On Christmas morning of 1996, the first level of Super Mario 64 was blowing the minds of millions of kids around the world simultaneously.
It looks a bit rough around the edges nearly 20 years later — but it’s still truly excellent. And now it’s been remade in glorious HD.
Now, don’t go looking for Nintendo’s official stamp of approval, here: it’s a fan-project, of sorts. It was built by Unity developer Erik Roystan Ross to show off his custom character controller — which, if you’re into Unity, you can check out here.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve replayed the original version of this level; even if I had an exact count, I’d probably be embarrassed to say. Let’s just estimate it at “hundreds”.
Here’s what it looks like in action:
The remake isn’t one-to-one, but it’s close. Close enough that navigating the level from that decades-old memory map was a breeze. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the visuals.
But some things were removed for the sake of expediency, since Erik has no plans to expand the remake beyond this first level. The massive Chain Chomp that downright terrified me as a kid as gone; there are no red coins to be found; there is no Big Bob-omb waiting to battle at the top of the hill.
But there are Goombas a-plenty, steel balls a-rollin’, and lots of things to explore.
And getting to explore is pretty easy, no matter what platform you’re on. Since it was built on Unity, with its deep-rooted cross-platform support, Erik was able to make it available for Windows, Mac, and Linux here.
Hell, you can even play it right in your browser… theoretically. You’ll need the Unity web player, but when I tried it in-browser it seemed like his servers were getting hammered.
Will Nintendo be okay with this, or will it disappear under the weight of a hefty cease and desist? To be honest, that’s a bit of a toss-up; Nintendo seems to be pretty inconsistent about this sort of thing. As long as it isn’t directly monetized, they often ignore it — but not always.