Modder Teaches AI Programs to Play Super Mario 64

Hide your stars, the computers are coming!

If you’re the type of logical person who has decided not to worry about the rise of artificial intelligence until a computer learns to play Super Mario 64, then you might want to sit down for this one. 

A modder named Kaze Emanuar has been teaching multiple AI scripts to play Super Mario 64. If you check out some of the early videos of his efforts, you’ll find that AI programs aren’t exactly great at navigating open-ended games that require precise controller movements like Super Mario 64. In fact, most of the scripts just spend their time running against walls, jumping about randomly, and performing actions similar to what your little sibling might have done when you handed him the N64 controller. 

However, there have been some recent successes. Most notably, one of the AI participants was able to actually capture a star in just 15 minutes of play. Another took a few hours to do the same. Before you get too excited/worried Emanuar wants everyone to know that these achievements are more of a matter of luck and that there’s a long way to go before AI programs are able to actually navigate the game. 

“The entire 3D space is too complex to put all of it as inputs into the AI’s brain,” said Emanuar. “I have to simplify it and make it look at some sort of ‘low detail’ world of a small space around it so that it works processing-power-wise.”

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Despite his concerns, some of the videos of these AI runs reveal fascinating progress is being made. In fact, some of the scripts seem to actually be learning to utilize advanced jumping techniques to reach new places. Granted, they’ll couple those achievements with random punches in the air, but it’s still pretty impressive to see genuine growth.

Nobody is throwing out any estimates on how long it will take an AI to actually beat Super Mario 64, but barring some miraculous progress, that might take some time.