The N64 is still being pushed past its limits, 28 years later — homebrew devs won't give up on the Nintendo 64, compare 2024 Mario to his 1996 ancestor

Footage of Kaze Emanaur's in-development Mario 64 ROM hack, which features a fully-overhauled engine capable of reaching 45-60 FPS on real hardware with low-GameCube-esque visuals.
Footage of Kaze Emanaur's in-development Mario 64 ROM hack, which features a fully-overhauled engine capable of reaching 45-60 FPS on real hardware with low-GameCube-esque visuals. (Image credit: Kaze Emanuar on YouTube, Super Mario 64 originally developed by Nintendo)

Despite the existence of functioning N64-to-PC ports with ray tracing, the ambition of homebrew software developers to target original hardware remains resolute, even 28 years after the release of Nintendo 64. From devs like Kaze Emanuar, pushing Super Mario 64 ROM hacks with ambitious 60 FPS engine rewrites, to the Smash Remix team expanding the first Smash Bros title into a glorious 30-character FFA, there's no shortage of new games to run on real hardware in 2024.

(Image credit: Smash Remix Team on YouTube, Nintendo for original Smash Bros 64 development)

It turns out Nintendo's first 3D console is something of a sleeping giant, since it was the most powerful console of its age (graphics, storage speed) but plagued by limited cartridge capacity compared to CD-based consoles of the same era. Meanwhile, Sony PlayStation games could be played across multiple CDs, which ultimately led to the most ambitious multi-disc titles being limited to PS1 and PC despite less refined 3D graphics on Sony's hardware.

Below, we've embedded a recent video from Kaze Emanuaur detailing key N64 texture limitations, and how working with them properly can net dramatically higher performance. Evidently, lots of performance was left on the table with Mario 64 at launch, but of course it was a launch title. Later N64 games like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Majora's Mask make better use of the hardware, but ultimately can't come close to decades of mod development.

Finally, there have also been some promising developments using N64 hardware from outside of the Nintendo ROM hacking scene, but unfortunately not all of these efforts have been long-lived. The functioning Source engine-to-N64 port Portal 64, for example, was copyright struck not long after "The First Slice" went live. The same developer, James Lambert, also demonstrated functioning MegaTextures on N64 hardware, but more as a tech demo than anything else.

Before wrapping things up, it's worth mentioning that all these crazy Mario 64 engine improvements on real hardware aren't just limited to YouTube videos. At the time of writing, Kaze's only public release using the new engine is "Peach's Fury", which is a Mario 64 ROM hack that takes on an open-world hub design inspired by the official "Bowser's Fury" on Switch, complete with the engine improvements needed to make it a cohesive experience.

  • ezst036
    It proves two things:

    These corporations give up on their consoles way too soon.

    These corporations should not be so quick to kick their loyal fan base in the throat. When modders come around that is the ultimate compliment. It proves that you have developed an amazing product that is so fun or influential that people want to take time out of their busy day to improve the experience. But when the parent company starts suing their own fans out of existence what could be a bigger insult?

    "You made my childhood amazing" "You made my adulthood a living hell"
    Reply
  • Alvar "Miles" Udell
    Imagine getting kids to do a 4 way Goldeneye battle on a 13 inch CRT TV today.
    Reply
  • Devoteicon
    ezst036 said:
    These corporations give up on their consoles way too soon.
    Oh, they haven't giving up on them. ..They send out plenty of cease and desist letters.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    ezst036 said:
    It proves two things:

    These corporations give up on their consoles way too soon.

    These corporations should not be so quick to kick their loyal fan base in the throat. When modders come around that is the ultimate compliment. It proves that you have developed an amazing product that is so fun or influential that people want to take time out of their busy day to improve the experience. But when the parent company starts suing their own fans out of existence what could be a bigger insult?

    "You made my childhood amazing" "You made my adulthood a living hell"
    There are modders for even the most obscure consoles, people being crazy (in the good sense) doesn't say anything about the consoles.
    And no I would not like it if nintendo were still on the wiiu and didn't release the switch (even though I do have an wiiu but no switch) they don't give up too soon but they have to give up at some point because the general public will just go to something more flashier.
    Reply
  • subspruce
    Alvar Miles Udell said:
    Imagine getting kids to do a 4 way Goldeneye battle on a 13 inch CRT TV today.
    Finding the TV is half of the challenge, but any 4:3 monitor will do.
    Reply
  • JamesJones44
    TerryLaze said:
    There are modders for even the most obscure consoles, people being crazy (in the good sense) doesn't say anything about the consoles.
    And no I would not like it if nintendo were still on the wiiu and didn't release the switch (even though I do have an wiiu but no switch) they don't give up too soon but they have to give up at some point because the general public will just go to something more flashier.
    It's not even that it's flasher. Hardware to assist game development speeds up time to market. You could pay 20 engineers and take a year to optimize a game to run on Radeon ATI 256, 128 MB of RAM and 800 MHz processor or you can release new hardware and cut a year off the average games development time or keep it the same while adding more advanced gameplay instead of optimizing for obsolete hardware.
    Reply
  • Sluggotg
    If anyone is really into Retro Gaming, I highly recommend Retro Gamer Magazine out of the UK. They have been around for a long time and have excellent coverage of most platforms. Back issues of the Mag are really nice to find. They have most likely covered your favorite game from 15-45 years ago at some point.
    Reply