Emulator devs are bringing 60 FPS and ray tracing to N64 games like Paper Mario and Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in widescreen
(Image credit: Nintendo/Darío)

An impressive emulator project could bring features like ray tracing, widescreen support, and 60 FPS to a variety of Nintendo 64 games.

You might recognize developer Darío from sm64rt, the mod which brought ray tracing to Super Mario 64's unofficial PC port. Now, Darío is turning that work into a plugin that could work with a variety of Nintendo 64 emulators, bringing advanced visual features to multiple N64 games. "I started this project a month ago as a way of optimizing the PC port's backend as much as possible," Darío says on Twitter, "and I quickly realized it could evolve into a generic emulation solution that would allow me to apply these enhancements to far more games."

You can see some of the results in the video below, and it's already looking extremely impressive. Games like Paper Mario and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time running at 60 FPS and widescreen, with the benefits of advanced lighting and shadow effects generated in real time.

It's important to note that while this will be an emulator plugin, not all of the features will automatically work with all the games you throw at it. Individual games will have to be patched for the new lighting model, as there's no data for light sources or reflective materials in the originals.

However, "a very interesting side effect of this project has been researching a method to interpolate the rendering commands sent by an N64 game without actually modifying the game at all," Darío says. By decoupling rendering from the original game's internal logic, that means that games could more easily be rendered at 60 FPS, without a specialized patch needing to be developed.

"Don't expect this to come out any time soon as there's hundreds of issues I've yet to solve and features to add," Darío notes. "The compatible games library is extremely limited."

An unofficial PC port of Ocarina of Time launched earlier this year.

Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.