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.