The biggest change in Super Mario 64 DS is the addition of the three new characters alongside Mario: Luigi, Wario, and Yoshi. Not only do all the four characters have different special abilities and power ups, but certain characters are mandatory for some star missions.
When beginning the game, you will start as Yoshi as Mario, Luigi, and Wario were captured and locked away in Peach's room by Bowser and his army. You need to find the corresponding keys to unlock their characters. Once you do, you can switch between the characters by entering the room they were locked inside. To switch back to Yoshi, you must have the character re-enter the room they were locked in.
Mario is the hapless hero of the group and controls almost identically to himself in Super Mario 64. He is the shortest in height, but his swim, speed, power, and jumping abilities are all exactly average across the board.
- Power Up
Mario is the only character that can gain two power ups from red switch blocks: a Power Flower and a feather. His Power Flower ability makes him inflate himself into a balloon. Pressing will help him float upward while pressing will immediately deflate Mario to normal. The feather gives Mario the Wing Cap, which gives him the ability to fly. Mario can take off the ground by doing a triple jump or shooting himself out of a cannon. His flight controls are inverted, meaning will make him go down and vice versa. Yoshi must go to Goomboss Battle, reach the top, and fight King Goomboss to rescue Mario.
- Wall Kick
Wall kicking is pressing against a wall in mid-air and jumping off it to propel yourself away from the wall. Run towards a wall and press to leap into the air, then press once more as Mario reaches the wall to jump off of it in the opposite direction. With two walls close together, Mario can climb to the top with his successive wall kicks.
Power - 2/3
Speed - 2/3
Swim - 2/3
Jump - 2/3
The second banana to Mario is his younger, twin brother, Luigi. He's needed to grab some stars, as well as Wario. He is the second-highest jumper (but best) of the four, but has slightly less attack power than Mario and Wario. Luigi is almost as average as his brother, except in jumping. The reason he's slightly weaker is because he moves slower when carrying enemies and is skinner, but throws them the same distance. Other than that, their power are equal. He's the best and fastest runner and swimmer. Mario must go to Big Boo's Haunt, then enter a Luigi painting, and fight King Boo (mistakenly called Big Boo) to free his brother.
- Power Up
Luigi gains the ability to turn invisible with the Power Flower. It will allow him to walk through certain types of walls and enemies will go right through him, similar to the Vanish Cap in the original game. Except he can't go through ice.
- Backwards Somersault
All characters can perform the backwards somersault by holding down to crouch and pressing to jump backwards. Luigi's backwards somersault is not only the highest, but he also slowly descends with a spin jump. It's useful for traversing over large gaps.
- Water Run
Holding while running toward a body of water will allow Luigi to dash across the surface for a few seconds, due to his light body. Landing from a jump or stopping will make Luigi drop into the water.
Holding while jumping allows Luigi to kick his legs for a little extra distance. He can only do this during a single or double jump. Him and his brother long jump father and triple-jump higher than Yoshi and tied with Wario in height.
Power - 1/3
Speed - 3/3
Mario's greedy antithesis rival, Wario was also invited to Peach's Castle as well and is required to obtain stars, like Luigi. His power and weight are really amazing and he is also the toughest, but his jumps are really short and his running and swimming are pitiful. After defeating Bowser In The Fire Sea, Luigi must go to the second floor, get a power flower to go through the mirror and enter a Wario painting. There, he must fight Chief Chilly to rescue Wario.
- Power Up
Wario's body gets coated with metal by the Power Flower, similar to the Metal Cap in the original game. He can run into some enemies and take no damage from their attacks, like Invisible Luigi. His extra weight allows him to walk underwater and resist high winds and currents. His height is tied with Luigi's.
- Extra Strength
Wario is the only character strong enough to break black-colored bricks as well as other certain formidable large objects that others can't. His strength also lets him punch, kick, and throw enemies the farthest as well as ground pound pegs once instead of three times. In VS. Mode, he can knock out opponents slightly longer, grab, spin, and throw them, like how Bowser is defeated. He can grab and throw signs and ground-pound them once, while others do it twice. His height is tied with Luigi's.
Power - 3/3
Speed - 1/3
Swim - 1/3
Jump - 1/3
This cute, green dinosaur is Mario and Luigi's childhood company friend and the first default character you control. He has the highest jump of the four, but he cannot punch/kick or grab enemies and objects and his ground-pound can't defeat/break bricks or Boos. He has average running and swimming. He's taller than the others.
- Power Up
Yoshi's mouth fills up with heat thanks to the Power Flower. Pressing will make him exhale flames. His fire breath will melt most enemies as well as some forms of ice (used for two missions, one for Snowman's Land and Cool, Cool Mountain) that others can't break.
- Swallow Enemies
Instead of punching, the button makes Yoshi shoot out his tongue. If an enemy is caught by his tongue, he'll retract it to his mouth. Pressing again will spit the enemy out while pressing swallows the enemy, causing Yoshi to lay an egg that will follow him. To throw the egg at a target, press . Yoshi can also swallow fire and spit it out, but he can only hold one flame at a time. Not all enemies can be converted to eggs or even swallowed.
- Flutter Jump
Holding while jumping gives Yoshi more air time with a flutter jump. It not only lasts higher and longer than Luigi's scuttle, but also gives him a little extra height to reach far and high places. He can only perform this while single or double jumping.
Power - 0/3
Speed - 2/3
Swim - 2/3
Jump - 3/3