Among the most acclaimed of all Nintendo’s family-friendly frolics (or, indeed, anybody else’s), it’s Super Mario 64. When the N64 was unleashed to gleefully strike the wallets of our more youthful, less middle age spread-y selves right in the faux-leather gonads with the sheer splendor of its plastic fantastic majesty in 1996, what bountiful crop of gaming nirvana awaited our tremulous fingers? Prepare yourself for this, because you may -may- shit: A meager two games. One of which was Pilotwings 64, but no shits were given about that when the moustachioed maestro was also on offer.
“Cruise about on a flamboyantly camp primary-colored glider, like something Elton John would fly to make a dramatic entrance to one of his glitzy champagne-and-man-love cocktail parties? Nuts to that, I want Mario.” That is what early Nintendo 64 adopters said. And they were right.
This iteration was the first to give a sense of exploration, of grandeur, to the exploits of the portly plumber with the brown sewer detritus on his dungarees (shit stains which will not be expunged, incidentally, however vigorously the Mushroom Kingdom laundrette, Turtle-y Clean, scrubs). The linear approach that’s always inherent in run with crazy haste from left to right, like Usain Bolt with his wang on fire platforming is abandoned with the liberating new wider areas.
Which is not to say that the joyous, relentlessly endearing and quirky elements of the ‘obstacle courses’ of yore have been sacrificed. Grabbing that baby penguin by the ass at the very apex of Cool, Cool Mountain and following the precarious path to its mother, or swinging Bowser by the hindquarters to gather sufficient momentum to propel him onto a bomb of some sort (causing him to explode in a huge, blood-leaking mess of reptilian bone-fragments. “Mamma Mia, there’s a stray eyeball and a couple of green pubes on my horrendous mustache!”) aren’t the kind of capers you could have indulged in with prior installments of the Mushroom Kingdom saga.
Super Mario 64 was the most prolific seller on the console, and a remarkable benchmark for what could be achieved in the fledgling world of ACTUAL GODDAMN POLYGONS (Take that, Lara Croft and your Oh, sorry, did my nipple just lacerate your cornea triangular chesticles!). It also paved the way for the much-vaunted Super Mario Galaxy, and marks the first time we were granted the ability to punch those bastard Goombas right in the face.