The Nintendo 64 (often abbreviated as "N64") is a home game console developed and released by Nintendo in Japan on June 23, 1996, in North America on September 29, 1996, and in Europe and Australia on March 1, 1997. As its name suggests, the console is designed around a 64-bit CPU based on the MIPS processor architecture owned by Silicon Graphics, Inc. The N64's hardware was built to display polygonal 3D graphics natively; this meant a substantial boost in processing power over the SNES, which required additional processors like the Super FX chip for polygons.
The Nintendo 64 marked the first time a computer graphics manufacturer Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) developed game hardware technology. Like Nintendo's previous consoles, the N64 uses cartridges as its software medium. This was in contrast to its two main competitors, the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn; both of which used less-expensive disc-based media. The decision to use cartridges meant higher manufacturing costs for game publishers, leading to reduced third-party software support for the N64 over its lifespan.
The Nintendo 64 featured a unique controller that could be held multiple ways. The three-pronged controller had a center-mounted analog stick, something its competitors Sony and Sega had not implemented yet (though Sega introduced the Sega Saturn's 3-D Controller with an analog stick by the time the N64 hit the market). There was also a traditional directional pad on the left side, and and a set of six face buttons ("A", "B", and the four"C-Buttons") on the right.
The game's center handle also featured a trigger on the back, "The Z Button". This button was used instead of the "L" button in games which used the analog stick.
The underside of the controller featured an expansion slot where various accessories could be inserted to enhance gameplay. This trait was replicated on the controllers for Microsoft's Xbox and Sega's Dreamcast.
During the lifespan of the N64, Nintendo released various accessory "Paks" used to either enhance the console's existing capabilities or add extra functionality.
The Nintendo 64 Disk Drive was an add-on to the N64 console designed to keep third party developers from making games for a CD based system. It allowed the reading of magnetic disks that were larger in capacity to cartridges and allowed for saving data in them.
Although it was heavily hyped even before the system was released, Over time however hype for the add-on signigicly tapered with consumers wondering why to play some hotly hyped games they would have to shell out money for it. Several games intially planned for the 64DD such as Mario RPG 2 (later renamed to Paper Mario) and Zelda Gaiden (Later renamed to Majora's Mask) were instead released on N64 cartridges as opposed to 64DD disks primarily due to the add on being significantly delay.
The 64DD was eventually released in Japan in December of 1999, a North American release was planned for 200 however the idea was ultimately canned. Even in Japan it was only sold through Nintendo's subscription based service RANDnet, and not through ordinary stores. The accessory was a commercial failure and only ten games were ever released:
The rarest of the nine games released on the system is Kyojin no Doshin Kaihou Sensen Chibikko Chikko Daishuugou (Doshin the Giant: Tinkling Toddler Liberation Front! Assemble!) which was last game released after the announcement was made that the Randnet Service would be shutting down and with it the demise of the 64DD.
Other / Third Party
- Glove Controller: Nintendo released a controller similar to the Power Glove, however this controller could be used for any game, as it had buttons on the top.
Reception & Legacy
The Nintendo 64 was a commercial success but did not not gain popularity as widespread as the Playstation (especially in Japan) nor did it have a vast array of third-party titles. Although it didn't sell as well as Nintendo's earlier machines, it marked a history in video games as it was the console that showed gamers how 2D play styles could be adapted into a 3D world with the analog stick, rumble, and built-in 4 player support. Many of the games on the console (like Super Mario 64, Golden Eye, and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time) innovated their genre and brought it over to the 3D world.
Thanks to Super Mario 64's 3D gameplay, it started a new trend for free-roaming gameplay and has influenced many series to go in that direction ( Grand Theft Auto, for example). Golden Eye arguably presented the first compelling argument for First Person Shooters on consoles, and was widely lauded for its multiplayer. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is considered by many as one of the best games of that generation (getting perfect 10 scores from many reviewers like IGN and Gamespot). Its 3D free-roaming gameplay revolutionized the adventure genre.
The system also introduced several new ideas to the gaming industry. The Nintendo 64 was the first console to introduce a rumble feature to their controller. The Rumble Pak was packaged with Star Fox 64 in 1997. It was a huge leap into getting the player involved in the experience and the feature has been implemented in every controller since then (most notably the DualShock lineup for the Playstation).
It also helped a trend to transfer data from handhelds. Although the Super Game Boy was the first accessory to play Game Boy games on the TV, the Transfer Pak was the first to use data from the games and use them in games. Many games like Pokemon Stadium (in which the Transfer Pak was packaged in with) and Pokemon Stadium 2 used the Pokemon games for the Game Boy to transfer your Pokemon over from the game and use them to fight on their console counterparts (you were also able to play the Pokemon games on your TV). This idea was used for many other systems to come like the Gamecube, Wii, Playstation 2, and Playstation 3.
The Nintendo 64 was succeeded by Nintendo's GameCube in November 2001, but the console itself remained in production until its discontinuation in Japan on April 30th 2002, Austrailia on May 11th 2003, Europe on May 16th 2003 and in North America on November 30th 2003.
The Nintendo 64 is notable for featuring the smallest launch software lineup of any Nintendo console.
The following are the top ten best-selling games released for the Nintendo 64.