Super Mario 64

Author: Unknown
Year: Unknown

I always liked Super Mario 64 when I was a kid. I remember playing it at my aunt's house all the time. A few months ago, an ad popped up on my screen out of nowhere as I was watching gameplay footage on YouTube. It was one of those generic ads for online stores. I was about to close the window when I realized it was showing a mint condition copy of Super Mario 64 for sale. There was a picture of it and everything. It looked legitimate. Usually, I don't trust these things, but the feeling of nostalgia overpowered me. I definitely wanted to buy it. Why wouldn't I? It was my favorite game as a kid.

The whole business was peculiar. The owner of the game wanted the buyer to send an envelope containing ten dollars to an address listed on the site instead of using something like PayPal. What made things stranger was when I tried to gain access to the website after encountering...problems with the game. Even though I'd bookmarked the homepage of the site (so I know I didn't get the URL wrong), the link led to a 404 page. A few days after the money was mailed, however, I got a package containing the game. I felt a bit ripped off, though – the label with Mario flying through the air was missing. In its place was a piece of duct tape with "Mario" written on it in permanent marker. As long as the game worked, though, I was okay with it. I got out my Nintendo 64 and put the cartridge in.

The screen turned on with the familiar Mario head you could stretch and twist aimlessly. I remember laughing all the time at the results, so I decided to mess around for old times' sake. I moved the cursor over to Mario's ear and pulled it to elven proportions. I was going to do the same to the other ear when the TV produced loud static. The model for Mario's head started twisting as if I'd done something like a cartridge tilt. Random sound effects started playing, and I could hear a faint whispering in there. I think it was Japanese. The voice was stammering and whimpering. I immediately shut off the game and tried again. I didn't bother with the Mario head this time. I selected a new file and started playing.

The game skipped the opening monologue with Peach and the courtyard. Mario was placed right inside the castle, and Bowser didn't say anything. I continued playing, noticing there was no music...or really, anything. The game was dead silent. There weren't any Toads around to talk to, either. The only door I could enter was the one that led to Bob-Omb Battlefield. The others wouldn't respond to anything I did, even though I know some of them should have at least produced a text box telling me I couldn't go in. The portrait to Bob-Omb Battlefield wasn't the usual picture – it was a stark white canvas. I was still trying to convince myself these were minor glitches and the gameplay wouldn't be affected at all.

When I entered the portrait, the image changed from a blank canvas to the Lethal Lava Land painting. You know, that slightly unsettling image of the flame with the evil smile? That's when I stopped thinking this was a simple series of glitches. The mission menu came up and yet another weird detail was present. Instead of the first mission being "Big Bob-Omb on the Summit," it was "TURN BACK." I have no idea what drove me to press A, but I did. The level seemed fairly normal. Everything was how I remembered it. I thought I could finally enjoy my favorite childhood game, but then I saw... Luigi. I was shocked – he was never in this game. His model wasn't even a palette swap of Mario, like many hacks ended up doing. He had a completely original model.

Luigi stood there until I tried to approach him, then he started running away. I followed him and went through the level, and strange things happened as I pursued him. Each time I would pick up a coin, the enemies and music would get slower, and the scenery would look darker in color and a little more morbid. It got bad pretty quickly, and everything seemed to halt after I collected a fifth coin. The music stopped, and the enemies laid on the ground like they were dead. I was freaked out by this, but I kept chasing Luigi. I went up the hill and no cannonballs rolled down to knock me over. I really wasn't surprised at this point. Luigi was always at the edge of my sight as I ran, though. Once I reached the summit, I saw another out of place object: a small cottage. That's all there was on the top of the hill. Luigi was nowhere to be seen. The cottage was odd-looking for a Mario game. It was old, plain, and broken down, but not in the way Big Boo's Haunt is. Regardless of how I felt at the moment, I entered the cottage.

As soon as the door closed, a picture of Luigi hanged popped up, along with a startling scare chord. It sounded like a violin screech accompanied by a loud piano banging, almost like the sound the Mad Piano enemy makes. Mario fell to his knees and sobbed for quite a while before the screen faded out with the Bowser logo. I returned to the castle and Mario fell out of the painting. The image changed from the Lethal Lava Land portrait to an image of Luigi being hanged. The room wasn't the same, either. I was in a small hallway. Toads with blank expressions and white robes lined the sides. There was another painting at the opposite end of the hallway that scared me to death. It was a picture of my family, but not from around the time Super Mario 64 released. It was a very, very recent photo. I remember posing for it the weekend before.

I reached for the on/off switch on the N64. There was no way I was going to play any longer. However, the game didn't turn off when I flicked the switch. I flipped it back and forth to no avail. I tried unplugging the entire system, but the game never left the screen. I was still in control, too. I couldn't just leave it forever, though... I kept playing. I went to the photo of my family and jumped in. Only one mission was available. "Run. Don't Walk." I selected the mission.

The level started in a flooded hallway with platforms floating on the water. Mario landed on one and the camera turned to show what was behind him. There was a silent, black void, and it was rapidly approaching. It didn't look like anything specific, just a giant, blocky, black blob. I started jumping from platform to platform. With no goal in sight, I kept running. The darkness was slowly but surely gaining speed. This went for what felt like hours, and I began to doubt there would ever be an end. It felt like I was going in circles. Finally, the blackness caught up with Mario and enveloped him in darkness. He didn't scream or resist. It simply consumed him.

Mario fell out of the painting and back to the castle. One of my three lives was gone. The room was different, too. Some of the Toads were gone, and the painting was different. My family and I were in the same positions, but our bodies were partially decomposed. It looked too real to be photoshopped, like someone took our dead bodies and posed them. Regardless, I jumped back into the painting. There was still only one mission. It was called, "I"m right here." I selected it and prepared for the worst. Mario landed in a small, dark room with no visible way out. The room was empty except for a large piano in the corner. I knew what that meant. I was stuck in there with the Mad Piano. I approached it and it sprang to life, starting to chase me. There's no way to damage the Mad Piano, not even in normal gameplay, so I had no choice but to let Mario take damage.

When Mario lost all his health, the usual death animation didn't play. The screen stuck on Mario being mauled by the piano. He fell to the ground as 2D blood and blocky guts spilled onto the floor. The camera panned to a top-down view of his corpse. A distorted version of the merry-go-round song from Big Boo's Haunt played as the screen transitioned from the in-game shot to a sketch of Mario's dead body in the same view. It was very unsettling, and made me tear up a little as I watched. The photo of my family was shown again. We were even more rotten than before. The view zoomed into the painting, as if I was warping again, but I was instead greeted with a shoot of Peach's Castle from the outside. It was crumbling, in ruins. The fields were on fire and the sky was pitch black. Bowser's laugh played on loop in the background as the sounds of children chanting played, saying "You couldn't save her!" This went on for a long time. Suddenly, a close-up of Peach's face appeared, accompanied by a loud screech that interrupted that loop. Peach's mouth was wide open, as if she were screaming. Her eyes were empty, black holes.

Mario fell out of the painting again. All of the Toads were gone. My family and I looked positively repulsive. Maggots were wriggling around holes in our flesh. Guts were spilling out of our bodies. My dad's eye was hanging loose in its socket. It was too much to see, but something still urged me to trudge on. I jumped into the painting for the last time. This time, there was no mission title, only a blank space. I selected it and Mario landed on a small island in the middle of the ocean. There was a solitary sign that read "DIVE." I did just as it said and entered the water.

The ocean was dark and empty. There was no fish and I could see nothing except Mario. I swam downwards and, even though I kept going for quite a while, Mario never ran out of breath. I counted roughly ten minutes of swimming before I decided to try going back up. Just as I turned around, it came. A huge Unagi the Eel came out of nowhere and swallowed Mario whole. It went by so fast I wasn't sure what I saw. The Game Over screen didn't even appear. All that happened was a fade out. The photo of my family and I was shown again. We were skeletons at that point. Once again, it looked very real. I couldn't move the camera. It stayed focused on the picture. I pressed reset and chose my file again, but it would only show the photo of my family as skeletons. I tried this a few more times before I gave up. I desperately wanted to stop playing, but some force kept me from walking away.

With nothing else to do, I decided to select the only other save file. The camera once again focused on the skeleton picture, but this time they were in a different position and in a different place. It was almost as if they were a different family.