In this series of articles celebrating the upcoming 30th Anniversary of Super Mario, various members of the Nintendo Life extended family will share their memories and thoughts on the iconic franchise. This time we have our super vegan rocker reviewer Jonathan Bee.
I remember very clearly going to Toys'R'Us to play the demo kiosk for Super Mario 64. Like any good Nintendo tyke, I had a subscription to Nintendo Power and had been following the development of the "Ultra 64" with bated breath. Thinking about the promising capabilities of the N64 Disk Drive filled me with anticipation for the upcoming era of gaming. And that crazy controller? I had to try it.
Standing in line and watching other kids play the demo, I was impressed but I wasn't sold. A 3D environment looked intimidating, and I wasn't sure I'd be able to control it properly. When my turn came up and I took the controller in my hand, everything changed. Super Mario 64 completely blew my mind. I remember my mouth literally hanging open – I had never played anything like it! I pretty much just ran Mario in circles until the next kid in line poked me to see if I was still alive. It was so liberating to have a full range of motion that I couldn't get enough of it.
When I finished my session I went straight over to the counter with my pre-order ticket to ensure I had the system on day one. I was 13 years old in 1996, which means it was the first year I had a summer job caddying for a highbrow country club, working for rich people who couldn't be bothered to give a $5 tip to someone who served them for 5 hours on the golf course. I really hated that job, but it gave me expendable income for the first time in my life. And you better believe that went straight to the N64, along with one game: Super Mario 64.
Super Mario 64 was the complete package, and everything fit perfectly in place like pieces of an ornate jigsaw puzzle. The music, the gameplay, the characters, the environments – all of it oozes absolute brilliance. I fell in love with the innovative N64 controller, as it allowed a level of control I had dared not imagine existed. The use of the analogue stick to run in circles or around corners, the ability to adjust camera views with the C buttons, the hidden Z button – it was all just so unique and fresh that it's burned a favourable impression on my brain for life. Today people complain about the camera, but at the time I thought it was astounding.
Super Mario 64 is my favourite game of all time. Nostalgia undoubtedly plays a role in that selection; the N64 was the first console I bought with my own money, and for that reason it will always have a special place in my heart. Heck, I even recently re-bought a Japanese N64 and started acquiring my favourite old games…and I'm not the collecting type. Super Mario 64 continues to stand the test of time as one of the greatest games ever made, and certainly one of the most influential, both in my life and in the industry as a whole.