Remember that port of Mario 64 that nobody played because it was illegal, and now Nintendo is cracking down on it with their lawyers? Well, it turns out that Nintendo’s legal action wasn’t enough to stop a thriving community of PC modders making their own changes and improvements to the Nintendo 64 classic.
The port itself was created to be used without any need to depend on an emulator, meaning that theoretically you could download it, install it and play it all from the EXE file itself – no need to boot up and tinker with anything like Dolphin software to get it running.
And, whilst I joke, Nintendo didn’t slouch on the response to their game turning up on PC available to download for free. Their lawyers started targeting sites and users that were directly responsible for creating or spreading the download of the game – not surprising, but once Pandora’s Box is opened on the internet, there is no closing it again.
Mario 64 on PC isn’t a direct port either. The game is capable of being played at much higher resolutions than the original console version, capable of supporting ultra-4K or even ultra-widescreen modes, with improved framerates and support of controllers all included.
But, as we said, the modding community is now having their way with the game, introducing all sorts of third party elements that are dragging the 64 classic into the modern era of gaming – even after it defined its own.
You can download reshade elements into the game that make limited elements of ray tracing a possibility, you can integrate texture filtering, cheats – and now, thanks to teams of modders, you can download modern-day graphical texture packs into the game (or real-world textures), making the game look in line with Super Mario Odyssey rather than the spikey Nintendo 64 look.
It’s a real testament to the commitment of the modding community that they can make something as graphically outdated as Mario 64 look in line with modern-day games – letting newcomers to the series enjoy the game for the platforming masterpiece that it is, rather than getting distracted by what younger gamers would call ‘bad graphics’.
You also have to ask the question ‘what’s next’ in terms of PC ports of Mario games. We are sure that right now there are modders sat working quietly on titles like Mario Sunshine or Galaxy quietly as a pet project, ready to shadow drop them online at a moments notice just as the 64 port was, and then swiftly get targeted by Nintendo’s lawyers. Still, I think its exciting to see the raw talent of the PC gaming community working towards what they love, and It will be fun to watch what's next for the varied, talented and weird world of mod development.