Super Mario 64 review
An Iconic Title that Sets the Bar for Adventure Games

The good:

Lengthy, detailed 3D world that result in hours of game play
The use of Power Ups
Just the right amount of difficulty
Audio and Visuals are both impressive

The bad:

Terrible camera controls


The test of time has dismantled the glory days of many systems, studios, and games alike. With next generation technology and a wide array of options, those games that cemented our childhood are pushed further back almost unintentionally, to the point of where you may question why you would play that dusty cartridge on the shelf in the first place. Food, music, and favorite sports are all victims to a change of preference through age, and video games are no exception either. I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoyed the less than impressive Tonic Trouble But hey, this is a common occurrence in childhood…right? Despite this lousy attempt at a cover up, some video games simply do not succumb to the months, years, and even decades we tend to see pass right by. In order for this to happen, some pretty impressive criteria must be met.

Here is where I begin my attempt at deciphering just why Super Mario 64 rings a bell in any fan of the adventure genre. You shouldn’t need this review to know that the game has received critical acclaim right from its release. To this day, it still shows off impressive game play elements that have become a rarity in video games of today. No, this isn’t inner nostalgia talking either, Super Mario 64 is a must buy for not just a Nintendo fan, but a fan of video games in general. Casual or hardcore, first person shooter fan of RPG aficionado, Super Mario 64 produces a formula anyone can enjoy.

Storylines for Mario games aren’t really centered upon the plot itself, but the actions that make up Mario’s various adventures. Those with minimal knowledge of the strange looking plumber know that it’s going to involve rescuing Peach, and it’s most likely going to involve defeating Bowser in some cloudy looking arena. Oh, and fire. Blue fire, red fire, fire with eyes, it’s all there in an incredibly obvious context. In summary, Mario must collect stars stationed within various worlds and hidden rooms. These starts will open the door to new areas, and gradually increase Mario’s strength in time for the final showdown against Bowser. Peach is held captive within the walls and her advice and cries for help can be heard throughout several instances within the game. Clichés aside, what makes the plot of this game so unique and exceptional is the multitude of realms within the castle walls, this time stationed within the castle itself. Rather than linear areas and a concrete objective, we’re rewarded with multiple missions and free roaming controls, allowing us to scale walls, ride on Koopa Shells, and blast into the sky. Despite the ability to travel through the castle at will, some doors will require a little more force to open the way. By defeating Bowser and gathering more stars, Mario can ascend further along the kingdom. While it sounds pretty standard when contemplating today’s Mario games, this was one of the first to incorporate these elements to provide a brand new experience. Success will be determined by balance, flawless timing, and even a little bit of luck. Worlds are diverse and always full of surprises and obstacles, which simply add to the already high quality of the game. Paintings are an abundant resource in this game, as they will provide a direct route to beautiful worlds with plenty of stars to collect. Everything about this game is incredibly different from its less advanced counterparts, but with end result couldn’t possibly be more enjoyable. What was an experiment into a vast world turned into a legendary game that has set the tone for future Mario adventure games.

In Super Mario 64, the castle will be used to open many worlds, and perhaps a few secrets along the way

An Emphasis on Progression

Nintendo and Mario fans have been exposed to a multitude of retro Mario and Zelda games, each being strikingly similar in game play and in game atmosphere. Reaching a flag, collecting mushrooms, and avoiding those infuriating gaps in the earth at the very last inch of a particular stage sum up a typical day in the Mushroom Kingdom of the 80's.It’s all there in a strikingly obvious fashion, with nothing to really proclaim the title as “unique”. Super Mario 64 throws all of these elements out in exchange for a revolutionary experience that can’t be matched. While one can view collecting stars as a singular concentrated goal, the means to acquire them are far more complex and fascinating than previous Mario titles. The generic “land” environments of side scrolling Mario games are transformed into deserts, mountains, and mansions, each with their own unique layout and obstacles. The dull looking sea also gets a massive renovation, becoming a vast ocean with a number of tunnels and stars to be found. This game takes a bit more thought, and a lot more strategy if you even want a chance to progress in this game. Side characters can provide some helpful advice, while others serve as mini-bosses guarding a heavily coveted star. Time limits are thankfully nowhere to be seen, as some quests for stars require a lot of exploration. A traditionalist may be a bit skeptical of these new features and complex missions, but the result is too successful for any lingering doubts. Nintendo’s brilliant advancement into 3D worlds is an impressive one, each offering its own diverse place in the Mushroom Kingdom. Decades later, we couldn’t possibly envision a Mario game looking any other way.

Filled with new characters and imposing obstacles, the vast lands of Super Mario 64 offer one of the most innovative experiences in Nintendo’s iconic history

Game Play

Jumping and running were easily the most useful assets to any Mario game of old. Let’s face it, the plumber hasn’t always been the most creative hero around the video game industry. In Super Mario 64, that trusty “A” button will no longer be the savior when facing an enemy or reaching that star perched on the most inconvenient of ledges. Super Mario 64 introduces a vast array of moves and attacks which must be mastered to overcome some tricky stages. Somersaults, wall kicks, and even a few punching move allows gamers to abandon the simple nature of previous Mario games and bring in some much needed make over to Mario’s repertoire of moves. While there are plenty of differences in jumps and attacks, the controls are relatively easy to pick up with a little practice. (In fact, one can say the instruction manual makes it far more complicated.) Rather than getting a running start, Mario can triple jump or kick his way to looming platforms high above ground level. The introduction of new “caps” can give Mario wings to fly across worlds, or sink below the surface in a dense metallic state. New features such as these bring about a new, more improved perspective of game play, offering gamers even more change to fathom along their journey through the castle. Game play wise, this may be one of the most in depth games to ever embrace the Nintendo 64. Its brand new control scheme and diverse display of moves solidify this game as a timeless classic for any age.

Better save up some extra lives. The flight cap can be a little frustrating, but is just one of the many new techniques in Super Mario 64

Visuals & Audio

With the introduction to the revamped visual capabilities of the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 has some of the most impressive visuals, despite being a launch title. Landforms are vibrant and present a detail unknown to previous Mario titles, while new enemies are gigantic and exploited to the fullest form of detail. Mario 64 mixed linear and non linear worlds to provide a breath of fresh air and a bit of suspense when jumping into that next castle painting. Some will feel awfully reminiscent of the side scrolling classic we’ve come to know and love, while others contain a multitude of side rooms, each with their own unique place in terms of visuals. While we certainly cannot view the graphics as anything special in today’s video game age, Super Mario 64 presents visuals that anyone can at the very least appreciate.

Nostalgia always has a place in Mario games, specifically in the department. Sure, that World 2 jingle may make a decent ringtone for anyone still in the adolescent phase of life, but has this series ever provided high quality musical scores? The answer is no, well, until Super Mario 64 arrived onto the scene in June of 1996. Koji Kondo, the man responsible for the music in a vast majority of Zelda titles, brings his music prowess into this brilliant adventure. Right from the start, you can tell that there’s a bit of a different outlook on music in this Mario game. Rather than constant loops and scarce melodies, audio in this game is complex and fits in perfectly with the atmosphere of various worlds. The music of Dire Dire Docks is serene and carefree, the ideal fit for a water world that seems entirely oblivious to the frantic chaos going on in the other worlds just outside its borders. The music fits so well that it’s hard to imagine exploring deserts and oceans free of these puzzling sounds, without having a logical reason why. The music in this game is a perfect accomplice to any level, any boss fight, and any secret rooms one may stumble into. The most one can do is listen and enjoy!

The tranquil sounds within Dire Dire Docks are nothing short of a masterpiece, regardless of its simplicity.

Flaw (That Disaster of a Camera)

Take a look around you on a few other Super Mario 64 reviews. Regardless of age, site name, or personal preference of the other, it’s a safe bet you’ll find the camera feature to be one of the glaring negatives branded into this game. While it’s not a reputation killer, the camera angle is incredibly frustrating and at its worst moments, a feature that can make several levels unplayable. First person perspective can occur with the press of a button, but you’ll want to avoid this feature like the plague if the third person camera doesn’t kill you first. With what seems to be a mind of its own, the Lakitu handling the camera seems to be on some sort of controlled substance, frantically throwing the camera into walls and the most unorthodox of angles. At times, Mario and his surroundings will be replaced with a nice front row view of that wall on your right hand side. If you think this is a rare sighting, you’re too optimistic. And to make it worse, the camera appears to go haywire at the worst times, specifically on balancing beams and steep ledges where one wrong move can result in instant death. No one said the free roaming control experiment was flawless, but its capabilities are severely crippled by the erratic camera movements. The good news is, this is the only significant flaw of the game. If you don’t mind a few headaches, the game play and other factors make this game worthwhile regardless.


Critiquing a critically acclaimed classic is a strange task. As stated before, it’s not about if the game is good or not, but why said title is so iconic in the first place. Super Mario 64 was a shining moments for Nintendo that may never be replicated, but will always hold influence over future adventure games to come. This dramatic shift to 3D game play and visuals was a bold move with many guesses and question marks. The end result however, could not be more concrete. Super Mario 64 is a classic comprised of many positives, right down to the very last second of game play. If you haven’t picked up this title yet, it would be in your best interest to do so. This title is indeed one shining star to the Mario series as well as the entire adventure genre.

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