Playing Super Mario 64 increases your brain’s hippocampal grey matter

by Martin Watts, 9 December 2017

Mario doing the peace sign after completing a star mission in Super Mario 64

If you thought playing video games was bad for you then guess again. A recent research study shows that playing Super Mario 64 could improve your brain function.

Published in the academic journal PLOS ONE, the study measured Super Mario 64’s impact on grey matter in the hippocampus, cerebellum and the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex of adults aged 55 to 75.

Climbing inside the Shifting Sand Land pyramid in Super Mario 64

The hippocampus is primarily associated with memory (long-term memory, in particular). Maintaining grey matter within it is important for healthy cognition.

The study split the participants up into three groups. One was a video game experimental group (VID). Another was an active control group that took a series of self-directed, computerized music lessons (MUS). And there was a no-contact control group that did not engage in any intervention (CON). The VID group undertook video game training over six months, during which time they played Super Mario 64.

Could navigating Super Mario 64's 3D environments improve your brain function?

The study found that only the VID group saw a significant increase in grey matter within the hippocampus.

The group also showed a growth in the cerebellum. This part of your brain contributes to coordination, precision, and accurate timing. Super Mario 64 certainly requires all these things.

Dodging a boulder in Super Mario 64's Hazy Maze Cave

Are you more likely to return to Super Mario 64, knowing it could improve your brain function? I’ve never needed an excuse to go back to this classic game. But it’s nice to know there are worthwhile benefits to doing so.

Martin Watts

Martin has been running N64 Today since it began in 2017. He has also written for Nintendo Life and Time Extension, and appeared in the 2022 documentary GoldenEra. He got the Nintendo 64 as a Christmas present back in 1997 and it's been his favourite console ever since. His favourite N64 game is Goemon's Great Adventure.