For players of a certain age, the Nintendo 64 is a sacred monument to nostalgia. However, the system’s low-poly aesthetics and obvious technical limitations can make revisiting beloved games like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and Banjo-Kazooie a shock. This inspired one group of modders from trying to create an improved version of Super Mario 64 that isn’t based on modern standards of graphical fidelity. Instead, they’re recreating the colorful, ultra-saturated art renders from the game’s promotional materials.
“I was amazed to see the ’90s promotional renders being given new life and actually playing the game with them,” says Render96 project lead “DorfDork.” “It’s still a surreal experience for me.”
Though Super Mario 64 is famous as the game that introduced true 3D platforming to the masses, it has remained relevant through the intervening years due to its competitive, hype-filled speedrunning scene. The game’s modding community has existed for decades in a primordial form, primarily working through emulators like Project64. The release of an unofficial PC port of the game in 2020 reignited interest in hacks and level packs, allowing a new generation of modders to play around with it far more easily than ever before.
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Author: Steven T. Wright