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Super Mario 64 is a game I could play all day every day. It’s a classic. It’s one of the greatest 3D platformers ever made in my opinion. Sure, the visuals and camera show their age but the gameplay is still solid. It offers an amount of freedom that you just don’t see in a lot of platformers even today, at least in my opinion. There are numerous Mario 64 mods out there and we’re always keeping our eyes peeled for new ones because we’ll use any excuse to replay through the game. We’ve played through a specific multiplayer mod a couple of times and while it was fun, it needed work but it showed that Mario 64 could make an excellent cooperative experience. Well we recently discovered another multiplayer mod called Super Mario 64 Splitscreen. It’s a two player modification where one player is Mario and the other is Luigi and both players can roam around independently and complete levels together. We played the modified or patched ROM using the Project 64 emulator.
Player one is Mario and player two is Luigi. Both characters can perform the exact same moves, they control their own cameras, they share coins, have their own lives, and lives are reset whenever the game loads a new area. Each player can freely roam around the levels and do not have to stick together. However, whenever the game does load a new area, both players will be warped there. With the exception of the one hundred coin stars, if one player collects a star, both players are kicked out of the level in typical Mario 64 fashion. It’s probably our biggest gripe with the mod. It would have been cool if collecting stars didn’t kick you out but, instead, players would have to exit levels manually. Although, it is possible to collect two or three stars before leaving. You can complete two objectives which in turn unlock two stars and when one player collects one, the other player can collect the second star but they have to do it before the other character’s celebratory animation finishes and both are kicked out. If you manage to collect one hundred coins in the level, you can leave with three stars. Needless to say, you can get through the game much quicker with two players.
Unfortunately, both players can hurt one another and get in each other’s way. Both characters can bump into each other which can make navigating around tight areas and platforming in the same area tedious and frustrating. We found the gameplay to be more enjoyable when both players split up to do their own thing. Splitting up is a great way to collect multiple stars but again, getting kicked out can be a problem so communicating whose getting what star and making sure to grab multiple simultaneously is the key unless, of course, you prefer to focus on collecting one star at a time. The camera does seem worse than usual, often working against you but this could be due to the screen being split into smaller portions. When one player dies, they lose a life and their character will float around in a bubble but can be freed by the other player to get back into the action. In the vanilla game, some NPC’s will speak to Mario but in the mod, many of them do not.
For the most part, the audiovisual presentation is basically unchanged. We did notice that the mirror in the room with the entrance to Snowman’s Land is missing. Luigi isn’t just a reskinned Mario. He’s taller, wears green, and makes the same sounds as Mario although his voice sounds higher-pitched. Princess Peach’s dialogue was changed so she now addresses both Mario and Luigi. It should be noted that the mod does have some issues. Sometimes when a player dies and/or a cut scene activates, the camera may stop focusing on the player. The Koopa the Quick stars can be tricky to get. If one player gets in a canon, the other can race him and acquire the stars successfully. Speaking of canons, the canon view is bit glitchy. In Dire Dire Docks, we discovered that jumping from poll to poll doesn’t always work no matter which player attempts it. The character will jump through the poll they’re trying to jump to and it renders some stars impossible to get by usual means. Jumping into the painting or entrance to Wet-Dry world at different elevations seems to have no effect on the water level. Luigi’s portion of the screen seems to be buggier than Mario’s. Objects and platforms may briefly disappear from view even though they’re still present. Whenever there’s a gradient, the screen flickers. We found a comment that stated trying a different graphics plugins can resolve it. We tried several and none of them stopped the flickering. Finally, the frame rate did noticeably dip for us in certain areas.
Honestly, Mario 64 Splitscreen is more enjoyable and stable than we thought it would be. We had a great time with it but do think it needs some work. It would be really cool if collecting stars didn’t kick you out of levels and some of the bugs can hinder the experience. But for the most part the mod is playable and enjoyable all the way through. You can still tell the game is still a single player experience but the coop is implemented well enough that it almost feels like a natural part of the game. The mod does make the game somewhat easier and if you both know what you’re doing, you can easily blast through it but the novelty is that you can play it with a partner. That’s really all there is to it. It’s the same fun gameplay except you get to experience it with a buddy.
We would absolutely recommend Mario 64 Splitscreen to anyone that likes fun. It may have issues but it still contains the same great gameplay. We hope it continues to be worked on because it seems so close to being truly complete.