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Super Mario 64 Originally Had Way More Levels (& Was Much, Much Harder)

"Super Mario 64" was definitely a labor of love for Nintendo's developers, and the fans continue to reap the benefits of that passion to this day. However, the Nintendo 64's flagship title was originally a much more daunting game. According to the directors behind the game, it was very nearly much more difficult and could have taken way longer to complete.

The platforming in "Super Mario 64" is largely a joy to control, but there are a few stages with scary, sizable gaps between solid ground. Players can expect to fall a lot during an average playthrough of "Super Mario 64," but believe it or not, these sections were even more precarious until late in the development process.

As Mario co-creator and game director Shigeru Miyamoto explained in a 1996 interview, designing the arc of Mario's jumps was a difficult part of creating the game. "In earlier Mario games, we were able to measure the number of pixels Mario could jump and know exactly what was possible. But this time, we had to design the levels so that as long as your jump was 'close enough,' you'd make it; it was too hard for the player to judge." According to Miyamoto, the staff was pretty annoyed by this change, and research from Did You Know Gaming? suggests that the team didn't want to nerf the game's difficulty level.

Super Mario 64 was almost three times the length

The difficulty of "Super Mario 64" isn't the only thing that got scaled back before launch. Leading up to the game's release, co-director Takashi Tezuka teased the game's ambitious scale, telling Nintendo Power, "Currently, we have 32 courses, but the final version may have more. Maybe 40 courses. That doesn't include bonus areas, of course." However, the final game ended up featuring significantly fewer levels. Although each of the game's stages encourage multiple playthroughs to find all of the hidden Stars, there are ultimately only 15 distinct stages in "Super Mario 64," suggesting that a number of other stage concepts may have been dropped before the game shipped. 

Of course, fans of "Super Mario 64" know that this fact doesn't make the game a short affair in the least. Completionists are likely to spend 20 hours or more exploring every last nook and cranny and finding all of the Stars, even if they've already defeated Bowser. Just imagine how much longer "Super Mario 64" could have been if the platforming difficulty had remained at its dizzying pre-release heights!