While a few of the world has fallen prey to false conspiracy theories about human trafficking this 12 months, within the land of video video games, a far more playful collective delusion has been unfolding all through 2020. Some followers swear they’ve been having nightmares about Super Mario 64, however the game they bear in mind and warp whereas they sleep isn’t the identical one you and I’ve performed.

Versions of those supposed Super Mario 64 nightmares are popping up throughout YouTube and social media this 12 months, and thousands and thousands of individuals are watching them. Pulling from the custom of discovered footage movies, these uploads seem with nothing greater than a date within the title, which tells us when the unique VHS tape was created. There is not any VHS tape, after all. But you wouldn’t know that whereas watching — the movies have that chunky overlay show you’d anticipate from an outdated cassette tape, fuzzy digital artifacts and all. The footage is commonly out of focus, as if somebody is recording their TV whereas it performs again the video.

Known for its shiny, imaginative ranges and sturdy leaping physics, Super Mario 64 is undoubtedly one of the vital influential video games in the whole medium. This is perhaps why YouTuber Marionova64 says they’ve been having goals in regards to the platformer since they had been a little one, once they had been first entranced by the digital playgrounds concocted by the minds at Nintendo. These very goals ended up being the inspiration behind a sequence of movies on their channel that depict Super Mario 64 in a creepy mild.

Intellectually, we will watch the video above and realize it’s not actual. Mario by no means enters a bloody purple infinite hallway like this, nor does he ever encounter a message warning him from going any farther. But it appears to be like authentic — these are, in actual fact, belongings from the game, albeit modified for leisure functions. Marionova64 advised Polygon over Discord that the video above is a collaboration between them and content material creator Greenio. Marionova64 constructed the ROM file that locations Mario in a terrifying new actuality, whereas Greenio did the modifying to place all of it collectively.

“A lot of what you see is actually in game, and not video editing magic,” Marionova64 advised Polygon, noting that it took about two days of labor. Many of the content material creators Polygon spoke to for this story stated they discovered their instruments on the fly, however that newbie side someway solely offers the whole lot an air of authenticity.

Videos just like the one above impressed different individuals to leap in on the pattern, which could clarify why there’s been such a notable resurgence of Super Mario 64 creepypasta during the last 12 months. Some of it exists as video, however there’s additionally been a wave of photoshops and fan artwork that present ominous scenes from the game. One frequent picture trope, for instance, exhibits a floating Wario head terrorizing Mario throughout Peach’s fortress.

All of those gave rise to a standard picture identified as the “Super Mario 64 iceberg,” a deep-fried graphic that places all of the conspiracy theories in a single place. Usually, any new creepypasta that emerges pulls from one in every of these threads depicted within the iceberg. The prime of the iceberg lists standard, well-known conspiracy theories like “L is real,” which purports that Luigi is hiding someplace inside Super Mario 64. But the farther down you go on the iceberg, the extra wild it will get.

The Super Mario 64 iceberg, which lists a sequence of conspiracy theories. The farther down you go, the extra outlandish and obscure they get.
Image: Unknown/4Chan.

A video explaining the iceberg on YouTube has racked up 2.2 million views as of this writing. Likely, a mixture of the Nintendo gigaleak this 12 months, together with the announcement of a Nintendo Switch port of Super Mario 64, have each contributed to the rising curiosity within the basic game, although the pattern began effectively past both of these issues.

One of the preferred tall tales posits that each single copy of Super Mario 64 is personalized — that means that everybody performed a barely totally different model of the game. Likely, this concept took root as a result of it helps promote the bigger fantasy: in spite of everything, simply because you didn’t play a grim model of Super Mario 64 doesn’t imply that another person couldn’t have.

This creepypasta world is, in a manner, virtually a collective fiction experiment the place everybody builds off one another’s concepts.

“Upon showing these hacks to a few people, I was greeted with ‘I swear I’ve dreamed of this before…’” Marionova64 advised Polygon.

According to Saltysoda, one other Super Mario 64 horror machinima creator, we’re seemingly seeing this resurgence of nostalgia for the game as a result of many of the of us who performed it rising up are actually adults, and hungry for one thing extra complicated than what the unique game offered.

“Going back to the game as older people after not playing it for a while means we see the contents of it with a fresh pair of eyes, and the game definitely has a strange feeling that its hiding something, or something deeper is going on just below the surface,” Saltysoda stated over Discord.

It seemingly additionally helps that, regardless of our fond reminiscences of the game, it does genuinely comprise some unsettling imagery, like that of the eel or the haunted piano.

“It’s a weird game — half Alice in Wonderland drug trip, half kid’s cartoon,” says game designer Sam Barlow, who as soon as tried pitching an unfinished 90’s platformer that might slowly reveal itself to be cursed. The game was rejected on the time as a result of, in his phrases, the enterprise fits didn’t see the attraction of a “broken Mario game.”

According to Barlow, Super Mario 64 is “just weird enough that you might see malevolence out the corner of your eye. Gorgeous green fields above, demonic dungeons below. Chirpy dinosaurs one minutes, non Euclidean ghost houses the next … it’s full of fake walls and magical paintings, optical illusions we’d never seen before in 3D. It’s a game that really loves to poke at the fabric of its own illusion.”

The game that individuals bear in mind, then, isn’t fully a land of pleasure and star gathering — and that’s what the bigger pattern speaks to.

“Hazy Maze Cave, Wet Dry World and Dire Dire Docks are three examples of worlds that feel strangely empty and desolate at times,” Saltysoda stated.

Above all, Super Mario 64 has given rise to a sequence of scary tales as a result of it hails from an period during which there was nonetheless a palpable sense of the unknown. Unlike fashionable video games, we don’t have patch notes itemizing out each single change and inclusion, nor do now we have knowledge miners who can inform us about each single file inside a title. Cartridges, against this, are extra of a thriller — and one that may get corrupted past restore. This may clarify why there are such a lot of impossible-to-verify rumors about old-school video games, a high quality that Super Mario 64 creepypasta-makers need to carry again.

“Glitching wasn’t something you saw on Youtube … it was something you heard about on the playground,” Barlow stated.

“That era of tech was full of evocative oddities — the fidelity was low enough that you could read into it something that wasn’t there,” he continued. Sure sufficient, even earlier than Super Mario 64’s resurgence (and eventual re-release) in 2020, followers already received obsessive about issues which may not be true, like a signal that supposedly teases the inclusion of a secret character.

“When we look back at childhood favorites, it’s easy to tweak them towards horror and gain energy from how much more believing and innocent and fearful we were when we loved them,” Barlow stated. “There was a secret world much darker than we knew hiding behind everything served up to us as kids, revisiting that as an adult can be powerful.”