A to Z Challenge: (S)uper Mario 64

SuperMario64No one in their right mind can deny that the Super Mario brothers are an extremely important part of the history of video games. The pudgy plumber (and, to a lesser extent, his lankier brother) have been featured in more than one hundred games in their career, and many of those games are some of the most popular of their days.

Mario made his debut into gaming as Jump Man in the very first Donkey Kong game back in 1981. He was so named because the game involved dodging barrels thrown by Donkey Kong by jumping over them. He was given a real name for American markets, and soon followed his debut title with an antagonist role in Donkey Kong Jr in 1983.

Mario’s designation as a plumber came as a byproduct of these early 8-bit roles. Because it is difficult to create a distinctive human character using 8-bit technology, creator Shigeru Miyamoto used a few tricks to ease the process, including giving Mario overalls to make his arms more visible, and adding a hat to avoid having to program hair. A thick mustache completed the look, since it was more visible than just a mouth, and the character that is so well-known today was born.

Mario has been the hero of an outstanding number of video games over the years – not to mention TV shows – and I played quite a few of them growing up. If I had to pick a favorite, I would definitely choose Super Mario 64. Right off the bat, getting a Nintendo 64 as a kid was a huge deal because I’d been dealing with 8- and 16-bit graphics for half my life at that point. So I was already pretty damn excited before I even got the game in the console. Then I saw Mario in all his “3-D” glory, and it was like my world had changed.

The amazing (for the time) graphics aside, Super Mario 64 is a game that many kinds from my generation remember fondly because it was outrageously fun. The story involved Mario taking a trip to Princess Toadstool’s castle to find that Bowser had attacked and hidden the castle’s power stars in the many paintings hanging throughout. To save the day Mario had to track down the 120 power stars and defeat his reptilian nemesis.

The style of game-play was amazing at the time. It was a huge, open-world concept that allowed you to unlock more and more of the castle and its hidden worlds as you played. There were lots of different ways to unlock stars – boss battles, fetch quests, races, etc. – so you never got bored. And the new three-dimensional, 64-bit world meant that you got to see all your favorite characters, enemies, and worlds in a larger-than-life capacity. I remember the first time I saw Bowser – towering over Mario like a dinosaur looking at its lunch – I almost had a little gamer heart attack.

It may not seem like much now, but a boss that size was terrifying back then.
It may not seem like much now, but a boss that size was terrifying back then.

Even years later, when the re-release came out for the Nintendo DS, I ate it up because it was just as fun as it had been the first time around. Super Mario 64 is definitely one of those classic games, the kind that lasts throughout the ages.

Do you recall the video game leap that was Super Mario 64? What was your favorite stage? Your most loathed stage? Please share!

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8 thoughts on “A to Z Challenge: (S)uper Mario 64

  1. It’s probably because I’m old, but I’ve always loathed Charles Martinet as Mario, with all of his “Yipee!”s “Woohoo!”s and “It’sa meee, Mahrio!”s. Captain Lou will always be the real Mario, in my mind…

    • It’s funny how he traverses generation gaps. My cousin’s little one is absolutely obsessed with Super Mario World, and missy has a little toy Mario in a Kart that she just thinks is the greatest thing.

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