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All that talking about Super Mario 64 this week got me thinking about a bonkers ROM hack of the game I dabbled with a few years back. In 2014, a prolific Mario 64 modder named Kaze Emanuar took a break from making serious hacks to put together Mario 64: Chaos Edition, a version of the game in which cheat codes (almost none of which are beneficial) are randomly plugged into the game. The result is an unstable, unpredictable rendition, the lunacy of which is only made funnier by our shared familiarity with this ubiquitous classic.
At one moment things can seem relatively normal. At the next, the physics might go haywire, letting Mario jump 20 feet in the air or constantly pulling him to the left side of the screen. Sometimes the instruments that make up the music will be replaced with high-pitched Mario voices. Occasionally, every moving object in the world will come untethered and gravitate toward Mario, chasing him around the level in a tornado of coins and goombas and platforms and whatever else happens to be around. Maybe the camera will flip upside down, or the jump button will stop working. If you’re really lucky, Mario might even turn into a signpost.
Even at the mod’s initial release, Emanuar was quick to point out that it’s just a silly thing that shouldn’t be taken seriously. “Don’t try to get any progress done in the game. You won’t,” he said in the description of a YouTube video. And he’s right. Chaos Edition is torturous to play in any meaningful way. When playing yesterday, it took me two hours just to get the very first star in the game. Since it’s all random, your luck may vary and that time could be much lower. But the unpredictability means any progress you make can disappear at random if the game decides it wants you dead for no reason or back at the beginning of the level. Sometimes the camera will decide to leave Mario behind and focus on part of the sky, making things completely unplayable. (At least when Mario turns invisible, you still have some idea of where he is.) Of course, expecting the internet to pass up a ridiculous challenge is a fool’s errand. It was just a matter of time before someone actually went and documented their quest to finish the game. Here are 23 minutes of highlights from that play-through:
If you’re able to roll with the punches and take it for what it is, Chaos Edition is great for a laugh. It’s the kind of ludicrous experimental meddling that I love seeing, a frivolous creation that plays with technology and nostalgia in a novel way. Just don’t expect to actually get anywhere without playing for dozens of infuriating hours.