Hands-on with a fully ray traced version of Super Mario 64

The arrival of hardware-accelerated ray tracing has seen developers mostly adopt a hybrid approach, combining standard rasterisation techniques with carefully deployed RT features. Fully ray traced games are few and far between, but revisiting decades-old classics and delivering them with a full RT upgrade is within the power envelope of today’s graphics hardware. We’ve already seen Quake 2 RTX and today we can reveal early work on a fully ray traced version of the N64 classic, Super Mario 64.

The embedded video below shows over half an hour of gameplay taken from an early technical preview of Super Mario 64 RT, a PC-based revamp of the game that replaces all of the lighting and the reflections in the game with RT effects. We’ve got a somewhat special build of the game, built from source code provided by author Daríosamo with additional elements provided by Render96, a project that aims to improve models and textures in Super Mario 64 with a view to matching the kind of pre-rendered SGI aesthetic seen in pre-release Nintendo 64 renders. The SMT64RT project goes public today with a technical preview available to download.

First up, a word on the origins of the PC port of Super Mario 64. The original N64 title was decompiled and source code made available, resulting in a number of ports for various platforms, including – ironically – Nintendo Switch. As it’s open source, contributors are welcome to launch their own forks and add functionality to the game, which is exactly what Darío has done here with his ray traced version. In terms of legalities, the source code is readily available, and it’s only compiled executables that tend to incur the wrath of Nintendo. It’s perfectly possible to play a very good PC port of Super Mario 64 and this new RT alternative, but you’ll have to compile the code yourself.

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