Remembering Super Mario 64 DS

A great Super Mario 64 port already exists, on the Nintendo DS by Ana Diaz for Polygon

True fans have been asking for the King to return. The impending release of the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection has had me walking down memory lane back to the summer after the release of Nintendogs in April 2004. I was getting ready to get my own DS and was extremely excited. One day after church, my Dad took me around town in his truck looking for an Electric Blue Nintendo DS just like my friend had gotten for his birthday. The plan was to buy the Electric Blue DS bundled with Super Mario 64 DS and snag a copy of Nintendogs too.

Unfortunately, the Electric Blue DS was a hot commodity in the summer of 2004 and every store we stopped at was sold out. Our last stop was a Walmart and they too were sold out, but they did have a Titanium Silver DS bundled with the Metroid Prime Hunters: First Hunt demo. I decided to buy that system instead of waiting to find the Electric Blue. This decision did force me to chose between Super Mario 64 DS and Nintendogs thought; two games I was incredibly eager to play. I ended up choosing Super Mario 64 DS and would end up getting Nintendogs later on.

I had played Super Mario 64 before at neighbor kids’ houses, but I never owned it myself (and wouldn’t until I bought it in college for $15). This portable remaster/upgrade was my first real introduction to the game. I must have played over 100 hours between the main game and all the multiplayer minigames with my friends. I absolutely loved this game growing up.

After the announcement of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, I decided to download a copy of Super Mario 64 DS on my Wii U. You read that right. The Wii U has a nicely curated selection of Nintendo DS games for $9.99 or less. I was fiddling around with the game, capturing some footage, and I realized how much this portable version actually changed from the N64 original. Ana Diaz puts highlights the changes in the linked post:

Mario 64 DS wasn’t just a carbon copy of the Nintendo 64 game. It added a plethora of new content. This included a whopping 30 new stars, entirely new areas, and secret stars. It brought in Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario as playable characters. It also boasted a catalog of 36 touchscreen-based minigames. Those are just some of the highlights.

I’m not here to say that more content is inherently better. What made this port work was that the new content enhanced and improved on the experience of the original game.

This strikes me as the kinda of remake in the same vein as Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes. When remaking Metal Gear Solid for the GameCube, Silicon Knights decided to fuse the gameplay from Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty with the original game’s setting and plot. While not necessarily a graphical powerhouse upgrade over the original, Super Mario 64 DS does add new gameplay elements and modernizes some of the original game while keeping its spirit. The one star per level structure was always a perfect format for portable play and Peach’s Castle shined on the DS.

It really is a bummer that Super Mario 64 DS really has never been properly acknowledged after its initial release. Maybe if Nintendo ever decides to truly remake Super Mario 64 (maybe with the Super Mario Odyssey engine), they’ll turn to the DS version instead as their foundation.