There are several new mods made for the unofficial PC version of Mario 64, adding features that would have never been possible had this game remained locked to the original N64 format. Using the capabilities of modern gaming PCs, the game can be overhauled to take advantage of far more powerful hardware. The N64 was a great machine in the mid-90s, but even the most modest gaming PC from the present day is many times more powerful.
This fan-made PC port of Mario 64, based on a team of people decompiling the original game, has already had features like support for ultrawide monitors, robust controller support, and framerates of up to 60fps, but people are just getting started with implementing new features into this new PC version of Mario 64.
Here are some of the latest features.
HD Model Pack
Modders have been hard at work recreating many of the games key assets, replacing the basic low polygon count versions from the original game, with much more rounded and crisp looking versions. So far they’ve recreated Mario himself, many of the enemies, and the handful of NPCs.
Dubbed “SGI Project”, they’re trying to recreate the look of artwork created for the game by SGI Silicon Graphics, high-end 3D rendering computers that were used to create rendered artwork for the original game, for use in promotional artwork and such.
It’s still very much a work in progress, but if you’re interested in watching this mod progress, you can follow it over on Twitter.
No Drawing Distance
As a pioneering 3D platformer, when creating the original game, Nintendo had to squeeze every bit of performance they could out of the N64 hardware, and one way to improve efficiency was to use a limited draw distance. Essentially, when game objects are far enough away from the player, it stops rendering them. This allowed them to improve the detail of close objects without wasting resources on far away ones. It’s a worthwhile compromise and was originally a smart approach, but with the amount of memory available on modern gaming PCs, it is not necessary for this new PC port of the game. There is a mod that disables this entirely, meaning that all game objects, including those in the far distance, remain rendered. Especially when you are playing the game on high-resolution monitors, you can really see the difference, and it just helps the game look and feel more expansive. Had this been possible with the original release, I’m sure Nintendo would have tried similar, but it’s great that we can get to play this classic game without the same limitations in place, all these years later.
No Drawing Distance is an option that has been implemented in sm64pcBuilder2, a tool for building your own version of Mario 64, provided you are able to provide your own legally acquired ROM.
Not something with any practical usage currently, but this is still an interesting curiosity, even if the video footage is unintentionally extremely unsettling. By removing any framerate cap, we can get an idea for just how fast the game can run. On a system with a GTX 1080 GPU, and an Intel i7 7700k, we can see the game hitting framerates in excess of 1000fps. The game logic is tied to the framerate, meaning that the game speeds up to match the framerate when played like this, but there’s scope for another mod to decouple game logic and rendering framerate down the line, and possibly using animation interpolation, so this game could feasibly be buttery smooth on high framerate displays. In the meantime, it’s a fun benchmarking tool and something that could likely get expanded on in the future.
These mods give us a taste of what the various different members of the mod community surrounding Mario 64 can produce in a short amount of time, we’re excited to see what else might be possible down the line.