Super Mario 64 Review. It’s got 120 stars but the camera isn’t one

#84, September 27th 2020

Availible on: Nintendo Switch

Gameplay

Hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time and recently ResetEra’s number one rated platformer, Super Mario 64 falls into a weird spot for me. There are two different ways you can look at reviewing a game well past its initial release. The first is by utilizing the legacy and new ideas it brought to the industry. The second, by looking at it from today’s standards. I normally fall into the latter as by doing so we can still acknowledge the legacy a game has created separately from what it is in terms of actually playing today. 

Some genres, for example MetroidVania’s, were defined by Super Metroid & Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and a strong argument can be made for either game today that they are still the gold standard for their genre. Super Mario 64, once the premier 3D platformer, is still a fun game today but the genre has made significant advances.

First, controls. I would enjoy playing this with an N64 controller one day, the Switch Pro Controller’s joystick felt a little loose and JoyCons felt stiffer. Overall Mario’s moveset is a joy to play with. Mastering Mario’s abilities allows you to venture around levels freely, sometimes letting you fully skip sections. The controls are by far the best part of Super Mario 64 and can be found in the newest 3D Mario, Super Mario Odyssey. 

The camera in this game is atrocious. While you are able to move it fully around Mario, a marvel when released, you are constantly at battle with it during levels. Instead of a smooth 360 degrees we have become accustomed to, it mimics something closer to what players would find when playing a virtual reality game today to deal with motion sickness by sharply cutting around Mario. This causes so much frustration in Super Mario 64 because the camera will also move automatically during gameplay. Depending on the level layout it can lead to a variety of frustrating moments and cheap deaths as your inputs can become inverted at a moments notice depending your viewpoint around Mario. 

Sound

The game’s soundtrack is composed by the legendary Koji Kondo who is a staple in the Mario & Legend of Zelda series. I found it overall enjoyable to listen to. Fans of the series will find a remix of tunes from previous titles as well as a few new ones. These include some of my favorites that can be found during water levels as well as one that would feel right at home in the arcades while playing as Metal Mario.

Story/Single Player

The game is broken up into 15 levels, a main hub, and a few secret areas. Each level consists of six stars that can be obtained in a variety of different ways as well as a seventh star for collecting 100 coins in the level. This star was my favorite to go after as it forced the player to fully understand each level, especially later sections with more challenging platforming. 

At first glance, most levels look bare bones although once you start playing them you will notice the complexity each one offers. A reason for it looking so empty is that Super Mario 64 has no extra visual assets. Everything included in a level is needed to maneuver towards each star. Levels found at the beginning of the game tend to be larger. As you advance through the story to rescue Princess Peach the difficulty increases as each new area has a portion, or its entirety without a floor, meaning one bad step and you are dead. 

Asking Price

I beat the game and acquired all 120 stars in just under 25 hours. Players are not locked away from beating the final boss behind having to complete anything they find difficult. The game requires 70 stars to fight Bowser which can be achieved by completing 9/15 levels with a few of the castle secret stars thrown into the total. I enjoyed Super Mario 64 overall even with frustration caused by aged mechanics. I can’t blindly suggest this game as a recommendation. If you are a gaming enthusiast that has not played this important piece of video game history, it is an essential. For the general player though, Super Mario 64 has not aged like a fine wine. The best mechanics in Super Mario 64 can be found in Super Mario Odyssey as well as over 20 years of of improvements we expect from 3D games today. 

Recommendation: Maybe

Difficulty Normal

Time To Completion 25 Hours, 100%

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