While Sony was off doing their thing, Sega got kind of weird with their surplus of consoles, and other companies were making consoles we never speak of, Nintendo dropped their follow-up to the Super NES in 1996. Bringing full 3D graphics, a brand new controller complete with the first-of-its-kind analog stick right in the center, support for a brand new rumble feature, and a bevy of cliche 90s color options, the Nintendo 64 was by far the greatest video game console I had ever played.
My relationship with the N64 was very reminiscent of my interactions with Nintendo’s other consoles: I had to share it with my brothers. This time around, however, my eldest brother was off to college, and, since it was technically his system, he would take it with him to the university. He would return home for occasional weekends here and there, and for most major holidays, as well as much longer stints in the summer, and each time he’d bring back the console. That meant my play time with the N64 was limited! I had to make the most of each weekend he’d be back. Seriously: I’d plan out which games to rent (sidenote: remember renting?) and which games to play when Ben would be back, to maximize my exposure!
At least that was the plan until Christmas season of 1998, when my parents bought me my very own Nintendo 64 console! Along with an incredibly tiny TV (I would say maaaaybe 12 inches?), I finally had a dedicated gaming setup in my room! I no longer needed to wait for Ben to come home from college: I could play whenever I wanted, play anything I wanted, and thought it wasn’t a problem at this point in our lives anymore, not have to share it with my brothers!
Aside from being the first console I owned, the Nintendo 64, naturally, was the first console I bought a game for all by myself. Interestingly, I bought Mario Kart 64 almost an entire year before I owned my own console, meaning I had a game I could only play when my brother came home. On top of that, he took the game with him when he went back to college! I didn’t mind though: he and his roommates ended up unlocking all kinds of stuff in the games the played, so when they were brought back home I didn’t have to do any of the more difficult tasks to play later stages. This was readily apparent in Super Mario 64, in which Ben’s friend actually got all 120 stars way before I did! I remember asking Ben to have his friend use my save file to get a few stars I couldn’t, and sure enough on that return trip, those stars were unlocked! Ah the memories!
The Nintendo 64 is remembered so fondly to many gamers for its incredible catalog of games. Like many others, one of the greatest gaming moments I had on the N64 was with the epic Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Hot damn was that game amazing! It had everything I had come to love from a Zelda game, and so, so much more. Z-targeting was absolutely awesome, and made the swordplay fun, engaging, and dangerous! The music, both as part of the storyline as well as the background songs, still get stuck in my head occasionally to this day! And then of course we have the introduction of Ganondorf, a series staple nowadays. I’m sure you all have personal memories with this game, and that’s just telling to how great the first experience with the masterpiece really was!
Multiplayer was such a huge part of the Nintendo 64s life, I don’t know if there’s enough space here to tell all the moments I want! The aforementioned Mario Kart 64 is a bonefide classic, and back then it was the only racing game to play on the system. Seriously. I can’t even think of a game that can hold a candle to that one (maybe F-Zero, but we never owned it). The N64 also gave us the classic GoldenEye, a game which literally defined how first-person shooters should be on consoles, something that has exploded in the near 20 years since its release. Mario’s first three parties were released on the N64, which I mainly played solo but still had a helluva good time doing! How can we talk multiplayer and not talk about any of the WWF or WCW wrestling games? If you grew up in the 90s, chances are you watched some form of wrestling, and if you also were into video games you got to experience the golden age of wrestling video games! My brothers and I spent dozens if not hundreds of hours creating characters, playing games, and battling one another night after night! When we all get together back home we still occasionally pop in No Mercy and play a few rounds!
Nintendo’s machine wasn’t just for playing with friends. A huge amount of, again, amazing titles came out for the system, not the least of which being Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64. How can you forget Rare’s games on the N64? Not only did they give us GoldenEye, but we also got Banjo-Kazooie and it’s sequel, Donkey Kong 64, and the shooter Jet Force Gemini. Hell, even their fighting game Killer Instinct Gold was polished and fun as hell. Two of my all time favorite games came out on the 64: Star Fox 64 and Perfect Dark. Those games are quite different from one another, but both do their respective genre’s so precisely I would almost call them perfect (no pun intended).
And let’s not forget a little fighting game called Super Smash Bros. first released on the Nintendo 64!
A bunch of great series’ got their start on the N64. Turok: Dinosuar Hunter isn’t that big today, but on the N64 it was one of the coolest experiences I remember having growing up! The Star Wars: Rogue Squadron series started on the system, and a spinoff came out a few years later. The N64 version of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater wasn’t the best version, but it was the one I had and I played the shit out of that. Paper Mario also debuted with these games!
Perhaps because I was older, but the list of quality games I can recall for the Nintendo 64 is frankly absurd. While yes, the Super NES had quality titles and a lot of them (possibly more, depending), the Nintendo 64 had so many games I played and loved it’s hard to look at it and not think of it as the best Nintendo console of all time. Personally I have so many memories with that box I can’t be trusted to speak objectively.
All things considered, the N64 was Nintendo at their finest. Some would say, myself included, Nintendo has never achieved that quality of greatness since! Their upcoming console, the GameCube, would go on to be a fan favorite of sorts, but didn’t live up to the expectation. Be sure to come back next time when I stop gushing about how much I love the newest Nintendo console and instead finally give some criticism to the Big N!