A Zooey Guide To Speedrunning Super Mario 64

Zoosexuality: a romantic orientation that has existed since prehistory, showing the undeniable primal bond between man and so-called beasts, the love that can transgress species, the attraction to the looks, smells, and movements of nonhumans. Mario: the plumber who is one of the most defining characters of the video game industry, having genre-defining games from arcade cabinets to the NES and all the way into modern day. Do these two topics, Zoosexuality and Mario, have anything in common? The short answer is, no. The long answer is, oh my goodness no Mario is among the most casually not zooey franchises that exist. From the start, he has been jumping over barrels to go accost a monkey and crushing turtles with no remorse. Animals in Mario games beware when the plumber enters their level, lest he get confused about whether any given critter is one of Bowser's minions or just an innocent bystander.
But, in spite of that, speedrunning is fun, and the Nintendo 64 boasts some of the most coveted speedrun categories in all of gaming, including Ocarina of Time and, what we're here to talk about today, Super Mario 64.
To highlight how emphatically not-zooey Mario is, but how we as zoos can have fun speedrunning Mario games all the same, I would now without further ado like to lay out a speedrunning route of Super Mario 64 that is passable to zooey standards of how we should treat our fellow living beings, while also going fast. Ladies and gentlemen and enbies and critters and more, I present to you, the zoo% run.
In Super Mario 64, Bowser has taken over Princess Peach's castle, and trapped all of the castle's occupants inside of the walls. What a jerk! Because of how aggrevated of an antagonist he is in this situation, we are going to consider it justified to go whoop his tortoise butt in order to free all of the castle's other occupants. Short of going hand to hand with Bowser though, we are going to attempt to avoid causing harm to any living beings in the game. Beyond that, we are even going to try to bestow kindness upon the game's creatures, in particular the ones who look like animals, because we're trying to be zooey. So, our four goals are:
1. Defeat Bowser to free the castle's occupants.
2. Do no harm.
3. Cherish as many of the game's animals as possible.
4. Go fast.
Oh boy, if you've played this game before, you can already probably spot how this is going to be no small feat. Point two in particular, "Do no harm," is going to cause us the most difficulty and will end up putting a lot of constraints on this run. In my opinion, if you do something like accidentally stomping a goomba, it's fine to just exit course and try again, without that ruining the run. There is only one egregious thing that will immediately ruin the run which we'll get to, and which Super Mario 64 vets can probably already predict.
For the true zoo% run we are going to be using some speedrunning strats to skip a lot of the game, but we will be blocked from using all of the popular go-tos, so in this run we will ultimately end up with 31 stars (as opposed to the more traditional 16 stars). This run does not use anything extremely technical in terms of bug exploits: "backwards long jump" is the fanciest thing you might have to learn if you didn't know it already.
Star 1: Behind Chain Chomp’s Gate
Upon beginning a new game file, we are invited by Princess Toadstool to the castle, to have some cake with her. Yum! Mario majestically emerges from a pipe outside of the castle, and our goal is to get inside. After talking to a Lakitu who offhandedly mentions something about our quest to obtain the power stars (which I don't think anyone had actually told us was the quest yet?), we can enter the castle and get a look at what we're working with. We should stop to talk to the Lakitu instead of skipping him, because he looks basically like a mythical turtle, so we should definitely take a moment while mashing through the dialogue to appreciate him.
The castle's first floor has several doors, but most of them are locked until we've gotten a certain number of stars (from completing levels) or certain keys (from defeating versions of Bowser). Our first objective is to get eight stars to open the door that leads to Bowser. The only course we have access to to begin with is Bob-Omb Battlefield, so upon entering the castle, let's hang a left, go up the short stairway, enter that door, and jump into the painting. (Yes, we could access other levels first by clipping with speedrunning strats, but there are animals in Bob-Omb Battlefield we need to appreciate anyways, so let's go with the flow here.)
Upon entering Bob-Omb Battlefield, two pink bob-omb NPCs will encourage us to climb up the hill and defeat King Bob-Omb to recover a power star. Obviously we are going to ignore this for now, because beating people up seems mean, and we are instead going to go immediately free Chain Chomp, because he/she/they/it goes "BARK BARK" and seems very happy when set free. Get your way to Chomp, avoiding stomping on goombas or setting off bob-ombs. The bob-ombs may literally be sentient bombs, but let's try to not provoke them all the same. Ground pound three times on Chomp's post, freeing Chomp and allowing us to appreciate how happy Chomp just was as well as giving us access to our first power star, Behind Chain Chomp's Gate. If you are already Speedruns McGee and know how to bomb clip past the gate without freeing Chomp, that's good for you but that is not the point of this run, we have to free Chomp before collecting the star.
Star 2: Big Bob-omb on the Summit
A lot of 16 star speedrunning routes spend as little time as possible farting around in Bob-Omb Battlefield, because even if it is the best course in the game, the stars are all just very far away from the course spawn, and a lot of them involve a lot of faffing around across a spread out board. However, for our zoo% run, there are still two important things we need to accomplish here before moving on: getting some important insight from King Bob-Omb, and appreciating a turtle (koopa) in the mission that we unlock from defeating King Bob-Omb.
So let's reenter Bob-Omb Battlefield, choose mission 1, and climb the hill to get a look at our foe supposed.
So I mean, on first impressions, we could say to King Bob-Omb, we're not so different, you and I. We both have moustaches. You are royalty, and I am here to save a member of royalty. We both enjoy grabbing and throwing others. He wants to know by what right we have scaled his mountain top, and challenges us to a tussle, saying we must prove ourself to him to get his star, and then telling us the terms of the battle. Say you know what, this guy sounds a lot like he's kind of asking for it, and that it's kind of all on his own terms, of his own volition.
This is what King Bob-Omb says if you do defeat him by throwing him around:
"Methinks my troops could learn a lesson from you! Here is your Star, as I promised, Mario. If you want to see me again, select this Star from the menu. For now, farewell."
Oh nice! This character explicitly has meta awareness of the game's mechanics! And I think that by virtue of Mario seeing this dialogue, we can now assume a degree of meta awareness on Mario's part as well. We are not going to be able to permanently improve the lives of any animals in this game, because the game doesn't assume we care about animals like that. But we can feel good if we improve the lives of animals in the game even once, and sadly but pragmatically move on when their predicaments are completely reset upon reentering a level. So great, with that key information given to Mario, let's defeat King Bob-Omb and collect the Big Bob-omb on the Summit star. Woohoo!
Star 3: Footrace with Koopa the Quick
We are going to once again reenter Bob-Omb Battlefield and choose mission 2. This gives us two things in Bob-Omb Battlefield. Most importantly, we can now appreciate a turtle (koopa). But also, we can now unlock this course's cannons.
We'll start with the cannons by talking to the pink bob-omb NPCs at the start. They claim to be peace-loving bob-ombs who don't use cannons. I am dubious of this claim considering how when we saw them in mission 1, they had a cannon out, pointed straight at King Bob-Omb up the hill. I think maybe they just want to be seen as not using cannons and we caught them a little off-guard. But in any case, they now invite us to use the cannons, unlocking the use of them in this course.
With that done, let's go talk to this turtle! It's Koopa the Quick! We can race him to the summit of the hill, by any means except those cannons that the game just gave us. He's not really that fast compared to us, but to be fair he could give most of the other NPCs in this level a run for their money. Except Chomp. Chomp is absurdly fast compared to Koopa The Quick, compared to us, heck Chomp might be the fastest NPC in the game. While racing Koopa the Quick, we are going to pass by Chomp, and should take a moment to appreciate Chomp again. Upon winning the race, we will be awarded our third star, after taking a moment to appreciate this turtle's sportsmanship. Way to go turtle. You tried your best.
Star 4: Li'l Penguin Lost
Now that we have three power stars, we have a number of options on where to proceed to next. And what's a better place to go than the next door in the hub, Cool, Cool Mountain!
Cool, Cool Mountain has the most animal NPC representation out of all of the levels in this game, at a whopping FOUR animals! All of them are penguins! Let's go see and appreciate some penguins!
When we arrive at Cool, Cool Mountain, a dialogue box will politely demand that we first check out the cottage that we spawned in by. But, obviously we have more important business: up on the mountain ledge above the cottage, there is a lost baby penguin!
This is the make or break moment for this entire zoo% run. If you drop the baby penguin off the edge of the level, by accident or god forbid on purpose, it's a wash, you have to start the whole thing over, you monster.
There are a variety of ways we can quickly get down the mountain to momma penguin and return baby penguin, but these quick ways are a lot more dangerous, and also don't allow us to appreciate baby penguin for as long. So the route here is to grab baby penguin, hop gently down onto the cottage roof, hop gently back down to the ground, and then slide down around the mountain the vanilla way, not chancing any wild careening over gaps or taking dicier-than-needed slopes. Carefully cross the snow man bridge, picking baby penguin back up if she gets knocked out of your hands, and make sure to appreciate how cute she is, lil penguin wobbling around, adorable. Navigating down the final stretch of the slope, the snowman can't be easily harmed but mind you don't hurt the spindrift.
Finally at the bottom, we return baby penguin to momma penguin, and are rewarded a star. Before collecting it, let's go up onto the nearby roof and grab that baby penguin and bring her down to the group too. This other baby penguin doesn't belong to this momma penguin at hand, but it's dangerous to play on roofs and we don't really have a better place to put her, so, put her there, appreciate the three penguins for a moment, and then collect the Li'l Penguin Lost star.
Stars 5 & 6: Slip Slidin' Away, Big Penguin Race
Next we will reenter the level and enter the cottage, and race to the bottom to collect the Slip Slidin' Away star, being sad about the fact that the baby penguin is lost again, there seems to be nothing we can do permanently, because the game assumes we don't care about animals that much. We don't really get to do any animal appreciating from Slip Slidin' Away specifically, but with that star collected, we can now reenter the course, select Big Penguin Race, and find a fourth penguin inside the cottage!
This penguin likes to race, and marks you as a worthy competitor. The route here is to throw the race, allowing the penguin to win and feel good about themself. Plus with the penguin in front of us instead of behind us, we will get to more fully see and appreciate the penguin throughout the journey down. With this done, we leave the cottage, take the teleporter back up, and reenter the cottage and race again and win this time. The penguin is actually super impressed with us and is legit happy to hand over the Big Penguin Race star. Do not cheat at any point! The penguin will be very disappointed and we'll have to start the mission over for injured feelings.
Star 7: Treasure of the Ocean Cave
Unfortunately, this run now brings us to Jolly Roger Bay. This is unfortunate for two reasons. One, because Jolly Roger Bay blows, and not even the fun kind of blowing you can do with a stallion if you're talented and his interest is piqued. But two, because this brings us to the last of the animal NPCs we can really appreciate in this phase of our adventure, and it's a pretty underwhelming showing.
If we collect the mission 1 star on this course, we will ruin a giant eel's perfectly nice sunken ship hangout. So, what we're going to do instead is swim by the eel, making sure to appreciate her along the way but only in passing, enter the submerged cave, and collect the Treasure of the Ocean Cave star. Mind that the falling pillars don't smash any goombas on your account.
Star 8: Red Coins on the Floating Isle
At this point, we are realistically out of animals to appreciate in the courses that are available. All the same, the zooey mindset need not be an appreciation of animals alone, but may at times extend to all of nature.
So with that in mind, and for lack of more fauna-oriented options, let's enter Whomp's Fortress and do Red Coins On The Floating Isle. This will require some tricky jumping while we still just have Whomp on top of the castle instead of the platforms intended for the mission, but it's doable. Be careful to avoid stomping on any piranha plants, they may be modeled after venus fly traps which are plants in real life, but their human-like sentience in Mario games is pretty well established regardless of what kingdom they belong in, and they are who we are here to appreciate in any case. Don't jump on any smaller whomps, although if they face plant I don't think any harm has been done by that alone. If you manage to hurt a thwomp, uh, bad job for this run but impressive outside of this run, we can feel fine jumping on that one thwomp to collect our needed red coin, those thwomps are neigh indestructible. There is an owl on this stage that we will unfortunately not be able to appreciate the presence of, because the owl only appears after non-pacifist courses have been completed.
Bowser in the Dark World
With eight stars, the game will inform us that we now have enough stars to go into the star door to Bowser. When we enter the door, we see a portrait of Princess Peach. Oh! Is she just through the painting? We approach it with hope. Bowser then opens a trap door under our feet as the painting changes to Bowser, dropping us into his level as he gloats about tricking us. What a jerk! After getting through his level (we can get the 8 red coins here now to help with the next phase), we come face to face with Bowser. With an attitude, he dares us to fight him and explains to us how to fight him. And, again, he is already the one creature who we are okay with throwing hands with. So after defeating Bowser, he ascends up as some kind of hologram thing and drops a key for us, promising he'll whoop us next time.
Phase 2: Second Bowser
Let's take a moment to reflect on how this run is going. So far, doable! But we're really fighting uphill here. I think it's fair to say the game doesn't anticipate us wanting to be a pacifist, which, is fair. But the really remarkable thing is that coming up, we are going to have to collect 22 more stars (21 if you got Bowser's red coin star already), and in this entire phase of the run, there are NO MORE ANIMALS TO APPRECIATE. I mean, there are a couple we can look at and appreciate as we pass by them, but none whose lives we can materially improve. Bummer!
In fact, the only animal thing we can really do in this phase is avoid harming them in spite of the game wanting us to. This truly is the dark second act. We are going to avoid stealing the vulture's star, avoid ground pounding on Dorrie, and avoid snatching the rabbit who does not enjoy being accosted. It's this last one that's going to damage our speed the most here, because normally with the rabbit, we could clip through a couple of doors and save ourselves the trouble of collecting the full 30 stars, and instead only need the 15 to get him to spawn. But, alas.
One glimmer of hope though is that during this phase, we can at least get the best cap, Wing Cap! Flying around like we ourselves are a falcon is pretty cool, and we can make peep coo noises to ourself as we soar.
So, because we want to get through this boring overall-animal-negative section as fast as possible, and there is little else to comment on, here is a list of suggested pacifist stars we can get:
-Bowser in the Dark World red coins
-The Princess's Secret Slide
-The Princess's Secret Slide (fastly)
-The Secret Aquarium
-Tower of the Wing Cap
-Shoot to the Island in the Sky
-Find the 8 Red Coins
-Mario Wings to the Sky
-Frosty Slide for 8 Red Coins
-Wall Kicks will Work
-Shoot into the Wild Blue
-Shining Atop the Pyramid
-Inside the Ancient Pyramid
-Stand Tall on the Four Pillars
-Free Flying for 8 Red Coins
-8-Coin Puzzle with 15 Pieces
-Red-Hot Log Rolling
-Hot-Foot-It into the Volcano
-Toad's star
-Watch for the Rolling Rocks
-Swimming Beast in the Cavern (via clip, not via ground pounding Dorrie)
-Navigating the Toxic Maze
With these stars obtained and with animals appreciated in passing, we can open the 30 star door, enter Dire, Dire Docks, and collect our 31st and final star, Board Bowser's Sub, appreciating the sharks and fishes along the way. This star will unlock the way to Bowser in the Fire Sea, where we can go throw hands with Bowser a second time and get our key to the castle's second floor.
Phase 3: Third Bowser
Finally, we are going to get the chance to flex and use some no fooling speedrunning strats. Backwards long jump! We will be clipping through the 50 star door and BLJ'ing up the endless stairs. But before we do, we of course need to give our hat to a monkey. Enter Tall, Tall Mountain, traverse up to the monkey midway up the climb, and snatch him: he will steal our hat and wear it, adorably. Take a moment to appreciate the monkey. Then long jump off the side of the mountain to exit the course. BLJ through the 50 star door and up the endless stairs, and go fight Bowser for a third and final time. We don't even have to feel too bad about whooping him: his last line is him saying to his minions that they should all watch the ending together, and then he ascends hologram-like like we've seen him do twice before without dying, so hey it's likely that even Bowser has survived our zooey quest for justice.
Super Mario 64 is not made to be a very zooey game. And, that's fair enough, I can't imagine that that was the mission statement of anyone at Nintendo working on it at the time. But we can have some fun trying to make it zooey anyways :) Or we can just play it like normal and jump on the turtles, it is a cartoony video game at the end of the day.
But if there is any point to this, beyond a little tongue-in-cheek journey through a classic Nintendo 64 game, it's that it would be dope as hell if there were a wealth of fun games that were already animal-empathy focused from the get-go. Not every game has to be Undertale, with compelling stories and mechanics that can also be perfectly pacifist: sometimes it is fun to just go pew pew got someone on red team with the sniper, get wrecked red team. But, with that said, I also personally never really like when rpg's use woodland animals as fight encounters, even if it makes sense I just don't care for it, I would way sooner like to befriend bear or respect bear's distance rather than kill bear. And I know that I would have loads of fun if there were a platformer of the calliber of Super Mario 64 that also centers around helping critters resolve their predicaments and exercising kindness, while jumping around and going fast. If you're a zoo and have any dev skills, maybe it's something to think about. It doesn't even have to be coded as zooey, overtly: tons of people in the general population have a strong platonic love of animals, enough so that just coding the game as animal-caring should be more than enough to garner positive attention, as long as the game surrounding is fun as well.
My pb for zoo% is 1:02:01.33. I think with a little bit of optimization this could for sure become the wr any%, leaving any 16 stars route in the dust with the power of animals and friendship. If you end up trying this run, leave a comment and let me know your time.
Article written by an anonymous author (April 30th 2023)
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