The Nintendo 64 Is Now 25 Years Old

Clear plastic consoles are cool

Clear plastic consoles are cool
Photo: Joe Raedle/Newsmakers (Getty Images)

On June 23, 1996, the Nintendo 64 went on sale in Japan. The console is now 25 years old. Twenty-five! Can you believe it?

The console, which would launch that September in North America, would be home to iconic and groundbreaking games like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye 007, Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64, Paper Mario, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Perfect Dark and more.

Shigeru Miyamoto shows off the Nintendo 64 and its controller

Shigeru Miyamoto shows off the Nintendo 64 and its controller
Photo: JOHN T. BARR/AFP via Getty Images (Getty Images)

Work on the console began in 1993 under the name “Project Reality,” though the name “Nintendo 64″ was apparently conceived by copywriter Shigesato Itoi, designer of the Earthbound games and star of My Neighbor Totoro.

Not only were the 3D graphics cutting edge, but the console also had novel features like four controller ports, as well as a truly great controller, thumbstick, and all.

Plus, Nintendo continued to use cartridges. Cartridges are cool.

In a recent Eurogamer interview, Kyoto-based game designer Giles Goddard, who was at Nintendo when the N64 was being developed, recalled:

Nearly all of the tech side of things did – things like the lighting, the inverse kinematics and the skinning, that was all tech that was designed to run on the N64. We didn’t actually have any final hardware for a long time, so what we were doing is we had a huge Onyx supercomputer in the backroom at Nintendo that was basically emulating what the hardware would be eventually. That was quite a good system, because they would just update the hardware virtually. And we could test out on a virtual N64, which was really cool.

Nintendo would finally discontinue the console in 2002, after worldwide sales reached 32.93 million. 388 games were released on the Nintendo 64, with the biggest seller being Super Mario 64 at 11.62m copies.

“You can tell SNES games, you can tell an N64 game – you can’t really tell what a Switch game is anymore,” said Goddard. “You can’t tell what any of the new games are anymore. But it was one of the first consoles that you could see definite differences.”

Happy birthday, Nintendo 64! Thanks for all the memories.


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