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Super Mario 64 is a 3D platformer game released for the Nintendo 64 in 1996. This game was one of two (three in Japan) launch titles for the Nintendo 64, along with Pilotwings 64, which helped drive initial sales of the console. To this day, it has sold nearly over 11 million copies, and is marked as the best selling Nintendo 64 game of all time. It is also the second most popular game on the Wii's Virtual Console, after Super Mario Bros.
Being the first 3D Mario game, Super Mario 64 introduced many moves that would be used in almost every later Super Mario title: Triple Jumping, Ground Pounding, Long Jumping, Crouching, and Somersaults. Punching and kicking were also introduced, but would not be used in any later main title (besides its remake).
Super Mario 64 was originally in development for the Super Famicom, (SNES outside of Japan), but was moved to the Nintendo 64 after system limitations and the 16-bit era began closing, not to mention a lack of proper controls (as the game defined the design of the N64 controller). Though it was not the first 3D platforming game, it revolutionized the genre, with many games soon following its formula using it as a sort of benchmark. It is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest and important games of all time.
A remake of Super Mario 64 was released for the Nintendo DS entitled Super Mario 64 DS in 2004. The remake had various differences from the original game such as Luigi, Yoshi, and Wario becoming playable characters (Yoshi does appear in the original game on the castle roof after Mario has collected all the stars). There was also a sequel called Super Mario 64 2 planned for the Nintendo 64DD, but it was cancelled due to the 64DD's commercial failure.
Princess Peach sent a letter to Mario to come and have some cake with her in the castle. When Mario arrives, he finds one of the Lakitu Bros. who follows him around holding a camera and filming him. Together, they go inside and hear a familiar voice telling them to get out of the castle, actually being Bowser. Toad informs them that Bowser has kidnapped Princess Toadstool again and is holding everyone hostage inside the castle walls. He has also stolen the Power Stars and given them to his minions who are hiding in the paintings that are accessible from inside the castle. Mario must jump into each painting scattered around the castle in order to retrieve the power stars.
Toad informs Mario about a Bob-omb field where Big Bob-omb must be faced. The first of many power stars can be found here. By obtaining more Power Stars, Mario unlocks doors to three more paintings in the castle including the Whomp's Fortress, Jolly Roger Bay, Cool, Cool Mountain, and the ability to collect more stars.
When Mario collects eight Power Stars, he can open the Star Door at the left side of the castle. He then falls through the floor in the room and enters the first Bowser Course, Bowser in the Dark World. After travelling through the course, he enters a warp pipe, which leads him to Bowser. After evading Bowser's attacks and grabbing his tail, Mario throws him into a bomb on the edge of the stage defeating him. Unfortunately, it turns out that Bowser doesn't have Princess Toadstool with him. Instead, he floats into the air and disappears, leaving a key for Mario to collect. Mario then obtains the key that allows him to enter the basement of the castle. The basement contains four levels, which are Lethal Lava Land, Shifting Sand Land, Hazy Maze Cave, and Dire, Dire Docks. After collecting 30 stars, Mario is granted with the ability to open another star door in the basement. The Star Door leads to a room with the entrance to Dire, Dire Docks and the second Bowser course, Bowser in the Fire Sea. After navigating through the course, Mario jumps into another battle with Bowser. This battle can be more challenging than the last one, since Bowser can now teleport and tilt the stage. Also, the distance between the arena platform and the bombs has increased. When Mario defeats Bowser for the second time, Mario gains a key to the second floor leading to even more paintings. After Mario collects his 50th Power Star, he can go up to the third floor, and once Mario collects 70 Power Stars, he can access the door into Bowser's final stage, Bowser in the Sky, and go through another one of his obstacle courses. After he finds the warp pipe at the end of the course, Mario finds Bowser waiting for him. The two then begin to engage in battle. This time, Bowser has to be blown up by a bomb three times. When Bowser gets blown up twice, certain parts of the arena fall away, leaving the platform in a shape of giant star. Bowser ends up defeated, and is surprised when Mario tells him there were some Power Stars he missed; the Castle's Secret Stars. Bowser gives up, and hands Mario the final Grand Power Star before he disappears. When Mario grabs the last power star, wings appear on his cap, allowing him to fly. He circles the star-shaped arena, and flies away. Eventually, he lands in front of the castle.
As his wings fade away, Mario uses the power of the Giant Power Star to save Princess Peach and take her back at the front of the castle. The star goes into the stained glass window over the front door of the castle, the window flashes, and Peach slowly descends to the ground. Mario rushes up to her as she opens her eyes. Thanking him, Peach kisses Mario on the nose and says she will bake a cake for him. Peach and two nearby Mushroom Retainers walk into the castle. Mario starts to do so himself, but then pauses and turns around to look at the upward. Peach calls him, and he rushes after her. After the credits scroll, Mario, Peach and two Toads wave goodbye to the player, followed by the cake, with Peach and Mario figures, shown at the very end. The game will then freeze, and the Nintendo 64 (or the Virtual Console, on either the Wii or Wii U) will have to be turned off or restarted. (This was customary for beating the final Boss at the time, since "extra mode" was not a popular concept.)
Levels are laid out inside paintings in the castle, or sometimes the walls themselves. They can also be found in holes, gaps, oil pits, and inside a clock. Each world has seven Power Stars. Within each, one of which is gained by finding one hundred coins in the level. The other six Power Stars are found by performing "missions", fighting bosses, winning races, etc. Every course has boundaries to limit the player from going too far, either as a strict wall or an invisible boundary. If Mario hits either, he falls down (quite often losing a life). Otherwise, Mario is free to roam the large expansive levels at his leisure.
Levels often feature pink Bob-ombs called Bob-omb Buddies. They open cannons littered around the levels for Mario to fly with. When the cannon is open, Mario simply falls into the pit where it is, and it raises. The player targets the cannon with a cross hair shot, and fires. This helps Mario reach high or far away areas. It is often a good idea to use the Wing Cap (see below) with cannons.
|Bob-omb Battlefield||Whomp's Fortress||Jolly Roger Bay|
|Big Bob-omb on the Summit||Footrace with Koopa the Quick||Chip Off Whomp's Block||To the Top of the Fortress||Plunder in the Sunken Ship||Can the Eel Come Out to Play?|
|Shoot to the Island in the Sky||Find the 8 Red Coins||Shoot Into the Wild Blue||Red Coins on the Floating Isle||Treasure in the Ocean Cave||Red Coins on the Ship Afloat|
|Mario Wings to the Sky||Behind Chain Chomp's Gate||Fall Onto the Caged Island||Blast Away the Wall||Blast to the Stone Pillar||Through the Jet Stream|
|Cool, Cool Mountain||Big Boo's Haunt||Hazy Maze Cave|
|Slip Slidin' Away||Li'l Penguin Lost||Go on a Ghost Hunt||Ride Big Boo's Merry-Go-Round||Swimming Beast in the Cavern||Elevate for 8 Red Coins|
|Big Penguin Race||Frosty Slide for 8 Red Coins||Secret of the Haunted Books||Seek the 8 Red Coins||Metal-Head Mario Can Move!||Navigating the Toxic Maze|
|Snowman's Lost His Head||Wall Kicks Will Work||Big Boo's Balcony||Eye to Eye in the Secret Room||A-Maze-ing Emergency Exit||Watch for Rolling Rocks|
|Lethal Lava Land||Shifting Sand Land||Dire Dire Docks|
|Boil The Big Bully||Bully The Bullies||In the Talons of the Big Bird||Shining Atop the Pyramid||Board Bowser's Sub||Chests In The Current|
|8-Coin Puzzle With 15 Pieces||Red-Hot Log Rolling||Inside the Ancient Pyramid||Stand Tall On the Four Pillars||Pole-Jumping For Red Coins||Through The Jet Stream|
|Hot-Foot It Into the Volcano||Elevator Tour In The Volcano||Free-Flying For 8 Red Coins||Pyramid Puzzle||The Manta Ray's Reward||Collect the Caps...|
|Snowman's Land||Wet-Dry World||Tall, Tall Mountain|
|Snowman's Big Head||Chill with the Bully||Shocking Arrow Lifts||Top o' the Town||Scale the Mountain||Mystery of the Monkey Cage|
|In the Deep Freeze||Whirl From the Freezing Pond||Secrets in the Shallows and Sky||Express Elevator--Hurry Up!||Scary 'Shrooms, Red Coins||Mysterious Mountainside|
|Shell Shredding for Red Coins||Into the Igloo||Go to Town for Red Coins||Quick Race Through Downtown!||Breathtaking View from Bridge||Blast to the Lonely Mushroom|
|Tiny-Huge Island||Tick Tock Clock||Rainbow Ride|
|Pluck the Piranha Flower||The Tip Top of the Huge Island||Roll into the Cage||The Pit and the Pendulums||Cruiser Crossing the Rainbow||The Big House in the Sky|
|Rematch with Koopa the Quick||Five Itty Bitty Secrets||Get a Hand||Stomp on the Thwomp||Coins Amassed in a Maze||Swingin' in the Breeze|
|Wiggler's Red Coins||Make Wiggler Squirm||Timed Jumps on Moving Bars||Stop Time for Red Coins||Tricky Triangles||Somewhere Over the Rainbow|
In addition to the main courses of the game and the Bowser Courses, there are also a few hidden courses that house several of the Castle's Secret Stars, as well as the three ! Switches.
- The Princess's Secret Slide (2 Stars)
- The Secret Aquarium (1 Star)
- Tower of the Wing Cap (Wing Cap) (1 Star)
- Vanish Cap Under the Moat (Vanish Cap) (1 Star)
- Cavern of the Metal Cap (Metal Cap) (1 Star)
- Bowser in the Dark World (1 Star)
- Wing Mario Over the Rainbow (1 Star)
- MIPS the Rabbit (2 Stars)
- Toads Secured Stars (3 Stars)
- Bowser in the Fire Sea (1 Star)
- Bowser in the Sky (1 Star)