Fans Port Mario 64 To PC And Make It Way Better, So Of Course Nintendo Is Trying To Nuke The Project

from the nintendon't dept

I’m lucky enough to own a decades old Nintendo 64 and a handful of games, including the classic Mario 64. My kids love that game. Still, the first thing they asked when I showed it to them the first time is why the screen was letterboxed, why the characters looked like they were made of lego blocks, and why I needed weird cords to plug it all into the flat screen television. The answer to these spoiled monsters’ questions, of course, is that the game is super old and wasn’t meant to be played on modern televisions. It’s the story of a lot of older games, though many PC games at least have a healthy modding community that will take classics and get them working on present day hardware. Consoles don’t have that luxury.

Well, usually, that is. It turns out that enough folks were interested in modernizing Mario 64 that a group of fans managed to pull off porting it to PC. And, because this is a port and not emulation, they managed to update it to run in 4k graphics and added a ton of modern visual effects.

Last year, Super Mario 64’s N64 code was reverse-engineered by fans, allowing for all kinds of new and exciting things to be done with Nintendo’s 1996 classic. Like building a completely new PC port of the game, which can run in 4K and ultra-wide resolutions.

This is a very new and cool thing! Previously, if you were playing Super Mario 64 on PC, you were playing via emulation, as your PC ran code pretending to be an N64. This game is made specifically for the PC, built from the ground up, meaning it not only runs like a dream, but even supports mod stuff like ReShade, allowing for graphical tweaks (like the distance blur seen here).

As you’ll see, the video the Kotaku post is referencing can’t be embedded here because Nintendo already took it down. Instead, I’ll use another video that hasn’t been taken down at the time of this writing, so you can see just how great this looks.

In addition to videos of the project, Nintendo has also been busy firing off legal salvos to get download links for the PC port of the game taken down from wherever it can find them. Now, while Nintendo’s reputation for IP protectionism is such that it would almost certainly take this fan project down under virtually any circumstances, it is also worth noting that the company has a planned re-release of Mario 64 for its latest Nintendo console. That likely only supercharged the speed with which it is trying to disappear this labor of love from fans of an antiquated game that have since moved on to gaming on their PCs.

But why should the company do this? Nintendo consoles are known for many things, including user-friendly gaming and colorful games geared generally towards younger audiences. You know, exactly not the people who would take it on themselves to get an old Mario game working on their PC instead of a Nintendo console. What threat does this PC port from fans represent to Nintendo revenue? It’s hard to imagine that threat is anything substantial.

And, yet, here we are anyway. Nintendo, after all, doesn’t seem to be able to help itself.

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Comments on “Fans Port Mario 64 To PC And Make It Way Better, So Of Course Nintendo Is Trying To Nuke The Project”

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45 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Good opportunity to see who actually cares about the gameplay. Don’t advertise it as Mario and don’t use the Nintendo characters. Everyone would probably win and Nintendo wouldn’t know or wouldn’t care.

I’m not saying Nintendo isn’t pretty stupid over these things, but it’s almost like people put thousands of hours into these things just to bait Nintendo and have their work taken down (as much as is really possible, anyway).

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: If people wanted a different game they would buy it

It’s almost as though the goal is to update a game that fans loved from earlier in their lives with more modern graphics without changing the game into something else entirely because doing so would undermine the entire reason of reskinning an old game…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: If people wanted a different game they would buy it

So, it’s a different game if you don’t include identifiable copies of the blatantly contentious main graphics, such as characters and trademarked names which make your rather awesome project a high value target for litigious bastards.

It’s almost as if the goal were to make sure that fans couldn’t play the updated game they loved so much.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Not even necessary to them.

Game engine re-implementations are a thing and have been for years. Most, including this one, still require the original asset data which isn’t provided. All of which is perfectly legal. Theoretically the people behind the port could file counter-notices here and get Nintendo to back off. The difference here, that Nintendo is most likely banking on, is that the port is based off of a decompilation of the original game’s code. Most software licenses forbid this act, so the real question is how exactly did the decompilation get made and under what circumstances. The answer to that would be the deciding legal factor whether or not the port can stand as is.

If anything this port should pump up sales of the Virtual Console version. Or it would if Nintendo wasn’t so short sighted as to not release Virtual Console for the Switch. I guess most will try to get it on the WiiU if able or grab a cart from ebay. I’ve wondered why Nintendo and friends never release the older stuff as commercial roms. They could sell them online ready to pop into your favorite emulator, or provide one of their own. They’d make a killing. Nintendo’s Virtual Console was this, even if it only worked for their hardware, so I’m at loss for why they didn’t keep it going. Having that would be a boon for situations like this where "a wild port to a new unexploited market appeared!" Sadly, Nintendo always chooses "Run" in this situation.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

"If anything this port should pump up sales of the Virtual Console version. Or it would if Nintendo wasn’t so short sighted as to not release Virtual Console for the Switch"

They’re releasing a native port later this year.

"I’ve wondered why Nintendo and friends never release the older stuff as commercial roms. They could sell them online ready to pop into your favorite emulator"

You answered your own question. They don’t want you using your favourite emulator, they want you to buy Nintendo hardware. Nintendo have traditionally been the only major console maker that turns a direct profit on the sale of their consoles – Sony and Microsoft sell their hardware at a loss hoping to make the money back on games and subscriptions.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Out of curiosity do you also hold similar views regarding fanfics that might get taken down by idiot authors/publishers?

Because despite Nintendo regularly slapping around their fans like an abusive spouse there are still people who fondly remember their games, and would like to play those games rather than something else, however as some of them are really old with severely lacking graphics and can be just a tad hard to get a hold of legitimately they decided to put the effort into making a more modern version of one of them in a format that more people could play and enjoy.

The fact Nintendo can legally slap them down for it does not make the company’s actions any less fan friendly or a good idea, nor does the fact that they have a demonstrable history of being anti-fan and it’s not surprising that they would slap down this project as well.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Why not just make something new rather than pumping effort into a port that’s unnecessary and doomed?

Producing a PC port of Mario 64 wasn’t an end in itself. Rather, it’s a natural extension of the Mario 64 decompilation project that has been ongoing for some time. The decompilation project was primarily driven by speedrunners and others who wanted to understand more fully how various aspect of the game worked. But once you have a decompilation into C source code, it’s natural to port that code to systems other than the Nintendo 64. This is not to belittle the effort that went into the PC port, but to say that the PC port was one outcome of a larger project, and the decompilation has great value even without the PC port.

Anonymous Coward says:

so, which of the 2 dickhead companies that love to do this sort of thing, is in front then, Sony or Nintendo? whichever one is, i bet it’s not by much! they are both so set on pissing off as many customers as possible, as fast as possible over the smallest thing possible, it makes me wonder why the hell people keep going back for more?

SirWired says:

This was a reasonable takedown

In addition to the legal aspects (this is obviously Nintendo’s IP), the takedown also made sense from a business perspective.

If you "can’t imagine" that the revenue lost from pirating Mario64 vs. buying a new copy "isn’t substantial", you don’t have a very good imagination. I can certainly conceive of quite a bit of overlap between people who played Mario64 20 years ago, and those who might download a free copy to run on their PC in lieu of paying Nintendo for a legit copy on a new Switch.

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
PaulT (profile) says:

Re: This was a reasonable takedown

That’s one way of looking at it, which is the classic "every download is a lost sale" fallacy that’s never true in reality. There’s other factors to consider.

For example, I can certainly conceive of a person who wants to play the game but does not own a Switch, and isn’t about to lay down hundreds of dollars on a new system to play one game. Or, someone who has never played the game before, but after playing the free version decides to buy the Switch version of not only that, but the other games in the series that are also being ported to the Switch. Also, most households won’t have more than one Switch console, so it’s not hard to conceive of a parent buying the game for their kid but playing the PC version themselves. In these scenarios, the lost revenue is zero, and in one scenario Nintendo have actually profited.

It’s impossible to quantify which scenarios are more likely and to what degree, but to pretend they don’t exist is as wrong as pretending that scenarios that do lose them money don’t exist.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Taking into consideration both sides of the equation

Thing is though if you want to go down that route and be honest about it you also have to take into consideration how many downloads would lead to a sale as well.

Just as some people will download the unofficial version and ignore the official one(or similar games like it) others will download the unofficial version, like it, and then upon learning about the official version grab that as well, whether to get the ‘official’ version, support the company, or similar reasons.

As TD has covered in the past(and as multiple examples in the comments have backed up) copyright infringers also tend to be heavy spenders, so simply looking at potential infringement as a target to be squashed is shortsighted and potentially counter-productive if the goal is more money(not so much if the goal is total control of something, though that carries it’s own problems).

ECA (profile) says:

Atari vs Activision..

This is the old battle, of WHO controls what..
ANd restricting access to the 1 thing you have control over.
And why there is so much DRM in most consoles..
Think about all the Xbox consoles, and that Much of the programs were designed under a version of Direct X..
A group is trying to PORT that version over to PC..

IMHO,
Nintendo Should just PAY the creators and Make the PC version Theirs..

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re:

That is a very grey area, though. It’s probably not possible to obtain a rom without violating the anti-circumvention clause of the DMCA, and most people would not own the hardware to copy from the original cartridge if they own it, necessitating some kind of infringing middleman. You either have to actively violate the DMCA, or have someone else do it for you.

There might be some kind of way around this that would hold up in court, but the DMCA is the bane of people trying to preserve titles that are in danger of being lost, let alone a major flagship title that’s currently being released on modern hardware.

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