Firstly, the emulation was accurate. Save for a few pop-ups, it was just like Mario 64 running on the N64 (The screenshot below is taken from the PC emulation). Although, the playability was admittedly slightly effected from using the keyboard controls as opposed to the analogue stick it was designed for.
It's now 10 years since the game was first released. And while the graphics must have certainly been revolutionary at the time, they aren't that special by modern standards. Though, the 3D environments still look quite good.
But alas, even using the keyboard controls this game was great fun to play. Exploration through the 15 3D worlds, combining so well with the game controls as to make it very playable. And no doubt even better with the analogue stick it was designed for.
What I also liked was the greater freedom it gave to players. No need to play through the entirety of one course in order to progress to another. Instead players could jump in to one course, grab a few stars and then jump into another and collect a few more there. Moving backwards and forwards through the courses in order to progress through the game.
The game offers a reasonable challenge. Although, collecting the 70 stars necessary in order to defeat Bowser wasn't that hard as you can play through and focus on collecting the more simple stars to reach. But certainly, finding all 120 stars and game secrets presents a real challenge that will take you a while to achieve.
So, is this the greatest video game? There is no doubting the quality of the title. When it was released, it started the 3D platformer and set the standard which to this day hasn't been eclipsed. It was the first of its kind, and that sort of innovation is what makes the classic games.