Around 20 years ago, the world welcomed in something truly special. No, it’s not me (well, it totally is but that’s not what this article is about), today we’re talking about the Project Reality, or as most will know it – Nintendo 64.
20 years ago yesterday, Nintendo 64 launched in Europe (feel old yet?), and with it came what is subjectively the best video game generation in history. I was lucky enough to receive one alongside a bag of second-hand games as a birthday gift when I was very young, a gift that proved to be immeasurably influential and one that would live on to see my own twentieth birthday, and take pride of place alongside my Xbox One.
What made it so special? Honestly, it may just have been timing. N64 was my first proper foray into gaming beyond Pokemon Yellow, and the incredible suite of games it supported meant I got the full introduction to some of the best game series around, a whole range of genres, and learned how to game with three hands. (Why did that controller have three handles anyway?)
The system saw some of the most loved games of all time launch, including Bomberman 64, Pokemon Stadium, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Super Mario 64, LoZ Ocarina of Time…. and the sacred 007 Goldeneye 64. These games were solid, lengthy titles that provided hours, even days of enjoyment without letting up thanks to pioneering gameplay design and deep, rich worlds full of vibrant colours and diverse characters. Whilst Mario Kart 64 was teaching children to accept repeated crushing defeats, Goldeneye was cementing itself as an FPS legend and proving that the N64 isn’t just for children.
However, it wasn’t just the range of titles available that made it such an historic machine – the obscure controller that the N64 is so well-known for introduced console gamers to the analog stick, a risky move in a world ruled by d-pads. Thankfully it paid off, being followed by Playstation’s dual-stick controller and subsequent generations proudly displaying their analog sticks, with d-pads relegated to item selection. The controller also featured a port in the back for various accessories, from external storage to a GameBoy cartridge Transfer Pak – but the most important of these was the Rumble Pak, a rather cumbersome piece of kit which allowed the N64 to be the first console to offer controller vibration.
So, with the Nintendo 64 still kicking about, cropping up for sale all over the place for a very affordable price – even as little as the price of one modern game. Don’t leave that poor, lonely machine on the shelf, or buried in a box – adopt a forgotten N64 while they’re still so easy to get. Give it a prized spot in your setup and enjoy the amazing experiences that so enriched the life of a little speccy Guernsey kid long before he picked up a Duke or tried (and failed) his hand at Wii Sports.
Do you have any fond memories of the N64? Perhaps you preferred another now-retro console?
Let us know in the forums or discuss on Discord!