Let’s Interview: Super Mario 256 Developer Josh65536!
For many years, things were surprisingly quiet on the Super Mario 64 DS modding front. Oh sure, there were a few random hacks released for it, like Another Mario 3D, but major projects that really pushed the engine were few and far between. You had a few games with new levels and a few others with custom models and textures, but nothing on par with Super Mario 64’s hacks like Star Road or Last Impact, or Super Mario World’s extensive collection of full length custom games.
However, in the last few years, this changed. Now the Mario 64 DS modding scene is really heating up, with all manner of interesting hacks having been announced and showcased in the last few years. You’ve got Super Mario Sunshine DS, whose creator we’ve already interviewed here on the site. Super Mario Star World, an overly ambitious sequel by SKELUX that will supposedly top Super Mario Odyssey in the content department. Plus a whole new Super Mario Galaxy sequel, which is apparently recreating Galaxy’s gravity mechanics in the Mario 64 DS engine.
It’s pretty crazy, and potentially means Super Mario 64 DS is well on its way to getting a modding scene about as interesting as Super Mario World and Super Mario 64’s ones.
And that’s especially true with today’s project. Titled Super Mario 256 and developed by modder Josh65536, the game is a full on technical showcase for everything you can do with the Super Mario 64 DS engine.
There are new playable characters like Peach and Toad. Dozens of new levels with interesting themes not found in other titles. Plus all manner of new gameplay mechanics and ideas, ranging from new enemies from throughout the greater Mario series to powerups and transformations never seen before in a game.
So in this interview, we’re going to find out about it all. From the new content to the development process, release schedule to its future, we’re going to learn everything there is to learn about Super Mario 256.
Let’s do this!
Starting with a bit of personal info. Who are you? Who is Josh65536?
I am a mathematician and a programmer. I’ve been programming for 7 years, and the current languages I use now are C++, Python, and Rust. I’ve also won awards at various math competitions and am doing math research in college.
Where did the username come from anyway? What does 65536 mean?
It’s a nice power of 2, and powers of 2 are cool. In fact, log2(65536) is also a power of 2.
How did you get into gaming? What was your first game?
Probably a Sonic game whose name I don’t remember. The first Mario game I played was Mario Kart DS, followed by Super Mario 64 DS.
Was Super Mario 64 DS a major part of your childhood?
Kind of. I did 100% the game twice. However, I like the Galaxy games better.
What about the original Super Mario 64? Did you have much experience with that one?
I’ve only played it recently, and I don’t particularly like some of the things that that game does. For example, if you bonk and land on a slope, you will slide down with a constant velocity until the animation finishes. If you miss a wall jump, you will not be able to ground pound. You can’t kick to get an extra oomph to your jump distance if you’re moving too fast, and if you dive instead, you dive down. And don’t get me started on the collision detection.
Regardless, what games are you playing right now?
Super Smash Bros Ultimate. I’m planning to play Super Mario Maker 2 later. Recently, I’ve played Minecraft, Factorio, Baba is You, and A Dance of Fire and Ice.
Onto some ROM hacking stuff now. Why did you decide to mod Super Mario 64 DS anyway?
I had a plan for a Mario platformer, and I had just finished the B button challenge in Super Mario 64 DS.
Caption: It’s like the A button one Pannenkoek2012 plays, except for Super Mario 64 DS
Did you ever consider modding the original Mario 64, like Kaze and Skelux did?
No. The collision detection sucks. Skawo, who made Another Super Mario 3D, can agree. It uses hitboxes for walls, and ceilings and out of bounds areas extend to infinity the floor above them, which is infinity if there’s a gap with no floor. This is what causes invisible walls. I’d take SM64DS’s sphere-triangle collision detection over that.
What other creators/hacks inspired you to start a Mario 64 DS ROM hack?
There weren’t that many SM64DS hacks when I started, so uhh…
And what was your first ever Mario 64 DS ROM hack?
Did you have many ideas for mods/hacks before Super Mario 256?
Still, it’s Super Mario 256 that really got people interested in your work. So why did you decide to start making this game?
I had a partial plan for that even before I started hacking SM64DS. There were even 2 incomplete iterations of SM256 in Super Mario Bros X.
Where did the name come from? Was it inspired by those old Super Mario 128 tech demos/code names?
Power of 2, of course, and the fact that it was supposed to have 256 stars. I’m not sure about that now.
One thing people notice right away is that Super Mario 256 has a multitude of new characters to play as, like Peach and Toad. What made you decide to add them to the game?
They were in the original plan. I also thought it would be an interesting challenge to add a new character to the game without replacing one.
And how hard was it to do so anyway? Is it difficult to code new characters for Mario 64 DS?
Yes. You have to (obtain a) model (of) the character, give that model all the animations that are in the game (which there are over 100 of) (or just use Mario’s animations like I did), modify the player structure because hardcoded in its layout is the fact that there are 4 characters, find all the character arrays in the game (and I missed some for a while, for example, swim turning speed has a character array), add a portrait for the star select screen, add the minimap icon and the lives icon, add all the sound effects, come up with a Power Flower ability for the character and code that in, etc., and finally you get to enjoy the new character.
Despite these characters however, the game does lack one fan favourite, namely Waluigi. What made you decide not to include him as a playable character in Super Mario 256?
He was not in the original plan. Also, tell those people to focus on the levels. This hack will have some interesting levels.
Regardless, the characters seem to have been made a tad more consistent here, since they can all now wall jump. Are you going to do that for other abilities too? Like say, letting Yoshi fight/defeat Boos?
There isn’t a single Boo to be found in SM256 yet, not even in development. However, there are plans to include Boos, and Yoshi will be able to ground pound them. However, many character abilities remain exclusive. Only Luigi and Toad can run on water, for example. Maybe Mario will get some Odyssey moves as a unique ability.
What are some of the new Power Flower abilities for the extra playable characters?
Peach becomes Heart Peach, who can shoot hearts at enemies to freeze them. Toade becomes Dashy Toade, who can run twice as fast. However, the Power Flower is being phased out and the powerups will be extracted from it. This is because I haven’t been using the ? block much. Out of the 17 finished levels for SM256, only 2 of them have a ? block.
And how well are their abilities integrated into the level design this time around? Super Mario 64 DS had a bit of a problem there, since it made Luigi ridiculously overpowered and Wario almost completely useless…
Not much yet. However, Luigi has been nerfed and can no longer spin from a backflip. Wario was given a Shoulder Bash, allowing him to move reasonably fast in a straight line while plowing through enemies.
On another note, Super Mario 256 also has a ton of new enemies and gameplay mechanics too, like Magikoopas and Shy Guys. How hard was it to add these custom actors into the game?
Plus various other enemies and objects have been added in, as shown in this video
Not nearly as hard as adding a new character. Adding a new platform is just a matter of modelling and collisioning the platform, setting up some parameters and running a script to create the platform, and adding behavior code. Adding a new enemy is more complicated because they have animations, and their behavior code is more complicated. I usually just copy it from another enemy and change what needs to be changed. Yes, this can result in the codebase being a mess, but whatever.
What other ones are you planning to code for future levels? Any interesting Mario enemy ideas that we might recognise from other games?
To avoid spoilers, I’ll give only 1 example. The Koopa Counteroopa is a Koopa that counter attacks if you try to attack it. It will be featured in a level whose initials are TTTL.
How about bosses? Are all the bosses going to be custom actors too?
Not quite. King Bob-Omb and King Whomp are returning. However, most bosses will be custom.
If so, would that be the first time a Mario 64 DS hack included truly custom bosses? Cause it feels like most bosses in hacks tend to be heavily based on the vanilla ones gameplay wise…
Yes, it would, unless Sunshine DS or Star World gets released first and features a custom boss.
While other mods have new bosses, they usually act like reskins of existing ones
What’s the story like in Super Mario 256? Is there one planned out for the game?
Yes, there’s one planned. However, it’s spoilers for now. I’ll just say that it starts with Mario receiving a letter to go to Peach’s Castle.
What about the levels? We’ve seen a retro mashup level, a music themed level and a cave themed level so far, but are there any other neat level concepts you’ve got in store for us in future?
Yes. there will be an electric level, a house level, and a pentagon level, just to name a few.
How many of them will be anyway? Will this game be as long as the original, or even longer?
The game will be longer than the original. The current plan is to have over 50 levels, and more minor ones than major ones.
Either way, it’s quite clear the game’s going to get a ton of hype when it’s finally released. How are you going to capitalise on that?
I’m not actually sure yet.
Do you ever worry Nintendo might try and take down the project if it gets too big/well known?
If that happens, I’ll just move on with original stuff. I have some game ideas lined up.
If not, do you think this might finally be what the Mario 64 DS modding scene needs to break into the popular consciousness? It’s always been kinda… ignored compared to its Super Mario World and Super Mario 64 equivalents…
Maybe. It could just be that Super Mario 64 is older and so its hacking community is older. Maybe Super Mario 64 DS’s is simply 8 years behind. For example, a major SM64 hack called Last Impact was released in 2016, and a major SM64DS hack will be released in 2024. And again this is conditional on Star World not being released first, in which case it might be the one.
Well, some big channels are playing this game now. That’s something!
What other Mario 64 DS hacks do you think look promising? Personally we think Super Mario Sunshine DS, Super Mario Star World and Super Mario Galaxy DS look like some of the more promising ones, but you probably have far more examples…
Those three that you mentioned, Super Mario Journey Lane, Donkey Kong Jungle Climber, Sky Temple.
Do you have any other plans for Mario 64 DS mods after Super Mario 256 is finished? What about mods and hacks for other games?
Not many. I might remake a level in HD for a more graphics-advanced game, but other than that, you could say that this will be my last impact in SM64DS hacking.
How about original games? Any plans for those?
I have an idea for a puzzle platforming game (which I’m working on), a vague idea for a fractal-based game, and one for a 3D level maker.
Finally, what advice would you give someone wanting to make their own Super Mario 64 DS hacks?
Don’t throw polygons at a detailing problem and expect it to work. The DS cannot show more than 2048 polygons on screen at the same time, so get used to making low-poly models. Also know that unslippable collision detection exists and should be used for slopes that the player shouldn’t slide off. Don’t be afraid to throw away your first level when you get better at hacking the game.
Yeah, that makes sense. We’ve seen an awful lot of ROM hacks falter when they try to go too far beyond the original game/console’s capabilities, and even major projects like Super Mario Sunshine DS have occasionally struggled with the limits of the hardware because of that.
Hell, we’ve even made that mistake in some of our own fan projects too. It’s what ended up killing the original art direction of one of own games, and the cause of a fair few issues in our current ones too.
So know your hardware. Know its capabilities and limits, and be reasonable about what you want to do in your game.
Otherwise it’s all too easy to make something that won’t work in a million years, and to really wreck your game design plans in process.
Still, what did you think of the interview? Does it make you want to play Super Mario 256? Will this finally be the game that truly puts Super Mario 64 DS mods on the map?
Tell us your thoughts on the matter in the comments below, on the Gaming Latest forums, or on our community Discord server today!