Console of the Month (July 2017) – Nintendo 64

The Nintendo 64…..what can I say about the Nintendo 64 aka its catchy nickname, the N64? Hmm, well, it was Nintendo’s 64 bit console released in 1996. Umm, it played cartridges when all other consoles had switched over to the CD format, which was a questionable decision. Uh, umm, there were lots and lots of Mario themed games on it. Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Mario Party 1, Mario Party 2, Mario Party 3, Mario Tennis, Mario Golf. Good thing a little doesn’t go a long way when it comes to Nintendo & Mario. There were lots of unimaginative game titles with ’64’ in them too, that’s neat right? Oh yeah, a couple of Zelda games that were pretty well regarded. Some nice first person shooters and impressive 3D graphics. Hmm, I think the cartridges were maybe a bit expensive at the time, possibly $20-30 more per game than what was offered for the PlayStation. That seems pretty crazy though…I might want to double check my memory on that. Oh speaking of memory, you could buy memory cards just like for the PlayStation except these were much thicker and they were plugged into the back of the controller instead of the console (weird but I guess Sega must have thought it was cool). Also there were these funky looking expansion paks (note the cute misspelling of pack derived from the Japanese word pakku!) that plugged into the top of the console to beef up the internal RAM from 4MB to 8MB. Such an easy way to double the console’s RAM, but I’m sure Nintendo wasn’t capable of including 8MB of RAM right out of the gate (*eye roll*). Some games had to have this extra memory in order to work, most notably The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask…..that seems kind of lame to have to buy expansion RAM to play a game on your system. Rumble Paks were frivolous add-ons that made your controller shake during some games, which was actually pretty revolutionary for the time. Speaking of revolutionary, the controllers were this weird M shape with an analog stick in addition to a traditional D-pad. Analog sticks are super common now but in 1996, people were like….what the hell is this and how do I use it? At least I was. Oh yeah, I almost forgot….a super popular franchise that I kind of don’t understand the appeal of got it’s start on the Nintendo. That would be Super Smash Brothers. Wow, I guess I know more about the Nintendo 64 than I thought I did!

In all seriousness, I had very little experience with the Nintendo 64 during it’s original late 90’s run. This is actually the only Nintendo console, not counting the Virtual Boy (and honestly, who actually counts the Virtual Boy for anything?), that I didn’t own at some point during it’s lifespan. I had a college roommate that owned one for a short time, but then sold it for a PlayStation after he beat Super Mario 64. I remember watching him play it and I thought Super Mario 64 looked cool but I also was intimidated by it’s open world 3D concept. In 1997, I still liked my Mario much more linear. By the time I graduated college in 1998, the Nintendo 64 was an afterthought for myself and my friends. Sony had clearly won that generation’s console wars according to us and according to total console sales in the U.S. and around the world. I get that there are a number of amazing games available for the console and a generation of children that hold the N64 with the highest of esteem. I am not one of those people and as a result, my N64 game collection is miniscule. I never collected for it and I never was interested in it enough to do much research on the console’s hidden gems. I bought my used N64 approximately 15 years ago, after purchasing the Gamecube, solely because I could cheaply. I have probably played the console less than 10 times total since owning it. This month I am dedicated to playing the games I already own and research which games I ought to add to my collection in order to get the most out of this ignored Nintendo console of mine.

Currently in my collection:

  • Original charcoal gray/black console with AC adapter and RF cable
  • 2 controllers, one gray and one red
  • 2 memory cards by Performance
  • 1 Expansion Pak

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