The Nintendo 64 (N64 for short, codenamed Project Reality and later Ultra 64) was Nintendo's third major home console, succeeding the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. It was released in Japan and North America in 1996, while the release in Europe was in 1997. It was succeeded by the GameCube in 2001 and was discontinued in Japan in 2002 and worldwide in 2003 following the launch of its successor.
The console was originally planned for launch in 1995 when its design was mostly complete. However, it has been delayed until 1996. It was famous for using a 64-bit processing unit (hence the name Nintendo 64), allowing it to be the most powerful console of the generation, unlike its main competitors which all used 32-bit processors.
It was Nintendo's first home console to have the same name across the world, retiring the "Famicom" name altogether in Japan.
Why It Should Get N
- The N64, together with the PlayStation and Sega Saturn, was a major contributor to the shift from 2D to 3D gaming.
- Though its library of games is smaller than its main competitors, it had many critically acclaimed and memorable games, such as:
- Super Mario 64
- Mario Party 1, 2, and 3
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (which has since been hailed as one of, if not, the greatest game(s) ever made)
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
- Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
- Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie
- GoldenEye 007
- Perfect Dark
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
- Mischief Makers
- Sin and Punishment
- Diddy Kong Racing
- Conker's Bad Fur Day
- Mario Kart 64
- Donkey Kong 64
- Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
- Super Smash Bros.
- It introduced the analog stick into popularity, allowing for better movement in 3D gaming than a D-Pad. Unlike the PlayStation, the bundled controller has an analog stick right away.
- It was the most powerful console of its generation, using a 64-bit processor from NEC (also known to be the manufacturer of the TurboGrafx-16), which made graphics much better on this platform than the other fifth generation consoles.
- The system also allotted four buttons intended for the changing of camera angles, the yellow directional C buttons, making player controlled camera angles a major feature for gaming.
- The 4 C buttons, while usually meant for camera control, also acted as independent trigger buttons in several games.
- It has 4 controller ports right away, unlike its main competitors of the same generation which only had two. This eliminates the need of buying a multi-lap to play with 2 or 3 other players.
- The Expansion Pak accessory improves the console's performance, expanding the RAM from 4 MB to 8 MB.
- The slot for the Memory Pak in the controller can also be used to attach accessories like the Rumble Pak, which causes the controller to vibrate in certain games.
- The console and the controllers come in a several different colors, which would eventually make it to later consoles. There are also several special edition versions, like the Pikachu version sold by Toys R Us. This is great for collectors due to variety.
- Though the use of cartridges had its downsides in terms of storage capacity, it also meant that games on the system had little-to-no loading times, and also prevented the reliability issues that early CD-based consoles tended to have.
- There were some exceptions though, such as Quake 64.
- Speaking of cartridges again, they can be tilted while inserted on the console, causing a lot of funny glitches in some games (though it's actually risky to do so). Most importantly, the Get down glitch in Goldeneye 007, which causes NPCs to spin in all directions indefinitely.
- It is the first Nintendo console to have support from Treasure, as they developed Mischief Makers, Bangai-O and Sin and Punishment for the system.
- A fatal flaw was that it continued to use cartridges instead of discs, which most of its main competitors were using. There was not much that the system could do with all its power since the cartridges that it used could only hold 4-64 megabytes when a CD could hold up to 700 megabytes, and it made game soundtracks worse-sounding on that platform, especially compared to the Sega Saturn and PlayStation versions.
- Another thing worth noting is that unlike the cartridges for the NES and SNES, the cartridges for the Nintendo 64 have no end labels on their tops, which is especially difficult for anyone with a vast collection of N64 games to identify them. N64 games are also usually sold with only the cartridge displayed, so you will have to buy the manual and/or box art seperately.
- To add insult to injury, they originally had plans to use a proprietary disc format way before its release, but they instead made it into an add-on called the Nintendo 64DD which was delayed to 3 years after its release. It didn't help that it only released in Japan and also flopped so hard with only 15,000 registered users on its online service Randnet, causing the system to be stuck with cartridges ever since its release.
- Many RPG and fighting franchises like Final Fantasy and Street Fighter migrated from Nintendo to PlayStation or Sega Saturn and Dreamcast for fighting games case, leaving the N64 with very few games of those genres (though it did receive a number of Mortal Kombat games). Its game library also had much less 2D games than its competitors and the consoles that came out after it, for example, the console only received a pitiful 6 2D platformers, those being in order of release: Mischief Makers, Yoshi's Story, Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero, Goemon's Great Adventure, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, and Tigger's Honey Hunt.
- Many games struggled with camera control. Games generally used the C buttons for camera control which was less reliable than a second analog stick.
- The controller, while lauded at the time for its analog stick, is seen in retrospect as a very poorly designed controller, for various reasons:
- It only has one analog stick which had major flaws. The C buttons somewhat act like a second analog stick though. You can also replace the analog stick with a GameCube spare analog, which is far better.
- The analog stick is highly susceptible to drifting due to the stick rubbing against plastic inside the controller and wearing it down. Games like Mario Party which required heavy use of rotating the analog stick on minigames made this happen very quickly.
- The three-pronged design not only looked ugly, but made it impossible to easily use the analog stick and the D-Pad at the same time. Supposedly, this was to allow the usage of three different control configurations, even though just using an analog stick and the D-Pad was absolutely useless for the vast majority of games (though there were a few exceptions, including Sin and Punishment).
- You could only have a Memory Pak or a Rumble Pak inserted into the controller, not both at the same time. And to further add the salt on the wound, Nintendo never made an official one with Rumble built in, which the PlayStation's DualShock controller did, and didn't even need a slot to add either a memory card (which already had a slot for such built onto the system itself), or a rumble add-on. The Rumble Pak also needed batteries, though third-party versions would fix both of these issues, coming with inbuilt memory and taking their power from the console.
- The system was notoriously difficult to program for, meaning that multi-platform games could often end up looking worse on this system than on the PlayStation (albeit usually better than they did on the Saturn) and many games had framerate issues. As a result, a small number of about 393 licensed games got released for the system, compared to the PS1 which got more than 7,000 games.
- In the US, the system launched with an embarrassing number of 2 GAMES and in Japan, ONLY 3! Fortunately for the US launch titles, they were both good, being Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64. But Japan however, one of their launch titles, Saikyo Habu Shogi was very mediocre.
Though not Nintendo's most popular console, and despite losing to the PlayStation by a large margin, it remains one of the most recognized systems in the world with 32.93 million units sold during it's life span and is still popular among gamers and game collectors. It along with the PlayStation are regarded as two of the most influential consoles of all time for their contribution to 3D gaming.
It is also well known for being the last major home console that used cartridges (until the release of the Nintendo Switch in 2017). Handhelds continued to use cartridges and later cards though.
- The console was initally named the Ultra 64, but due to Konami owning the trademark for Ultra at the time, they had to change the name.
- This was the last Nintendo home console to compete with Sega and their consoles, and after Sega went third-party, they have supported every Nintendo console since, starting with its successor, the GameCube.