Super Mario 64 was probably one of the first titles developed for Nintendo’s 64 bit console. There are rumors of a 3D prototype existing on the SNES using the systems Super FX chip, but this prototype was kept behind closed doors, so no images of it exist. It’s safe to assume that this would have been an isometric platforming adventure, and played similarly to the older games of the Mario name.
With Nintendo’s prototype next-generation console, “Project Reality”, the game went from a FX chip prototype to a 3D beta on the 64-bit new hardware. The SNES prototype was never seen or heard about again. Even with this project on the Nintendo 64, original designs still stuck to the isometric viewpoint. Like with the older games, this one had players taking their chances jumping form platform to platform to reach the end of a level. As the game went on, this concept was kept intact for the game’s boss stages were the player would fight bowser.
This game was officially presented to the public in November of 1995. During its development Nintendo released a lot of images, some of which were from a playable demo. This was very important since it allowed people to take photos, and record videos which we can look back at to see how much the game has changed from the beta to now.
The beta version of Mario 64 appeared to be very similar to the final: Many of the levels were similar seeing only minor changes. Some of the biggest changes were made to the hub world which didn’t seem very much like a castle to begin with. Changes can also be seen in the lives – stars – coin counter in the HUD, as well as Mario’s health bar which is an image of his head in the final version. Some changes are noticeable like different textures, and colors. Bowser also sports some different textures. We can also see the castle interior is dark blue with some moons on the columns.
The inside of the castle was very different in the beta. We do not know if the doors here are different than the ones in the final, or if they lead to the same places, or if they were simply place holder images. One of the more interesting images had Mario in a snowy level with penguins, and a different background that isn’t found anywhere in the final game. It is also noted that the stars used to be 2D in design. In conclusion, the face texture for the yellow desert enemy was really scary.
As we can read from the NSMB Wii Iwata Ask article, one of the early Mario 64 prototypes had a coop multiplayer mode, but it was never used in the final game and it’s not clear if they could have confused it with Mario 64 II (as M64II was rumored to have that same Mario – Luigi coop).
Iwata: Ever since Mario Bros., you’ve had your heart set on making a multiplayer Mario game. You’ve tried each time, but it’s never quite come together… Even with Mario 6423, it started with Mario and Luigi running around together, didn’t it?
Miyamoto: That’s right. The screen was split and they went into the castle separately. When they meet in the corridor, I was incredibly happy! (laughs) Then there was also the mode where the camera is fixed and we see Mario running away, steadily getting smaller and smaller.
Iwata: Yes, that’s right.
Miyamoto: That was a remnant of an experiment we did where Mario and Luigi would run away from each other but you could still see them both. But we were unable to pull it off…
Some unused red shells were also found in the game’s code:
Those beta red shells models were found a long time ago both by rstewart215804 and VL-Tone.
In this video, I show a complex hack written by me in C which gives them a similar behavior as the red shells from the Mario Kart series. They will protect Mario and if you press D-Pad Up they will go after the nearest enemy (actually, the nearest animated object).
Many other unused models (as a trampoline, a Boo Key and a Blaarg) are hidden in the game.
Blargg— An eyeless, largely untextured model for Blargg, an enemy from Super Mario World, exists in the game. It has an animation which shows it jumping out of the lava, but there doesn’t seem to be any functionality left. It was definitely planned for the lava levels, and possibly replaced by the very similar flame enemy.
Water mine— Found in the water object set, but never used in the game, is an object very similar to the bombs that appear in the Bowser levels, but a bit smaller. How it would have been used is fairly obvious. It’s possible to see it in major part of SM64 beta videos, in Dire, Dire Docks.
Yoshi egg— The Yoshi egg has a model, textures, and a bouncing animation. It’s likely that Yoshi was planned to have a larger role in the game than he actually does, and he would have appeared out of these eggs, just as he does in Super Mario World, and as he would later do in Super Mario Sunshine . This egg loads to memory in Whomp’s Fortress and Wet Dry World
Small chill bully— A smaller version of the Chill Bully. There are large and small normal Bullies in Lethal Lava Land, but the only Chill Bully in the game is a large-sized one in Snowman’s Land. They have they own behavior and 3D model, but sometimes when trying to put it in the game, it crashes.
Beta trampoline— The most known unused object in the whole game. Some sort of trampoline. It has no model in-game, and its behavior was never created. Fairly obvious how they’d have been used, however. Anyway, some hackers tried to recreate its behavior, which can be seen in the video made by messiaen, one of the best hackers (yeah, thas one who wrote M64 Level Importer!)
Beta green & red shells— A pair of small Koopa shells, these have been found as only data (though clever hackers can get them to work in-game). They are about the size as spiny shells, and have unusual blue bottoms. Their use is currently unknown, but there’s a behavior code that could fit them. Them can be picked up and throwed, but the stick to wall when they hit it.
Yellow switch & Yellow transparent box— The yellow switch and the yellow box are quite similar to their red, blue, and green-colored brethren. This suggests there was another type of box (not necessarily the one in the final game) that needed to be activated with a switch. The yellow switch is always in its pressed state when spawned. It’s possible that there was another powerup inside the yellow box, and that the switch was activated in Peach’s secret slide, because the swicthes load to the memory, when you enter that level, exactly as happens for Wing Tower, Metal Cavern and Vanish Sewer.
Early Solid Red Box— An early solid red box can only be found in the Wing Cap area, and probably served as a test for item boxes. The color changes depending on the angle viewed from.
Boo Key— The boo key was likely intended to be collected from a Big Boo upon defeat, as is shown in an early screenshot. As a leftover, the Japanese version actually has a key symbol for use in the HUD which has been replaced in the other versions with a German character (a U with two pints on its top). Also we know that you was able to collect at max 6 keys, to use only in that level.
Cactus texture— A texture which resembles a small, round cactus. It was most likely intended as scenery in Shifting Sand Land.
Cracked ice— A texture depicting cracked ice. Possibly a leftover from one of the ice worlds.
Metal wings— There’s a unique “metal wings” texture the game uses when Mario wears the Wing Cap and the Metal Cap at the same time. However, there’s no level in the game which has both of these caps, so the only way to see the texture in the game is using a GameShark or replacind objects with ToadTool64 or a HEX editor
Pink flowers— Discovered by Mr. Game during the exploration of game’s textures. This environmental effect causes flowers to appear. Where it may have been used, and what purpose it may have served, is still unknown. When activated, it appears only on perfectly horizontal walls.
Blizzard— This effect creates a blizzard. It is still under investigation, but was likely meant for use in the snow-based levels. It works same as snow effect, but it’s fastest. It was also used in SM64DS, in the battle with Chief Bully (the one you needed to beat to unlock Wario).
Chain Chomp— In the beta v3 in Bob-Omb Battlefield, you’ll notice that the Chain Chomp’s growling sound is different than the final version, and about similar to the sound of the Chomp in Japan.
English translation by Tobias
Thanks to forotsuki for the contribution!