The first character on screen in Super Mario 64 is Lakitu, Mario’s camera operator. Because the 1996 game was the first in the series to have 3D gameplay, the developers needed to teach players that they were controlling both Mario AND the camera.

Super Mario 64 introduced the camera as a friend and foe in video games

When the Nintendo 64 launched in the United States in September of 1996, players had just two games to choose from: a flight simulator called Pilotwings 64 and the latest entry in one of the most popular series in video game history. Super Mario 64 dragged its titular plumber into a fully realized three-dimensional world for the first time. In doing so, it helped introduce gamers to the agony and ecstasy of the adjustable camera—an element that would quickly become standard in games, but that was almost as brand new as the N64 itself in the autumn of ’96. As part of 1996 Week, four A.V. Club staffers got together to talk about Mario 64’s then novel, often frustrating camera system and how games built upon it in the years that followed.

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9 thoughts on “The first character on screen in Super Mario 64 is Lakitu, Mario’s camera operator. Because the 1996 game was the first in the series to have 3D gameplay, the developers needed to teach players that they were controlling both Mario AND the camera.”

  1. Pinkowlcup

    Game developers teaching players to actually play the game is harder than you think. The Portal devs had a hell of a time telling players to look up without explicit outside instruction.

  2. whiteshaq52

    Is that the guy who picks you up when you fall off rainbow road?

  3. jl_theprofessor

    Nintendo basically excels at this kind of within world guidance.

  4. SnakeBaconator

    Wasn’t the first character technically Princess Peach?

  5. i-amthatis

    Imo, Lakitu was the worst villain in the game…

  6. Jaeger562

    I was 5 years old in 1996, i remember the little floating camera guy, but i didnt get it, it didnt click that it was the camera view i was seeing from.

    I knew the game was 3D and it was pretty instinctual….. but i remember older people at the time, like my parents had trouble adapting even though they played quite a bit of the NES.

  7. finewithstabwounds

    Wait does this make mario 64 a second-person perspective game?

  8. Twat_The_Douche

    Maybe that’s why they made the C buttons yellow… and called them the SEE buttons.

  9. goatsampson

    Well that’s fine and all but I was devastated to learn that Mario was in fact not real, merely just an actor filming scenes on a sound stage. This was my “Actually Stanley Kubrick filmed the Moon landing.” Not cool!

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