When it was released in 1982, the Commodore 64 (or C64) was a revelation.
Resplendent in all its 8-bit glory, the machine packed 20 kilobytes of ROM, 64 kilobytes of RAM, the ability to display multicolor sprites and a sound chip (the now legendary SID) to die for.
How many machines were eventually sold is up for debate, but with lower estimates of more than 12 million units and some as high as 30 million, it was clearly a massive success story that still has developers excited today.
In parallel with the companies who wrote code for Commodore’s machine, a thriving hobbyist scene thrived in the 80s. So-called ‘demos’, distributed via BBSs, pushed the computer to its limits, delighting users with super-smooth scrolling and sampled speech – in fact anything it wasn’t originally expected to do.
The fascination with the C64 has persisted for decades. It wasn’t officially discontinued until 1994 but since then has lived on, both in hardware and emulated forms. Those pushing the limits of what the machine can do have also remained hard at work.
One of those individuals is a programmer known online as ZeroPaige, who for the past seven years has been attempting to cram a port of Nintendo’s 1985 NES game Super Mario Bros. into Commodore’s now ancient hardware.
On April 18, 2019, ZeroPaige revealed that his goal had been reached, with the release of Super Mario Bros 64.
“This is a Commodore 64 port of the 1985 game SUPER MARIO BROS. for the Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System,” ZeroPaige wrote.
“It contains the original version that was released in Japan and United States, as well as the European version. It also detects and supports a handful of turbo functionalities, and has 2 SID support.”
The developer released the somewhat incredible port as a C64 disk image file, playable on hardware or emulators. The reception it received was amazing, with many fans heaping praise on ZeroPaige for completing a task many believed couldn’t be done.
But of course, the mighty Nintendo was watching too.
Links to the image squirreled away on hosting platforms started to go down, with the suspicion that the Japanese gaming giant was behind the deletions. Seven years of hard work taken down with a few lines of text.
Early this morning, the Commodore Computer Club revealed that it too had been hit with a copyright notice, effectively confirming that Nintendo was behind the action against Super Mario Bros. 64.
It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Nintendo has targeted the project. The company has been extremely busy in recent months taking down sites that offer ROMs that infringe on its copyrights.
Furthermore, Super Mario Bros. is also available on its Game Boy, Wii U, and Switch platforms, so the ….erm….Commodore 64…is also a market threat.
But while this takedown will have C64 fans shaking their heads, it will prove impossible to delete Super Mario Bros. 64 from history. As things stand, the disk image is available for download in a number of places and for those who want to play it, a few minutes searching will yield results.
The other factor is that the people most interested in this project will already have plenty of connections in the emulator scene, so much of the sharing will go on behind closed doors. This is perhaps a fitting tribute to the distribution that took place in the 1980s, when hobbyists began pushing the C64 to perform tricks its creators never envisioned.
While Nintendo’s lawyers clearly see Super Mario Bros. 64 as just another threat to be countered, the company’s programmers are probably sitting quietly at their desks, smiling quietly at the impressive work of ZeroPaige.
After all, they’re all striving for the impossible.