The Nintendo 64, the successor to the Super Nintendo, the video game console that battled against the almighty PlayStation. One of the most powerful consoles that Nintendo has ever made in relation to its time. The console that consolidated local multiplayer as a hallmark of Nintendo and brought 3D to our homes on a large scale.
Launched in 1996, the N64 is one of the last Nintendo home consoles in which technical features prevailed over other factors. An amazing console that sinned in its main format and development time, but still has one of the best video game catalogs in all of history.
|CONSOLE GENERATION:||5TH GENERATION OF CONSOLES|
|RELEASE DATE:||1996 Japan, 1996 North America and 1997 Europe|
|GAMES CATALOG:||393 games published: 296 in North America, 243 in Europe, and 198 in Japan.|
|SOLD UNITS:||33 million worldwide|
|LAUNCH PRICE:||25,000 yen with tax in Japan, US$199.99 in the United States|
|PROCESSOR:||64-bit 93.75 MHz NEC VR4300 Custom (MIPS) + GPU SGI Reality 62.5 MHz 64-bit RCP|
|FORMAT:||Cartridge and magnetic disk (64DD)|
- History of the Nintendo 64
- Nintendo 64DD
- Price of a Nintendo 64 console. How much did it cost?
- Collect the original Nintendo 64.
- Buy a Nintendo 64.
- TOP Retro: Best Nintendo 64 games.
- Nintendo 64 FAQ.
- Technical characteristics of the original Nintendo 64.
Nintendo 64, the 64-bit Nintendo
Launched on June 23, 1996 in Japan, on September 30, 1996 in North America and on March 1, 1997 in Europe, the Nintendo 64 is the successor of the great Super Nintendo, the one in charge of mending the failure of the Virtual Boy and the machine that was destined to face the 32 bits of Sony and Sega, with their PlayStation and Saturn respectively… As you can imagine with this presentation, few consoles have had more pressure in their launch and commercial life than the 64 bits of Nintendo, but let’s go in parts and start at the beginning.
Nintendo 64 background and context
After the overwhelming success of the Famicom (NES) worldwide with 61 million consoles sold at a time when video games were considered “kid’s stuff” (so they had a much smaller player base), Nintendo repeated the success with the launch of its 16-bit successor, the Super Nintendo, a console that sold 49 million units worldwide, in a much more disputed generation than the previous one.
It was the beginning of the 90s, the time of the war of the fourth generation consoles, a few years of immense happiness and gamer nostalgia for the lucky ones who enjoyed them, times in which the classes and patios were divided between segueros and nintenderos, months in which the HobbyConsolas and Super Juegos magazines gave us arguments in favor of each other based on notes and comparisons, and days of pure vice with our favorite hobby, video games.
To make it clear, we can say that in those years of 16-bit consoles, young gamers were true hooligans of our favorite brand, experiencing an eternal conflict between Nintendo and Sega... NES VS Master System, Snes VS MegaDrive and Game Boy VS Game Gear.
The years went by and Nintendo was proclaiming itself the clear winner in the field of portables with its almighty Game Boy and in a much more competitive way, it also surpassed the MegaDrive thanks to the cartridges with integrated Super Nintendo chips and its own superiority technique of the SNES, a console that had been launched 2 years later than the 16-bit Sega.
Being the last to arrive, the Super Nintendo had placed first and was holding up well against the onslaught of the competition with advances such as the Mega CD, as well as the thousand and one evolutions of the PC Engine in the land of the rising sun. A cast of titles like Star Wing, Donkey Kong Country and Super Metroid among many others were enough to satisfy the needs and aspirations of its audience.
Nintendo dominated the video game market and consequently was in no hurry to change the scene with a new generation of consoles, something that its competitors were striving to achieve. While Sega was dedicated to launching different versions of its console and Mega CD with the culmination of the 32X, the first fifth generation consoles were arriving trying to supply the 16 bits:
FM Towns-Marty, 3DO, Amiga CD32, Atari Jaguar or Playdia, were consoles that were showing us that no matter how much it weighed on us, our 16 bits had been technically surpassed… And so it was, but none of them triumphed for a reason. simple reason, they were neither from Nintendo nor from Sega and we, humble and distrustful players in love with Mario and Sonic, would not ask our parents to spend the money that those machines cost until, at least, to be able to compare them with the next 32 consoles bits of Nintendo and Sega…
So we patiently wait… We hope in a few years that are mediated by quarters and summers, eternal years with practically Hobby Consoles as the only source of truthful information added to a few magazines of the time… We wait and see how the world of the video games were developing while we continued with our beloved 16-bit consoles oblivious to everything, without realizing that little by little something was growing inside us… HYPE, HYPE of the good, HYPE of those from before, HYPE of when we didn’t know what HYPE meant.
If the specialized press was already drooling over the income generated by the War of the 16-bit Consoles, imagine when the 32-bit consoles of the main video game brands appeared on the horizon. 1993 was a year of frenetic journalistic activity regarding video games, the news of the next new generation consoles, especially Sega and Nintendo, appeared month by month, data by data, leak after leak with a special guest: SONY. And we are happier than Easter.
We all expected the launch of our preselected favorite console, but little by little Sony was drawing attention to the incredible features that the machine presented and the proximity of its launch. The case of Sony was far from other companies that joined the world of video games, its image was perceived by users as that of a technological giant that, if it had not previously entered the market for video game consoles with a system own, it was because for them it meant a smaller market.
Consequently, from our perception, SONY could launch a product equal to or superior to any other brand at a competitive price, they could afford to lose money in the first few years as an investment and offset profits from their other business lines. Really, we were not very wrong, years later we would have exactly the same “perceptions” with Microsoft and its XBOX.
In late 1994 the world witnessed the launch of the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation in Japan. The wait had been worth it, Sega met expectations with a cutting-edge 32-bit console and Sony surprised the world with a console with surprising technical characteristics and potential. The 32-bit war added 2 new contenders, but… Where was Nintendo?
Well, Nintendo was doing wonderfully well in the field of 16 bits, with 1994 and 1995 being two of the most prolific years in terms of software, in which marvels such as Killer Instinc, Donkey Country 2 or Chrono Trigger were launched. The Snes withstood the onslaught of the new generation based on great games and Nintendo trusted that its followers would wait for the successor to the Super Nintendo, a huge mistake.
The Saturn and PSX began their particular war and gradually began to share the cake. More and more gamers from all over the world made the leap from 16 bits to 32 bits, with a proposal devised and focused on a more adult audience than the previous generation: Video game consoles were no longer something for children.
In response to this situation, without its main console developed, Nintendo ordered to speed up the launch of its 32-bit machine, the Virtual Boy, a portable virtual reality machine that initially had not been considered as a video game console, but as a game. Inexpensive electronic with interchangeable sets. Business was stronger than integrity and Nintendo market-based reformulated a machine that was not even finished, launching it as a 32-bit console with a brand image associated with the Game Boy.
In the summer of 1995, Nintendo had its biggest blow with the failure of the Virtual Boy in Japan and the United States, seriously damaging its image at a time when its followers were seriously impatient while Sony’s machine was pushing upwards. The blame fell on the master Gunpei Yokoi (creator of the Game Boy and Game & Watch) leaving after a few months what had been his home for decades, the Big N. They were eternal months for Nintendo, but fortunately there was very little left for Nintendo to 64 saw the light.
Development and launch of the Nintendo 64
The development of the N64 begins with Silicon Graphics, Inc. (SGI), a leading supercomputing and graphics processing company (Jurassic Park movie) in the early 1990s, seeking to expand its business with an adaptation of its MIPS R4000 CPU ( the one used in their workstations) to the domestic market, said adaptation had a minimum consumption and an approximate cost of 40$, a very cheap price for its benefits in those years.
After sounding out SEGA by presenting their product, it seems that a disagreement with the non-exclusive use of the CPU led SGI to present their CPU to Nintendo (1993), a company that at that time was already working on the successor console to the Snes along with to the Virtual Boy and spinning the Snes CD with Philips (and Sony). The SGI CPU caused a great impact on Nintendo and especially its president Hiroshi Yamauchi, so in August 1993 Project Reality, a joint project between Nintendo and Silicon Graphics, Inc, was announced to the world… The hype began to rise the big.
Project Reality, Ultra 64, Ultra Famicom, Ultra NES… the Nintendo 64 changed its name over the course of its development and as news trickled down, but one thing was clear: The Nintendo 64 would be the machine most powerful of its generation and if that wasn’t enough, it was announced that it would be available in late 1995 for less than $250.
SGI and Nintendo assembled in their console a chipset based on the MIPS R4300i CPU (a custom MIPS R4000) with theoretically much higher performance than its competitors: Only the R4300i CPU was capable of executing 122 MIPS (million instructions per second), being a processing power 4 times higher than the PlayStation CPU (30 MIPS) and infinitely higher than its predecessor the SNES.
SGI named the Nintendo 64’s chipset “Reality Immersion Technology”, with Japanese companies NEC, Toshiba, and Sharp participating in the manufacture of the components. At the same time, Nintendo distributed among a large number of selected developers, the video game development systems for the Nintendo 64 known as the Onyx, developed by SGI and costing more than 100,000 US dollars each. In 1995 they would make this system cheaper, allowing other developers to enter the orbit of what was then the Ultra 64.
Years passed and Nintendo was presenting new demonstrations of power in the different video game fairs and providing (in its line), the information with an eyedropper. The polygons, the rendered graphics and the 3D worlds left us speechless, it’s true, but with each passing day Sony and its PlayStation gained more followers. The wait for Nintendo fans was becoming agonizing when they saw the potential of Saturn and PSX.
The Nintendo fair in Japan arrived in November 1995 and the Kyoto company announced that its console would not be ready for Christmas 1995 (fatal error), postponing its launch until April 1996, a date that it did not arrive either, justifying itself with the fact that I needed to give developers more time to program their games. June 23, 1996 would be the definitive date, but only for the Japanese, since they rejected making a global launch (which was initially planned) because they could not cover all the demand.
Nintendo began to carry out specific campaigns aimed at calming the spirits of its followers, encouraging players to wait for “the best console” of its generation. To contextualize the endless wait again, let’s look back, and hypothetically remember what it meant in those years to tell a 12, 14 or 16 year old student in 1993, that he couldn’t buy a Nintendo 64 until the summer of 1996… Who could have waited? Impossible.
Finally, Sunday June 23, 1996 arrived and Nintendo 64 became a reality. Released throughout Japan with an emphasis on retail and targeting a pre-teen audience, Nintendo released 300,000 units of the Nintendo 64 for 25,000 yen (with tax) which were sold out, most being pre-ordered. Its launch games were Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, and Saikyo Habu Shogi.
On September 29, 1996, the console would arrive in the United States for $199.99 (same as the PSX and Saturn) with the games Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, where it would become a sales success comparable to the Super Nintendo. In Europe, for a change, we had to wait until March 1, 1997, granting an extra Christmas campaign to Sony and Sega. At least it came to us with the games Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.
Nintendo 64, the original console
The Nintendo 64 was and is a great console, an innovative machine that brought to our homes the most cutting-edge domestic technology of the moment in relation to its price, being by far the most powerful console of its generation. The N64 is one of the last Nintendo consoles in which the power and graphics factors were still key for the company and its audience.
Nintendo’s 64-bit console stood out from the start in the implementation of polygonal graphics and the resulting 3D, having the ability to create large-scale 3D worlds processed and rendered with textures on the fly (no need to import pre-rendered graphics). The architecture of the console was completely optimized for this purpose and this decision by Nintendo made 2D a thing of the past and consolidated a trend that continues to this day (2021).
It may seem somewhat banal from our perspective and time, but at the beginning of the development of the N64, the moment in which decisions are made as 2D or 3D, the future of video games was not so clear:
Bandai opted for the VCD, interactive videos with its Playdia taking advantage of the CD format and its lower cost, Sega and its Saturn still betting on 3D, they did not forget the 2D being their console a real beast for the 2D (let’s think of their games of fight) and NEC and its 32-bit PCFX clearly opted for 2D enhanced by the benefits of the CD, relying on pre-rendered graphics if things went wrong in their bet. On the other hand, the first 32-bit machines with great 3D features compared to 16-bit consoles had failed miserably mainly because of their high prices, largely due to the fact that in those years the price of the components necessary for 3D was very expensive.
Fortunately, Nintendo chose well by optimizing its console for 3D and thanks to its good work as a software developer, it created the new standards of open worlds in 3D with the arrival of Super Mario 64. These are things that happen when you are developing your star game at the time you create your new console (and your name is Nintendo) Were they the first? Not at all, but they definitely managed to unite the gameplay of their games with polygonal environments and open worlds, on a scale that their competitors could only dream of. All this obviously thanks to the power of the N64 and the use of the cartridge. That is his great legacy.
It is true that 32-bit consoles already had great potential for 3D environments and games, but let’s remember what most of their games were like in a 3D environment: Narrow streets, corridors, tunnels, dark nearby horizons, fog… Everything due to the technical limitations of the machines, which were amazingly overcome later by the programmers as the years passed and their knowledge and skill in exploiting the hardware increased, literally doing magic.
But the Nintendo 64 was not limited to creating large-scale 3D worlds, it also introduced, thanks to its new controller, how control should be in 3D environment video games and, consequently, we were finally able to enjoy gameplay according to the graphics that we contemplated Retro Curiosity! The gray color of the N64 controller (which was black) is due to the fact that the material of the Super Nintendo casing was used.
The Nintendo 64 controller was a revolution in the world of video games, designed by Nintendo R&D3 around the game Super Mario 64 and tested during its development by Shigeru Miyamoto himself, the N64 controller has 10 buttons (one of them trigger), crosshead and an analog center stick. Obviously the analog stick was the perfect tool to get around in 3D environments, but the button layout and its M shape made it possible to hold the controller in different ways depending on the game. In addition, the controller also has a port to insert peripherals such as the Rumble Pak.
The control of the N64 turned out to be a key piece in the gameplay and the possibilities it gave to developers and players, who finally returned to having control in our games similar to those of the fourth generation of consoles and their 2D worlds. The format was standardized and became indispensable in subsequent systems, as evidenced by the arrival of Sony’s Dual Analog and DualShock the following year.
Attention! Nintendo's innovation was not in any case the invention of the analog control, but its correct implementation. Consoles such as the Atari 5200, Neo Geo CD or recreational consoles had previously incorporated this technology without achieving its standardization. In fact, Sega itself launched its analog 3D Control Pad in 1996, which remained anecdotal as it was a peripheral not included in the console's launch pack, as was the case with the Nintendo 64.
Another of the N64’s strengths was multiplayer, Nintendo’s 64-bit console specialized in 4-player local multiplayer for one simple reason: The machine had enough power to split the screen between four without significant slowdowns. In this way, a large number of its games offered the possibility of playing with friends and family, something that took on vital importance in the United States, a place where families are more numerous than in Japan or Europe.
Although the multiplayer for four players integrated into a console with 4 ports/controls had not been an invention of Nintendo either, its implementation became a benchmark for future video game consoles such as the Dreamcast, GameCube, Xbox or the possibility of linking up to 8 controllers or more on current consoles. The N64 became the queen of hangouts thanks to titles for 4 players like Mario Kart 64 or GoldenEye 007, luxury vices that reached the pinnacle if the TV in question was one of those “big panoramic” TVs that were marketed at the time .
And allow me to emphasize this point again, but yes: The Nintendo 64 opened a new path to follow in the world of video games, offline multiplayer for 4 players ceased to be something anecdotal and exceptional based on multitaps and Bomberman, to become in a strong point demanded by a large part of the public. The doubles evolved, the consoles were no longer exclusively for children and adolescents and finally since the second generation of consoles, families and groups of friends could sit around a console and participate in a large part of the standard video games at the same time. Magic.
At this point, there are only two notable aspects of the console: The memory expansion port necessary for some very demanding or poorly optimized games and the cartridge. The cartridge… the cartridge, the format chosen by Nintendo due to its high transfer speed (5.3 MB/sec, much higher than the CD), the possibility of optimizing it by including support chips as they did with the NES or Snes With the consequent cheaper console, which no longer had to incorporate a large amount of memory or mount a reader unit, they avoided paying the royalties of the CD-ROM and the most important thing for Nintendo, the impossibility of pirating their games and the absolute control of their distribution.
The controversial and controversial format chosen by Nintendo for its 64-bit has made rivers of ink run. Dark blood-colored ink coagulated with hatred and thirst for revenge for its millions of followers. The perception of the general public is that Nintendo acted selfishly without thinking about its users and opted for an already obsolete format, more expensive and with less memory than the CD-ROM, only to avoid piracy and to have total control but as we have seen before . It is true that these aspects were taken into great consideration, but as we have already seen, they were not the only ones and, most importantly, in those years the dominance of the optical format was not as evident as it is now and the cartridge, in practice, meant the possibility of “updating” the machine in its last years of life as they did with Super Mario Bros 3 and many Snes titles.
Competition and decline of the N64
As we all know, the Nintendo 64 suffered an overwhelming commercial beating by the almighty PlayStation, the console that had been born from the battered and unsuccessful collaboration between Nintendo and Sony with the SNES CD, managed to unseat what had been the queen company of video games for more than a decade. The home video game market bowed down to Sony leaving global sales at the end of their lives as follows:
It may seem that the Nintendo 64 obtained a worthy second place, but no… Nintendo 64 went from having a base of 49 million players worldwide with its Super Nintendo to 33 million, the majority being North Americans since the disaster in Europe and Japan it was monumental: 5.5 million in Japan and 6.7 in Europe and Australia combined. Let’s think about it, 5.5 million in Japan, its territory… RESTRICT FAILURE.
Although Nintendo held up well against the first waves of fifth-generation machines with its Super Nintendo, while increasing the hype of its new console the N64, it could do little to retain its followers when the 32-bit Sega and Sony were launched, The PlayStation being the console that conquered the general public, managing to increase and perpetuate the player base like no other console had ever done before.
And that was the main reason for the commercial failure of the Nintendo 64: The delay in its launch, the delay of almost two years before the PlayStation, a machine that cornered the market and made the N64 born with a signed death sentence. It sounds harsh, but it is the pure reality, the PSX had monopolized a large part of the market and that success did nothing but attract new players. Nintendo had given its competition too much time and Sony had made the most of it.
Someone may think that when the N64 is launched later and with a more advanced architecture and technology, it would be worthwhile for many users of the 32-bit Sony to make the leap to the 64-bit Nintendo. When it comes to hardware, the answer is NO. A resounding NO. Sony created a practically perfect machine for its time fully capable of measuring itself against the N64. With technology licensed from Silicon Graphics also in its processor, the PSX was shown as a fully optimized machine for 3D and polygonal graphics. Unlike its predecessors of the same generation such as the 3DO and Atari Jaguar, Sony benefited from the technological advance in 3D processing that occurred at its time of development, reducing costs and increasing power.
Continuing with the competition between the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, one of the points that undoubtedly benefited the PSX was the CD-ROM, which allowed it to have much more extensive games (being able to have several CD-ROMs), with cinematics, CD quality music, textures and video scenes at a final price much cheaper than the cartridge. The CD more than made up for the lack of power that the PSX lacked compared to the N64. Developers had all the space they needed for their projects.
As if what has been mentioned so far was not enough, the developers and studios turned to the Sony video game console, since from the first moment they had much cheaper development kits, reaching in a few years a master’s degree regarding the scheduling and resource optimization like never before seen. The PSX has authentic jewels in its catalog such as the Gran Turismo that have little or nothing to envy to the N64.
For its part, the Nintendo 64 with some very expensive initial development kits, missed the support it had previously had from the developers, with whom at the time of the NES and SNES it had negotiated with an iron fist and superiority. In 1996 it had lost all authority against Sony and its CD, with the big developers choosing to bring their best licenses to the Sony console. To this point we must add the disastrous launch in Japan in terms of software: After the first three launch games (06-23-1996), users had to wait until September 27, 1996 for a new video game, the Wave Race 64 and until November 22, 1996 for the next game, Wonder Project J2: Koruro no Mori no Jozetto… Three months for a new game, an absolute failure.
PSX, PlayStation, PSX, PlayStation... Yes, the PSX was Nintendo's nightmare and the failure of its console, just like what happened to Sega, is directly related to the success of the PlayStation. To finish off the job, the possibility of being able to insert the chip into the Sony console to play "copies" increased its sales to infinity even when the Nintendo 64 had already been launched on the market. The youth had 2 options to choose from: A console with free CD-ROMs or a console with sky-high cartridges?
And there is still more, being focused on a teenage and adult audience, the PSX reached an unprecedented market: Children who wanted to be older, teenagers as a target audience and young adults (already gamers) who still making the leap to a working life, For the first time in the history of video game consoles, most of them kept their hobby for video games thanks to the adult proposal of the PSX: Video games were no longer a child’s thing. Meanwhile, Nintendo continued with its advertising campaigns and video games focused on the youngest, the children.
It may be that previously the children’s video game market was lucrative, but by making the leap to adolescents and mainly to the adult public, Sony obtained an independent market with a much higher purchasing power, which had the ability to acquire its console in any time of the year, and demanded many more games in shorter periods of time. Nintendo 64 was consequently stuck in an already obsolete business model based mainly on children, falling victim to its own family business policy: How to promote great games like Golden Eye or Doom on a console aimed at children?
As you can see, there are many reasons why the Nintendo 64, successor console to the successful SNES, suffered a continuous decline practically since its launch due to multiple factors and errors already mentioned (with the exception of the USA). And for the record that we are referring only to its commercial life (sales), let it be clear, but we all expected much more from Nintendo’s 64-bit console, a great console that was humiliated by the PlayStation.
The gaming experience, is the N64 currently playable?
Well, well, well… I must admit that the last section “Competition and decline of the Nintendo 64” was quite depressing. It’s sad to remember how a console that was predestined to be the No. 1 ended up being ignored by much of the gaming community at the time. But in this section we address very different questions: Is the N64 currently playable? Are their titles worth it? Can the Nintendo 64 still amuse and amaze us?
Yes, yes and yes. It’s playable, they’re worth it and we can still have fun and be amazed, a lot really. The original Nintendo 64 is a piece of console to understand us, what was not as commercially successful as the PSX? True, but in no case should we confuse that fact with the quality of the games on the N64 and the console itself. Nintendo 64 is Nintendo’s first modern console, the machine that marked the way of how 3D games should be from that moment, which is no small thing.
Unlike previous generations of video games, all those who did not enjoy it at the time or those who are younger, you can approach the N64 without any fear, the console measures up in all aspects: Its graphics already have a quality notable, its catalog of games, although not very extensive, is of great quality and most importantly, they are tremendously fun, especially in its offline multiplayer, the N64 can still be the queen of the party at your beer gatherings.
If you are ninten boy, this console becomes essential for your collection, not enjoying the favor of the developers, Nintendo turned to the creation of jewels for its console, in fact all its classics are there, many of them being converted to the environments 3D whose dynamics are still used today, while creating new licenses and extremely famous sagas. The Nintendo 64 catalog is the paradise of digital archeology for Nintendo fans, the N64 was the console where its most famous characters made the leap to incredible open worlds and in 3D, if not tell Mario and Link. ..
I hope that it is very clear, that in the aspect of backward compatibility, the Nintendo 64 is far above the PlayStation and the rest of its contemporaries, its games have aged much better and practically the only problem you will have to enjoy it to the fullest will be to find the most appropriate television.
Peripherals and accessories of the N64
The Nintendo console does not have a large assortment of peripherals, but even so, among those that came out, it has some quite interesting ones:
- Controller pak: The typical memory card of those years with a capacity of 256 Kbit (32 KB).
- Memory expansion: RAM memory expansion provides our retro Nintendo 36 Mb (4.5 MB) extras necessary for some games, the 64DD and allowing a resolution improvement in a few games. Once inserted it could always be left inside our N64.
- Rumble pak: With this peripheral we managed to provide vibration to our controls. Something impressive at the time.
- Mouse: Designed for 64DD gaming, virtually no cartridge games made use of it.
- Transfer Pak: Peripheral designed to transfer data between Game Boy and Game Boy Color cartridges and the Nintendo 64. It is only compatible with certain games such as the Pokemon series and should not be confused with the Super Game Boy.
- VRU and microphone: Only compatible with 2 games, Hey You, Pikachu! and Densha from Go! 64, the VRU is a voice recognition unit released in Japan and the United States. Due to the year of launch and the existing technology, it lacked AI for learning, so its use was quite unsuccessful, and it was also limited to a number of specific expressions.
- SmartMedia Cartridge: Cartridge of the game “Mario no Photopi” in which we could retouch the photographs of our digital cameras, inserting the SmartMedia cards in the cartridge itself. Quite an interesting freak…
- Capture cartridge: Included in the “Mario Artist Talent Studio” of the 64DD, this cartridge has an RCA connector and a mini connector for the microphone, in order to capture and later use images, video, sound and voice on the console.
- Modem: Yes, designed for the 64DD, the Nintendo 64 also had its modem, in this case at a speed of 28.8 kbps.
- Biosensor: Does playing Tetris 64 with a pulse sensor affect the game itself? Yes, with the N64 you could do it… Tetris was the only compatible game.
- Communication cartridge: Attentive to the idea, the Morita Shogi 64 game included a modem inside to play exclusively its game, greatly facilitating configurations and others as it is highly optimized… A most imaginative posture to ensure the online game.
- Fishing rod: Before the Dreamcast, the N64 had its own fishing rod. A marvel.
- Train Command: Initially released for Densha de Go! 64 together with its VRU, this train controller can be used in other simulators of the same theme.
As we have explained in detail in the previous section dedicated to the decline of the Nintendo 64, the cartridge format was a serious disadvantage against its main rival, the PlayStation. As surprising as it may seem, Nintendo had already experienced a very similar situation with its Famicom, when it had to face other much cheaper formats such as cards, cassette tapes and discs, so we can say that Nintendo already knew what it was going to do. happen and what it should do, the Famicom Disk System concept would come back to save the Nintendo 64 a decade later.
Nintendo was previously very clear about the problem it would have with the format of the cartridges, which were more expensive and with less capacity than optical formats. In addition, the CD ROM had already been standardized on consoles such as the PC Engine and its CD ROM 2 (1988) for many years, and the PSX and Saturn had only consolidated it completely. Consequently, Nintendo began to consider in full development of the main unit in 1993, its most ambitious peripheral, the 64DD, the Famicom Disk of the 90’s.
The 64DD was the peripheral designed to offer a large-capacity format, which, when coupled to the Nintendo 64, would lower the cost of video games, would allow expansions of the original games on cartridges, while offering additional hardware and the ability to connect to the Randnet through the Randnet Disk, an online subscription service from Nintendo with the classics of those years: email, browser, press... The format chosen to fight against the CD? 64 MB magnetic disks.
Announced in 1995 for the end of 1996, the 64DD ended up being released in December 1999, only in Japan and by mail order due to the commercial failure that Nintendo predicted. Let’s remember that the Nintendo 64 was already a flop in Japan, so imagine an exclusive Japanese mail-order peripheral… The result? 15,000 units sold, one of Nintendo’s biggest failures. In fact, the 64DD had been delayed so many times mainly due to the commercial failure of the console itself.
The 64DD ended up being a minority peripheral with 9 games/expansions and the internet connection cartridge/disk. From having commercial partners in its development such as Square and dozens of companies preparing games for the system, the repeated launch postponements hoping to expand the user base of the main console, made the companies leave the project and launch their products in version cartridge or on other consoles. As an example, in the following table we will compare the shows that were released on the 64DD with those that were canceled and ported to other systems or N64 cartridge:
|PUBLISHED GAMES 64DD||CANCELED GAMES 64DD||PORTED/CANCELED|
|Mario Artist: Paint Studio||FINAL FANTASY VII||PSX|
|Doshin the Giant||Ganbare Goemon 64||N64|
|Randnet Disk||Pokemon DD (Pokemon Stadium)||N64|
|F-Zero X Expansion Kit||The Legend of Zelda 64 (Ocarina of Time)||N64|
|Mario Artist: Talent Studio||Super Smash Bros. Smash Bros.||N64|
|SimCity 64||Pokemon Snap||N64|
|Japan Pro Golf Tour 64||Beast Wars Metals 64||N64|
|Doshin the Giant||Ultra Donkey Kong (Donkey Kong 64)||N64|
|Mario Artist: Communication Kit||Yosuke Ide’s Mahjong School||N64|
|Mario Artist: Polygon Studio||Super Mario RPG2 (Mario Story)||N64|
|Dragon Quest VII||PSX|
|Fire Emblem 64||GBA|
|Resident Evil 0||Game Cube|
|The Legend of Zelda DD||Game Cube|
|Kirby Air Ride||Game Cube|
|Oriental Blue Ao no Tengai||GBA|
|MOTHER3 Pig King’s End||GBA|
|Super Mario 64 2||Cancelado|
|Mario Artist Sound Maker||Cancelado|
|Dezaemon DD (Expansión)||Cancelado|
|Street Fighter III||Cancelado|
As you have seen, the 64DD catalog was ridiculous, what should have been the perfect ally to fight the battle against 32 bits and their CD-ROMs, became a failure that semester after semester was delayed seeing their games behave to the cartridge, or worse, to other systems. This was the reality of the 64DD, but let’s see what it might have been if the console and peripheral hadn’t been delayed for years.
The HYPE of the 64DD, what should have been
Nintendo can be wrong, we all know, but a company of such caliber and experience doesn’t launch its mainline products without planning, market research, and various possible scenarios regarding launch. The 64DD was an anticipation of the CD-ROM problem, let’s see the advantages of the Cartridge + Magnetic Disk combo that Nintendo contemplated:
|COMBO NINTENDO 64 + 64DD||PlayStation / Saturn|
|N64 CARTRIDGE||64DD Magnetic Disc||CD-ROM|
|– Low capacity: 4 – 64MB||Half capacity: 64MB||+ Great capacity: 650 MB|
|+ Reading and writing data||Reading and writing data||– Data read only|
|– Difficult to produce: 10-12 weeks||Intermediate production||+Eeasy to produce: 7-10 days|
|– Caro de fabricar||Economical to manufacture||+ The cheapest to manufacture|
|+ Very cheap hardware (slot on motherboard)||Moderately priced hardware (64DD)||– Very expensive hardware (reader)|
|+ Instant read speed||Moderate reading speed||– Slow reading speed|
|+ Very hard to hack||Hard to hack||– Easy to hack|
|+ Very resistant||Magnetic problems (magnets)||– Scratches|
First of all, this table is not the Bible, I am well aware that for the player aspects such as capacity are much more important than the manufacturing or recording time, for example, but it does show us in a clear way what the thinking minds of Nintendo raised with the 64DD: Faced with the battle of formats, the 64 DD and its magnetic discs would give the N64 the definitive advantage, the cartridge and 64DD combo mitigated the main deficiencies of the cartridge: capacity, production time and cost of components and mounting.
If we look at the table, the moderate characteristics of the 64DD are very striking, it does not stand out at any point, neither for better nor for worse, something that obviously would never have worked to face the PSX on its own, but that is where you have to remember that the 64DD was a simple peripheral, a disk reader like the FDD and nothing like the 32X. Therefore, the 64DD must always be viewed from the perspective of the N64+64DD combo, and there, gentlemen, from that perspective, the 64DD and the N64 were the perfect mutual complement, capable of facing EVERYTHING. The most powerful console of its time with its shortcomings corrected and a whole world of possibilities… Very exaggerated?
That was the vision that reigned in the halls of Nintendo, in fact characters as influential as Shigeru Miyamoto himself did not understand the Nintendo 64 without the 64DD, letting their imagination run wild in various interviews with great praise for the peripheral that never arrived. In Nintendo's wet dreams, all Nintendo 64 cartridges would have their corresponding 64DD expansion, new scenarios and game modes would arrive, being able to release numerous expansions in the most successful games, the capacity of the 64DD would offer the possibility of introducing in the Nintendo console new video game genres inaccessible with the cartridge alone, cinematic discs would complement the cartridges and the lower cost of the discs would allow small studios to bet on much more creative ideas. And to all this, you should add the online game and its incredible possibilities.
Actually, the 64DD concept in the minds of the Nintendo bosses was 10 or 15 years ahead of what has ended, I feel the dynamics of video games, being the total implementation of the Internet the one that really achieved all these advances (expansions, improvements, cheaper , new ideas…). But if Nintendo relied on the new format to bring numerous improvements, the integration of the internet and online play opened up another new world of possibilities for them in their 64DD adventure:
In the endless wait for the launch of the 64DD, Nintendo announced the creation of the Randnet (Recruit and Nintendo network), an online subscription service that promised the following features:
- Download games for the NES.
- Battle mode in different games, both in shared points table (Top Score) and with online multiplayer.
- Observation mode, we could watch how other players play.
- Beta testers, we could work for free for Nintendo and other studios testing games and expansions in development via download, the wet dream of any 90’s kid (sounds ridiculous, but now games are sold in beta mode directly).
- Music distribution, before Apple was going to be the 64DD.
As you can see, things did not look bad at all, being very similar to the evolution that the online scene has had in recent years… Unfortunately, the Randnet arrived in Japan on December 13, 1999, with much more “formal” functions. :
- Editing and creation of avatars to interact.
- Forums and email to communicate with the other players.
- Community with video game developers and studios (messages could be sent to them).
- Internet through a browser adapted to the television.
- Postcard design with the Mario Artist.
- Digital magazine.
Sad truth? And much more if we think that in 1999 online in the PC world was already much more developed, in addition to the competition of the Dreamcast, a console that incorporated the serial modem unlike the N64. In February 2001 the service was canceled, reaching a maximum base of 15,000 users (Satellaview reached 100,000). Nintendo offered to buy back all related hardware as well as offering free service for a few months. All a failure.
All the planning, the creativity, the FDS and Satellaview experience and the evolution of the concept on the 64DD were completely gone. Why didn’t Nintendo incorporate the 64DD into the console from the beginning? For the price, it would have made the price of the console too expensive, but it is clear that if users had had the option of the 64DD from the beginning, and not waited until 1999, part of that promised fantasy world could have been developed.
To finish this point, remember that we are talking about the mid to late 90’s, it is very possible that younger people have a hard time getting used to the idea of what it meant in our minds to have expansion cartridges, something of the most common nowadays (downloadable content), but we, old people born in the annals of digital technology, were amazed with each one of the improvements that were arriving little by little… After all, even in the days of the Dreamcast you dropped the line if someone called home, that’s how we went
Models and versions of the original Nintendo 64
The Nintendo 64 had a total of 10 different versions, the case being the only thing that differentiated them. Below you have the different versions in case you want to complete your console collection 😉
- Black – 1996.
- Transparent Blue – 1999.
- Transparent Red – 1999.
- Gold – 1998, Limited Edition Toys “R” Us.
- Transparent orange and transparent black – 1999, limited edition with the colors of the Daiei Hawks baseball team.
- Midnight Blue – 1999, Toys “R” Us second limited edition.
- Light gray – 1999, limited edition limited shops Jusco.
- Transparent Black – 1999, limited edition bundle of the 64DD and the console.
- Pikachu NINTENDO64 – 2000, orange and yellow.
- Pikachu NINTENDO64 – 2000, blue and yellow.
The price of the Nintendo 64 console
How much did a Nintendo 64 cost back in the day? Was it an expensive or cheap console? So that you can answer these questions, at Infoconsolas we always share a price list of the console in question and its contemporaries. Here you have the price of the Nintendo 64 and its competition in the 90’s.
|3DO||1993||US$699.99||Panasonic (+ Sanyo y Golstar)|
As it is a console that was distributed throughout the world and whose greatest success was in the United States, the prices have been shown in US dollars with the launch price in the USA. With the aim of penetrating a market already conquered by 32 bits, the Nintendo 64 had a very aggressive sale price compared to the PSX and Saturn, something that undoubtedly helped many of its buyers to take the step.
Likewise, we must take into account that the Sony and Sega consoles had already lowered their prices months before the launch of the Nintendo 64 in the United States, specifically it was in the month of May 1996 when Sony and Sega in their particular war of the 32 bits set its price at $199, making it even harder for Nintendo.
Collecting the retro Nintendo 64 console
Is the original Nintendo 64 worth collecting? Yes, without a doubt, the N64 has a large number of high-quality games, some of which are essential titles that you must enjoy, such as Mario Kart 64, Perfect Dark, Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, among many others. others.
From the perspective of the western collector, the Nintendo 64 is a perfect console to collect for several reasons:
- Most of us did not have it, so we have a catalog to discover.
- Its best video games are in English, on the N64 the exclusivities are North American or European, a luxury to vary a little with the Japanese exclusive mega catalogs of other consoles.
- Their games are perfectly playable today, as well as being the beginning of great sagas.
- Both the cartridges and the machine have stood the test of time in very good condition.
- At the end of 2021, the price of the second-hand Nintendo 64 and its games is appropriate (stable), distancing itself from the retro fever in which we have lived for many years.
- It’s from Nintendo.
Buy an original Nintendo 64
If you are interested in buying a second hand Nintendo 64 you are in luck, fortunately the original Nintendo 64 is still an accessible retro console, both the machine and its video games. eye! Accessible is not the same as “bargain”, there are few bargains left in the world of retro video games, the N64 is a system that remains at an affordable price for a console that is almost 30 years old, but year after year it goes increasing its price.
In the following recommended link, you can see an updated selection of second-hand Nintendo 64 consoles with updated prices, as you can see the N64 is still a cheap console, and it is possible to buy the machine and a lot of video games at a very good price, if we only intend to play. If you are looking for a console and games with a box, in perfect condition and so on… the price goes up quite a bit, but hey, it is best that you check it out for yourself.
How are you? What did you think of the prices? At the time of writing this article, we have a gold N64 with a box in good condition for $195.00 and a normal one with a box for $110.00, the fact that it was a success in the US makes it much easier for all retro collectors in which Without a doubt, it is an essential console for all Nintendo lovers. As always, remind you that before buying you have to make sure of the product in question, shipments and reputation of the seller, good luck in your hunt!
TOP: Best Nintendo 64 games
On this occasion we return to one of our favorite youtubers, Mr. Jarm and his selection “TOP 20 best NINTENDO 64 games of all time”, a definitive TOP as he himself indicates in which he gives a magnificent review of the best games of the Nintendo 64. We strongly recommend that you press Play to see 20 masterpieces in motion.
Quality on all four sides, surely, the Nintendo 64 catalog is one of the most careful of all time, both by Nintendo and by the developers as a whole… Launching a game on the Nintendo console was not cheap, so the developers and Nintendo itself gave it their all, this TOP 20 being the tip of the iceberg of a great console. The best, most of the games that you have seen in this TOP can be obtained in good condition for less than 20 euros (2021), a luxury.
Have you been wanting more? Well, here we leave you with the TOP 50 Best Nintendo 64 games, this time according to Metacritic users:
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Perfect Dark
- GoldenEye 007
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- Super Mario 64
- Paper Mario
- Wave Race 64
- Conker’s Bad Fur Day
- Mario Tennis
- Mario Golf
- Rayman 2: The Great Escape
- Donkey Kong 64
- Blast Corps
- Beetle Adventure Racing
- Resident Evil 2
- WWF No Mercy
- Excitebike 64
- Diddy Kong Racing
- Star Fox 64
- Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
- F-Zero X
- Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
- Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
- NFL Blitz 2000
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
- WipeOut 64
- Star Wars: Episode I Battle for Naboo
- Space Station Silicon Valley
- Mario Kart 64
- Ridge Racer 64
- Ogre Battle 64
- Pokemon Puzzle League
- 007: The World is Not Enough
- Jet Force Gemini
- Starcraft 64
- Pilotwings 64
- Super Smash Bros.
- Mario Party
- Harvest Moon 64
- Pokemon Stadium 2
- Army Men: Air Combat
- Pokemon Snap
- Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
- Forsaken 64
- Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Nintendo 64 FAQ
Here you have the most frequent curiosities, questions and answers of the Nintendo 64 retro console, little by little we will expand this section:
The release of the Nintendo 64 was on June 23, 1996 in Japan, on September 29, 1996 in North America, and on March 1, 1997 in Australia.
On December 11, 1999.
Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64 and Saikyo Habu Shogi.
Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64
Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire and Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.
The last commercial game for the N64 was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, released on August 20, 2002 in North America.
One of the first 3 video games of the N64, reminiscent of chess in a Japanese version, exclusive to Japan.
5.5 million in Japan, 20.6 million in America and 6.7 million in Europe and Australia.
Super Mario 64, with 11.6 million units sold.
Nintendo’s suggested retail price for the N64 at launch was 14,000 yen excluding tax in Japan (excluding game), making it 25,000 yen with tax. In the United States it was $199.99. In March 1997 it was lowered to 16,800 yen and US$150 respectively.
Yes, the price was adapted to that of its rivals, the Saturn and PSX.
393 games/licenses worldwide, of which 296 were released in North America, 243 in Europe, and 198 in Japan.
From 32 MB (4 MB) to 512 MB (64 MB).
260mm x 190mm x 78.7mm.
No, the Nintendo 64 processed all the data.
NINTENDO 64 Disk Drive.
Technical characteristics of the Nintendo 64
Below we show the technical characteristics of the N64 extracted from Wikipedia. As you can see, the architecture was already getting more complicated in this fifth generation of consoles, so the technical specifications can no longer be reflected in a simple table of bits, MHz, colors and polygons:
- CPU: 64-bit NEC VR4300 (MIPS R4300i) with 24 KB L1 cache, running at 93.75 MHz.
- Performance: 125 MIPS (millions of instructions per second), 93.75 MFLOPS (millions of floating point operations per second).
- GPU: 64-bit Reality Coprocessor, running at 62.5 MHz and performing over 500 million arithmetic operations per second, capable of dual-issue vector and scalar operations under the right circumstances. It is a microcode-reprogrammable T&L GPU, composed of two integrated processors:
- Reality Signal Processor (RSP).
- Reality display processor (RDP).
- Memory: 4 megabytes of RDRAM expandable to 8 MB with the Expansion Pak. The maximum transfer speed was 4500Mbit/s (562.5MB/s)
- Resolution: 256 x 224 or 640 x 480 pixels.
- Number of colors: 16.8 million colors.
- Sound: 16-bit, stereo, CD quality.
- Support: 4MB to 64MB capacity cartridge running at 264MB/s.
- Console dimensions: 260 mm (width) x 190 mm (depth) x 73 mm (height).
- Weight: 880g.
External sources and links
- Graphic resources: