It took some time, but with the release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars we got an official version of Super Mario 64 that was fully modernised for the HD era, to a degree. It retained its original screen ratio and ran at 30fps, but Nintendo did nonetheless sharpen up the visuals and produce what is arguably the definitive official version of the game.
Of course, Super Mario 64 is a game that draws in lots of modders, programmers and enthusiasts. A rather eye-opening unofficial project is from Daríosamo with additional elements provided by Render96; the goal is to make a version of the game that is fully ray traced, and Digital Foundry has been checking it out.
Ray tracing is an impressive lighting feature that, in reality, has become a bit of a corporate buzzword thrown around by Sony and Microsoft when promoting their hulking new beasts of consoles. In reality, a good number of implementations of the tech in console games, to date, have been half measures. It still looks great when used well on PS5 / Xbox Series X, but full-fat ray tracing is still often the preserve of those with expensive PC rigs. Of course, in the enthusiast space, you get examples like the Super Mario 64 project.
It’s worth noting, before the usual Nintendo Ninja comments start, that Digital Foundry said the following about the legalities of this.
First up, a word on the origins of the PC port of Super Mario 64. The original N64 title was decompiled and source code made available, resulting in a number of ports for various platforms, including – ironically – Nintendo Switch. As it’s open source, contributors are welcome to launch their own forks and add functionality to the game, which is exactly what Darío has done here with his ray traced version. In terms of legalities, the source code is readily available, and it’s only compiled executables that tend to incur the wrath of Nintendo. It’s perfectly possible to play a very good PC port of Super Mario 64 and this new RT alternative, but you’ll have to compile the code yourself.
So, chill out.
As a concept it’s an interesting implementation of the technology with an old classic. Check out the video below.
It’s fun to see this sort of thing in action, and an insight into the effort and talent that’s often working away in the gaming corners of the web.
Let us know what you think in the comments!