Super Trendsetter 64

19 years ago, the famous fictional Italian plumber appeared in a game that launched with the gaming system known as the Nintendo 64. Super Mario 64 was the plumber’s first 3D platformer and it was also the same game that revolutionized the genre of 3D platforming. As many of you know, the Super Mario series was filled with 2D platformers before the release of the Nintendo 64 game, so the transition was something completely different and unexplored.


N64 controller
The Nintendo 64 Controller. Analog stick is in the middle and the C buttons are the 4 yellow buttons.

Games before Super Mario 64 always had a camera that was fixed, so that player could not interact with it and change the angle while playing the game. Another reason for the fixed camera was the controllers that games used did not have a secondary method of inputting direction, but in Super Mario 64, you can control both Mario and Lakitu (the camera). You can make Mario move in more than just 8 directions with the help of an analog stick. The addition of an analog stick also added newer mechanics to the platformer genre to help you explore the vast worlds and levels that come with them. Some of these newer mechanics that Mario can use with the help of the new 3d environment are flipping, triple jumping, and few other acrobatic-like moves a break-dancing kick.

A GIF of Lakitu in action with the help of a mirror.

The camera helps with exploring the different worlds as well and in Super Mario 64’s case; it definitely helps with finding the right path to get the Power Stars. With it, you can zoom in and out and look up, down, left, and right with the help of the C buttons. That camera also moves on its own in order to get the best view for the player, so you would not have any problem with funky camera angles. You see these various mechanics in many 3D games today and many people love them and have no problem with them. However, for the people in 1996 who grew up with 2D games were a bit afraid to play games that were drastically different from their sidescrollers.

Eventually, the players transitioned over and got accustomed to being able to control the camera and other developers, like Rare for example, implemented the same camera control that Super Mario 64 used in their game, Conker’s Bad Fur Day. You can find where the developers talk about it in this video here here.


To conclude, without Super Mario 64 and the bravery to transform a 2D series into a 3D one, we would not have the fluid camera control and precise character control that we see and play in a lot of the game this generation. Imagine how you favorite 3D game would differ if it was a 2D game and how its mechanics would be limited.

  7 comments for “Super Trendsetter 64

  1. quigles
    March 20, 2015 at 12:25 am

    Mario 64 is a great 3D platformer, and one of my favorites on the Nintendo 64. I remember playing it with my older sisters back when the N64 was the new console on the block and just being baffled by it. I previously owned the Mario All-Stars Pack for the Super Nintendo, so going from 2D Mario to 3D Mario right when the transition happened just blew me away. Super Mario 64 was everything I loved about the 2D Mario games now complete with a z-axis, and to go from a 2D game to a 3D one as smoothly as Mario did is what makes him and the game such a technical marvel. And looking back, Mario was one of the only characters to make the jump into 3D immediately and have such wide acclaim. Sonic had to wait until the Dreamcast to get his first fully 3D game, Earthworm Jim and Castlevania’s 3D jump was less than successful, (unpopular opinion warning) Final Fantasy VII and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were not that great in my honest opinion (although I am aware of these games’ widespread, and understandable, love), and Bubsy 3D, well, we do not talk about Bubsy 3D. All in all, Super Mario 64 is a fantastic game and is, as your title suggests, a trendsetter. I still say the game can hold a candle to most platformers today both 2D and 3D alike.

  2. aicee
    March 20, 2015 at 12:57 am

    I really enjoyed learning about this, because while I knew some of this, most of this was pretty new information to me. Games that immediately come to my mind and I use to parallel my own perspectives (haha puns) are (of course) games that I’m more familiar with, for example a few different Zelda games and the Monster Hunter series. I realize this is a segue, but every time I consider perspective in video games I think about how that game chooses to portray battling, whether it is simply an encounter or whether there is a transition to a battle screen (like Zelda verses Pokemon). Thinking on games like Mario and camera and dimensional perspective, I am a little surprised that Paper Mario did not come up; I really would have liked for some of the other Mario games that utilize different perspectives (or even different battling styles that also utilize different perspectives like encountering enemies on a platform level verses 3D turn based battles [Paper Mario and Mario and Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story]) to come up just to continue the ideas you presented in the last paragraph of influencing future games.

  3. kmorgan4
    March 20, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I never knew that Super Mario 64 was the front runner for the range of 3D camera angles we have today. I had also not actually played this game until this past January. I remember that it felt similar in mechanics and style to some of the games I played in my youth on the N64, like Glover and Pokemon Snap. Both of those are examples of a 3D world, and Pokemon Snap has pretty good camera dynamics from what I can remember. I wonder, how do these games fall on a time line? I would really like to know more about the dynamic that occurred with game developers after Super Mario 64 was released.

  4. jblocky
    March 20, 2015 at 11:41 am

    It’s hard to imagine what the gaming world would be like without Mario. He is one the most, if not the most recognizable characters in video games. His leap to 3D platformming was indeed a very important step in game development. I enjoyed reading about the new mechanics of 3D platformming compared to 2D, because almost every game I play is 3D. I liked seeing how these game mechanics developed over time, but I would have liked to see more recent examples of 3D Mario games as well as Super Mario 64. This way, we could look at how 3D platformming has evolved in the past 19 years. Another interesting question could be, what would gaming be like today if Mario hadn’t been the trendsetter? What if Megaman was the pioneer? Would he be the most recognizable game character?

  5. amandariffe1
    March 21, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    The only 3D Mario game I’ve ever played is Super Mario Galaxy on the Wii, but before that, it was good ol’ 2D Super Mario Bro’s (Allstar) for the Super Nintendo. So even though I have not played Mario 64, I can definitely testify to the fact that going from 2D to 3D was a major jump. I was unsure about the Wii for a while, not so much in terms of Wii Sports or anything like that, but for older games like Mario. Luckily, the Wii remote is just a different variation of the Super Nintendo and gameboy controls, so it wasn’t too much of a challenge of maneuvering. But learning the different abilities he had? That was hard.

    If you were to ask me what my favorite Mario game was, it would be Mario Bro’s 3 hands down, but now I do enjoy 3D Mario games. Except, I’m not so sure how I would like the N64. Although I’ve never played Mario 64, I’ve played a few other games, and the controllers are set up so oddly.

  6. April 2, 2015 at 2:44 pm

    Since I have just recently watched and played some of Super Mario 64, this was a really interesting read! Knowing that this game broke new ground without a fixed camera is and included Lakitu as a way to explain the mechanic is fascinating to consider. Rather than just including a set of instructions as part of an in game tutorial, the game tried to make the camera movement much more user friendly by introducing a secondary character they are in control of within the game.

    I really enjoy the addition of Lakitu filming as well in that Mario has always had a ‘staged’ feel to its design. The overly cartoony look, plus the moving backdrop running behind Mario most notably looks like a stage in Super Mario Bros 3. The backdrop looks similar to a set, and there is a curtain occasionally frames the screen, which both has the player believing they are staging a play for Mario and co! Lakitu only expands the idea that this fictional world is aware of it’s fictionality, and I absolutely love the design choice to include him in this way!

  7. mgaughan
    April 2, 2015 at 11:35 pm

    The camera control really is something we take for granted nowadays but I feel that is mainly because of the advanced gameplay we have now. Back in the days of Super Mario Bros, Castlevania, and The Legend of Zelda (the first one), there was no need for changing any camera angles because gameplay was so simple it did not need it. Now, with games like Super Mario Galaxy, Castlevania Lords of Shadow, and Skyward Sword, the player has to do more than simply run, jump, whip, and sword; they must also shoot, grapple, dowse, and swim, and all in three dimensions! We have never really seen it (except for Super Mario 64) but camera control has been with us the whole way and until a game can be made where the player has complete 360 view of everything happening, I just hope it will stay with us.

Leave a Reply