I talk about the feeling of growing up in the 1990’s on this blog often, possibly a little too often. It’s not something that makes me feel like I’ve experienced something no longer attainable, or that it makes me some kind of superior “90’s kid” or other millennial nonsense. There’s just a ton of cultural and technological revolutions that all came to a head during that time, and experiencing adolescence through those moments has crushed my memories of them into dense, heavy blocks of straight nostalgia. And somewhere lying in the center of that nostalgia fortress is the structural central beam, whose metal is made out of a single impenetrable material: Super Mario 64.
Every American who experienced childhood in the 90’s remembers seeing Super Mario 64 in action for the first time. It was everywhere — in big box stores, on television, in magazine ads and school posters — if you lived in the United States in 1996, you had heard of this game. And it absolutely melted people’s minds. I’ve talked about mind-melting games on this blog before, but this was on a completely different level. For the first time ever (in popular media), you could explore a virtual world in real time on a real home console, and it actually looked real. There were no more pixel garbles to represent stuff, no empty polygons, no artistic corners cut, and no pseudo-3D trickery. You moved the stick, and it moved Mario around a beautiful, real place. It was literally all the rage — if you talked about videogames on the elementary playground, someone inevitably interjected with “oh have you played Mario 64 yet?” “What did you think about Mario 64?” Getting a Nintendo 64 for Christmas packed with that game was nirvana for kids in that time; there’s a reason all of those viral AFV clips of console unwrappings at Christmas are kids getting N64s. Personally, I know I would have fainted if I ever found it under the Christmas tree at my house.
But it never was. In fact, I only played the game at friends’ houses, and they were hard-pressed to get that controller out of my hands. Maybe that has added to Mario 64’s nostalgic mystique for me, but even lacking the unattainable allure that I have, almost everyone who owned the game feels the exact same way I do about it.
Notwithstanding the insane amount of speedrunning, half-A-pressing, and secret-finding communities there are on YouTube and the rest of the Internet, there is so much deeply personal affection out there for this game. Out of my own friend circle, it is on the top games list of every single one of them. Everyone around my age who I’ve asked about it has had an incredible memory to share. Even if they never played it, they wanted it under the Christmas tree. I don’t mean to undersell this, but the impact crater Mario 64 made in the collective 90’s nostalgia is extinction event levels of colossal-ness.
Listen, just do not let me further spoil any aspect of this game. Don’t let me spoil the perfect controls, the challenging-but-fair platforming, the perfect difficulty curve, the beautiful scenery and music, or even the simple-but-timeless story — just believe the hype, and go play Super Mario 64 right now. Better yet, go play it on the recently announced Nintendo Switch collection that’ coming out in a few weeks. This game is too good to ever pass up!
“It’s never too late to play the right game.” – Schilbmeister Flex – Noah Leiter
Best Played on:
N64, Wii U VC, I even like the DS version with extra levels and stuff. Heck, it even emulates perfectly, unlike most N64 games. If you can wait, though, it’ll be in HD on Switch very soon!
The 3D Platformer to begin and end all 3D Platformers.
More jagged than your granny’s elbows, but damnit if you still don’t love it.
Ba ba ba bo ba BAH. You did the music in your head just now, didn’t you?
Generic in scope, timeless in execution.
I could complete and recomplete this game infinite times and not be sick of it. In fact, I’ve completed it twice in the last month and plan to do it again on 9/18.