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20 years later, Super Mario 64 fans discover that smoke was glitchy this entire time

Single line of code reveals underlying fix

Mario 64 smoke Image: Nintendo
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

Players have been roasting poor Mario’s buns in lava pits since the days of Super Mario 64, and everyone can remember Mario’s cries of pain as he leaped out of the burning pools. Super Mario 64’s smoke effect, emanating from the plumber’s toasted hindquarters, always looked a bit silly — even for the Nintendo 64.

A new ROM hack for Super Mario 64 reveals a fix for what we now know was a visual bug. And modders fixed it in only a single line of code.

According to the patch’s description on, the hack adds no new art. The much better looking smoke particle was inside the game all along, hidden beneath an incorrect line of code. According to hacker zoinknoise, they simply changed “G_IM_FMT_RGBA” to “G_IM_FMT_IA” on line 47 of the “/actors/burn_smoke/” file.

According to zoinknoise:

it’s now known that this texture is displayed in the wrong format by the game, resulting in black garbage pixels. Since video game smoke of this era was often depicted with black garbage pixels, the mistake went unnoticed for over two decades. This patch corrects the error by displaying the texture correctly as proper transparent smoke. It does not add any new art; the texture has been inside the ROM all along.

The tweet above showcases the two different smoke effects. The left image shows how most players remember the smoke looking; black dots floating around Mario’s butt. The image on the right is apparently the intended effect, featuring fully formed smoke clouds.

We’re unsure if Nintendo will officially fix this bug before Super Mario 64 comes to the Nintendo Switch in the rumored 35th anniversary bundle.

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