive a perfect score. Game Informer initially rated the game a 9.75, but re-rated it a 9.0 a decade later in a "Retro Review". GameSpot called it one of the 15 most influential games of all time, and rated the Nintendo 64 version a score of 9.4 and the Wii Virtual Console version an 8. The Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu rated Super Mario 64 a 39/40. Common praise focused on the presentation while criticism was directed at the camera system. Nintendo Power lauded the graphics, sound, and gameplay, but commented the shifting camera angle took getting used to. Game Informer commented that even a decade later the game still offers hours of entertainment. They also commented on the camera system stating that by present day standards the camera system "would almost be considered broken". Game Revolution referred to the graphics as "beautiful", but criticized the camera angles, saying "it doesn't work as well as it should". Next Generation Magazine praised many aspects of the game: musical score, graphics, lack of loading times, and the scale of the game. Though they commented that the game is less accessible than previous Mario titles, citing the camera's occasional, erratic movements and lack of optimal angle as frustrating. It was deemed the 3rd best 'Mario' game of all time by ScrewAttack. The game placed 6th in Official Nintendo Magazine's "100 greatest Nintendo games of all time". However, the GamePro media rated Super Mario 64 third on their "Ten Hugely Overrated Games" list. In 2009, Game Informer put Super Mario 64 13th on their list of "The Top 200 Games of All Time".

Video game publications and developers praised Super Mario 64 for its design and use of the 3D gameplay. The game is counted by as one of the first games to have brought a series of 2D games into full 3D. In the transition to 3D, many of the series conventions were rethought drastically, placing an emphasis on exploration over traditional platform jumping, or "hop and bop" action. While its quality was disputed by some, it has been argued that it established an entirely new genre, different from that of previous games in the series. Official Nintendo Magazine referred to the game as a "masterpiece of game design" and stated that Nintendo was able to take its "number-one 2D franchise and convert it flawlessly into 3D". Michael Grayford of Liquid Entertainment stated he was initially "very turned off" by the openness of the game the first time he played it. Upon playing it later, he was "highly pleased" and stated "each level brought some new unique cool gameplay element and I was never bored". 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 of the game, commenting that "[allowing players to] explore the same spaces several times while revealing something new each time is a revelation".

Impact and legacy

Critics attribute the initial success of the Nintendo 64 console to Super Mario 64. Edge magazine referred to it as the Nintendo 64's "key launch title". Game Informer commented that the game helped the launch of the Nintendo 64. Official Nintendo Magazine and GameDaily also attributed some of the initial excitement of the Nintendo 64 system to the release of Super Mario 64. Though the system was initially very successful, it eventually lost much of its market share to Sony's PlayStation. attributed this decline to Nintendo's use of cartridges and the design of the Nintendo 64 controller, which were reportedly implemented by Shigeru Miyamoto for Super Mario 64. The game also set many precedents for 3D platformers to follow. GameDaily listed the game as one of the "Most Influential Video Games" and stated it "defined the 3-D platform experience, influencing numerous designers to create their own, original offerings". GamesTM noted many game companies, including Nintendo, have tried to develop a platform game to match up to Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 was notable for its sense of freedom and non-linearity. A central hub, where controls can be learned before entering levels themselves, has been used in many 3D platformers since. In addition, the game's mission-based level design was an inspiration for other game designers. For example, Martin Hollis, who produced and directed GoldenEye 007, says "the idea for the huge variety of missions within a level came from Super Mario 64".

Super Mario 64 was the first game to have a "free" camera that could be controlled independently of the character. Most 3D games at the time used a first-person perspective, or a camera that was fixed in position relative to the player's character, or to the level. To create freedom of exploration, and more fluid control in a 3D world, the designers created a dynamic system in which the video camera was operated by the in-game character Lakitu. Nintendo Power stated the camera-control scheme was what transitioned platform games into the 3D era. They would again cite Super Mario 64, along with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, as two games that "blazed trails" into the 3D era. Edge stated the game changed "gamers' expectations of 3D movement forever". The camera system would become the standard for 3D platform games in the future. The Nintendo 64's analog stick allowed for more precise and wide-ranging character movements than the digital D-pads of other consoles, and Super Mario 64 used this in a way that was unique for its time. At the time, 3D games generally allowed for controls in which the player could either control the character in relation to a fixed camera angle or in relation to the character's perspective. Super Mario 64's controls were fully analog, and interpreted a 360-degree range of motion into navigation through a 3D space relative to the camera. The analog stick also allowed for precise control over subtleties such as the speed at which Mario runs. Super Mario 64 was of the first games to implement the system.

Because of the game's popularity, rumors about glitches and secrets spread rapidly after its release. The most common rumor was that Luigi was a secret character in the game, fueled by illegible symbols in the castle courtyard that resembled the text "L is real 2401". This same texture would reappear in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on a plaque in Dodongo's Cavern. IGN received so many questions and supposed methods to unlock Luigi that the staff offered a US$100 bounty to anyone who could prove that Luigi was in the game. The number of false codes submitted to IGN dropped dramatically, as Luigi's inclusion was proved to be a myth. The April Fools' Day 1998 issue of Nintendo Power claimed that the cryptic phrase would be discussed on the non-existent page 128, and also featured a facetious article titled "Luigi 64", commenting humorously on the rumor.

On May 5, 2011, Super Mario 64 was selected as one of the 80 games that will be displayed at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as part of " The Art of Video Games" exhibit that opened on March 16, 2012.

In an interview with The New York Times, Rockstar Games head writer and VP of creativity Dan Houser, when asked about influence from other games stated, "Anyone who makes 3-D games who says they’ve not borrowed something from Mario or Zelda [on the Nintendo 64] is lying."

Remakes and sequels

Super Mario 64 was first re-released in Japan on July 18, 1997, as Super Mario 64 Rumble Pak Support Version (スーパーマリオ64 振動パック対応バージョン Sūpā Mario 64: Shindō Pakku Taiō Bājon). This version adds support for Nintendo's Rumble Pak peripheral and includes voice acting from the English version. In 1998, Super Mario 64 was re-released in Europe and North America as part of the Player's Choice line, a selection of games with high sales sold for a reduced price. The game was later released on the Wii's Virtual Console service in the United States on November 19, 2006, and in other territories the following weeks. This release adds compatibility with the Nintendo GameCube and Classic controllers, and enhances the resolution to 480p.

An enhanced remake for the Nintendo DS called Super Mario 64 DS was available for the launch of the handheld system in 2004. Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario are additional playable characters, and the game features slightly altered graphics, additional stars, courses, touchscreen mini-games, and a multiplayer mode. In addition, the number of Power Stars has been raised from 120 to 150. Reviews were mostly positive, and by March 2008, Super Mario 64 DS sold 6.12 million copies worldwide.

A direct sequel titled Super Mario 64 2 was planned for the Nintendo 64DD. Shigeru Miyamoto mentioned at E3's 1997 convention that he was "just getting started" on the project. In May 1999, Super Mario 64 2 was reported to be released in late 1999; however, the game was canceled due to the failure of the 64DD, as well as lack of progress in the game's development.

Instead, Super Mario 64 was followed by other sequels on subsequent Nintendo systems. For example, Super Mario Sunshine for the Nintendo GameCube and Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii. The sequels built on Super Mario 64's core design of enhancement items and open ended gameplay. One sequel, Super Mario Galaxy 2, features a remake of the Whomp's Fortress level.

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