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By 1996, The Fifth Generation of Console Video Games had already been underway for quite some time; the PlayStation and Sega Saturn had both been released in 1994 in Japan and 1995 elsewhere, yet despite their successes at home were failing to adequately crack markets abroad. Nintendo didn't drag their feet in starting development on a competing system, and the initially middling performance of competing fifth-gen systems allowed them to prolong development to fine-tune their own entry into the new generation rather than rushing it out the door. Additionally, Nintendo could afford to release a new system late: the Super Nintendo Entertainment System had already become the top-selling system of the fourth generation despite being released long after the TurboGrafx-16 and Sega Genesis, and indeed Nintendo used the belated release to their advantage by continuing to push the Super NES's limits and build up hype for its successor. Eventually, with Election Day right around the corner, Nintendo finally released the Nintendo 64 on June 23, 1996 in Japan and September 26, 1996 in North America.

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The N64 was a big hit in its early life thanks to it showcasing very powerful 3D graphics (for its time) and a very strong focus on local multiplayer with four controller ports built right into the system (something that bit both Sega and Sony, as both of their consoles required an add-on for more than two players). However, Nintendo lost many key franchises, especially JRPGs, because of their reluctance to use CDs (which were cheaper than cartridged and offered more storage space, especially for videos and voice acting), likely due to the fiasco with Sony and Phillips on the CD add-on for the SNES (which would eventually lead to the PlayStation itself) and because of their fears regarding piracy and reduced licensing revenue. While the Big N's first-party games on the N64 were as awesome as ever, there simply weren't enough of them to go around, especially with promised installments of the Nintendo Wars, Fire Emblemnote , and Mother series never seeing the light of day on the system. The system launched with two games total, and it only had about one new release a month. So if you were tired of playing Super Mario 64 for the trillionth time, your only choices by January 1997 were Pilotwings, Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, Wave Race 64, Killer Instinct Gold, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, or half-assed ports of Cruis'n USA and Mortal Kombat Trilogy.

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The Nintendo 64 gained somewhat of a reputation for releasing three unique and groundbreaking games a year, and next-to-nothing else worth playing. The console's game release schedule was inconsistent yet unique, as about 10 titles at a time were released all in one day. For example, 17 titles for the console were all released October 31, 1999 in North America. Many of these were console exclusives (such as Namco Museum 64) or ports with exclusive features (such as Resident Evil 2). To show how low the game count was for the system, there were only 296 titles (in North America) and simple math will show you that those 17 titles accounted for 5% of the entire Nintendo 64's game library.

This wasn't helped by Nintendo's fraught relationship with third parties during the SNES period only getting worse. Third-party companies such as Atlus, Capcom, Jaleco, Namco, Squaresoft, Sunsoft, and Tecmo, which had steadfastly supported the NES and SNES, were now releasing most of their games for the PlayStation and Saturn rather than the N64. One big selling point of the N64 hardware was custom microcode, but Nintendo never released information on how to use it, fearing it would be copied by their rivals. Among other groin-punches, they also patented using the N64 pad's C-buttons to control an in-game camera, meaning every non-Nintendo game had a bad camera system.

Furthermore, while it wasn't as bad as it had been in the past, Nintendo also continued in their usual habit of forcing developers to Bowdlerise in-game content to be more 'family friendly'. For example, Perfect Dark's "Adrenaline Pills" had to be changed "Combat Boosts", and Duke Nukem 3D's Steroids became "Vitamin X." Because of this, Nintendo's reputation as a "kiddy company" among gamers was completely cemented during this era, since Nintendo seemed to not realize in time that the demographics were changing. During the latter half of the '90s, the average gamer age started to increase in a meaningful way, not only because of the new, more grown-up audience the PlayStation was successfully reaching to (more than Sega ever did), but because most kids who grew up playing previous consoles, including Nintendo fans, were well into their teenage years by this point. As the gaming landscape shifted from a medium focused on childhood to one focused on adolescence, Nintendo came to be seen as something of the video game equivalent of Disney in terms of family-friendliness, and not in a good way, as their games and consoles were regarded as being strictly for kids and overly-protective parents. This image genuinely damaged them for the entire next decade, and they still struggle with it a bit even to this day in certain circles.

When Nintendo finally decided to change gears, it was too little, too late. In the last couple of years of the system's life, the console was far behind the PlayStation, who captured the matured gamer audience turned away by Nintendo's product. In a last-ditch effort, Nintendo allowed Rare to release a certain title called Conker's Bad Fur Day on the console without their meddling. This, along with several other M-Rated games that followed, finally convinced Nintendo that it needed to shed its family friendly image to survive. Although it wasn't soon enough to save the N64 itself, this policy carried down to the Nintendo GameCube, which in turn fared much better than its old policies (although the image damage was so big that the GameCube also suffered greatly from it despite Nintendo's best efforts to shed it).

Despite losing out hard to the PlayStation, the N64 was able to carve out a niche for itself even its competition couldn't fill thanks to its multiplayer focus. While four-play multiplayer was possible on many previous consoles, they all required peripherals to add extra ports and thus games with more than two players were much less common. The fact that the N64 natively had four controller ports in addition to being more powerful compared to its competitors meant developers were more inclined to make games supporting four players, leading to a lot of high profile multiplayer titles like GoldenEye (1997), Mario Kart 64, Super Smash Bros. 64, and the first three Mario Party games.

Years after the console's launch in 1996, speculation continues regarding Nintendo's decision to use bulky, expensive cartridges instead of the cheap-yet-expendable CD-ROM format. Possible reasons include:

  • Copy Protection. Nintendo's early experiment with floppy disks, the Famicom Disk System, saw piracy running rampant with users etching out the patented "NINTENDO" on the disks, itself an attempt to prevent piracy via baiting pirates into trademark infringement (when in reality it was easy to simply make blank spaces in the relevant areas). Preventing anti-piracy with optical discs, while possible in theory, was also spotty at best in execution: both the Saturn and PlayStation simply used a "wobble" cut into the pre-gap areas of their CDs that the systems would check for during boot-up, which was easy to bypass via a mod chip or through careful hot-swapping with the top-loading systems' trays forced open. Nintendo's own idea at anti-piracy, locking the discs in caddies with a built-in lockout chip, was also hugely impractical due to the limited availability of microchips at the time meaning that such a caddy would have to be fairly girthy to support what likely would've been a standard-sized chip as well as the CD, adding on greater production costs, bumping up the already high price point of CD-ROM releases to even less ideal levels, and limiting any other multimedia capabilities a disc-based system might have (not that Nintendo seemed to care, given their rejection of DVD and Blu-ray video on later consoles). Nintendo's optical disc-based systems would ultimately use a special barcode in the pre-gap as an anti-piracy check, similarly to DVDs and Blu-rays, which itself turned out to be easily circumventable, thus proving suspicions about the low security of optical discs correct.
  • Previous CD-ROM systems (the CD-ROM add-ons for the Sega Genesis and TurboGrafx-16/PC Engine, respectively, as well as the 3DO Interactive Multiplayer and the Philips CD-i) had met with either questionable success or outright failure. The PC Engine's CD-ROM add-on did well in Japan but not elsewhere, and the other CD add-ons and systems failed to reach even that level of success. Combined with the rocky level of quality these early CD-ROM games saw, Nintendo may have decided that the format was at worst a bad fit for games, and at best that it had not really matured to a useful degree.
  • Nintendo ending up spiting CD-ROMs after the mess that they had to deal with Sony and Phillips. The gist of it being that Sony and Nintendo made a deal to make a CD add on for the SNES, Sony attempting to take all the money made from the add on including games, and Nintendo betraying Sony to work with Phillips for their add on instead of simply renegotiating the arrangement. The deal ended up costing them so much time and money to release the add on by the time they were ready to release it, it was so late in the SNES's lifespan, they just decided to call the whole thing off. Fearing that they could go through something similar again, they decided to stick to tried and true cartridges (and for those wondering why Nintendo & Philips couldn't simply carry over their work to a 5th-gen system, they probably didn't consider it practical given that they would've needed to redo a significant chunk of the internal architecture from the ground-up).
  • Whereas cartridges have load times that tend to rarely, if ever get noticed by players, any game software on CD-ROM was going to have load times to some degree. These would range from the reasonable, to the unobtrusive and/or well-disguised, to the frankly ridiculous. The slow CD drives of the mid-'90s also made it more difficult if not impossible to use any kind of Dynamic Loading, which many large and expansive games of the time relied on to create large 3D levels due to limited RAM. It's possible Nintendo's developers saw this as a detriment of the games they intended to make, "breaking up the flow" of progress, as it were. Shigeru Miyamoto himself is rumored to have held this opinion, and to have pushed Nintendo to continue making games on cartridges for this reason.note 

Altogether, these may have seemed like compelling reasons for Nintendo to stick with the cartridge format. However, with the benefit of hindsight, it's clear how badly Nintendo read the market. So instead of CD-ROM, Nintendo adopted a proprietary rewritable magneto-optical disk format as a high-capacity storage medium for console video games. The 64DD add-on drive had huge potential and was massively hyped in the system's early days/pre-release, but constant delays and extremely poor software support led to the add-on's commercial failure when it was finally released in December 1999, which led to Nintendo scrapping plans for a Western release and its swift discontinuation a little over a year later. Although over sixty games were destined for the 64DD, by the time Nintendo actually got around to releasing the add-on, only eight games (not counting a dial-up utility disk and an F-Zero X Expansion that required the base game to play) made it onto the systemnote , all released by Nintendo as all third-party developers had pulled out of development when Nintendo took too long to release it. Many games intended for the 64DD (even from Nintendo themselves) were either reworked into regular Nintendo 64 games or cancelled entirely.

The company's fear hurt everyone else: not only did multi-platform developers have to chop out features and add fogging so a game would fit on an N64 cartridge (as well as map controls to the system's unique controller), but the consumer typically paid at least $10-20 more for Nintendo 64 games than they would for Saturn, PlayStation, and Dreamcast titles. All in all, it became clear that cartridges were an outdated format, leading Nintendo to abandon them in favor of proprietary optical discs with their next system. However, they still used cartridges for their handhelds because they recognized that optical discs were Awesome, but Impractical for portable devices; the next time they used cartridges for a home console a) it was a home console/handheld hybrid, and b) Flash Memory had outstripped optical media in potential storage space, meaning cartridges were now viable again. While the N64 did have a multitude of some of the best games created, this approach led to Nintendo losing their market dominance until the Wii. It also lead to the system getting pulled off of life support incredibly quickly - while Nintendo's previous consoles all had new games for them released years after their successors had came out, the N64's final game was a belated port of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 - which was a launch game for the Nintendo GameCube.


Specifications:

Processors

  • The CPU, a MIPS R4300i (the 64-bit version of the R3000 in the PlayStation, hence the name) runs at 93.75 MHz and has an internal 64-bit word size, but it also has a 32-bit mode. This was mainly used by the games because A) the bus is only 32 bits, B) the 64-bit mode uses twice as much memory and bandwidth, and C) until high definition graphics, anything more than 32 bits was actually redundant for 3D graphics.note  So, in other words, the "64" in the name was mostly for marketing, even if the processor actually was technically capable of running 64-bit code (at least, it delivered more than the Atari Jaguar, which was also touted as a 64-bit console three years before the N64's launch).
  • Besides, like most systems so far, the graphics are mainly handled by the GPU, called the "Reality Co-Processor." It runs at 62.5 MHz.
    • It has a Vector Unit built into it, to handle special programming called "Microcodes."
    • These offered even more system control than vector units today, but (perhaps) fears of abuse kept Nintendo from directly sharing their codes with developers. Some had to make their own, and they often made superior codes than Nintendo's anyway. Factor 5 was such a developer.
  • The GPU can also process sound, but it took away processing power for other stuff like lighting effects, or system bottlenecks kept getting in the way.

Memory

  • Memory is where the N64 runs into trouble. Just about everything about the system's memory tends to have some limitation on performance, called a "Bottleneck."
    • Chris Sutherland of Rare gave an example of the headaches the N64 memory handicaps gave in an interview discussing the original Banjo-Kazooie;
    "From a software perspective, we pushed the memory of the system very hard. As you move the camera around the map in Banjo-Kazooie, the machine is constantly throwing out of memory things you can't see and pulling in the scenery that appears into view. This gave us major memory fragmentation issues. We used a proprietary system that "reshuffled" memory continuously as you played to eliminate the fragmentation. I'd doubt many N64 games of the time did anything like that—overall it meant we could dedicate a higher number of polygons to the characters and backgrounds than many other games at the time managed."
    • Super Mario 64 is a classic example of how N64 games were able to use programming tricks to work around limitations on graphic memory, sometimes obviously, sometimes discreetly—things such as trees or the bodys of a bob omb are square polygons with a flat sprite/texture applied to them that is always fixed and rotating with the camera (a technique called Billboarding). If Mario is walking around the Castle Hub, the other rooms will only load when Mario is absolutely near them and the door (and they load almost instantly). If Mario runs into the distance far enough with a fixed camera, his model will automatically switch to a lower polygon modelnote  (Mario has 752 polygons in his default model). Levels gradually load things in and out discreetly (i.e. Dire, Dire Docks disables the background textures once it loads the inner level up ahead, the trees and chain chomp in Bob-Omb Battlefield vanish when you're up on the mountain), and sometimes it uses downright ingenious, subtle tricks, such as disabling collision detection on objects Mario isn't near (i.e. the spinning rock platforms in Bowser in the Sky). The game also had an object limit per level (c. 230-240 objects), crashing the game if it ever exceeded that limit by even one number (even if it's a small effects object like the dust from Mario running or a Bob-Omb fuse) and the game would drastically slow down if it would even get close to that limit.
    • Doom 64 was able to work with the system's memory limitaions thanks to the game being based on the 2½D id Tech 1 Game Engine. The enemies are actully prerended 3D models converted into sprites with viewing angles limited to the eight directions of the compass, helping free up resources to render the levels with hardware-filtered textures at reasonable quality. The enhanced 2.5D engine has tricks that give the illusion of 3D such as 3D bridge effects that are actually generated by invisible sectors lowering and raising depending on if the player is going under or over the bridge respectively.
  • There are 4 MB (expandable to 8 MB via the Expansion Pak) of RAM, which is "unified." The system can use any amount it wants for main, video, and audio. Unfortunately, Nintendo chose Rambus DRAM for the system. It has a high clock speed and well over twice the bandwidth of the PlayStation memory, but the latency is so slow those advantages are negated.
    • Ironically, RDRAM is great for playing FMV, and the one game that used those (a port of Resident Evil 2) showed them pretty well despite the heavy compression.
  • The CPU also doesn't have direct access to the memory. Not that the bus went through the GPU, as a lot of systems do that, but those systems use direct memory access to allow smooth access through processors, and the N64 doesn't allow the CPU to do that.
  • Just as bad, the system can hold as many textures as it needs in the RAM, but the buffer for textures to pass though during rendering is just 4 KB. Not only did that mean no single texture could be larger than that, if they were all that large, they would have to go through one at a time. Combined with the slow latency of the RAM, and this would slow the system to molasses if there wasn't some sort of compromise.
    • Nintendo's method was to use textures only for objects that were the least animated, which included backgrounds. Anything more complex, like the player character, was instead detailed by gouraud shading, which is basically filling in a single color over one or more polygons. The blade of the Master Sword in The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a good example — it is not textured, but is colored in with a bright silver color and a reflection effect. This does lose some detail up close, but it allows complex animations without clogging the texture buffer.
    • Rare came up with a clever solution for the texture issues for the first Banjo-Kazooie; the backgrounds had a very large number of textures, but in many cases they were actually very big textures cut into several 64*64 pieces (the largest texture size the n64 could draw) which allowed them to avoid tiling textures everywhere. They also had a decal technique that allowed them to blend areas of textures into one another.
    • Another solution was to limit the polygon count in order to have complex textures over every object, for example GoldenEye — the textures are over almost every object, but the draw distance suffers and characters look goofy up close.
    • A third solution was to use greyscale textures. GoldenEye used this, and only added colour through vertex painting. This doubles the potential resolution, but also doesn't allow for more than one colour per texture.
    • The best method took a few years to develop. It was to program the textures to steadily stream through the buffer. It wasn't as easy as it sounds, but developers like Rare and Factor 5 got the most advanced graphics from the N64 through this method.
  • The frame buffer had a problem in that the default Z-buffering, which told the system which texel is supposed to be in front of the other, would slow down the fill rate, which is how fast the frame buffer can draw the graphics on the screen. Custom z-buffering through the microcodes did get around this.
  • Cartridges sizes ranged from 4MB (Dr. Mario 64, Charlie Blast's Territory) to 64MB (Resident Evil 2, Pokémon Stadium 2 and Conker's Bad Fur Day). 64DD disks were fixed at a constant 64MB.
  • Once through all that, the system supported a maximum cartridge capacity of 64 MB. At first glace, this doesn't seem so bad, as games on the Playstation like Ridge Racer would load all of its contents into RAM and run solely on it, but the reality was that larger capacity carts cost more to produce (and indeed so, as carts comprise of complex circuitry which would be expensive to produce anyway), so most developers had to make do with smaller sizes. When developers did opt for these larger carts, they passed the increased cost onto consumers, resulting in games that were often $20-30 more expensive than those on competing systems. Also, as Flash Memory was't nearly as advanced as it would become when USB flashdrives hit the scene, 64 MB was once a very expensive quantity of solid-state memory unlike the modestly-priced multi-gigabyte flashdrives that became popular a decade later.

Graphics

  • Typical graphical output was 240p, which was standard in previous generations and in this one. However, certain games could use the RAM Expansion Pak to display in 480i, which was the standard resolution for NTSC monitors but wouldn't become standard among game consoles until the next generation.
  • The system came with standard composite cables, but it also supported S-Video (which looked better) and RF Coaxial (which looked worse). However, the Coaxial port was omitted from Nintendo's consoles starting with the SNES Mini. If you were one of the three people in 1996 without a TV that didn't at least have composite inputs, you had to buy an RF Modulator which converted the Multi Out port into an RF Out port. The RF Modulator is forwards and backwards compatible with the GameCube and SNES Mini respectively (and in the former's case, the GameCube RF Modulator is just the Nintendo 64's RF Modulator in GameCube packaging).
  • For reasons only known to Nintendo, they decided not to implement RGB SCART or S-video output on PAL region N64 consoles. European gamers were stuck with composite cables which gave a poorer, less sharper picture. This is insane marketing when you realize that the superior RGB video standard was being supported heavily in Europe; even the PAL SNES supported RGB SCART. Even more maddening is that NTSC machines have S-video support and can be easily modded to support RGB.
  • Although the system would have poorer performance if not coded properly, it did have a few features built in that worked no matter the coding.
    • It was the first major home console to have anti-aliasing.
    • It was also the first to have tri-linear filtering, which removes the blocky look of textures. Unfortunately, a side effect of it was that textures tended to have a smeary look.
    • Another feature used was Dithering, which was used to mask the consoles' lack of color depth. It was surprisingly effective in titles like Super Mario 64.
  • The system can actually push 500,000 polygons in real time, five times what the PlayStation and Saturn can do... yet that required a code that was never released before the system was discontinued. Some codes could still push the system up to 180,000 polygons, but only one or two games went that far. Most N64 games just pushed 100,000 polygons or slightly lower.
  • In addition to the above effects, the N64 did have probably the best effects of the 5th generation, including real-time lighting in a few games.
  • A common misconception is that the N64 was incapable of running full motion video like the Playstation or Saturn. This is actually false, as both Pokémon Puzzle League and the N64 port of Resident Evil 2 both have fully voiced FMV cutscenes. While the latter is admittedly heavily compressed, Pokémon Puzzle League's cutscenes look like they came straight from the Pokémon anime, with no compression in the audio or visuals.

Audio

  • As stated above, the Reality Co-Processor processes the audio. The RSP can produce a maximum of 100 channels of PCM at a time, but only in a case where all system resources are devoted to audio and nothing else. It has a maximum sampling rate of 48 kHz with 16-bit audio.
  • Music was composed in two ways on the N64:
    • Games that were PlayStation/Saturn ports, featured pre-composed soundtracks, and/or games with licensed music used compressed audio, usually MP3 or PCM. This allowed for licensed and/or real music on the N64 in expense for obvious lower sound quality, although one notable aversion was Resident Evil 2, where the music was upsampled and actually sounded even better then the PlayStation version!
    • The other way was composing via MIDI or MOD, with the developers creating the soundbank to use or directly using the N64's built-in synthesizer. This gave music that took up way less memory and had higher quality samples, but the music tended to sound a bit artificial and a soundbank with extremely compressed sound samples made some game soundtracks on the N64 sound even worse than the Super NES, with Mortal Kombat Trilogy and Crusin' USA being some of the worst offenders.

Add-Ons and Expansions

  • Aside from the aforementioned memory expansion module, Nintendo and other companies released several other expansion modules that could be plugged straight into the system's controller.
    • The Expansion Pak, which added an extra 4 megabytes of RDRAM in addition to the internally included 4MB. Unfortunately, since this was still the Rambus DRAM it still had the tiny texture buffer. So it could have increased texture detail, but not by much. Its main use was increasing the screen resolution and draw distance. Notably, two N64 games absolutely required it to be played (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, presumably due to its origins as a 64DD title and requiring the extra memory, and Donkey Kong 64, which was pitched as a Tech Demo Game for the Pak), and another two were massively cut down without it (Perfect Dark requires it to access the campaign, co-op modes, or any multiplayer features other than a stripped-down deathmatch, and StarCraft 64 needs it to play the Brood Wars missions or a new co-op mode), and the 64DD needed it to work as well. There are 62 N64 games total that, while not requiring the Pak, could still use it to optimize their graphics. Unfortunately, in at least one isolated case, it caused issues note , so the old RAM pack had to be swapped back in.
    • The Controller Pak, a removable storage medium which could be used to save in-game progress that could officially hold up to 123 pages (256 KB) of memory and 16 notes (save files) at a time.
    • The Rumble Pak which, packaged with Star Fox 64, made the N64 the first home system on the market to support force feedback, a feature which Sony would eventually incorporate into their own DualShock controllers.
    • The Transfer Pak lets players plug in their Game Boy cartridges for gameplay benefits, such as being able to use Pokémon caught in the Game Boy titles in Pokémon Stadium.
    • The Bio Sensor made by SETA, for use with Tetris 64's Bio Tetris mode, where the pace of the game increases to the beat of your heart.
  • The Mouse, bundled with Mario Artist: Paint Studio, usable with the entire Mario Artist series and StarCraft 64.
  • The 64DD, a disk drive that could be attached to an N64, allowed players to play games off of larger magnetic disks, access the RANDnet service and also increased the system's memory capacity.
    • The Modem Cartridge, the Phone Cable and the RANDnet Browser Disc, used for browsing the internet.
    • The Keyboard, usable only with the RANDnet software, for browsing the net and typing messages.
    • The Capture Cartridge and the Microphone, they were bundled with Mario Artist: Talent Studio and used as input method for pictures, video and audio.

Console variations (in order of release)

  • Charcoal (1996)
  • Gold (1997) (Toys R Us exclusive)
  • Daiei Hawks (1999) (only released in Japan)
  • Clear (1999) (only released in Japan)
    • Blue/White (also available in Europe)
    • Red/White
    • Atomic Purple (unreleased)
    • Ocean Blue (unreleased)
    • Deep Red (unreleased)
    • Milky Blue (unreleased)
  • JUSCO 30 (1999) (only released in Japan)
  • ANA (1999) (only released in Japan)
  • Funtastic (2000)
    • Smoke Black (known as Clear Black in Japan)
    • Ice Blue (only released outside of Japan)
    • Watermelon Red (only released in Europe and the Americas)
    • Jungle Green (only released outside of Japan)
    • Grape Purple (known as Midnight Blue in Japan)
    • Fire Orange (only released outside of Japan)
    • Atomic Purple (known as Clear Purple in Japan) (unreleased)
    • Extreme Green (unreleased)
    • Grass Green (unreleased)
    • Glacier White (unreleased)
    • Ocean Blue (unreleased)
    • Deep Red (unreleased)
    • Milky Blue (unreleased)
  • Pokémon Stadium Battle Set (2000) (only released in Australia, the UK, and Scandinavia)
  • Pikachu Edition (2000)
    • Blue/Yellow (international)
    • Blue/Yellow (Japan)
    • Orange/Yellow (Japan)

Controller variations (in order of release)

  • Solid (1996)
    • Gray
    • Black
    • Yellow
    • Green
    • Dark blue (unreleased, only shown at Shoshinkai '95)
    • Blue
    • Red
  • Black/Gray (1996) (only released in Japan)
  • Gold (1997) (released in the USA, the UK, and Japan)
  • E3 Golden N (1997) (promotional)
  • Hello Mac (1997) (only released in Japan)
  • Geoffrey (1997) (only released in Japan)
  • Nintendo Power 100 (1997) (promotional)
  • Extreme Green (1998) (Toys R Us exclusive)
  • Atomic Purple (1998) (known as Clear Purple in Japan)
  • Daiei Hawks (1999) (only released in Japan)
  • Clear (1999) (only released in Japan)
    • Blue/White (also available in Europe)
    • Red/White
    • Ocean Blue (unreleased)
  • DK Banana (1999) (only released in North America)
  • JUSCO 30 (1999) (only released in Japan)
  • Millennium 2000 (1999) (promotional)
  • Funtastic (2000)
    • Smoke Black (known as Clear Black in Japan) (only released outside of Australia)
    • Ice Blue (only released outside of Japan)
    • Watermelon Red (only released in Europe and the Americas)
    • Jungle Green (only released outside of Japan)
    • Grape Purple (known as Midnight Blue in Japan)
    • Fire Orange (only released outside of Japan)
    • Grass Green (unreleased)
    • Glacier White (unreleased)
    • Ocean Blue (unreleased)
    • Deep Red (unreleased)
    • Milky Blue (unreleased)
    • Colorless (unreleased)
  • Pokémon Stadium Battle Set (2000) (only released in Australia, the UK, and Scandinavia)
  • Pikachu Edition (2000)
    • Blue/Yellow (international)
    • Blue/Yellow (Japan)
    • Orange/Yellow (Japan)

Notable Games/Series:

    open/close all folders 

    #-D 

    E-H 

    I-L 

    M-P 

    Q-T 

    U-Z 

64DD Games:

  • Doshin the Giant
    • Doshin the Giant: Rescue from the Front by the Toddlers that Tinkle at the Large Meeting Hall
  • F-Zero X Expansion Kit (The final 64DD release, and if not the most sought after, definitely the most famous)
  • Japan Pro Golf Tour 64
  • Mario Artist
    • Communication Kit
    • Paint Studio
    • Polygon Studio
    • Talent Studio
  • SimCity 64

Unreleased Games:

  • Ace Driver (cancelled)
  • Alien Trilogy (cancelled)
  • Buggie Boogie (cancelled)
  • Dinosaur Planet (eventually released for Gamecube as Star Fox Adventures)
  • Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (released for Super NES due to hardware delays)
  • Dragon Quest VII (eventually released for PlayStation)
  • Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem (eventually released for Gamecube)
  • Famicom Classics Vol. 1 (cancelled)
  • Final Fantasy VII (eventually released for PlayStation)
  • Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade (eventually released for Game Boy Advance)
  • Frank Thomas Big Hurt Baseball (cancelled)
  • Freak Boy (cancelled)
  • Ghosts 'n Goblins 64 (cancelled)
  • Grand Theft Auto (cancelled)
  • Killer Instinct (released for Super NES due to hardware delays)
  • Kirby Air Ride (eventually released for Gamecube)
  • Metroid 64 (cancelled)
  • Monster Dunk (cancelled)
  • Mother 3 (eventually released for Game Boy Advance)
  • Pokémon RPG (cancelled)
  • Red Baron (cancelled)
  • Robotech: Crystal Dreams (cancelled)
  • Sailor Moon World (eventually released for PlayStation)
  • SoulStorm (cancelled)
  • Super Mario 64 2 (cancelled)
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo (cancelled)
  • Top Gun: A New Adventure (cancelled)
  • VX Vampire XDV-7 (cancelled)
  • Waterworld (released for Virtual Boy due to hardware delays)
  • Zenith (cancelled)

Tropes:

  • Acclaimed Flop: Widely considered one of the most innovative and important systems of all time for Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and GoldenEye 007 alone, but the system absolutely cratered in Europe and Japan. Downplayed in North America - it wasn't an outright failure by any means, but was down on the SNES and no match for the newcomer PlayStation. Averted by many of the games themselves though, which actually sold really well relative to the system itself. The N64 had numerous million-sellers, with Super Mario 64 doing over 10 million and Mario Kart 64 and GoldenEye only a little below.
  • Book-Ends: Super Mario 64, the first game for the console, begins (at least gameplay-wise) with Mario coming out of a pipe in the front lawn of Peach's castle... and in Mario Party 3, the last major game for the console, after the end credits, Mario and the other playable characters are seen relaxing in the front lawn of Peach's castle.
    • The first and last boss fight of Super Mario 64 involves you chasing down and grabbing Bowser's tail so you can swing him like an Olympic hammer to his doom. In one of the very last games released for the console, Conker's Bad Fur Day homages Mario 64 by having the final boss being defeated with the exact same technique!
  • Christmas Rushed: Averted for the most part. If anything the N64 era was notable for showing off just how generous Nintendo was when it came to missing Christmas in order to guarantee a better game — or system. That said, it still popped up a couple times.
  • Darker and Edgier: Learning from their mistakes in the Super NES years, Nintendo's censorship policies lightened up considerably for the Nintendo 64, with edits mostly reserved for minor aspects of the games, such as the aforementioned steroid power ups in Duke Nukem 3D. A lot of teen and adult oriented games got released for the 64 that would have never gotten the greenlight in their older days—Conker's Bad Fur Day, which features a superficially cutesy looking platformer game loaded with shamelessly comedic gore, heavy swearing and scatological humor, is probably the most notorious example of this.
  • Development Hell: A lot of what didn't help the N64's software droughts was the fact that so many of its biggest games had much longer-than-expected development cycles. By the time most of the games were finally ready, 1998 being the first year with a truly solid first-party software lineup, it was too late, because the PS1 and Saturn had already more than established themselves and the Dreamcast and PS2 were looming over the horizon.
    • The 64DD is one of the most infamous examples. It was supposed to release not long after the N64 proper in late 1996, and be a key pillar that was critical to many of Nintendo's hardware and software plans. After several missed release dates, it finally ended up releasing in late 1999, exclusive to Japan with only a few supported games, and was discontinued not long after.
    • Several games originally planned for 64DD were either moved to cartridge form (e.g. Kirby 64, Ocarina of Time, Paper Mario, and Pokémon Snap) or different consoles entirely (Resident Evil 0 on GameCube, Dragon Quest VII on Playstation), which often extended their development time.
    • During the Iwata Asks interview for the game's sequel, Iwata himself actually grilled Treasure a little over the fact that Sin and Punishment started in 1997 and ended up being one of the very last games on the system, which was unusual even for the time. Justified though, as the game only started out with a small staff size and slowly became the biggest Treasure had put on a project.
  • Digital Piracy Is Evil: The Nintendo 64 is collateral damage in the war against piracy, as Nintendo's choice of lower capacity but harder-to-copy cartridges over CDs limited game development, resulting in a dearth of third-party games as opposed to the CD-based PlayStation and consequently lower sales of Nintendo's console.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: 66% of the consoles sales were from the American market. A lot of North American gamers are actually surprised to find out just how badly it did in Europe and Japan, because while it still lost, it actually managed to be pretty competitive with the PS1 there and had excellent software sales.
  • Lighter and Softer: The console has an unfair reputation as being kiddy, mainly because of Nintendo's emphasis on first and second party developed games to compensate for the lack of third party devs, which led to the console's headlining hits (i.e. Mario and co., Banjo-Kazooie) being the family-friendly titles. However, there were also plenty of games aimed at the older crowd, most notably GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark and Conker's Bad Fur Day. And while Nintendo occasionally forced censorship on a handful of games, the edits were nowhere near as drastic as what they did in their NES and Super NES years.
  • Limited Special Collector's Ultimate Edition:
    • The console had a "Limited Edition" only for sale in Daiei Hawks stores in Japan with a transparent orange top and a transparent black bottom. The controller with a transparent orange top and a black bottom that came with the console was also sold separately.
    • The console had a "Jusco 30th Anniversary Edition" only for sale in Jusco stores in Japan to commemorate the 30th Anniversary of the Jusco chain of stores with a transparent light gray top and a transparent white bottom. The controller with a transparent light gray top and a transparent white bottom that came with the console was also sold separately.
    • The controller with a black top and a gray bottom had two variants:
      • One sold only in Hello Mac stores in Japan with a lion emblem on top.
      • One sold only in Toys Я Us stores in Japan with a Geoffrey the Giraffe emblem on top.
    • 64 Professional Sumo Wrestling came with a Controller Pak.
    • Choro Q 64 came with an assemblable toy car.
    • Disney's Tarzan came with a Tarzan figurine.
    • Densha de Go! 64 has a "Driver Pack"that came with a Voice Recognition Unit microphone.
    • Extreme-G has a "Special Edition" in Germany that came with a music CD.
    • Gauntlet Legends came with a Warrior miniature.
    • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
      • It has a "Collector's Edition" in America and Australia that came with a Gold Cartridge.
      • It has a "Limited Edition" in Germany that came with a Strategy Guide and a shirt (possibly unlicensed).
    • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
      • It has a "Collector’s Edition" in America that came with a cartridge that had a holografic label.
      • It has a "Limited Edition Adventure Set" in Europe limited to 1000 pieces that came with a shirt, a watch, a 2 CD soundtrack, a poster, a sticker and 2 pin badges.
    • The New Superman Aventures has a "Collector's Edition" that came with a tie-in comic book.
    • Pokémon Stadium has a "Battle Set" in Europe that came with a Nintendo 64 with a blue top with yellow Reset button, Power button, dust tray and bottom
    • Rampage 2: Universal Tour came with a Rampage Baby, one of three possible plush keychains of George, Lizzie, and Ralph, and a shirt.
    • World Driver Championship came with a shirt.
  • Loads and Loads of Loading: Deliberately averted, as Nintendo cited the long load times of CDs as one of the reasons for the cartridge medium. Unfortunately, CDs' loading times were a small problem compared to the painfully restrictive amounts of storage offered by carts.
    • Curiously some games did end up having some noticeable loading times, though these were typically nowhere near as long or frequent as on CD based consoles. This was due to them using advanced compression techniques to compensate for the lack of space on the cartridges, which then required the CPU to spend some time decompressing the data before it could be used.
  • Market-Based Title:
    • Various games had this happen to them.
    • The Smoke Black and Grape Purple consoles were released in Japan as Clear Black and Midnight Blue.
    • The Atomic Purple controller was released in Australia as Clear Purple.
  • Never Live It Down: One thing the Nintendo 64 is remembered for among hardcore gamers is the distinct lack of RPG games compared to the PlayStation on account of the issue of storage space. Square burned bridges with Nintendo for this very reason, jumping to Sony with Final Fantasy VII and - driving the knife further - ignoring the Game Boy Color wholesale in favor of Bandai's WonderSwan Color.note 
  • No Export for You
    • The 64DD and all of its games were never released outside Japan.
    • Custom Robo 1 and 2, Sin and Punishmentnote , and Animal Forest are the most famous Japan-exclusive base N64 games. The latter two later showed up respectively on Wii Virtual Console and GameCube (as Animal Crossing), but Custom Robo wasn't so lucky. The original Pokémon Stadium wasn't localized either, but international players didn't miss much because it's an Obvious Beta for Pokémon Stadium 2 (which was released as simply Pokémon Stadium).
    • On the flipside, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Pokémon Puzzle League, and Dr. Mario 64 in its original form were never released in Japan. Japan would later get a GameCube port of Dr. Mario 64 in Nintendo Puzzle Collection, which never saw international release. Europe didn't get Dr. Mario 64 either.
    • Because of the difficulty involved in translating a device that's based on human speech, Hey You, Pikachu! took two years to come out in North America and was never bothered with in Europe.
  • Release Date Change
    • The N64 itself was actually delayed, which got things off on a bad foot since it meant the PS1 and Saturn both had a year and a half's head start. It was supposed to be out in fall 1995, but first hit Japan in June 1996. Nintendo of America waited a little longer (until September 1996) to take advantage of the holiday rush. In fact, the first ads for the system actually played up the long wait, hyping up the suspense to build anticipation.
    • Banjo-Kazooie and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time were both slated for 1997, but ended up slipping to the following year, which crippled their plans for the system's second year lineup.
    • Nintendo of America helped to pad out the N64's lineup during its last couple years by strategically holding back localized games. Nintendo had more or less wrapped up N64 development by the end of 2000 in order to shift gears towards the GameCube, so in 2001, Animal Forest was the sole first-party N64 game in Japan. NOA and NOE filled in the void with Paper Mario, Mario Party 3, and Pokémon Stadium 2 (all 2000 releases in Japan), plus Dr. Mario 64 and Conker's Bad Fur Day (which Japan didn't get). Unfortunately, it led to games like Sin and Punishment and yes, Animal Forest getting lost in the shuffle.
    • While Ocarina of Time was a simultaneous worldwide launch, Nintendo of America sat on Majora's Mask to be their big holiday 2000 game. They actually ended up moving the release date up a month to October 26th in order to compete with the PS2 launch date... to mixed results, saleswise.
  • Quality over Quantity: For a short while, Nintendo tried to excuse the dearth of N64 games being released by saying that they "believed in quality over quantity." While the N64 had plenty of (mostly first and second party) Killer App games like Super Mario 64 and GoldenEye 007, this justification proved to ultimately be fruitless. The system's game library was quite slim compared to the PlayStation's, and third parties made it less of a priority due to the cartridge unit.
  • Sleeper Hit: One of the N64's greatest legacies is the original Super Smash Bros. 64, which was a low-budget project that many of Nintendo's higherups were nervous about. It ended up not only becoming one of the system's best-selling games, but launching one of Nintendo's biggest, most important franchises ever and the best-selling Fighting Game series of all time.
  • Sprite/Polygon Mix: Many N64 games made strategic use of 2D objects to help cut rendering costs, but Yoshi's Story, Mario Kart 64, Mischief Makers, and Paper Mario all turn it into an art form.
  • Super Title 64 Advance: One of the Trope Namers.
  • Tonka Tough: Nintendo 64s are built like tanks, and are guaranteed to last you for decades. One TV show even tried to destroy one, and it took two whacks from a large mallet before any visible cracks appeared!
    • Averted with the Nintendo 64 joystick. It was built in such a way that the plastic quickly wore itself down from the rotation, resulting in a stick with excessive center play. By contrast, it uses optical encoders instead of the potentiometers that later Nintendo controllers use, which are more durable and precise due to their contactless nature. Too bad the gimbal/pivot parts of the joystick can't hold up compared to the sensors.
  • Trope Codifier: Many N64 entries in established series became the barometer that defined their respective series going forth, like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Star Fox 64, Paper Mario, Mario Tennis, Mario Golf and Rayman 2. To this day, fans, critics, and developers alike still compare subsequent entries in those series to their N64 installments.
  • Ur-Example: One of the N64's most significant legacies is as the birthplace for three of Nintendo's biggest, most enduring franchises ever: Animal Crossing, Mario Party, and Super Smash Bros..
  • Vaporware: The N64 is unusual among Nintendo systems for just how many high-profile cancelled and rebooted first-party games it has. A big part of this has to do with the troubled development of the 64DD, which screwed over a LOT of developers' plans. Some games resurfaced on later systems like GameCube (Kirby Air Ride, Eternal Darkness, and The Legend of Zelda: Master Quest) and even Game Boy Advance (Mother 3, Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade). Miyamoto also spoke freely and candidly about a sequel to Super Mario 64 in numerous interviews, which he later admitted would probably not be actually released on N64.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • It was originally called the Nintendo Ultra 64 (carrying on the naming scheme of the Super NES/Famicom); the prototype controller had a larger thumbstick and a round-shaped "Z" button. The arcade version of Killer Instinct referenced this, claiming it would be available for "your Nintendo Ultra 64!"
    • At Shoshinkai '95, in addition to the six solid controller colors that were released, a seventh controller was on display that was dark blue.
    • There were over sixty games planned for the Nintendo 64DD. When it finally came out, only eight stand-alone titles were released.
    • At least 12 Funtastic or Clear variants were planned that didn't make the cut.
  • The Wiki Rule: The 64DD Wiki.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: The iQue Player, a plug-and-play variant released in China. Its purpose was to run through the holes in China's anti-console policy, and it was also meant to curb piracy. It was a brilliant idea, but never released anywhere else, ironically.

"Thank you for playing Nintendo 64!"
Charles Martinet , in the kiosk demo

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