By Timothy Geigner
I’m lucky enough to own a decades old Nintendo 64 and a handful of games, including the classic Mario 64. My kids love that game. Still, the first thing they asked when I showed it to them the first time is why the screen was letterboxed, why the characters looked like they were made of lego blocks, and why I needed weird cords to plug it all into the flat screen television. The answer to these spoiled monsters’ questions, of course, is that the game is super old and wasn’t meant to be played on modern televisions. It’s the story of a lot of older games, though many PC games at least have a healthy modding community that will take classics and get them working on present day hardware. Consoles don’t have that luxury.
Well, usually, that is. It turns out that enough folks were interested in modernizing Mario 64 that a group of fans managed to pull off porting it to PC. And, because this is a port and not emulation, they managed to update it to run in 4k graphics and added a ton of modern visual effects.
Last year, Super Mario 64’s N64 code was reverse-engineered by fans, allowing for all kinds of new and exciting things to be done with Nintendo’s 1996 classic. Like building a completely new PC port of the game, which can run in 4K and ultra-wide resolutions.
This is a very new and cool thing! Previously, if you were playing Super Mario 64 on PC, you were playing via emulation, as your PC ran code pretending to be an N64. This game is made specifically for the PC, built from the ground up, meaning it not only runs like a dream, but even supports mod stuff like ReShade, allowing for graphical tweaks (like the distance blur seen here).
As you’ll see, the video the Kotaku post is referencing can’t be embedded here because Nintendo already took it down. Instead, I’ll use another video that hasn’t been taken down at the time of this writing, so you can see just how great this looks.
In addition to videos of the project, Nintendo has also been busy firing off legal salvos to get download links for the PC port of the game taken down from wherever it can find them. Now, while Nintendo’s reputation for IP protectionism is such that it would almost certainly take this fan project down under virtually any circumstances, it is also worth noting that the company has a planned re-release of Mario 64 for its latest Nintendo console. That likely only supercharged the speed with which it is trying to disappear this labor of love from fans of an antiquated game that have since moved on to gaming on their PCs.
But why should the company do this? Nintendo consoles are known for many things, including user-friendly gaming and colorful games geared generally towards younger audiences. You know, exactly not the people who would take it on themselves to get an old Mario game working on their PC instead of a Nintendo console. What threat does this PC port from fans represent to Nintendo revenue? It’s hard to imagine that threat is anything substantial.
And, yet, here we are anyway. Nintendo, after all, doesn’t seem to be able to help itself.