It’s been over twenty years since Super Mario 64 was first released and to this day it remains a favorite among fans. The game, which helped with the launch and initial success of the Nintendo 64, was revolutionary for its time. It was one of the first video games to utilize 3D graphics and allow players the freedom to move around in an open world, independent of the game’s main objectives. It abandoned the side screen-moving format that had been a staple of previous Super Mario games and embraced a concept that very few people had seen before.
In the two decades since its release, the game has been featured on many “greatest games of all time” lists. Many aspects of the game have been examined at length and people continue to find new things about it to discuss. While there are some tidbits about the game that practically everyone knows at this point, there are still some things that even the most hardcore of Super Mario 64 fans may not know.
With that in mind, here are 15 Things You Never Knew About Super Mario 64.
15. The idea for a 3D Mario game began on an earlier console
The release of Super Mario 64 led to an influx of 3D Nintendo games, but the 3D concept actually began years earlier, during the Super Nintendo era. Using the Super FX chip, developed by Argonauts Software, Nintendo was able to pack a graphics boosting processor into the game’s cartridges and actually utilized this technology to develop the 3D game Star Fox. Several other 3D games were released as well and many more were planned, including a Super Mario version, but Nintendo ultimately scrapped the idea, opting to hold off until the release of their next console.
The reason for abandoning the Super Nintendo Super Mario 3D game wasn’t due to a lack of processing capabilities, but rather due to the constraints of the SNES controller. The lack of a joystick and the small number of buttons would have made it much more difficult for players to navigate Mario through a 3D world.
14. Nintendo originally planned for as many as 40 levels
When Nintendo was finally able to develop their first 3D Super Mario game, they wanted to pack as much into one game as they possibly could. At one point, the game’s developers had worked on 32 different levels and were planning to implement as many as 40 levels, and then several bonus levels on top of that. Nintendo’s desire to jampack this game was so strong that they pushed back the release of the Nintendo 64 from December of 1995 to the following April.
Although the development of the N64 had broadened Nintendo’s capabilities from the SNES era, there were still some constraints on how much data they could fit into an 8GB cartridge. This made developing the 40 level game an impossibility. Instead, Nintendo opted to cut the number of levels down to 15, and to put more emphasis on exploration and completing more tasks within a single level.
13. There were plans for a multiplayer mode with Luigi
Noticeably absent from this game, for the first time in the series’ run, was Mario’s green-clad brother Luigi, but that wasn’t always intended to be the case. Original plans for the game called for a multiplayer mode that would allow users to play as both Super Mario brothers in a split screen format. The brothers would enter the castle at separate locations and eventually meet each other in the corridor. Ultimately, this also proved to be too difficult of a task for Nintendo and the idea was dropped.
The concept of incorporating the type of multiplayer mode that would allow users to share the single player experience with others required so much more advanced technology that even though Nintendo attempted it in every Mario game that followed, it wasn’t until 13 years later that they were finally able to accomplish it with the release of New Super Mario Bros. Wii.
12. The Goomba that can’t be killed
When most people think of Goombas, they aren’t exactly reminded of an opponent that ranks high on the list of Super Mario enemies that are difficult to defeat. However, there is one particular Goomba in Super Mario 64 that, as of yet, no one has been able to conquer. While most of the Goombas that appear in the game come up in a triangle formation, YouTube user pannenkoek2012, famous for obtaining the game’s “impossible coin”, noticed and shared with the world in 2014 that a Goomba in the final Bowser level was missing from his triangle.
Using a cloning method and some hacking, pannenkoek2012 discovered that the missing Goomba appears at the bottom of the map where he falls to his death a short time later. Trying out several different methods – including a Satanic ritual – pannenkoek2012 has tried to get to the Goomba to defeat him on his own, but so far it has proven to be an impossible task.
11. It was inspired by Croc: Legend of the Gobbos
Argonaut Software, the aforementioned company who had developed the FX Chip and the Star Fox Super Nintendo game, had already played a key role in helping Nintendo to become a pioneer in 3D video games when they approached the company with a new idea. The concept was for a 3D game starring Yoshi, the structure of which Argonaut has said laid the groundwork for Super Mario 64. However, Nintendo turned the idea down, effectively ending the relationship between the two companies.
While Nintendo worked on Super Mario 64, Argonaut now had to find a new platform for their game. They reached a deal to publish it on the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn as Croc: Legend of the Gobbos with Yoshi being replaced by a similar looking crocodile. The visual similarities and the fact that it was released after Super Mario 64 gave people the idea that it was just a rip-off, when in fact, that was the furthest thing from the truth.
10. The game was developed using modified Sega controllers
Sega may not seem like much of a rival for Nintendo nowadays, given their current place in the video game landscape, but thee company actually, at one time, tried to take Nintendo down, and even used the marketing slogan, “Genesis Does what Nintendon’t”. Given that information, it seems a bit strange to think that Sega’s technology could’ve played a key role in the making of such an iconic Nintendo game. However, that was exactly the case for Super Mario 64.
When the game began its development, the Nintendo 64 was also in the early stages and so there were not yet any controllers or hardware available for the console. The game’s developers were given an N64 emulator which they ran on an Onyx system, and they relied on modified Sega controllers to help them develop the game. Eventually, 100 or more controller prototypes were developed before Nintendo finally settled on one.
9. Epona from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was originally planned for Super Mario 64
In addition to Super Mario 64, another game that has become a fan favourite over nearly two decades is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the first 3D game released in The Legend of Zelda series in 1998. Fans of the game will recall that one of its side missions allows users to unlock a horse, Epona, for Link to ride around on, allowing him to travel faster and jump fences. Link must first learn Epona’s secret song as a child in order for the two to be united as adults.
What fans of the game may not know is that the idea of riding around on a horse was originally planned for Super Mario 64. For whatever reason – perhaps they didn’t like the thought of Mario riding on an animal that wasn’t Yoshi – Nintendo dropped the idea, but developer Shigeru Miyamoto was so intrigued by the horse concept that he implemented it into The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
8. Original plans included the classic Super Mario goal poles
One of the staples of the early Super Mario games that was noticeably absent from Super Mario 64 was the goal poles that Mario would jump on at the end of each level, stopping the clock before the player ran out of time and signifying successful completion of the level. The game’s developers originally planned to implement them in this game as well, but eventually decided that the game would be better off without them.
The developers knew that the presence of the goal poles would entice gamers to race to the finish line to complete a level as quickly as possible. Given how much of an undertaking it was to develop a 3D, open area game, they wanted users to take there time to appreciate it, exploring the levels and collecting items along the way. This unique concept also made it imperative that developers eliminate time limits for each level.
7. The actress who voiced Princess Peach also wrote the game’s text
Another aspect of this game that was different from previous games in the series was the use of new voice actors for the characters, as they were tasked with speaking for the first time in a video game (though they had spoken in several television shows prior to this).
This included Princess Peach, who was now voiced by Leslie Swan. Swan had worked as the senior editor for the Nintendo Power magazine and was also tasked with translating all of the game’s text to English. While working at this in Japan, she was given the role of Princess Peach’s voice and has said, “They asked me to sound ‘sweet’. It was a stretch.”
Swan went on to portray the princess in Mario Kart 64 as well, before giving up the role. She then went on to work as a localization manager for many Nintendo of America games while doing other voice acting work along the way.
6. There was a fan-created remake
For fans who have spent two decades loving Super Mario 64 and have longed for an updated version, that dream somewhat came to fruition in 2015 when one fan released a remake, titled Super Mario 64 HD. Created on Unity, a platform that allows anyone to make their own video games provided they have the skills to do so, this version of the game was much smaller than the original. It featured just one level, but it was available to download at no cost.
However, Super Mario 64 HD was also unauthorized and when Nintendo got wind of the game’s existence, they issued a copyright claim and the game was taken down.
While this fan created version of the classic is no longer available to download or play, gameplay footage can still be found on YouTube, if you’re interested in watching a small part of the iconic Super Mario 64 world be explored in high definition.
5. The planned sequel
After the great success of the first game, Nintendo planned to release a Super Mario 64 2, which they hoped would feature the multiplayer mode with Luigi that was planned for the original game. Miyamoto confirmed at the 1997 E3 convention that the game was in the early stages of development and its release was reportedly planned for late 1999. However, the game was intended for use with the Nintendo 64DD, which ended up being a flop.
A disk drive that could be added to the Nintendo 64 and connect to the internet, Nintendo referred to the N64DD as “the first writable bulk data storage device for a modern video game console”. Nintendo sold roughly 15,000 units and had another 85,000 remaining when they decided to pull the plug. As a result, very few games were released for the N64DD and those already in development had to either be transferred to the N64 or other consoles, or – as was the case with Super Mario 64 2 – canceled altogether.
4. The beta version featured a higher-pitched, screechy-voiced Mario
After having a mostly silent Mario in previous games, Nintendo set out to find a new voice for the character and eventually the role went to Charles Martinet, who has been a mainstay in that position ever since. However, the original, beta version of the game did not feature Martinet’s voice. Instead there was a higher-pitched, screechy-voiced Mario who is much more difficult to listen to. Why this hard-on-the-ears voice was initially chosen is unclear, as Martinet had already been voice the stout plumber at trade shows for several years by this point.
It may be as simple as Martinet had not yet done his recordings and this alternate voice was simply chosen as a placeholder for the beta version. Whatever the reason for using this voice initially, Nintendo ultimately pulled it and went with Martinet’s voice for the final version and all our ears thank them for it today.
3. Hidden features after collecting all 120 stars in the game
Another one of the benefits of the open concept of this game was that it allowed users to revisit different areas after completing the game and unlock small features that previously were unavailable. After collecting all 120 of the game’s stars, users are able to go up to the roof of Princess Peach’s castle. Here they can meet and have a brief chat with Yoshi, who rewards Mario with 100 free lives. That isn’t the only unlockable feature, though. If you go and defeat Bowser a second time, you’ll notice that he gives you a different message this time around.
Another small feature involves the penguin that users raced down the Cool Cool Mountain. If users confront him for a rematch with all 120 stars in hand, this time they’ll notice that he is much larger in size and thus much harder to defeat. These and other small intricacies made it so that game could still be fun, even after you thought you had accomplished everything.
2. The true meaning of “L is real 2401”
One mystery that has surrounded this game for the past twenty years involves a message that appears on a statue in Princess Peach’s Castle. The blurred lettering, which from one angle reads as “Eternal Star”, can also be read from another as “L is real 2401”. This has led to much speculation from fans about what the message could possibly mean.
Some have speculated that it was a key to unlocking Luigi and that if a player collected 2401 coins they could play the game as Mario’s brother. Meanwhile, others have suggested that the message was a reference to Luigi’s presence in the Paper Mario game and its release date of 2/4/01 (the actual release date was 2/5/01).
Fans finally got an answer to this mystery a few months ago, when one fan shared a letter on social media that they had received from Nintendo in 1998 after writing to them to inquire about the obscure message. As it turns out, it was just a meaningless joke by the game’s programmers, intended to confuse gamers.
1. The actor who voiced Mario had no prior knowledge of the character
As previously mentioned, Charles Martinet was chosen to be the new voice of Mario and portrayed the role and various trade shows prior to recording the voice for Super Mario 64. What may surprise you, however, is that Martinet was not a huge Mario fan prior to landing the role and, in fact, had never even heard of him.
A former law student turned actor, Martinet had been told by a friend about an audition in which you “talk to people as a plumber”. Martinet arrived for the audition at the last minute and was told to read the part as “an Italian plumber from Brooklyn”. His first thought was to go with a stereotypical, deep voiced, Italian accent, but instead decided to channel the William Shakespeare character Petruchio whom he had portrayed in a production of Taming of the Shrew.
Martinent read for the part until the producers ran out of tape and was immediately given the job. Martinet’s first recording of the voice in a video game actually came in Mario’s Game Gallery, but it was his portrayal in Super Mario 64 that first brought his voice to the mainstream public.
Are there any secrets from Super Mario 64 that we missed? Share them in the comments!