Super Mario 64 on Windows
Playing the portly plumber's PC port
May 13, 2020
I don’t know about you, but I’m beyond sick of hearing about viruses and social distancing. So it was a welcome surprise to find out that Super Mario 64 was ported to Windows.
This port was not Nintendo sanctioned and quickly had lawyers waving Cease and Desist letters in a futile attempt to remove something from the internet. The zip file is only 6.3 megs so the tiny file can be found plenty of places if one looks for it.
Back in 2019 it was noticed that the American version of Super Mario 64 wasn’t made with full optimizations the way later versions were made. The Nintendo 64 console was when Nintendo developers made the switch from programming in Assembly to programming in C. With Mario 64 being one of the first developed games for the system there was obviously still some learning going on. The fully optimized European version gets 2-4 more frames per second in some areas of the game and with the frame rate dropping down to teens at times every bit helps.
Reverse engineering code is a tricky and painful process of trying to figure out what parts do what. Code that is optimized is even more obfuscated. So when it was discovered the American version of Mario 64 wasn’t optimized interest was high in reverse engineering it. This Windows port is the first thing to come of the reverse engineering project and it likely won’t be the last.
The port uses DirectX 12 so that means Windows 10. It’s a shame that OpenGL or Vulkan wasn’t used for greater portability. The biggest advantage of playing the port is the vastly improved screen resolution. No matter what screen size you play this on it will be significantly better than the paltry 320x240 the Nintendo 64 produced.
The one issue I had was with my Xbox 360 controller. Occassionally Mario ends up tip toeing in a direction even when I wasn’t touching the analog stick. Obviously this could make tricky platforming sections aggravating. It is likely my controller has a bit of wear and tear on it and that a later version of the port might add or increase an analog stick dead zone to fix this problem.
So how does it play? What could I possibly say about this 3D platform defining masterpiece that hasn’t been said thousands of times already? The game holds up. I will say however that the greatest challenge in the game is the constant fighting of the camera system. I had forgotten just how bad the camera was. Still, I had a blast nabbing 70 stars and beating the game.