Nintendo Wire's favorite Super Mario 64 courses | Nintendo Wire

Well, we’ve finally gotten a decent look at the next proper entry in the Super Mario series. Super Mario Odyssey could be the game that finally takes Mario back to the wide open, explorable spaces that he’s only really seen in two previous adventures: Super Mario Sunshine and Super Mario 64.

The thought of a sprawling new Mario epic has us thinking back to the most memorable courses from these beloved classics. Today, we’re diving back into our favorite paintings from Mario’s 3D debut on the N64. From snowy bluffs to haunted cellars, these are Nintendo Wire’s favorite courses from Super Mario 64.

Snowman’s Land

Even a hero needs to unwind every now and then and spend some time just playing around in the snow. Let’s see… What should Mario do first? Scale a massive snowman? Navigate an intricate ice sculpture? Maybe explore a frosty underground cavern? All fine choices, but it can be just as rewarding to simply watch the snowflakes fly, slide down some slippery slopes, or have a snowball fight with some sentient snowmen. Whether you’re looking for a real challenge or just a way to unwind, Snowman’s Land has you covered. Just a quick word of caution: Hold onto your hat!

Jolly Roger Bay

by Matthew Weidner

There’s a general consensus in the gaming community regarding the negative qualities of underwater stages that rarely meets much opposition. Typically a frustrating test in patience rife with floaty controls, slow pacing and poor design tropes, Super Mario 64 proves the exception to the rule, oftentimes breathing new life into the tired stereotype. No stage better exemplifies the sense of wonder and intrigue of exploring a vast underwater expanse than Jolly Roger Bay. From exploring sunken pirate ships, avoiding electrifying eels and navigating boobytrapped secret coves, there’s an incredible amount of star variety to be found here, culminating in a Goonie-inspired adventure worthy of Chunk’s famous truffle shuffle. Bonus points for also featuring some of the most memorable music in the entire series, perfectly illustrating the calm, zen-like atmosphere flooding every inch of its whimsically water-filled world.

Tiny-Huge Island

by Ricky Berg

Calling back to Super Mario Bros. 3 usually bodes well, and seeing how 64 pulled it off always puts a smile on my face. When you first spot the painting for Tiny-Huge Island it might not seem so special, but if you try to jump at it you’ll be surprised. Look to your left and look to your right to spot two identical portraits that soon make the nature of this one pretty clear. Using some great forced perspective you’ll find the side pictures are sized differently: one tiny and the other — you guessed it — huge. Jump on in and be amazed as Mario takes on a size-shifting seaside section of the game.

The level itself is pretty straightforward but has some memorable challenges, like a rematch race with Koopa the Quick and a face-off with everyone’s favorite anger-issues riddled caterpillar Wiggler. What sells it is the novelty of a world that’s playable in two different and unique ways. I remember taking the time to spot familiar landmarks in both versions, adding a sense of cohesion to the level design. While size changes are nothing too uncommon within the series (looking at you, Bowser), having it as a key mechanic of a whole world is something that makes Tiny-Huge Island stand out in a little big way.

Big Boo’s Haunt

So you’ve played every Silent Hill and Resident Evil game, and you were unfazed by the horrific sights of Amnesia and Outlast. Big deal, They’ve got nothing on Big Boo’s Haunt. A first glance at Boo’s towering, haunted mansion sends shivers up the spine; and that’s to say nothing of the bone-chilling horrors that lurk within. Mario must navigate a library full of possessed books and risk being devoured by an enraged, carnivorous grand piano. But by far the most unsettling experience is the slow descent into the mansion’s sprawling basement while discordant carnival music swells around you. By the time you face Big Boo himself below the vaulted rafters of the dim and musty attic, you will know the true face of terror. You’ll want to pack an extra pair of overalls for this one.

Tick Tock Clock

by Ricky Berg

If there’s one, single course that captures what I enjoyed most out of Super Mario 64 it would be Tick Tock Clock. Set inside a titanic timepiece, this stage not only tasked players with a vertically oriented level as a platforming challenge, but it also had a bit of outside thinking involved with its design. Rather than a painting, Mario jumps through a clock face to enter, and whatever time is shown on the face determines the speed of the world’s mechanisms. Players could speed up, slow down, and even freeze all the moving parts of the level with this feature. Certain challenges were made easier or more difficult, giving the player a degree of control over their interactions with the stage. It was a perfect blend of gameplay and theming that too many games don’t utilize these days.

As for the world itself, those moving parts I mentioned were sprinkled almost everywhere in this one. They make it one of the trickiest of the entire game as far as finesse goes, keeping Mario and the player on their toes at all times. While it may not be the prettiest stage visually, the way in which everything fits together for the platforming itself reinforces that this is a mechanical, fine-tuned machine. Even in the Mario world that can be a whole lot of fun for hours on end.


Jolly Roger Bay image source

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Written by Brittin Shauers

Brittin literally grew up with Link, Mario and Samus. These three characters and their worlds collectively capture everything that he loves about video games.

Brittin Shauers

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  1. OzGuy says:

    Can you do Sunshine now?

    Reply →