Release Date: 06/23/1996
Console: Nintendo 64
This game is a classic! Who didn’t love the N64? Sure there were people that didn’t like the controllers and found them hard to play with, but some of the best and most well-remembered platformers came from this era in gaming!
Super Mario 64 was such an amazing game that they rebooted it on the Nintendo DS, have released it via virtual consoles, and even have throwbacks to it in more modern games such as Super Mario Odyssey! So, playing through this game is always a fun time and always brings back so many amazing memories.
With that being said, it is only now that I have gotten around to a review because I just now beat the game!!! Yes, after 19-years, I was finally able to defeat the final Bowser and see the ending to this game!
But I will talk about that later. By now you all know the drill…enough with the rambling, it’s time for a review!!!
- The Story:
—Anyone familiar with classic Mario would know how the story goes. Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, and it’s up to Mario to save her! It’s usually the same premise in any Mario game.
But, instead of Mario traveling across several worlds and conquering castles only to find out that Princess Peach is not there, here we only have one castle and a Princess imprisoned by the power stars!
Mario receives a letter from Princess Peach inviting him over for some cake. Our hero arrives at the castle only to discover that there is no one there. Upon entering, a voice tells Mario to leave and to never come back. It’s Bowser! He has invaded the castle and has used the power stars to trap the Princess and everyone else inside! So it’s up to Mario to find all the power stars and defeat Bowser once-and-for-all!!!
—Super Mario 64 was revolutionary in the fact that this game was the first Mario game in 3D. It was the launch title to show off the capabilities of the Nintendo 64, and show off it did.
Like other classic Mario games, there were all different worlds which meant this game got to show off new water physics, ice, a new health bar, new moves that Mario never had before. It was a platformer with a collection mechanic, and had puzzles and other challenges for gamers to enjoy.
It allowed world-exploration…something not possible in a Mario game before, and because of all these factors with the new 3D graphics, this game alone was the best selling title on the N64 with total sales reaching over 11-million copies!
- Game Mechanics:
—The whole point of the game is to collect power stars in order to progress to the next area. But how does one get power stars?
Well, in Super Mario 64, within Peach’s castle, there are paintings on the wall. These paintings are portals to other worlds…and when Mario jumps through them, he is taken to a stage. This stage has multiple selections for the different power stars you can earn in one area.
For example: In the first painting, you can beat the Big Bomb-omb on top of the mountain to get your first star. Enter the painting again, and you can get another star by beating Koopa-the-Quick in a race. Each time you select a different method of getting a star, the world is the same, but the layout and such changes for that specific star.
There are also stars common to each world…such as getting a star for collecting all the red coins in a stage, or getting the secret star for collecting 100 coins in a stage.
Collecting stars will utilize every power that Mario has, and some require specific powers to get them. Powers come in the form of different caps…and they are not like the fire flower or star power-up that classic Mario fans are used to.
Caps are unlocked by beating their stages and pressing a colored switch. This will then activate the colored blocks in all the different worlds so that you can use the caps at your leisure. The winged-cap gives Mario the ability to fly (even if it’s more like gliding), the green box produces a steel cap which makes Mario so heavy that he sinks in water, can walk through a rushing current, and he is not affected by poison gas. The blue box produces an invisibility cap that allows Mario to walk through certain types of walls.
All of these caps only work for a limited amount of time.
Outside of the caps, Mario has his basic powers of punching, kicking, and the multiple different jumps. Single, double, and triple jumps help you climb across the kingdom, and the wall-jump helps you reach hidden places. There is the long-jump for making it across large gaps, and then there is the ground-pound for breaking blocks and smashing down logs and enemies alike.
Each level is different and can mean fighting off enemies, collecting certain items, discovering hidden points in a level, or just making it to the top of a mountain. Then of course there are the boss battles.
- Boss Battles:
—If you have ever played Super Mario 3, or if you have ever played Super Mario World…then you know the rule of three. It takes three hits to beat a boss. How you defeat the boss varies. Gone are the days of hitting an axe on the other side of a bridge…rather, with these bosses, the fighting type varies. Some of them you have to pick up and toss on the ground, others you jump on, and others you ground-pound on their back in order to defeat them.
Defeating a normal boss rewards you with a power star.
Then there is Bowser…
Bowser is an enemy that you encounter 3-times within the game. Before fighting Bowser, you must make it to the end of a stage. The first two times, you only have to hit him once in order to defeat him. But the way you get a hit on him is rather difficult. You have to grab Bowser by the tail, and then you must swing him around and release your grip to throw him towards some bombs at the edge of the stage. If he hits a bomb, you win…and instead of star, you get a key to unlock the next area.
Then there is “The Final Boss”.
- The Final Boss:
—It’s a kid’s game…so how hard could the final Bowser be?
Well, to be perfectly honest, the stage getting to the final Bowser is nowhere near impossible. You only need 70-stars (out of 120) in order to reach the final stage, and even though it tests many of Mario’s abilities…the platforming is only slightly challenging.
The real challenge is once you pass down through the warp-pipe to fight Bowser himself. This Bowser (unlike the others) does not hold anything back. While chasing Mario he will rain down fire, and while the red fire does nothing (and even leaves some coins), the blue fire chases after Mario and can be a huge distraction and a quick way to lose health.
If Mario gets too far away, the final Bowser can jump and create seismic waves that Mario must jump over and/or charge at Mario in a way that is nearly impossible to dodge unless you saw him getting ready to charge before-the-fact.
Bowser can also chip away parts of the arena causing Mario to fall to his death, and even if you have successfully launched Bowser into 2 bombs, he chips away the arena into the shape of a star where the bombs float outside the ring, and you really have to know how to aim and throw.
I went into the final Bowser arena with 11 lives and beat the game with 5. There were a few times my deaths were cheap only because I didn’t remember Bowser’s mechanics (and forgot how weird his hit-box was)- but the trick with Bowser is that the faster you defeat him, the better. This means a near-flawless technique so he doesn’t have time to charge or rain fire upon you. But with 3 hits into the bombs, the final Bowser goes down and the game is essentially over.
And after 19-years…I was just so overwhelmed with beating the final Bowser that I nearly cried. It was an amazing fight, and my hands were shaking and all sweaty. Everything from the lighting to the music…it holds the perfect atmosphere for the idea of “finality” within the game. It pumps you up and has you nervous all the at the same time. I would even chalk it up to one of the greatest boss-battles I have ever experienced. Even with the graphics as they are…that final Bowser is actually intimidating!
After defeating the final Bowser, Mario retrieves the Grand Star. Then his cap sprouts wings and he flies off to the castle courtyard (where he began) and the Grand Star releases Princess Peach.
There is a bit of dialogue and Mario receives a kiss on the nose before everyone heads inside to have some cake. It’s short and sweet…and I honestly prefer the simple ending to this game.
By today’s standards, what Mario 64 has is not much. When you consider what Mario went on to do in the future…with new power-ups, costumes, and general abilities, this game might seem limited. But for so many of us, it was our childhood…and so, when we see those throwbacks in games like Super Mario Odyssey, it’s just an amazing moment to look back on where we might have started, and just how far we have come.
Even in its old-age, the game has sparked several theories and people trying to unlock its secrets. From the mysterious statue in the courtyard to other rumors…people still speedrun and tear this game apart because it was just that great of a game.
So, for fans of Mario, I think it is a must-play and must-have in any collection. And if you don’t have an N64, try it on the virtual console or play the reboot of the game for the Nintendo DS (even though it is VERY different from this game). Also, any fan of the N64 should have this game as well since it was the launch title and staple of this console!
But what do YOU think?
Have you ever played Mario 64? What was your favorite world? What was your least favorite world? Did you ever beat the game? Is it something you think stands up to the Mario games of today?
As always, let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comment-section down below. Thank you all so much for reading, and I will see you all in the next blog! 😉