‘Super Mario 64 Online’ is a wild fan project that Nintendo could learn from

I bet it can back up your save files, too.

Super Mario 64 Online is a most epic fan creation. Using the beloved Nintendo 64 launch title as a foundation, this homemade project connects up to 24 players in their own online version of the Mushroom Kingdom.

It uses a ROM version of the N64 game, not the actual console and cartridge. That puts it in the same murky legal territory as other fan projects that modify old, pre-online games. But it also means Nintendo can’t shut it down as easily as, say, a fan-made Pokémon mod for Minecraft.

Once you get it running — a process that requires more technical knowhow than your average game install, it’s worth noting — you choose from a list of characters and hop in. In the videos released so far we can see Wario, Waluigi, Peach, Luigi, Yoshi, and a couple flavors of Toad.

None of those characters are playable in the original Super Mario 64 (no, not even Luigi), and most of them don’t appear in the game at all.

What’s neat about this mod is the way it doesn’t seem to change anything else. It’s literally just a 24-player online version of Super Mario 64. I guess you could team up with a bunch of friends and collaborate on beating the game, but why do that when there are so many other things to do?

Super Mario 64, with its highly varied worlds and shifting activities, seems to work very well as a make-your-own-fun kind of online sandbox. Sure, there’s no invisible referee awarding you points and crowning winners, but is any of that really necessary? (No, it’s not.)

Nintendo doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to its handling of fan-made projects, but let’s all hope the company takes a long look at what’s happening here. Mario 64 immediately feels like a natural fit for online play, and the unfocused nature of its assorted activities only adds to the appeal.

This cool mod won’t ever receive Nintendo’s blessing, but — given the popularity of the Switch and its online connectivity — it would be great to see the company’s creative-types lean in on social multiplayer experiences like this. 

It might be fan-made, but something about the flow of Super Mario 64 Online feels inescapably Nintendo.

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