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Nintendo Mysteries: Beyond the World of ‘Super Mario 64’

Welcome to the Nintendo Mysteries series, where I attempt to uncover secrets and mysteries of the Nintendo Universe. There will be two kinds of mysteries shown here: Major and Minor, in that order. These mysteries will first be explained, followed by an analysis where I either come to a conclusion or will leave it as unsolved — at least for now.

For the first entry in this new series, we examine an all-time classic: Super Mario 64 and the mystery of “L is Real 2401.”

L is Real 2401

This is one of the most popular theories about Super Mario 64, and is also one of the most obscure. Behind the castle, there is a courtyard filled with Boos, and the entrance to Big Boo’s Haunt.

In the center of that courtyard lies the mystery.  There is a grey plaque in the middle of a fountain. This is often overlooked, but there is a sign on the plaque that is difficult to read because you have to swim in the fountain’s waters to even get close to it, a feat made even more difficult my Mario’s limited controls while swimming.

Since the sign is so difficult to read, soon people began trying to guess what is written on the sign, and rumors began to spread. Most turned out to be very false, but a few popular theories emerged that are somewhat plausible.


L is Real 2401

This is the most common theory. Let’s assume that this idea
is correct. What does it mean? Due to the lack of Luigi in this game, it was soon thought that the “L” represents Mario’s green-wearing little brother. This was an understandable reaction, especially considering that Luigi had become an essential character in the Marioverse, and his absence in Super Mario 64 was painfully obvious.

No wonder we never found Luigi. He was behind Mario the entire time.

If the plaque does signal Luigi’s presence, how do we unlock him? And what does “is real 2401” mean? Some people believe the number correlates to the amount of gold coins in the game, but it is unclear if this refers to the sum of the coins in the central levels, or the total amount of coins in all the courses, including Peach’s Castle. Either way, neither total equals 2401 coins. The total for the fifteen central levels is 2092, while the total for the entire game is 2672.

It is also worth stating that no file for Luigi has ever been found, even with a GameShark. This would seem to nullify any and all theories that Luigi is tucked away somewhere deep in the recesses of Super Mario 64, but the rumors persist to this day. One such hypothesis is that the L stands for the L

One other hypothesis is that the “L” stands for the L button on the Nintendo 64 controller, and that the number may refer to tapping the L button 2401 times. To many, including myself, that theory seems a bit too preposterous. I put this theory to the test, but nothing happened.

Note: Pressing the L button on this little beauty 2401 times will get you nowhere.

There are also several players who believe that the plaque foretold the arrival of Paper Mario, because that game was (supposedly) released in the U.S. on Feb. 4, 2001, which could be abbreviated as 2401. But, there are some logical inconsistencies with this theory. The most obvious is that the release date of Paper Mario was Feb. 5.

Furthermore, it hardly seems rational for a team of developers to include an indecipherable bit of text in a game made in September 1996 to prophesize the release date of a game that would not be released for another 50+ months.

Did Super Mario 64 foretell the release of Paper Mario years later?

Lastly, the idea that the plaque predicted Paper Mario‘s release date purports that Luigi has a major role in that game. However, as those who have played it will agree, Luigi’s role in Paper Mario was very small.

The Eternal Star

Another popular theory is that the sign says something about an “Eternal Star.” There is more evidence to back this up versus the L is Real 2401 theory. First, the plaque is on the statue of a star, not a giant “L” for Luigi. This also has more to do with the game, which contains plenty of stars, but sadly no Luigi. Maybe one of these collectibles is referred to as the “Eternal Star”? If so, which star is it?

Unfortunately this is not the Eternal Star.

That isn’t to say this theory is airtight. First, there is no star with extraordinary powers in the game that would set it apart as special and worthy of the name the Eternal Star. We wouldn’t even know what it would do if it did exist.

Plus, if looking at the sign carefully, you can see that there is a whole phrase there, not just two words. Are people really trying to say that what’s on the sign is “E te rnal star”? I don’t think so. I doubt a proper lady such as Princess Peach would allow such a misspelling in the courtyard of her castle. So, it appears this also isn’t the answer, even if it is more plausible than the L is Real 2401 theory.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Now we come to the theory I think is most plausible. If comparing Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, these are obviously not the same game, with none of the same characters whatsoever. But, there are some similarities. The same model used for the sign on the plaque is also reused in Ocarina of Time. This sign is somewhat readable, and it appears to say “L is Real 2401.”

Greatest troll by a developer ever?

However, it is more than likely that this allusion to the sign in Super Mario 64 is merely meant to toy with those who want to believe in L is Real 2401, as the phrase has no significance to either game.

Big Boo’s Haunt

Normally, when Mario dies or earns a Power Star, he leaps out of the painting in which he entered to begin the level. But, when entering Big Boo’s Haunt and performing one of the actions listed above, Mario will emerge from the fountain — the sign, to be specific.

Send us your own theories about Super Mario 64 or any other Nintendo game @getfandom.

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