Round Table: Happy 19th Birthday, N64!

The staff share some of their fondest memories of Nintendo’s influential console.

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 06/24/2015 07:00 1 Comment     ShareThis

As of yesterday, June 23, it has officially been 19 years since Nintendo’s third home console, the Nintendo 64, debuted in its homeland of Japan. For Nintendo fans, the system represents the industry’s first steps into what was once the brave new world of 3D gaming, ushering in beautiful, fully rendered worlds and gameplay mechanics that couldn’t have been achieved up to that point in time. Unfortunately, the console also marks the beginning of some tumultuous trends for Nintendo, many of which continue to this day (in particular, the third-party exodus prompted by the system’s cartridge-based format lingers on in Wii U’s notorious drought of third-party software), but that has not dulled the impact of the system’s library. While its selection may be slim compared to some other consoles, Nintendo 64 was home to some of the most beautiful, innovative, and just plain magical games to have ever graced the medium, proving that what it lacked in quantity was certainly made up for in quality. In honor of the console’s 19th birthday, the staff take some time out to reflect on their fondest N64 experiences.


Marc Deschamps

Man, it’s crazy to think that Nintendo 64 has been around for 19 years, now. To say that N64 blew my mind as a kid would be an understatement. The original Nintendo was my first console. When Super Nintendo debuted, it was exciting, but it still felt familiar. Sure, the graphics were a lot crisper and you didn’t have to blow on the cartridges to get them to work, but it still felt very intuitive; I had no problem grabbing a controller and figuring it out. When N64 came out, I had the opposite reaction. The controller was baffling (how do you hold it without a third hand?) and don’t get me started on Super Mario 64! I struggled with simply moving Mario forward, because the character had only ever gone from left to right! It was too much for my 11-year-old self to comprehend. Instead, I avoided Mario and asked for Star Fox and Wave Race 64 when I got my console.

The system quickly grew on me, though. It had to. N64 was the first system that ever really seemed “cool.” I had played Super Nintendo with my friends before, but N64 was the official party console. Games like GoldenEye, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros. kept my friends and I up until 2 AM when the host’s parents would finally come yell at us to go to bed. I think Mario Party‘s print ad campaign was probably one of the most fitting I have ever seen. A room full of boys with empty chip bags, bottles of pop and a Nintendo 64? My friends and I lived that.

And then there was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. I was a freshman in high school when I traded my copy of Forsaken for OOT. In the days before Electronics Boutique and GameStop had become notorious for bad trades, my friends had declared it the most lopsided deal ever. It took me almost the entire school year to finish, but it was worth it. It’s still one of my favorite games ever, and the reason I’m a Zelda fan.

Looking back on those days, the entire video game industry seemed far more eager to take chances. While Nintendo 64 was unquestionably my preferred system, I also owned a PlayStation at the time. The Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo days had been the age of the console war, but the N64/PS1 era felt like a golden era for games. It didn’t feel like a competition. Instead, the Nintendo 64 library was complemented by PS1 classics like Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, and Final Fantasy VII. Has there ever been a greater time to be a gamer?

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly 20 years since that system debuted. I can almost still remember the way that those new instruction manuals smelled when you took them out of the box. It was a heck of a ride, Nintendo 64. Maybe I’ll boot up some Super Mario 64 tonight. I swear I’ll beat that game someday.


Craig Harnett

Wow, 19 years on and I can still hear the echo from my Mom’s voice when I asked her for an N64. “There’s no more video games coming into this house!” she yelled. This was the second time she had said this. The first time was when SNES was released in the UK in 1992. After spending the best part of my childhood glued to my NES, my Mom straight refused to gift me with an SNES for fear that I would never come out of my room. A part time paper route and a determined 13-year-old (that was me, by the way) soon changed that. However, true to her word the second time around, no more video games or new systems did ever come into her house. They came into mine!

I was fairly late to the show when it came to finally owning an N64, for reasons previously mentioned. I had to go to university and live on my own before I was blessed with finally owning the four-port wonder. It was worth it, though, finally getting to play GoldenEye, Super Mario 64, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, all with full 3D graphics and a controller that, still to this day, had the most unconventional set-up and yet somehow worked. Weirdly, the most played game on my system was the distinctly average South Park. It had an addictive and hilarious four-player mode that was a welcome change to the seriousness of the multiplayer offering of GoldEneye (until slappers only mode was discovered, of course).

As much as I absolutely loved my N64, my time with it was short lived. As Marc mentioned, PS1 was also on the market and I just had to have it. Unfortunately, I was now too old for a paper route and most of the money I did have during my time at university was being spent on… erm… books. Yeah, let’s say books. So, I had to trade in my pristine boxed N64 with all my games in order to get my hands on Sony’s entry into the gaming market.

I’m so glad I did own N64 in its heyday. I remember the feeling when I first played GoldenEye that this was something special, something new. It felt grown-up; a console for whom we now know as the hardcore gamer. Looking back now, I feel N64 gave gamers a glimpse of what was to come, particularly when it came to multiplayer. Finally we had a console that was able to offer multiplayer modes the likes of which we had only ever seen on PC. Console owners where now playing games way after they had completed the single player campaigns, duking it out in four player death matches or capture the flag modes. N64 essentially trained and prepared me for what was to come from the likes of PlayStation and Xbox, and the lessons I learnt still resonate in the games I play today.


Andrew Hsieh

I can’t believe it’s been 19 years! N64 came out at a time when I was totally unable to buy video games for myself, and thus I never was able to explore the entire ouerve of N64 games. I did get to own a few classics, though, supplemented by Blockbuster rentals. (Speaking of old stuff…)

I mean, really, N64 had such gems. I can still recite my games in the order I got them: Diddy Kong Racing, Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart 64, Pokémon Stadium, Jet Force Gemini, Super Smash Bros., Pokémon Stadium 2 (what can I say?), Majora’s Mask, Donkey Kong 64, Paper Mario, and, of course, Perfect Dark.

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I spent hours and days playing N64 with my little brother. Once, my parents took us all out for a rare trip to Tahoe, but instead of skiing and snowboarding in the new snow my brother and I demanded to stay indoors and beat Paper Mario. I even called the Nintendo Counselor hotline for help with the Ice King boss, which of course rang up some hidden charges that my mother was not pleased to pay. (Sorry mom. I really needed the help.)

Years later, I lent out my N64, along with a eBay-bought copy of Snowboarding Kids, to my then-girlfriend, who still has the thing. Before N64 turns 20, I really ought to trek down and get it back. It’s only right that I celebrate the 20th anniversary properly.

But for now? Happy 19th birthday, N64. You made me play with power.


Anthony Pelone

One of my earliest gaming memories is walking into Blockbuster and catching sight of the N64 display. We only owned a Super Nintendo at the time and so the 3D expanses of Super Mario 64 instantly captured me. At the age of six I could barely play SNES, and yet even though the same proved true for the outdoors of Peach’s Castle, I was slowly enraptured into the new world of 3D gaming. Even my mistake in thinking the design of the controller was same shape as Mario’s glove captivated me, and I silently thought to myself, “I want this,” every time I passed that display.

Needless to say, I jumped for joy when my brother obtained the console for his birthday in early 1998. Super Nintendo was just another toy to me, but Nintendo 64 became an obsession. Mario and co. took over my life via Mario Kart 64. I scavenged through every issue of Nintendo Power countless times. I begged my brother to let me beat him in Bomberman 64 and WWF Warzone just this once, just this once. It even set my imagination alive: I not only pretended in take part in Mario Party minigames and Smash Bros. matches, but I devised (and constantly revised) a fictional multi-chapter N64 game that I dubbed “Anthony Pelone 64.”

Whereas my brother eventually moved on to playing music and dating, I stuck with Nintendo, and I have N64 to thank for that.

What’s most bizarre isn’t even that I’m supposed to feel “too old,” it’s that N64 represents, to me, a time of perfect harmony. Already this statement contradicts the context of both the system’s performance and my life: Nintendo 64’s flood of mistakes paved the way for PlayStation to usurp the console market, and I was giving my parents no end of troubles with anger episodes and special needs. But within my own perception of the system, I cannot detect any bitterness or anger. As far as I knew, there were no console wars, no cries of “Nintendo is kiddie!” and the controversial casual gaming was only a twinkle in Nintendo’s eye. There were only Mario Party‘s Bumper Balls, the starry stretches of Mario Kart‘s Rainbow Road, experimenting with GameShark codes with Super Mario 64, finally defeating Star Wolf in Star Fox 64, building Pokémon Stadium teams, joining Smash Bros. matches with Ness and Kirby, grabbing every game magazine I could off the shelves, and waiting with starry-eyed baited breath for the next big Nintendo game to come on. It’s nostalgia at its most foggiest, but unfamiliar as that era is to me now, I can’t help but think it’s the ideal.

Playing the likes of Super Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie now, Wing Caps and toilet humor and all, brings back that nostalgia a piece at a time. It trumpets ever so slightly, but they never fail to etch the warmest of smiles.


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One Response to “Round Table: Happy 19th Birthday, N64!”

  • 0 points
    says...

    Playing Mario 64 for the first time was epic and groundbreaking. Pilotwings was surreal and relaxing. Mario Kart 64–what else needs to be said? Ocarina of Time-well didn’t really care for it as much as A Link to the Past, in fact took me 16.5 years to finish the game-on 3DS. It’s a great title though, but I always thought the 2D Zelda games were much better. The Banjo games. So many other titles like Space Station Silicon Valley or Blast Corps that were awesome. OF course, Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. Amazing to this day. I played 4-player Goldeneye and Mario Kart on a huge projection type TV, aimed at a friend’s huge wall with all the lights off. Those were the days.

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