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Super Mario 64 influenced by Croc prototype, claims Argonaut founder

Argonaut founder Jez San says that as part of its deal with Nintendo, it prototyped a 3D platforming game that influenced the creation of Super Mario 64. Argonaut went on to make the prototype into Croc: Legend of the Gobbos.


Super Mario 64 is one of the most influential games of the 3D era, having established 3D platforming mechanics that have endured well into current generations. According to Argonaut founder Jez San, one of the creators of the original Star Fox, Mario's venture into three dimensions owes some of its identity to Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, which released roughly a year later. Huh?

In an in-depth piece on the creation of Star Fox from Eurogamer, San explains that Croc started as a pitch for a 3D platform game, as part of an exclusivity arrangement with Nintendo. "We mocked up a prototype using Yoshi," he said. "It was essentially the world's first 3D platform game and was obviously a big risk - Nintendo had never let an outside company use their characters before, and weren't about to, either. This is the moment the deal fell apart."

San says the early prototype was very similar to Mario 64, and he feels Nintendo must have been influenced by it. He also claims Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto implied that himself.

"Miyamoto-san went on to make Mario 64, which had the look and feel of our Yoshi game - but with the Mario character, of course - and beat Croc to market by around a year. Miyamoto-san came up to me at a show afterwards and apologized for not doing the Yoshi game with us and thanked us for the idea to do a 3D platform game. He also said that we would make enough royalties from our existing deal to make up for it. That felt hollow to me, as I'm of the opinion that Nintendo ended our agreement without fully realizing it. They canned Star Fox 2 even though it was finished and used much of our code in Star Fox 64 without paying us a penny."

Argonaut went on to release Croc for the PlayStation, Saturn, and PC, which became its biggest financial success thanks to owning the intellectual property. San says that he's "not bitter" about the goings-on at Nintendo, but he feels that Nintendo "undervalued" the talent at the studio. "We could have done so much more," he said.

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