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

Nicolas Vestre

Interestingly, I didn’t own an N64 until a little over a year ago. But that doesn’t mean that I missed out– I borrowed a friend’s for weeks (or months) at a time, and rented games from Blockbuster and other rental outlets.

When my pal described Super Smash Bros. for the first time, I couldn’t believe it; my gaming dreams had been answered. What a load of fun that game brought me. Hours upon hours were sucked away fighting against friends.

Another very memorable game was Paper Mario. I tried desperately to beat it in the two-day rental period, and I almost did– except that I arrived at Bowser completely underpowered and was subsequently destroyed. Thanks to the Virtual Console, in recent years I’ve played this incredible game right to the end, and you can be sure I’ll play it again soon for nostalgia.

Mario and Princess Peach artwork from Super Paper Mario
Play as Mario AND the Princess? Yes, we loved this game.

Of course, Super Mario 64 blew me away. Even though I only played enough to get the requisite amount of stars for the endgame, I enjoyed this legendary title very much. In later years I secured all 150 Power Stars in Super Mario 64 DS, but I have definite plans to go back and complete the original. Actually, Super Mario 64 was the first Virtual Console game I downloaded for Wii, and as is typical of me, I’ve put off playing it until now.

Unfortunately, outside of Smash Bros., I didn’t have many multiplayer experiences. However, other games did leave an impact on me, such as Mario Tennis, Star Fox 64, and even Earthworm Jim 3D–Pork-boarding!

Now that I think about it, there are so many games I completely missed out on (I’ve always wanted to try Blast Corps and Mischief Makers) that look like must-plays. I’m sure the purchase of many N64 titles will occur in my future. Right now, I have Rayman 2: The Great Escape and Donkey Kong 64— that should tide me over for now.

Kevin Knezevic

Despite its sparse library, the Nintendo 64 is quite probably the console I hold in fondest regard. I know this may sound strange, especially as its predecessor is widely regarded as the best system ever released, but the N64 is when my mild interest in gaming developed into full-on fanboyism. Before it, I had not actively followed the medium (as evident by my response to the Super NES round table), and it was only after delving into the meticulous three-dimensional worlds made possible by its hardware that I really became intrigued by the hobby on a deeper level.

Ironically enough, I was not even interested in the system until two years after it was released. I cannot explain why, but I was perfectly content playing my Super NES until I tried the console out firsthand one day at the nearest Toys “R” Us. I can’t recall which title was on display at the time, but that moment was enough to convince me I needed the system, and I began pestering my parents to purchase one for me. Fortunately, it did not take much prodding on my part for them to acquiesce, and I received the console that summer along with a copy of Super Mario 64.

Wings on Mario’s hat made the game that much more magical.

As others have already said, stepping into the field before Princess Peach’s castle for the first time was a magical experience. Never could I have imagined a game could offer such a degree of freedom and immersion, and I spent countless hours practicing my acrobatics there before even beginning the adventure proper. The rest of the game was even more impressive, featuring a variety of vast and imaginative worlds through which I could run, swim, climb, and jump to my heart’s content. It is difficult to describe just how enchanting the entire experience was, with all of its breathtaking new sights and challenges, especially so far removed from when it first happened, but it was one that undoubtedly changed all I thought I knew about what the medium could achieve.

I played a handful of other excellent titles following that, but the next to influence me to the extent that Mario did were the two Banjo games. Banjo-Kazooie in particular was a magical experience to my younger self, largely due to its detailed worlds and whimsical soundtrack. Rare had taken everything I found compelling about Super Mario 64 and magnified it to an unbelievable degree– the levels actually seemed like genuine locales and not a collection of obstacles, with distinctive landmarks and memorable inhabitants; the characters were plentiful and quite funny; and the collectibles were more numerous and challenging to obtain. Moreso than even Mario 64, it felt like I had stepped into another world, and the game was responsible for igniting my passion for exploration.


Banjo-Kazooie Screen
Who else thought Kazooie was a girl until, well, today?


Banjo-Kazooie remained in my mind the greatest title on the console until I eventually purchased The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. As I’ve stated elsewhere on the site, I had not played a Zelda game prior to that one, but I was encouraged to pick it up by Link’s appearance in Super Smash Bros.. I did not quite know what to expect, being new to the series, but the back of the game’s box seemed intriguing enough, so I dove into it with little hesitation. Right from the outset the adventure drew me in with its atmospheric introduction and enigmatic premise. Having only three days to achieve your goals was a novel idea that did not prove to be as frustrating in practice as it may have seemed on paper, and it offered up some wonderfully unique opportunities for world building and character development (thanks to the flexible routine schedule each inhabitant of Termina followed). That said, I did not immediately understand it– in truth I initially thought the game was broken because I kept repeating the same actions over and over again, but I quickly realized that I did not have to retrace my exact steps each time I began the cycle anew to progress through the adventure. Once I got the hang of it, I was able to fully appreciate the sophistication of the title’s design, and to this day I consider it the greatest artistic achievement the medium has ever seen.

There are a number of other classics I would be remiss to overlook (Donkey Kong 64, for all of the flack it gets, was actually quite fun, especially if you loved exploring virtual worlds as much as I did, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day had to be one of the funniest and most creative games I ever had the chance to play), but for the sake of brevity I will only give them a passing mention. Nintendo 64 may have been the first misstep in Nintendo’s reign as home console king, but the system was still a memorable one in spite of all the troubles it faced during its lifetime. The quality of the titles available for it more than compensated for the dismal quantity, which is all one can really hope for in a game console. It may not have been Nintendo’s finest hour, but it’s certainly the one that had the biggest influence on me as a gamer.

Aaron Roberts

I didn’t own an N64 back when it was cool, and I don’t really have that many fond memories of it except for a couple nights of drunken Mario Party that I vaguely recall from my early college years. Looking at it objectively, the system was poorly designed on a number of levels, beginning with the controller, which was created for a person with three hands (but really just designed so that if analog didn’t catch on, we could go right back to having our good old Control Pads), to the choice of cartridges as a medium (sorry, Nester, but they’re better now, at least), to the N64DD — vaporware at its finest, to the fact that the system didn’t have a dedicated sound chip. This meant that N64 games had to tap into the system’s processors to create music or sound effects.

I’m not bashing the system, here, just pointing out there were flaws. That didn’t prevent the N64 from being host to a bevy of great games, most of which were only playable on the system. Or from reinventing the way that both designers and Power Players look at what a game is. Or in giving us what most people who are not James Stank would agree is the best Zelda game ever. There was a lot to love, but I can be just as happy playing these games on my 3DS or with a GameCube controller.

Andy Hoover

One memory that stands out for me involves GoldenEye, though not for the reason most people remember it. For some reason, my N64 really didn’t like playing GoldenEye. Whenever I wanted to play the game I would blow in it, (any long time Nintendo fan’s automatic response to an unresponsive game) smack it into place, or keep the cartridge pressed down while turning the system on, and after trying these various methods for five or so minutes the game would boot up. And before you ask, no– this wasn’t a problem with the cartridge. Several of my friends got the game before me and when they brought it over I would have the same problem. For some reason my console was just really hesitant about getting its Bond on.

Now that I thing about, this whole situation was a real testament to the durability of the system and its cartridges. As much GoldenEye as I played, it is a miracle that both my N64 and my copy of the game still work just fine– except when paired together, of course.

M. Noah Ward

I was already a hardcore Nintendo fan by the time Nintendo 64 came out. I knew it wasn’t going to have a lot of games at launch, but with as revolutionary as Super Mario 64 seemed, and the heaping pre-release praise it was receiving from print magazines (there was a time, younglings!), my decision to get the machine was irrevocable. Even the knowledge that Squaresoft was fleeing to the disgusting PlayStation, taking my favorite Final Fantasy series with it, did not change my mind.

And while I eventually caved and got a PlayStation because I had to play the newest Final Fantasy and Castlevania, N64 was home to so many favorite games and became the first time since Atari that I had so many wondrous multiplayer experiences, thanks to the built-in four controller ports. From GoldenEye 007 to Mario Kart 64, Tennis and Part(ies) to Gauntlet Legends to Super Smash Bros. to The New Tetris and even Xena: Warrior Princess: Talisman of Fate— I’ve never had more game parties than the N64 years. Add on to that the aforementioned Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie and, definitely, Blast Corps, and you have a classic console system, even if all those RPGs I was longing for were on other systems.

And by the way, picky control connoisseurs? I loved the N64 controller. Very comfortable and versatile– and in tons of cool colors.

Tell us your N64 memories below! We’ll love you, and so will N64. Happy birthday, dear friend!

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