Everything You Wanted To Know About Super Mario 64's Surfaces

Illustration for article titled Everything You Wanted To Know About Super Mario 64's Surfaces

People have been playing Super Mario 64 for years but few have plumbed the depths of how it was constructed and the unique ways its world works the way speedrunners have.


“Every surface in SM64 is made up of triangles,” writes YouTuber, speedrunner, and Mario 64 analyst Pannenkoek at the beginning of his latest video analyzing the level design of a classic game at its most granular. Titled “Walls, Floors, & Ceilings,” the video goes deep into the geometry and mathematical logic that controls how the game operates spatially. He once offered a $1,000 bounty to see who could recreate a rare glitch that might completely change how speedrunners approach the game, one that to this day still hasn’t been collected.

He began making the video a year ago and only got around to finishing it lately, writing:

“I consider the information in this video to be extremely important, especially when it comes to SM64 analysis (e.g. can Mario dive recover onto this box?). In fact, I’ve been using this information for years to help me execute strats (e.g. clipping through two walls at a corner when I have less than 400 speed) and quickly dismiss impossible strats (e.g. even if we had enough speed, we couldn’t launch to above the chests in JRB since that’s above a ceiling). And so now, I’ve finally compiled all of this knowledge into one video so that everyone has access to it. Big thanks to Tyler Kehne and Peter Fedak for assisting me throughout the research process.”

In it, he discusses how Mario’s movement is measured by the game in each frame depending on the medium (air, water, ground) that the plumber is traversing, as well as things like how he interacts differently depending on the hitbox measurements of an obstacle, how to maximize the possibility of clipping through geometry, and how to “get out of bounds” and break the game entirely.

Pannenkoek has a number of other videos under the pseudonym UncommentatedPannen that break down even more of the game in extremely technical detail. Each takes it slow and demonstrates every principle explained with in-game examples that make them incredibly interesting and easier to comprehend as a non-Mario 64 speedrunner.

Kotaku staff writer. You can reach him at ethan.gach@kotaku.com



Aren’t all surfaces in just about all video games “made up of triangles”? That’s like, polygonal rendering 101.