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Super Mario Maker 64 exists, thanks to a new ROM hack

Mario Builder 64 is a new ROM hack that lets you create your own Super Mario 64 levels or play those made by others using an emulator or Nintendo 64 hardware.



Super Mario Maker 64 exists, thanks to a new ROM hack
Super Mario Maker 64 exists, thanks to a new ROM hack

Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker series of games lets you create your own sidescrolling platformer levels using sprites and 3D objects from several entries in the franchise. It’s created a deeply devoted fan base, but it’s only ever let you make sidescrolling levels. Now, a pair of fans have changed that with Mario Builder 64, a new way to make and play your own Super Mario 64 levels — and do so on Nintendo 64 hardware.

It’s technically a ROM hack, but the term doesn’t really capture what this is. The developers, Arthurtilly and rovertronic, describe it as “a toolbox letting you fulfill all of your SM64 dreams.” Just like the Super Mario Maker series, it lets you create your own levels using a special creator interface that borrows a lot from Minecraft, giving you low-res textured (this is the N64 after all) cubes that you can drop in place.

You can also decide what music you want, place items and villains, and even play with Mario 64 conventions. For instance, there’s no hard limit on how many red coins you can require players to collect to get a star.

To use it, you have to patch a Mario 64 ROM file yourself. The developers have a guide for doing so (in addition to the video above), and you’ll need an emulator or an actual Nintendo 64 to play the game with the Builder 64 modifications in place. As Engadget points out, you can do that with a flashcart that supports SD cards — several options are listed in the guide linked above.

I haven’t been able to play around with Mario Builder 64 just yet, but I’m eager to do so as soon as life affords me the time. It looks like a blast, judging by this video from the Good Vibes Gaming YouTube channel. As pointed out in that video, you can download other user-created levels from Level Share Square, a site that hosts levels made for various fan-made Mario level creators.

But how long will Mario Builder 64 last? Only Nintendo knows what its bar is for taking down projects like this, but it has put emulator developers on edge with some high-profile takedowns lately. There’s its $2.4 million settlement with Switch emulator Yuzu’s developers and subsequent obliteration of GitHub-hosted Yuzu forks — and its insistence that the creators of Garry’s Mod remove two decades of Nintendo-related content.

To be fair, Yuzu let people play Tears of the Kingdom before it was released, and people used Garry’s Mod to turn Super Mario 64 into a first-person shooter, which Nintendo probably wasn’t thrilled about. Mario Builder 64 is just doing Super Mario 64 stuff, so maybe it gets a pass, but that probably depends on Nintendo’s plans for the Mario Maker series, which could easily involve something just like Mario Builder 64.