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 dashing reviewer Steve Bowling.
Back in June of 1996, there was only one thing 14-year-old me cared about: Super Mario 64. I had spent all the year prior saving every last penny I could to import a Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64.
When the console finally arrived on my doorstep, I got to hooking everything up and sitting down to enjoy the fruits of a year's worth of mowing lawns and walking dogs. I had enjoyed Mario games before, but Super Mario 64 was the first one I loved.
The first time I dropped onto Bob-omb Battlefield, I was floored. Jumping into paintings and exploring Super Mario 64's version of the Mushroom Kingdom feels as magical today as it did 19 (gasp!) years ago.
Over the next few weeks I spent every waking moment exploring Mario's new 3D digs. I marvelled at the sunken wreckage in Jolly Roger Bay. I trepidatiously ran circles around Mr. I in Big Boo's Haunt and explored the inside of the volcano in Lethal Lava Land.
One fateful morning, at around 2:30, I collected my hundredth coin in Tick Tock Clock and there it was, my 120th star. At this point, despite being one of the few kids in the West that had a Nintendo 64, I knew what to expect. Spending every moment I couldn't be on my N64 browsing Super Mario 64-related articles on an AOL dial-up connection ensured there was no way I could remain spoiler-free. I wanted to cheer and shout, but settled on silently throwing my hands up in the air, as I was sure I would have met with a number of unwanted questions had my parents discovered how late I was up. I excitedly collected my final star and ran outside to find the cannon. I met Yoshi and got my new flip, along with all those lives.
My next stop was Bowser, by this point I had become a Mario 64 pro. I ran, long-jumped and flipped my way through Bowser in the Sky without ever breaking my stride. When I confronted The Koopa King for our final battle I dispatched him with ease, as I had done so many times before.
I couldn't read Japanese at the time, but after having seen Bowser's final dialogue so many times I could tell he had told me something different. I was overjoyed that I had gotten Super Mario 64's "true" ending, even if I didn't understand it.
Super Mario 64 showed me just how special Nintendo's iconic plumber was. I spent the rest of that Summer playing through Mario's old adventures with a newfound appreciation. I breezed through Super Mario Bros., took my time finding all the warps in Super Mario Bros. 2, and obsessed over the Hammer Bros. suit in Super Mario Bros. 3. I had to go out and rent Super Mario World, the only title I didn't own at the time. I got all the way through it just in time for the new school year to start, and I cursed myself for not having enjoyed them properly when I first played them. Super Mario 64 had opened my eyes to just how amazing the series was as a whole. Since then, I haven't missed a single Mario game.
Mario games will always have a special place in my heart as a gamer and Nintendo fan, but Super Mario 64 will always be chief among them.