There is a family video of my siblings, cousins and I glued to the television screen in my childhood home’s basement. Some of us have different colored controllers in our hands and the look on our faces changes from joy to concentration and back. Half of us sit bow-legged on the floor, while the others peer on from sitting on the couch or standing nearby.
This memory is stirred up fondly with the 20th anniversary of the Mario Kart 64 North American release on February 10. In 1997, the N64 released the successor to the SNES’ Super Mario Kart. The game was intended to be a launch game for the N64, but true to Nintendo’s tradition, was delayed because the developers didn’t feel the game was 100 percent. At the 1995 Shoshinkai Software Exhibition, producer Shigeru Miyamoto told the press the game was only at 95 percent completion.
The multiplayer go-kart game fit into our household perfectly. My brother received the N64 for his birthday that year, and if I recall properly, Super Mario Kart 64 had been packaged with it. I still remember my brother’s meltdown of excitement when opening it, if we had caught that on camera we probably could have won some money on a certain family home movie show.
What ensued from that moment was countless hours between my brother, my sister and me. When all three of us played, we tended to play the battle mode, and usually selected the block fort stage. When my brother and I played, we would either play versus or two-player mode. When it was just me, I tried beating his high scores in time trials.
Today, our N64 still works and I turn it on every so often to get that warm nostalgia running through my veins. The joysticks on our standard grey, green and red controllers may be completely busted, but we still own a bunch of games that didn’t get traded in at some point.
My parents may remember us playing the game a bit differently. My mom is quick to point out that there were always accusations of cheating, sibling rivalry working to its very core. There were physical shoves and several times, the sacrilegious act of throwing a controller down in defiance. A lot of times this was done while driving the course of Rainbow Road. Split screen cheating was never okay in our household.
Mario Kart 64 is the second best selling game for the N64, right behind Super Mario 64. Its first release was on December 16, 1996 in Japan. There are a few differences in the Japanese version and the North American version, for one, there are no fake advertisements such as ‘Marioro’ (a spoof of Marlboro) in the NA game.
The game is seminal in my experience as a video game player and I’m thankful I can still play it on my N64, or even on my Wii. The successors have added new features and ways to play, but Mario Kart 64 will always remain my favorite way.