15. Wet-Dry World
Okay, this is one I think we can all agree with. Wet-dry World is just a slog and feels off when compared to the rest of the game.
It lacks a discernable theme or look to it, other than just being this big empty area where water goes up and down. Then you have those irritating robots that follow you around and try to launch you at the most inopportune times. Oh and then there’s the random town area that feels completely out of place.
What even is Wet-dry world? It seems like Nintendo had a concept for water level puzzles but didn’t really have any inspiration for the world that would house this mechanic.
Add on top of all that the fact that some people even believe that Wet-dry World exudes a mysterious negative aura, and it becomes clear why Wet-Dry World is the worst Super Mario 64 level by a wide margin.
14. Tiny, Huge Island
From this point on, I’d say there aren’t anymore “bad” levels in Super Mario 64, just some that are lacking inspiration, have poor level design, or just aren’t as good as the rest.
Tiny, Huge Island is a very cool idea on paper, harkening back to the iconic Super Mario 3 world, but it’s just not done all that well in Super Mario 64.
First off, it’s another mountain-looking level and there’s already too many of them in Super Mario 64 and Tiny, Huge Island is the least memorable of them all. It also just doesn’t really use the mechanic in creative enough ways; it feels tacked on rather than something you can experiment and have fun with.
Also, the windy area just makes the level a pain in the ass to get around and feels out place. Tiny, Huge Island is just kind of meh unfortunately.
13. Dire, Dire Docks
Dire, Dire Docks is OK, but it’s basically a less-fun version of Jolly Roger Bay. There’s not as much to do or see here, and there’s a lot of generic-looking space. You’ll spend most of your time hanging around on a pole in the dock area.
The main gimmick here is contending with updrafts that you can circumvent with Metal Mario. It’s whatever.
Get your stars and move on.
12. Snowman’s Land
Snowman’s Land is the other snow level in Super Mario 64 that you totally forgot existed until you reach it. It’s a very okay level, but like Dire, Dire Docks and Jolly Roger bay, it’s kind of just the less iconic, and less interesting version of Cool Cool Mountain.
It’s mostly a big open snowy space with a Snowman you can climb (nothing like the bad-ass Snowman in Freezeezy Peak in Banjo-Kazooie, though), an irritating Igloo puzzle, and a very angry Big Bully which loves pushing you into cold water.
Really the best, and only memorable parts of Snowman’s Land is cruising around on the green shell and the oh so satisfying BOING! from bouncing on the heads of the snowflower enemies.
11. Rainbow Ride
Rainbow Ride is the last level people will unlock in Super Mario 64. It’s memorable in the sense that it’s a very unique looking space as compared to the rest of the game. And it’s also filled with a variety of challenging stars to collect, which is always a great way to cap off a game.
But man, getting around really is a pain in the ass. The “Rainbow Ride” part of Rainbow Ride gets real old, real fast. It’ll wow you when you get in with its beauty, but by the time you’re done exploring Rainbow Ride, you’ll be happy that you don’t need to go back.
10. Tall, Tall Mountain
I get the feeling that some of you reading this might put Tall, Tall Mountain lower on this list, but I’m going to defend having it crack our top 10.
While the area really isn’t all that memorable looking, other than the big red mushrooms, I’m a big platformer fan and Tall, Tall Mountain just has a lot of solid platforming-focused stars. If you struggle with that, though, I can see why you might hate this level.
Plus there’s the damn evil Monkey! It may be adorable but that doesn’t make that damn Monkey any less evil!
9. Whomp’s Fortress
Whomp’s Fortress is just a fun level to run around. It’s relatively non-threatening and it has a mix of platforming, puzzle, and combat-focused stars that you can get at your leisure.
The cannon that lets you blast your way around to some of the higher areas is also a nice touch that helps the level not become a slog to get around.
Plus, you get to literally murder a Whomp after he pleads for you to stop tormenting his people. Not only do you beat him down, you turn him into a foundation for the castle as punishment for giving you lip. Metal Mario indeed.
8. Jolly Roger Bay
While water levels are usually divisive, Jolly Roger Bay is without a doubt the far more interesting of the three present in Super Mario 64. It’s a gorgeous area with lots to do and see while you listen to soothing music.
You’ll dive down to deep depths to explore a sunken ship, steal red coins from giant clams, and contend with that terrifying eel for the first time. That thing is still nightmare fuel for many players.
Also there’s plenty of above water space to explore and break things up the gameplay a bit. Jolly Roger Bay is a water level done right.
7. Lethal Lava Land
Lethal Lava Land is perhaps the most visually striking level in all of Super Mario 64. The fire and lava all over make the entire level dangerous, but it also gives it some personality as it’s one of the few levels where you need to be on your toes at all times.
You’re always on edge trying to avoid falling into the lava and, unfortunately for you, you’ll often have a pack of bullies hot on your heels to try and knock you off.
While Lethal Lava Land can get frustrating if you’re sloppy, it’s one of the most visually appealing and challenging levels in Super Mario 64, earning it a spot in the top half of our list.
6. Hazy Maze Cave
Hazy Maze Cave might be a controversial pick this high, but there’s a lot to love in this claustrophobic world. Hazy Maze feels so dense and there’s a lot to do and see as you delve deeper into this tightly constrained world.
There is, of course, the poisonous hazy maze that will stress inexperienced players out. And there’s a whole section that gives off an Indiana Jones vibes as you dodge boulders and swing across monkey bars to reach a star.
Then, if you really dig deep into Hazy Maze Cave, you’ll find the gentle and cute giant dinosaur, Dorrie, who will help you get another star. Dorrie might look scary to new players, but he’s actually quite the sweetheart.
5. Shifting Sand Land
Shifting Sand Land is likely the first time anyone that is currently around the age of 30 had ever seen Mario without his hat. It’s a shocking moment, but he actually has a pretty decent head of hair under there! In Super Mario 64 you’re motivated to get your hat back ASAP from the Vulture that stole it, though, as Mario takes more damage without it.
Beyond shocking the world with a hat-less Mario for the first time, Shifting Sand Land is also a very unique and fun level to explore. The entire outdoor area is filled with sand-themed challenges meant to slow you down and mess with your timing. Fortunately, there’s a Wing Cap that will let you get around quickly from star to star.
Also, there’s the whole pyramid area which is almost like a mini-world within the level. There’s a lot of jelly in this donut of a level!
4. Tick Tock Clock
Tick Tock Clock is one of the last levels you’ll unlock in Super Mario 64 but it’s worth the wait. You’re instantly hit right in the face with its theme of being in a giant clock. Very cool!
The whole level is tightly designed and feels like one-long test of your platforming abilities, with players being rewarded for quick and precise movements that are in lockstep with the clock’s movements. If you’re too slow, you’ll get screwed by the clock’s mechanisms.
Some people might be traumatized by the level’s challenge compared to the rest of the game. But hey, Super Mario 64 is not that hard so embrace a little bit of push back will ya?! You only need 70 stars to beat the game after all.
3. Bob-omb Battlefield
The first level of Super Mario 64 is perhaps the most iconic as it marks the first ever 3D Mario level. The level itself does an excellent job of introducing you to all the things you can do in 3D such as jump, dive, climb, dodge, ground pound and more.
You’ll need to use every trick in the book, just about, to get all the stars and start building up a bank to explore the rest of the castle. Plus, the level also introduces some all-time great characters such as Koopa the Quick, King Bob-omb, and the friendly pink Bob-omb Buddies.
There are few things more satisfying than shoving it in Koopa the Quick’s big stupid face.
2. Cool Cool Mountain
This is the level in Super Mario 64 that separated the wholesome, good-hearted people that instantly jumped at the opportunity to help a lost penguin chick find her mama… and the monsters that would laugh as the crying chick was flung into the abyss.
Aside from presenting young children with a philosophical dilemma that would shape the future of their morality, Cool Cool Mountain still has so much else going for it!
You have the legendary race with mama penguin that will push your skills (and patience) to the test. Many will try and cheat mama by skipping the course, but most will fail and join her child in the abyss.
Outside in the cold there are a variety of stars to collect that range in challenge from rolling parts of a snowman down a slide, dodging enemies on a perilous bridge, and showing off your wall jumping skills for the first time.
What else can I say? Cool Cool Mountain is just a… cool level.
1. Big Boo’s Haunt
Finally we’ll end at perhaps the most inspired, iconic, unique, and creepiest level in Mario history: Big Boo’s Haunt.
If you played this game when you were around ten years old and Big Boo’s Haunt didn’t scare the crap at of you, you’re either totally fearless or a liar.
The ghost houses in Super Mario World were known for being puzzle over platforming-focused, and Nintendo perfectly translated that into 3D with Big Boo’s Haunt for Super Mario 64.
For starters, the music is terrifying and doubly so once you get to the haunted merry-go-round. The atmosphere in Big Boo’s Haunt is perfect, and the eerie silence, as compared to the liveliness of just about every other level, makes this whole stage play out like an E-rated Silent Hills game. Adding to this are the oddly dark and murdery messages that the Boos will leave you as you take them out.
If the Boo’s threats and laughs didn’t scare you away, then you’ll also have to contend with how easy it is get lost as you try to navigate your way through ghastly traps set for you by the Boos.
Oh and then there’s that damn piano that probably gave every child their first concussion by sending children 10 feet into the air and into their ceiling.
After all the scares and traps, getting to the roof and taking out Big Boo himself is just incredibly satisfying.
The whole experience, although traumatizing, is perhaps the most memorable part of an iconic game, and it’s why Big Boo’s Haunt is our favorite Super Mario 64 level.
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