I always liked Super Mario 64 when I was a kid. I remember playing it at my aunt's house all the time. Well, one day a pop-up appeared out of nowhere as I was watching gameplay footage on YouTube. I was a little startled, and was about to close the window, until I realized that it was a website showing a mint condition copy of Super Mario 64 for sale. There was a picture and everything. I usually don't trust these things, but the feeling of nostalgia overpowered me, and I wanted to buy it.
The whole business was peculiar, seeing as how the owner of the game wanted the buyer to send an envelope containing $10 to and address on the site, instead of using something like PayPal. What made things even more strange was that when I tried to gain access to the website (I wrote down the URL) after encountering... problems with the game, the page was nowhere to be found.
A few days after the $10 was mailed, I got a package containing the new copy of the game. The first thing I noticed when I opened the small box was that the "official sticker" with Mario flying in the air was apparently peeled off or something. In its place was a piece of duct tape with "Mario" crudely written on it in permanent marker. I felt a little ripped-off, but as long as the game worked, I didn't care.
I got out my Nintendo 64 and put the cartridge in. The screen turned on with the familiar Mario face that you could stretch and twist aimlessly. I remembered laughing all the time at the results as a kid and decided to mess around for old times sake. I moved the cursor over to Mario's ear and pulled it to elven proportions. I was going to do the same to the other ear, when the TV suddenly produced loud static. Mario's whole head started deforming and twisting in ways that I didn't even know were possible for the model. Random sound effects from the game started playing along with the static. As all this was occurring, I could hear a faint voice whispering in Japanese. The voice was stammering and whimpering.
I immediately shut off the game and tried again. I didn't bother with the Mario head this time. Just selected a new file and started playing.
When I selected the file, the game skipped the opening monologue by Peach and the courtyard outside. Mario was just placed right inside the castle. Creepier still, Bowser didn't say anything either. I tried to ignore it and played anyway. However I also noticed that there was no music. Just dead silence. There weren't even any Toads around to talk to. The only door I could enter was the Bob-omb Battlefield. The other doors wouldn't even respond to my button commands.
The portrait to Bob-omb Battlefield wasn't the usual picture. It was just a stark white canvas. I was still trying to convince myself that these were just minor glitches, and that they wouldn't effect the gameplay at all. Once I entered the portrait, the image suddenly went from a blank canvas to the Lethal Lava Land painting. You know, that slightly unsettling image of the flame with the evil smile? Yeah, that's when I started getting really suspicious.
The mission select menu came up, and yet another weird detail was present. Instead of "Big Bob-omb on the Summit", the mission was called "TURN BACK". I have no idea what drove me to press A, but I did.
The level seemed normal. Everything was how I remembered it. I thought I could finally enjoy my favorite childhood game. But then I saw him. Luigi. I was absolutely shocked. He was never in this game. His model wasn't even a Mario palette swap. He looked like a completely original model. Luigi just stood there until I tried to approach him. He started running at unexpected speeds. I followed suit and went through the level. Strange things happened as I pursued him. Each time I picked up a coin, the enemies and music would get slower, and the scenery would look darker in color and more morbid. It kept gradually getting worse until I collected a 5th coin. Then, the music just stopped. The enemies laid down on the ground like they were dead. I was seriously freaked out, but I kept chasing Luigi.
I went up the hill. No cannon balls rolled down trying to knock me over. I really wasn't surprised at this point. Luigi was always just out of my sight as I ran. Once I reached the summit, I saw yet another object out of place. A small cottage was all that was seen on the top of the hill. Luigi was nowhere to be found. The cottage was certainly odd-looking for a Mario game. It was old, plain, and broken down. Regardless of my fears at that moment, I had Mario enter the cottage.
As soon as the door closed. A disturbing picture of a hanged Luigi immediately popped up along with a very frightening scare chord. It sounded like a violin screech accompanied by loud piano banging. Mario fell to his knees and sobbed for roughly 5 minutes, then the screen irised-out.
I returned to the castle. Mario just slumped out of the painting. The image switched from the Lethal Lava Land portrait to the image of Luigi hanging himself. The room was different this time. It was now a small hallway. Toads with blank expressions and white robes lined the sides of the hallway. There was another painting at the opposite end that just completely and utterly scared me. It was a picture of my family It wasn't even a photo from the time Super Mario 64 was released. It was a very, very recent photo. I remembered posing for it last weekend.
I reached for the on/off switch on the N64. There was no way I was going to play this anymore. However, when I flipped the switch, the game was still on. I flipped it back and forth, but to no avail. I tried unplugging the whole system, but it never left the screen. I was even still able to control Mario. I couldn't just leave it on forever... so I kept playing. I went to the photo of my family, and jumped in. Only one mission was available, of course. This one was called "Run, Don't Walk". I selected the mission. 'Let's-a-go'...
The level started in a flooded hallway with platforms floating on the water. Mario landed on one of these, and the camera turned to show what was behind. A silent black void was slowly approaching Mario. It didn't look like anything. It didn't even look like finished graphics. Just a giant, blocky, black blob. I started jumping from platform to platform. With no goal in sight, I kept running, the darkness slowly but surely gaining speed. This kept going on for what felt like hours. I was really doubting there would ever be an end. Mario was just going in circles. Finally, the black blob/void/thing caught up with Mario, and enveloped him in darkness. He didn't scream or resist at all. It just consumed him.
Mario fell out of the painting and back into the castle. I lost one of my 3 lives. The room was different now. Some of the Toads were gone, and the painting looked different. My family and I were in the same positions, but our bodies were partially decomposed. It looked too real to be Photo-shopped. It looked more like someone just took our dead bodies and posed them.
Regardless, I jumped into the painting again. Mario was in a small room. There was still only one mission available. It was called "I'm right here." spelled just like that. I selected the mission and prepared for the worst. Mario landed in a small, dark room. There no visible way out. The room was empty except for a piano in the corner. I knew what that meant. I was stuck in there with the Mad Piano. I approached it and it started chasing me as always. There was no way to damage it, so I had no choice but to let Mario take damage.
When he lost all his health, the usual death animation didn't happen. Mario just got mauled by the piano. He fell as his blood and guts spilled on the floor, and the camera panned to a top down view of his corpse. A distorted version of the merry-go-round music from Big Boo's Haunt played as the screen slowly transitioned from the in-game shot to a photo-realistic sketch of Mario's dead body in the same view as the shot. It was very unsettling. I was crying softly as I gazed upon the image. I lost another life.
The photo of my family was shown again. We were even more rotten than before. The view zoomed into the painting, like I was warping again. I was greeted with a shot of Peach's castle from the outside. The castle was crumbling in ruin. The fields were on fire. The sky was pitch black. Bowser's laugh played on a loop in the background as children mockingly chanted, "You couldn't save her!" This went on for a long time, until, a close-up of Peach's face accompanied by an extremely loud screech interrupted the loop without notice. Peach's mouth was wide open as if she was screaming, and her eyes were empty, black holes.
Suddenly, I was back in the hallway as Mario was once again ejected out of the painting. Now all of the Toads were gone, and me and my family looked positively repulsive. Maggots were wriggling around in holes in our flesh. Guts were spilling out of our bodies. My dad's eyeball was hanging loose from its socket. It was too much to bear, but something still urged me to trudge on. I jumped into the painting, with only one life remaining.
This time, there was no name for the mission. Just a blank space where the title would be. I selected the mission, and Mario landed on a very small island in the middle of the ocean. There was a solitary sign. It only read "DIVE." I did just as it said and entered the water.
The ocean was dark and empty. There were no fish. I wasn't even able to see anything in the water besides Mario. I swam downwards. I kept going for quite some time, yet Mario never ran out of breath. I counted roughly 10 minutes of swimming until I decided to go back up. Just as I turned Mario around, it came. A huge, and I mean huge Unagi the Eel came out of nowhere and swallowed Mario whole. I was dumbfounded. It went by so fast I wasn't even sure what I saw. The Game Over screen didn't show up. All that happened was a fade-out.
The photo of my family and I was shown again. We were plain skeletons now. Once again, it looked very real. I couldn't move the camera at all. It just stayed focused on the picture. I shut off the game and turned it on again. I chose my file, but it just went to the skeleton photo of my family. I tried this about three more times before giving up. I desperately wanted to stop, but some force kept me from walking away. I decided to select the only other saved file. The camera once again focused on the skeleton picture, but this time they were in a different position. As if they were a different family.