The Shortest Look at Mechanics and Difficulty of Super Mario 64 (1996, Nintendo 64)

Super Mario 64 is one of the first video games I ever played. I remember the holiday season my brother got a Nintendo 64, along with games like Cruis’n World, GoldenEye 007, and Super Mario 64. I’m pretty sure I played on the system more than he did…

The core mechanics of Super Mario 64 are platform movement, jumping, collection, limited discovery, racing, and puzzle solving.

Of the things that provide challenge, many goals in the game are made more difficult when the player must react with quick precision in response to the game’s world momentum (gravity often pulls Mario in a direction pretty quickly). The goals are made easier because most tasks can be repeated without consequence if the player fails. For example, in the world Bomb Omb Battlefield, Mario maneuvers around large bombs that are rolling down a mountain to get to the top. About halfway up, there is a slope leading down to the bottom of the mountain, enticing the player with a special red coin. As Mario slides down the slope, his momentum becomes faster and if the player isn’t in line with the coin to start, they will miss it and slide all the way down with no reward. However, they don’t take any damage and this course isn’t timed, so the player can try as many times as they wish without hurting their chances of surviving the rest of the game.

In Super Mario 64, the best player is the one who maxes out all their goals to collect the most stars and red coins, both of which unlock additional content that is not part of the core game once the player has collected a certain amount.

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