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This Super Mario 64 Glitch Took 24 Years To Solve

Super Mario 64 is rightfully considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time. The platforming title launched the Nintendo 64 with Mario's most massive adventure yet and brought the series fully into the 3D world. Still, for all of its successes, there are still a few things about the game that haven't aged particularly well.


We now know, thanks to a modder by the name of zoinknoise, that some of these little issues are due to glitches within the game's code. One wasn't discovered until just recently.

When Mario falls into a pool of lava in Super Mario 64, he has a very different reaction from other games in the series. Rather than this being an instant game over for the plumber, Mario will leap into the air, smoke billowing from his burnt behind. It's a funny visual already, but according to zoinknoise, a single flawed line of code has been keeping us from seeing the the effect Nintendo originally intended. To that end, zoinknoise has made a patch for the original game that shows us what we've been missing.

According to the notes from zoinknoise, this glitch was discovered by rooting around in the game's base code. While this action can often lead to different patches and fixes in the modding community, the result here was a fix for something that we never even knew was wrong.


As zoinknoise explains it, "Thanks to the recent decompilation efforts, it's now known that this texture is displayed in the wrong format by the game, resulting in black garbage pixels. Since video game smoke of this era was often depicted with black garbage pixels, the mistake went unnoticed for over two decades."

Honestly, the entire visual and concept of Mario leaping out of molten lava with smoky buns is such already so cartoonish. It's kind of a surprise that there was originally meant to be a less cartoon-like smoke effect to accompany it.

So what does this patch do? According to zoinknoise, it simply restores the original intended effect: "This patch corrects the error by displaying the texture correctly as proper transparent smoke. It does not add any new art; the texture has been inside the ROM all along."

In the final released version of the game, a sort of gnarly trail of smoke poofs out behind Mario as he runs, looking almost like the sputtering tailpipe of an old car. It's an amusing visual, albeit one that looks surprisingly simple, even for the time. After fixing this single line of code, the goofy black scrawls become a neat row of repeated smoke clouds. The correct version of this effect is much more in line with the rest of the game's visual aesthetic. Even better, it's equally as silly-looking, which means the gag of Mario running around and flipping out over his scorched tush still looks just as amusing.


However, not all Mario fans have been excited about this discovery. Some feel that it detracts from the goofiness of the original released version. One Twitter user wrote, "To be honest, I like it better in the bugged form. The smoke looks more real where the other is just repeating a static image."

Others believe that the buggy version of the smoke may have been left in the released game on purpose. One fan on Twitter surmised that Nintendo may have liked the glitched effect more and decided to keep it in the final game. Stuff like this actually happens more often than you'd think. For instance, the famous mechanic in the Devil May Cry series where you can juggle enemies with your weaponry was inspired by an Onimusha glitch. The developers decided that the visual was super fun and so it was made into a full-blown combat mechanic in the final game.

Still, regardless of how you feel about the overall look of the smoke, it's a pretty cool discovery. It's also an opportunity to see work that went into this game and was never actually enjoyed by gamers until now. As one Twitter user pointed out, "I feel bad for whoever did the [real] smoke texture because his work went unnoticed for 2 decades."


In other words, this is an exciting discovery either way. With the recent rumors surrounding the possibility of a 35th anniversary Mario bundle of Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy remasters coming to the Nintendo Switch, maybe the time is right for some of these glitches to be addressed. It would be kind of neat to see the original intended smoke texture appearing in the officially licensed re-release of the game.