Happy 20th Anniversary, Nintendo 64!

Nintendo’s final cartridge-based home console turns the big two-zero today, and my feelings about it are bittersweet.

My first experience with the console was at a friend’s house, whose mother used to be my babysitter back in elementary school. The only game he owned as Pilotwings 64, which I tried a few times and thought it was rubbish.

To me, the N64 was the first Nintendo console that felt supplementary, mostly due in part to the extensive wait between quality exclusives — especially when you take the colossal PlayStation in to account, and it’s ability to churn amazing games on a near weekly basis.

On top of that, I was a high school student who couldn’t afford 3 extra controllers, memory cards, rumble packs, and the eventual expansion pak (which doubled its RAM to a now-laughable 8MB). Nintendo’s previous console, the SNES, really got me in to RPGs, so you can imagine my disappointment when N64 failed to deliver much outside of Paper Mario and Ogre Battle 64.

I definitely couldn’t have gone that entire generation with just an N64, but I did pick one up as a graduation present to myself in 1999. I needed it for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which released in the Fall of the previous year. The wait was agonizing.

I had a few friends who were N64 loyalists, and it’s thanks to them that I got to experience the first well-made 3D platformer, Super Mario 64, and invest hundreds upon hundreds of hours in to WCW/NWO World Tour, WCW/NWO Thunder, and WWF No Mercy. Thankfully I had my own console when WWF Wrestlemania 2000 came out.

I do have a lot of fond memories testing friendships in Mario Party, Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros., Diddy Kong Racing, Pokemon Stadium, Goldeneye 007, and Perfect Dark. Poor controls aside, I had a good time with Turok 2 and Jet Force Gemini (which Rare Replay reminded me does not hold up well at all), along with the inferior version of Resident Evil 2.

It’s thanks to the N64 that we have the modern day analog stick, and it’s games like Ocarina of Time, Banjo-Kazooie, and Super Mario 64 that introduced manual 3D camera controls that are now commonplace 20 years later. Thanks to the expansion port built in to each controller, the N64 also gave us our first taste of rumble feedback and external storage devices.

It goes without saying that the N64 was an innovative piece of technology at the time, but it was also a victim of its own hardware that was largely outsold by the PlayStation by its 3rd year on the market. However, it still went on to sell an impressive ~33 million units.

As PlayStation became the new home of Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, and many other blockbuster titles, the N64 was pushed aside for me in favor of these new and exciting video games on Sony’s console. But I’m definitely glad I invested in an N64 and it’s weird looking controller, especially seeing in retrospect just how much it changed gaming forever.

I did, sadly, end up selling my N64 back in 2011. I’ve regretted it ever since.

Maybe I’ll celebrate today by playing Super Mario 64 on the Wii U’s virtual console, or finally finish off Banjo-Kazooie via Rare Replay.

What about you? Any fond, or not-so-fond memories of the N64? Sound off in the comments below.

 

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4 thoughts on “Happy 20th Anniversary, Nintendo 64!

  1. Good read! I only got an N64 a couple of years ago when I started to collect retro games. I remember seeing the system back at launch, but I jumped to PlayStation instead, mostly thanks to my bigger brother having the money to buy that system. I still feel that was a better choice, even though some titles on the N64 are amazing. But they are pretty easy to find now, partly thanks to the Virtual Console, remakes and the big retro market out there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was a big NES and SNES kid growing up, and took a gamble with PlayStation at launch. It was slow going for the first year, but the gamble paid off tremendously as time went on.

      The Wii and Wii U VC make it so easy to revisit N64 classics, but I still miss those amazing wrestling games.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I have many memories of the N64. It came out around a year after I’d been out of High School, and I was working my first full time job. My brother, and I had rented one from a local video store (sadly went out of business a few years ago) along with Goldeneye, and WCW Vs. n.W.o. World Tour. I pretty much knew after that, I wanted to pick one up. I was eventually gifted one for my birthday, I got the console, an extra controller, a card, WCW Vs. n.W.o World Tour, and Cruisin’ USA.

    It was the first time I didn’t get a Mario game right away, though eventually I did, and that game did cement what made the Nintendo 64 such a great console. Sony was an unknown, and did go on to prove itself as platform holder, and managed to attract a lot of publishers with low cost CD’s, and a high install base. Nevertheless I loved my N64. Still have it hooked up via S-Video.

    Super Mario 64 was miles ahead of anything when it came out. Other games caught up eventually mind you. But for all the love people have for other platformers that were out around then, they still weren’t as fun as SM64, which also had so much it kept you playing for months. The N64 also won over a lot of people because of THQ’s wrestling games by AKI. To this day, there are many fans who simply will not play anything that has come out after WWF No Mercy. These gams had easy to pick up controls, mixed with a deep counter system. And while I don’t think they’ve aged as well as many other people have, there’s no denying they’re still fun to play. Plus, they all came out during the Monday Night Wars, so there’s a good decade of pro wrestling history between the four games.

    The Nintendo 64 also has a lot of under the radar stuff on it. I remember getting Goemon’s Great Adventure on it, and spending a whole year trying to beat it. I remember getting to the end of Snowboard Kids 2, and facing an impossible devil robot. I spent countless hours playing Perfect Dark, and Quake II death matches on the system with my brother, and friends. I think the one moment I’ll always remember though, is playing Vigilante 8 against my brother on the farm map.

    I was driving the bee launching pickup truck. My brother was driving the groovy custom van. I had zero health left on my car. He had maybe 15% of a bar left. He was chasing after me full speed down an irrigation path. I finally said “Screw it. I’m going to lose anyway.”, and threw the car into reverse. My brother’s van exploded into a million pieces, and somehow my vehicle survived. My brother put the controller down, and laughed while yelling “THIS IS BULLSHIT! HOW ARE YOU GOING TO TELL ME THE CAR WITH ZERO HEALTH DOESN’T EXPLODE!”

    It might have taken the silver medal, but what a glorious medal that was. I’m also glad I kept most of my N64 stuff. Many of the better games on the console go for $40 on average loose, and if you have the manual, box, or both, even more so. And while there were release gaps near the end, and some of the big games went to the PS1 instead, I still had a blast with mine. It’s probably not my favorite console, out of all of the stuff I have. But there’s plenty of stuff on it that makes it worth collecting for. Just make sure you buy one with a video RAM expansion pak in it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Snowboard Kids was a guilty pleasure of mine. A buddy and I played the shit out of the first game, and when 1080 Snowboarding was disappointing we went right back to Snowboard Kids instead. Though I thought Mystical Ninja was a terrible, terrible game.

    The 2nd Castlevania title with the yellow cartridge wasn’t bad either. It was too expensive to buy, as it was rare as hell, but I played a friend’s copy quite a bit. Shadows of the Empire is another one that kinda sucked that I played a ton of, mainly because it was one of 4 games my friend had, along with Killer Instinct Gold.

    Doom 64 is an unsung hero, I think. It was a great game and doesn’t get a lot of fanfare because of where it released. As you mentioned, Quake was also a lot of fun on N64.

    Like

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