Review: Super Mario 3D All-Stars, Part 1: Super Mario 64 (Switch)

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It took some time to get through today’s game for review, but I recently finished Super Mario 64, as part of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection on the Nintendo Switch. I will cover the other two games in a separate article for each in the near future, and this article will have links to both when they are finished.

Before we begin, I would like to mention that I was a late adopter of the Nintendo 64 back in the day. I didn’t get the system at launch in the mid nineties, and it was at least a year or two before I got the system, and got to play Super Mario 64. I did eventually play it before the GameCube came around, and I enjoyed it at the time. I do remember that I did replay it at one point before selling my Nintendo 64, and I recall Super Mario 64 was a hard game to replay at the time. Now let’s dive into the review to see if that is still true today.

First let’s look at the gameplay of Super Mario 64. As the series’ first 3D game, there was a lot to work out to make this game relatively fun. Mario is fun to control in this game, with him able to jump, flip, and wall jump around the map at a reasonably quick pace. Mario even has a few secret moves that help with navigating 3D space.

Mario64World
The world of Mario 64 looks dated, but is fun to run around in.

What didn’t help with moving around in 3D space was the limited camera. The Nintendo 64 only used one joystick, so there weren’t good camera controls. As a result, the camera is relatively stiff in this port of this classic game. There are also some platforming sections where the camera tries to keep you moving on a diagonal on a narrow path, and no amount of adjustment leads to a comfortable view of where you are going. These awkward angles are relatively few, but are enough to lead to quite a few frustrating moments.

The main goal in any giving level is to find a star at the end of the level. They are found either in a specific location, after fighting a certain foe, or after completing an unusual task. Interestingly, some stars can be found “out of order” and can be found in a separate mission than the one you are aiming for. This is actually a blessing, as you need a certain number of stars to get to new levels, and without this freedom you would be stuck on a tough mission or obtuse puzzle before you can progress through more of the game.

Mario64Star
To finish a level, Mario must find a star a the end of it.

Earlier in this review, I mentioned that I at one point tried to replay the game a number of years ago, but struggled to get through it. I was running into this same issue for this review, and was running low on motivation, or was unsure which star to tackle next as I ran into a few obstacles that slowed down finishing this game.

Super Mario 64 is a harder game than I remember it being, with some awkwardly placed stars, precarious 3D platforming, or the occasional obscure solution that makes it a partial chore to finish. In addition, each of the three Bowser fights require Mario to throw Bowser in the correct direction into a mine after spinning him around enough. This spinning can happen so fast, the timing feels like trying to stop a slot machine at the right point.

MArio64Bowser
The Bowser fights require really good timing to complete.

Even so, this is still a good game. Mario is a lot of fun to control, and the 3D graphics, while primitive, has some charm for its age. I still have memories of making Mario fly for an hour just to feel that form of freedom. The main concern for this game is that some portions of it aged poorly. The camera in particular is the biggest hassle, while some indecisiveness as to how to move forward can grip some players. The game is still a fun sandbox to move around in, but trying to win or complete the game is less fun.

Recommendations:

  • Explore the game at your own pace. Get used to the controls first and see what Mario can do.
  • Feel free to ignore the harder to find stars as the game opens up.
  • If you are bored enough, simply run around as Mario and see what you can find in the game. (Just don’t do this if you just want to beat the game).
  • If you really have to find everything, find all the stars. I wouldn’t recommend this for all players though, just the most persistent.

Pros:

  • Fun controls.
  • Catchy music.
  • Some freedom to get each star in almost any order.
  • Fun voice acting

Cons:

  • Polygonal graphics (debatably charming, in its own way).
  • Hard to control camera.
  • Some awkward challenges.

Verdict:

8.5/10 A great but somewhat outdated game

Please note, this game’s score is based partially based on nostalgia on my part. On my first play of this game, I enjoyed it more than I do now. Otherwise, the game would be an 8/10. This game could be a 7.5-8.8 based on personal preference and tolerance of somewhat hard 3D games. While groundbreaking for the time, it isn’t exceptionally special by today’s standards.


And that was part one of my coverage of Super Mario 3D All-Stars. What did you make of Super Mario 64? What is your favorite way to move as Mario? What level is your favorite or least favorite? Let me know why in the comments below! If you liked this review, then click that like button and share on social media. To keep up with That’s All Games, you can subscribe via email or WordPress. Until next time, have fun gaming!

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