Without a question, Super Mario Brothers is Nintendo's most popular franchise ever. From Donkey Kong to his own series, Mario has always been popular with everybody from adults to kids. In fact, Mario has such a die hard fan base, they were willing to forgive him for a completely terrible movie (1993).
Though Super Mario Brothers 3 and Mario World were huge hits, it was hard imagine how Nintendo could take this traditional 2D game into the 3D realm. After all, Mario all but created the modern day platformer. But there was little to worry about, Super Mario 64, the launch title for the Nintendo 64, was one of the best controlling, looking, and playing games of all time. In fact, Next Generation would go as far as to say that Mario 64 was the "Best Game of All Time" on their top 100 list.
The Other Side:
As good as Super Mario 64 was, it could not make up for the general lack of games at the Nintendo 64's launch. This launch game had the daunting task of single handedly taking on the Sega Saturn and PlayStation right as they were starting to deliver high quality software. Without other strong first and third party games, the Nintendo 64's launch came down to whether or not you were willing to pay $250 for essentially one game.
3D platformers would never be the same again. Like Street Fighter II a few years earlier, or Tetris before that, Super Mario 64 was the perfect example of how to make a 3D platformer. Other titles, like Pandemonium or Bug, were really 2D games using 3D polygonal graphics, and for the most part, offered an extremely limited game play experience. Nintendo proved that game developers could not be lazy if they were going to keep up.
With Sony and Sega not offering anything even remotely similar, Mario 64 was the platform game of the year in 1996, and easily set a high water mark. Thanks in large part to Mario 64, the Nintendo 64 sold extremely well in it's first few months. The strong sales would prompt competitors to develop Mario-esque games. NiGHTS into Dreams (Sega Saturn), Crash Bandicoot (PlayStation), and of course Ape Escape (PlayStation) all came about thanks to the success of Mario 64.
Where Are They Now?:
Super Mario 64 was the only Mario platformer on the Nintendo 64, which be one of the reasons the system failed to catch on. It's impact, though, was felt in future N64 games, like Donkey Kong, Conkers Bad Fur Day, or Banjo Kazooie.
Mario would return a few years later in his own GameCube game, called Super Mario Sunshine. As the title indicates, Sunshine takes Mario on vacation, where he floats in the water, cleans up the mucky muck, and finds a whole lot of fruit to kick around. Don't be fool, though, it is the successor to Mario 64, and includes many of the moves first found in that ground breaking game.
It is worth noting, though, that Nintendo is busy at work on a game called Super Mario 128, which is obviously a play on the "64" in Mario 64. It has been shown before, at numerous trade shows, but was always thought to be more of a show piece than a real game. But now, it seems, Nintendo is ready to package it and sell it. There's no doubt that it will be just as popular as Super Mario 64 or Sunshine.
In the end, what we're trying to say is simple: just about every single 3D platformer owes a great deal to Nintendo and Mario 64. It offered an experience unlike anything seen before, and one that truly was a step ahead of 16-bit generation.