Round Table: We Miss You, N64

Yeah, we really, really love Nintendo 64.

By Andrew Hsieh. Posted 09/29/2011 18:00 Comment on this     ShareThis

On this day, fifteen years ago, Nintendo 64 hit American shores for the first time, launching with Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64, for the suggested retail price of $199. And man, were those crazy times– Sony PlayStation, with its nifty optical disc technology, constantly loomed over N64, with its outdated cartridge format, and fanboys from both sides waged a war that nearly rivaled that of the previous generation.

Super Mario 64 fought bloody fisticuffs with Crash Bandicoot (though some would say that wasn’t much of a battle) (we’re Nintendojo, nice to meet you), while Super Smash Bros. and GoldenEye put the four in N64’s four-player multiplayer. Heck, Nintendo 64 even had titles likeOgre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber, which could go toe-to-toe with Final Fantasy Tactics any day. While Nintendo 64 may have been strapped for role-playing games, even as Squaresoft threw Final Fantasy after Final Fantasy at PlayStation, Nintendo pulled out all the stops with Paper Mario and made an experience not seen since Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. True, Nintendo 64’s controller looks funny, and it didn’t use those cool disc thingies that PlayStation did, but with its four controller ports out of the box and revolutionary games, Nintendo arguably outdid itself. Here are our favorite N64 memories– and while we’re talking, why don’t you tell us yours?

Lewis Hampson

I was so hyped for the release of Nintendo 64 that I missed out on 32-bit gaming altogether. Forgoing the delights of PlayStation, and to a lesser extent Saturn, was no easy feat, but come 1997 when I finally got my hands on N64, it was well worth the wait. Trading in my SNES along with the extensive game library I had amassed over the years (plus over £100) was a total no-brainer at the time (although I do slightly regret giving up my SNES so readily now). However, opening that box, setting the system up and turning on my very own copy of Super Mario 64 eased the pain and I was instantly hooked.

Teeing off was never so fun.

My greatest memories of the system, inevitably come from multiplayer experiences. Crowds of us would be packed round a television, (im)patiently waiting for the unlucky sap who would be giving up the controller to lose whatever game we were playing at the time. Titles ranged from the classics of Mario Kart 64, F-Zero X,Smash Bros, and GoldenEye, to the more obscure titles of Snowboarder Kids,Rush: 2049 and of course Mario Golf. To be honest the list could go on and on as games were bought sold, rented and traded throughout the lifetime of the console. N64 brought us the advent of cohesive 3D game worlds and set templates (analogue, rumble, targeting system etc.) that many companies and consoles would follow in the future.

It’s easy to get all nostalgic about N64, but honestly, it was a darn fine console which not only gave us hardware innovations that are still used to this day, but also the foundations for today’s online and local multiplayer. The idea of social gaming has been upscaled dramatically since those simple days of yonder, but in my opinion its roots can be traced back to the four-player wonderment of N64, and for me that has to be one of the system’s greatest legacies.

Mel Turnquist

The N64 came out around the time I was in middle school. I got into the system through my cousin, who always had the new shiny stuff. There, I played GoldenEye for the first time and immediately decided that I wanted to get an N64 for Christmas. Come Christmas Day and I attained the holy awesome of awesomes– Nintendo 64! I was pretty thrilled, obviously.

Probably my favorite memory of that system was going out to, I think, Walmart and purchasing Ocarina of Time— which is easily one of my all time favorite games. That made N64 one of my favorite systems even though the whole cartridge technology was becoming slowly passé.

I have no idea where my N64 is now. I lent it to my sister, who is off in college, but I haven’t seen it since…

Marc N. Kleinhenz

I could write an entire dissertation on the N64– and, hey, I kinda already did– so let’s keep this short and simple.

The individual experiences that stand out the most for me across that short-lived system’s incredible lifespan:

Climbing a tree in the Mushroom Castle’s courtyard for the very first time in Super Mario 64.

Playing with grenade launches in the Stack in GoldenEye.

Realizing just how much that stupid little Rumble Pak adds to the immersion of the interactive experience.


Seeing a death animation play out in front of my mesmerized eyes in Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, even though I shot the guy in the foot and he grabbed his neck.

The entirety of Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.

Watching my black RA with the incredibly low voice consistently play as Peach in Mario Kart 64 — and consistently beat everyone on my floor in my first dorm.

And, of course, the one that still takes my breath away in the middle of the night when I wake up all clammy-like: entering Hyrule Field for the very first time in Ocarina of Time.

Katharine Byrne

How time flies. Fifteen years ago my age didn’t even reach into double figures, but look how far we’ve come since our beloved N64 was released with its puzzling controller design and the first steps of Rumble Pak glory. As games were still pretty pricey in those days (costing around £50-60 over in the UK, or $80-90 equivalent), our family N64 library was largely limited to the cream of the crop with classics like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, providing many delightful hours of gaming bliss.

But the N64 era holds a particularly special place in my heart because it was this console cycle which really made me start caring about games. Aside from the many doses of single-player greatness, N64 was really all about local multiplayer in my house. Many intense GoldenEye matches were had between myself and my three brothers (although I actually liked Perfect Dark multiplayer just that little bit better– blasphemy!), and there were many more heated battles of sibling one-upmanship over Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Golf, F-Zero X and, of course, Super Smash Bros.

Pokémon Stadium also gave me the chance to finally put my 500+ hours of Pokémon Red and my team of 20 Lv.100s to good use, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask was the first console game I had ever asked for personally, one which I could legitimately say was “all mine” when I ripped open its Christmas Day wrapping paper and held its shiny gold cartridge in my hands (while singing the treasure chest fanfare– just kidding).

It was also the console which, back in the days of limited internet and no GameFAQs, allowed my ever-increasing curiosity to roam unhindered. I can’t remember how many hours I spent trying to figure out what those weird coloured eggs were for in Banjo Kazooie (although it would have made much more sense if we had actually bought the sequel), and I’ll even admit to playing out a fanfic in Ocarina of Time (…more than once).

It might be horrifically dated now, but underneath that black, bulky exterior lay a mine of gaming gold, and it will always remain one of my favourite Nintendo consoles. Here’s to another 15 years!

Matthew Tidman

The first game I ever reserved was on Nintendo 64. True story. I wasn’t one of those people who waited in line to pick up an N64 and Mario on the first day it was available. In fact, my first experiences with the system were when some friends rented the system and Super Mario 64 from Blockbuster. It was amazing. I was blown away. I wanted more.

Fast forward to next Easter. Still without N64 (Santa didn’t bring it for Christmas… the jerk) I had pretty much given up on ever getting the system. I was content to play through Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for the 32nd time. So imagine my surprise Easter morning when I arose to see what kind of candy I’d be getting buzzed on before going to church to find an N64 sitting between my sister and my Easter baskets. It was a gift for both of us, but she was the one who got Super Mario 64.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocaina of Time Box Art
M’m m’m, good.

This brings me back to my original thought: reserving my first game. It was 1998 and despite various setbacks, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was set to be released in November. I remember saving money from every job I could find that year so I’d be able to afford the game. Then in July there was an interesting slip of paper that appeared in Walmart. It was the first time I’d ever heard of the concept of reserving a game. So I put down my $20 and proceeded to anticipate the game for the next few months. When Ocarina of Time was released it exceeded my wildest expectations. It was THE example of how a game should transition from 2D to 3D. While it may not hold the spot as my absolute favorite Zelda game, Ocarina of Time will always be special to me because of the hard work and anticipation that went into the game.

Now if I could just track down Bomberman 64

Maurice Tyler

It was the eve of E3 1996. Nintendo was preparing to release their newest console, code-named the Ultra 64. Super Mario 64 was set to be the killer app that would drive sales for this new 64-bit console. Once again, Nintendo decided to go against the grain and utilize the aging cartridge format despite the lower cost and turn-around time provided by the CD-ROM format. It was a gamble that, arguably, began the decline of their foothold on home console market share. Nevertheless, the technology inside this box combined with their cache of popular franchises pretty much ensured some modicum of success.

This would be my first E3 and I was as excited as a PETA representative on safari. I, literally, had vivid waking dreams of what it would be like to play Super Mario 64 for the first time. After all, it was one of the first truly 3D, open world platformer games of its time; a concept that is almost taken for granted today. I could imagine running, jumping, flipping and frolicking through plush green meadows while going anywhere and doing anything. It was a level of excitement that has yet to be surpassed. This game, single-handedly, put to rest everyone’s fears of the transition from two-dimensional gaming to three-dimensional gaming.

Looking at this boxart just gives us memories of loud announcers.

My other notable memories include: the gore and realistic motion capture of Turok: The Dinosaur Hunter (and an honourable mention to the fog); catching huge air in San Francisco Rush (a remake is long overdue); gliding across a tranquil lake in WaveRace 64; letting out the day’s frustrations in Blast Corps; and, let’s not forget, the four player split-screen madness of GoldenEye. Besides the innovative and revolutionary software, the N64 had a couple of notable hardware innovations as well including the Analog Stick, Rumble Pak and Expansion Pak– which gave me my first high-res console gaming experience.

While many of the relatively limited number of games released for the system were a hot, blurry and foggy mess (Superman 64 anyone?), there were a great many classics. Besides, I preferred the blur, smog and the occasional pop-in to the pixelated mess that was displayed on competing platforms. Also, I was always partial to the instant-on capability provided by the cartridge format.

All in all, one of my favorite consoles of all time and the best E3 evar!!! [sic]

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