Mario's first foray into the world of 3D is regarded by many as one of the greatest videogames of all time, and with good reason. It ranks as the first really convincing use of a 3D world in a platform game and it introduced the concept of analogue control to a generation of gamers setting the template for hundreds of imitators. It is hardly surprising that Nintendo would choose this to be the first N64 game made available on the Virtual Console for download.
As usual Princess Peach has been kidnapped by the wicked Bowser and it's your job as Mario to rescue her. The Princess's Palace forms the hub for this great adventure. Each different room contains a canvas which when jumped through will transport you to a rather unique world. A challenge is presented upon entering the world which allows you to gain a star if you are successful in beating the challenge. You can return several times to the same world to complete a new challenge in order to accumulate enough stars to open some of the more elusive locked doors and eventually confront Bowser face to face.
The variety of Super Mario 64 is probably its greatest genius. You can race a giant penguin down an icy slope, plunder a sunken ship, scale twisting towers and have adventures in desert pyramids. You will not get bored quickly that's for sure. 3D platform games can often be hampered by a ropey in-game camera, but there are no such problems here – the viewing angle is always superb for keeping you in the action and assisting with traversing more complex environments.
Finishing the game won't take you too long but as with most Mario games that's not really the point, it will take you weeks (and quite possibly months) to discover all the secrets contained within this game. The Virtual Console incarnation of this game is probably the best way to play it now. The controls are as good as they ever were using a Gamecube or classic controller, so if you don't want to dig out the old N64 from the loft this is a much better alternative than the DS version with its broken controls. For 1000 Wii points this is a great bargain and comes highly recommended.