Top 100 Games of All-Time: #42

Super Mario 64

Release Date: June 23, 1996

Platform Played On: N64

2018 Placement: #35 (-7)

What It Is:

The Mario game that revolutionized gaming. Full 3D movement, a Lakitu holding a camera, and an intro where you can rearrange Mario’s face to your heart’s content. It’s only missing Luigi.

Graphically it’s early-stage 3D rendering – everything is polygons and blocky, but the simplicity just adds to the charm of the game nowadays. The game has you exploring Peach’s Castle and jumping through paintings into miniature explorable worlds, from Bob-Omb’s Battlefield to Penguin Drop Cliffs. (Wait, that’s not what it’s called?) It’s a refreshingly open Mario game, eschewing the 2D games’ linearity for a more free roaming experience. While there is a recommended order to the paintings, aside from a few early restrictions and the Bowser boss level barriers you can go after stars in any order you choose. Even within the paintings, you can solve a puzzle to get a star you weren’t even looking for in the first place. The flexibility in exploration and surprisingly deep mechanics to Mario’s movement instantly made this game a classic.

Why It’s Important To Me:

The Nintendo 64 was a revelation. The Super Nintendo will always be one of my favorite consoles because it was the one I truly grew into gaming with, but there was just something about Mario jumping out of that pipe in 3D glory that has always stuck with me. Games nowadays are mostly jumps in graphics and “realism” but this game made the jump from 2D to 3D and in my head it will always be the biggest jump in video game history.

I’ve collected all 120 stars, I’ve explored all the nooks and crannies of this game because, well, at the time it was all I had to play on the N64. (When your parents only buy you one game every few months you really spend time with the games you do have, eh?) But I was enjoying myself the entire time (except the eel, fuck you eel for giving me underwater nightmares) and this game imprinted itself as a Hall of Famer, an indicator that Nintendo would always be able to innovate their plumber mascot into new and exciting video game realms.

My Strongest Memory:

Surprisingly, my strongest memory with this game is not playing it myself, but nearly two decades later when I had my first “getting into Twitch streaming” moment. I was an avid fan of watching Siglemic do 120-star speedruns to set new world records and it really renewed the spark in me for how fluid and amazing the movement in Super Mario 64 is. A good run would take nearly 2 hours and I was always on the edge of my seat because he was doing complicated techs and one mistake would end his chance at breaking the world record. In addition, the “IS THIS TEH URN” spam is still branded into my mind as my first memory of the obnoxiousness of thousands of people in Twitch chat, forever associated with this game.

I had the pleasure of actually watching live one of his (many) world record breaking runs and it was as huge as any exciting sports moment I’ve ever watched. The energy in the chat was exhilarating as he got closer and closer to the end and his time was still on track to beat the record, and then when he got the last star and time was good, the entire chat exploded. It was a wonderful thing to be a part of and I’ll never forget it.

Why It’s #42:

Look, this is Super Mario 64. Any person in gaming worth their salt that this is an all-time classic that is one of the watershed moments of the industry. And it still holds up as a fun romp to explore all the worlds – I’d rather go back and play this again than Odyssey, even with its shiny graphical upgrades. There’s just something unbelievably and undeniably charming about the origins of 3D Mario.