How a game defines a gamer's life.
"It's-a me! Mario!"
For many people, these words were a call to adventure. Super Mario 64 launched the same day as the Nintendo 64, and really redefined what video games could be. To me, it was much more than a video game. It was a gateway into a world that I’d never fully experienced before. The world of video games.
The Nintendo 64 was my first home console. Until that point, I had been content playing with various handheld games and occasionally playing console games at a friend’s house. I spent an entire summer living with some family friends, and that’s where I first got hooked on video games. We spent hours enjoying Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64, and Yoshi’s Story among others. I can remember closing my eyes at night and still seeing myself racing on a Mario Kart course. I was addicted. Eventually, I had to leave both my friend’s house and their Nintendo 64. I was happy to move back to Maryland, but I missed my friends and all the fun moments we had playing video games together.
My family had just survived a rough move from the West Coast back to the East Coast. Aside from various family issues (which I won’t discuss here), I was a lonely kid living in temporary housing while my parents waited to close on a house. I had plenty of time, but nothing to help pass it. I think my parents realized how tough the move had been on me and decided that now was the time to buy me a Nintendo 64. Upon hearing the news, I was ecstatic. I was going to have my very own Nintendo 64! I waited for the appointed day, then hopped in the car and rode to Wal-mart.
It should be said that my heart was originally set on Yoshi’s Story. I loved the colorful art style, the charming music, and the engaging platforming. For whatever reason (I still don’t know to this day), my parents scoffed at the box art. They suggested I choose Super Mario 64 instead. I didn’t want Super Mario 64, but I didn’t want to test their resolve either. I happily carried both console and game up to the counter and then back home.
The first few days of playing the game were rough going. I wasn’t used to playing with an analog stick, and I lost count of how many times I died trying to cross a bridge or jump on top of an enemy. Suffice to say I became intimately familiar with the game over screen. Yet for all that hard work and countless deaths, I was completely in love with the game.
The level design was impeccable, the controls were tight, and the worlds were memorable and charming. Even my parents couldn’t resist the pull of the game and would often watch me play. I can remember my mom specifically laughing at Mario’s scream every time I fell into hot lava on Lethal Lava Land. It was a game that the whole family could enjoy while at the same time it was a journey that was mine and mine alone.
Super Mario 64 provided an escape from reality at a time when I desperately needed it. When I was playing, I didn’t think about whether I would be able to make new friends or the fact that most of my belongings were in storage. Reality was put on hold while I explored ancient pyramids, underwater pirate wrecks, intricate clocks, and snow-covered mountains. I wasn’t just playing a game, I was immersed in different worlds.
Aside from the spectacular visuals and great level design, the music of Super Mario 64 brought the game to life. From the bombastic (pun intended) hook of Bob-omb Battlefield to the creepy tunes of Big Boo’s Haunt to the chilling chords of Bowser’s stages, Super Mario 64’s score elevated the game and forever etched those melodies into my mind. Don’t believe me? If I say, Dire Dire Docks, you will immediately recall that simple but timeless tune and maybe even envision yourself gently gliding through the water looking for red coins. Koji Kondo’s tracks have inspired a whole generation of artists (like insaneintherainmusic) and his music lives on even today. Put simply, Super Mario 64 would not have been the landmark game that it was without its soundtrack.
Eventually, I beat the game and collected all 120 stars (an achievement that I’m proud of to this day) and from that point on, there was no looking back. I was a bona fide gamer. As I played more games, my tastes changed, and I discovered new genres to explore. Meanwhile, the world of video games kept evolving, graphics kept improving, scores became fully orchestrated, and now we even have virtual reality. That’s all great, but at the end of the day, I don’t need an expensive headset to immerse myself in a different world. I just need a controller, a console, and a great game.
Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Allen Brasch is an aspiring writer who loves good science fiction, fantasy, and horror. When Allen's not writing or gaming, he's talking about all things geeky on his podcast, Devil May Play.