I don’t care what the hell you have to say about Mario Galaxy, man. I really don’t. When I first played Super Mario 64, it was like I had seen the universe in 3D. Mario! In 3D! You could punch, kick, triple jump, ground pound, wall jump, swim… Oh my god. It was like magic. The castle was like a massage for my eyes. The levels were so huge and amazing. They weren’t even necessarily linear! It was like Super Mario Sandbox: Get Whatever Star You Feel Like, Man edition! I loved it. I still do.
One day, Mario gets a letter from Princess Peach. It says that he’s invited to come to the castle and have a cake that she’s baked for him. How awesome, right? Hang out at the Mushroom Kingdom castle, eat some cake, maybe get a kiss from the princess? Because that’s what’s awesome when you’re a kid. Cake and kisses. Right on. But god DAMN IT. Bowser had to invade the castle, seal the princess into a stained glass window, and hide all 120 of the Power Stars in a series of worlds contained within paintings. Looks like Mario’s got to save the day. Again. THIS TIME IN 3D. OH PLEASE YES.
This is a very critically acclaimed game. As one of the first major 3D games on the market, Mario 64 had a lot to offer. Smart, dynamic camera scripting made going up spiral mountain paths and avoiding boulders easy, because the camera would spin with you to reveal safe spots. Going through tiny corridors? No problem. Camera’s got your back. Easing your way across a narrow bridge? The camera gives you the widest, most stable shot so you won’t fumble and drop. And that’s only the camera.
The mission oriented sandbox sort of playstyle was an inspiration for other retro-favorites, like Goldeneye 007. You remember that, don’t you? No? Well you’re too young, then. Damn kids these days. As I was saying, there were usually three missions per painting world, all of which provided you with enough direction to navigate the world and locate the star. Sometimes, there would be special hidden stars that would only make themselves visible after you completed a secret set of requirements. It was secret enough that you wouldn’t get it right off, but it was easy enough that you might accidentally happen upon it while dicking around in a level for a bit.
Among the other things that made this Mario game amazing were the hats. Mario’s hat was very important. If an enemy knocked your hat off, you would take an extra 50% damage from enemies until you re-hatted yourself. Or, if you felt like, I dunno, FLYING, you could go grab the winged hat, which made jet fighter games look totally boring. Fly above the Mushroom Kingdom, far from the reach of that giant Chain Chomp, and take in the sights. But be careful! This hat’s on a timer. Or you could grab the metal hat and walk on the bottom of the ocean and collect red coins like a boss.
Also worth noting, the makers of this game were not afraid to make some levels exceedingly mind-blowingly controller-breakingly hard. Seriously. Some stages were so 3D platforming oriented that one twitch of the Z-button and you backflip into oblivion. Nothin bad really happens, though. You just sort of get flung out of the painting, shake it off, then hop back in. All the same, that’s a lot of progress lost, especially on the more linear levels. Worst thing of all? No checkpoints. You die, you’re out. NO MERCY.
I hope this convinces you to procure an emulator or a digital console copy of Mario 64 and play it to understand just how groundbreaking of a game it was. It’s really something, I promise you. In fact, I think you should start browsing some websites to see if they have N64s for sale. It would be a worthwhile purchase. No doubt about it.