Why I’d much rather be collecting stars in Super Mario 64 than questing in Skyrim right now

OMFG, I am having the worst, worst, worst time with Skyrim right now.  I found a couple more hours to play the other day, and I really couldn’t stand it, and I mean everything about it.  The insufferable quest that I couldn’t figure out, my character, Lydia, all the annoying NPCs, my inability to navigate, all of it.  I’ve barely made the tiniest of dents in the game and I am about ready to give up *sigh*.

My thought exactly. (source)

This ordeal has me severely questioning my current relationship with video games, so much so that it’s given me a week-long headache (or maybe it’s just allergies).  Allow me a few thoughts to clear my head…

Modern action/adventure RPG video games, the likes of GTA IV, Skyrim, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and L.A. Noire, which have consumed my play since at least 2008, require a lot of investment.  Developers put tons and tons effort of into these games; and rightly so, they expect that gamers will put tons and tons of time into playing them, and most of us probably, generally do.  So when you don’t play one of these games for an extended period of time, it’s easy to loose track of a story that’s so very entrenched in the gameplay — this is where I am with Skyrim.   After almost two months of not playing it, I just couldn’t remember what was going on, the warring, who hated who, why I had Lydia, and such, so I just ended up trying to find my way around according to the most recent active quest – it all felt aimless and pointless.  In the past, I had had several hours a week to devote to gaming; but life has changed and now I don’t have that kind of time, and it feels like a physical part of me is being torn away and shot into oblivion.  It’s painful, confusing, and depressing…like withdrawal.  And it sucks.  Part of me really, really, really doesn’t want to give up on questing, but I think I have to, for now anyway.  Our 360 is nearly dead, so I’m not getting ME3 anytime soon.  A change might be good…maybe.  I still have yet to figure out my perfect trio in Ultimate Marvel v. Capcom 3, and I still have to work through the Catwoman scenarios in Arkham City.  And I’ve got some Wii points to spend.  Yes, change.  It’s alright.  Everything is going to be fine.

Which brings me to a game that usually come to mind to help bring me out of a depressed state: Super Mario 64 – my most favoritest Mario game of them all.  I wish I had thought to keep my good ol’ N64 back in the early 2000s when we traded up for a Gamecube.  I need a damn time machine, people!  Get on it!   Okay, okay…I’ll just go to the Wii shop, jeez.

Super Mario 64 cover art © Nintendo (source)

Though Mario has had a good run since (and before) this 1996 gem, no game in my mind compares to its imaginative levels and most awesome gameplay.  It is also the one and only Mario game for which I achieved 100% completion.  That’s right — every star, every secret, they were all mine.

Mine! (source)

A few story spoilers ahead, but nothing monumental.

Super Mario 64 told the story of Mario’s endeavor to once again save Princess Peach from Bowser’s horrible clutches  Only this time, there was just ONE castle and Peach WAS in it…sorta. She was in one of the many worlds that were accessible from the castle.  Peach’s castle served as the gateway to 15 different levels that followed the usual conventions.  There was a sky level, a snow level, a desert level, a spooky level, a water level, and so on, and all of them were reachable via secret portals hidden in and around Peach’s castle.  But Mario didn’t simply jaunt from one world to the next, jumping on the occasional goombah.  Your task in each level was to retreive the hidden Power Stars, seven in each level, and a total of 120 throughout the game.   This meant that you had to visit each level at least seven times because each time you found a star in any given level, you had to start it over to find the next star.  Some stars were very easy to find; others took some doing, being well-hidden or tricky to get.  You didn’t necessarily have to find the stars in order (some were easy to inadvertently stumble across), and you didn’t have to get all of them to complete the game.

Another great thing about the game – the sounds and vocalizations. You couldn’t not help reunite this penguin mama with her babies after hearing her sad, trombone-like plea. (source)

I played through SM64, like, a million times (or maybe just several), and each time the game just got better and better.  For me, the best things about the game were the fantastic level designs.  Each level contained secret passages and separate sections that were not always readily apparent.  There was nothing more awesome than finding a new part to a level and trying to defeat it.  It made the game seem new 120 times over (and there were a few secret levels as well)!  Of course, some levels were easier than others, and it was easy to find yourself going in circles, but the game never felt impossible.  Challenging, yes, because you did have to master every action in Mario’s arsenal to make it to each star.  The triple jump, the wall kick, the backflip, they were all there and necessary.

I give him a 10 for the layout, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to end well. (source)

Controlling Mario in the colorful landscape was really just brilliant.  SM64 introduced many of us to the world of 3D play, and it couldn’t have been more fantastic!  Each level felt open and large.  And you could explore with ease.  No time limits here – peruse the levels all you liked, over and over and over!  The N64’s swanky new controller with an analog stick meant you could move Mario with ease, seamlessly around each level.  (And you could make him run in circles till he got dizzy, teehee!)  You also had some control over the camera, which was also a fairly new feature in any game at the time.  Though it wasn’t perfect, it was soooooo nice to be able to tailor the view you needed to get to a particular spot.  Sure, I fell off plenty of ledges and died a bunch, but it was all in the name of fun! fun! fun!  My most favorite level was Tiny-Huge Island, because you got to explore the level in two completely different ways!  (For those that played the game, what was your favorite level?  Did you hate the penguin race as much as me?  Did you, upon finally beating it, accidentally let loose your controller into the wall with excitement that knew no bounds?  Uh…maybe that was just me.)

It’s called Tiny-Huge Island for a reason. (source)

Super Mario 64 was an excellent and all-around great 3D platformer; a  classic in which all the elements – story, controls, and sounds and music – were brought together in perfect form, and without any flashy stylization or risqué behaviors.  As much as I love modern games (and I do…even Skyrim), I wish there were more games like this today — games that are plain ol’ fun, offered a challenge, and didn’t require all the time in the world to play.  Only got 15 minutes to spare?  Why not find a star?  Waiting for your friend to arrive?  That’s a good time to find a star.  Is the baseball game in a rain delay?  Well then, go find a star!

You know you want to.

Pure satisfaction. (source)


  1. My favorite level is NOT Tiny-Huge Island. It’s Tick Tock Clock. And I beat the penguin on my first try. It was Tower of the Wing Cap I hated. But great review!


  2. Modern games often leave me feeling cold. Although I am looking forward to Guild Wars 2.

    Mario 64 is one of the best games out there. There is just so much to do and all of it fun.

    It would do us well to go back and replay old games. I still consider the Super Nintendo era the golden age of gaming…especially RPGs.


    • The N64 was a truly fantastic console from Nintendo’s heyday. It offered a little of everything for everyone. (I had the thing for several years but oh, how much I missed out on!) It’s too bad that today’s consoles are somewhat pigeonholed into “categories” — the PS3 is for hardcore gamers, the Wii is for kids, etc. — because a great game is a great game, no matter the console.


  3. It’s a testament to how well SM64 was designed that it still plays so well more than a decade later. Sure, the graphics look pretty aged, but the gameplay itself is rock solid.


    • Indeed! So the graphics weren’t perfect…I’ll take great level design and decent controls over “pretty” any day.


  4. That game used to be one of my worst enemies. I was so bad at it. Every time I played, I’d get more stars than last time, but still not enough to beat the game. Finally, a few years ago, I decided this game would terrorize me no longer. I was going to finish it. And finish it, I did. With 100%.
    I agree about the games that take forever. For me, those games are Final Fantasy. I like good stories, but I don’t like when games expect you to have several hours at a time to get through something. I really don’t like when levels take forever, there’s a zillion long cutscenes you can’t skip, and then a tough boss beats you and you must redo it all over again. There’s a reason I’ll always like simpler games like Zelda more than Final Fantasy. If I only have a short time to play in Zelda, I’ll make progress, save everything I did, and I’m good to stop. In FF, you take the risk of having to stop and redo everything you couldn’t save at another time. And I completely forgot the story in FFXII. It likely made me feel like you do with Skyrim. I played everyday, but the game took so darn long, I had no idea why I was going somewhere other than the fact that someone said to. I nearly stopped buying FF games because of this, and this is why I’m sometimes reluctant about buying RPG’s.


    • Congrats on finishing SM64! For me, it was not an easy 100% completion either. I played it several times over before finally getting everything, and it certainly was not without frustration.

      The RPG issue is still unsettling – because of my “seeming” devotion to them over the past several years, I’ve sorta forced myself to become out of touch with other kinds of games. Now it feels like I to need to either play older games that I loved or start anew. It’s silly to be so nervous (in a good way) about that, but I guess it’s as good a time as any to take step in a different direction. (In one of our game supplies/accessories boxes, I just recently found a copy of Twilight Princess! I have no idea where it came from since I know I got rid of our copy years ago, but maybe it’s a sign…)


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