Nintendo is releasing the Switch this week, and today it’s been exactly twenty years since the Nintendo 64 came out in Europe. That console, like the new model, had a modest line-up of launch games, but in a few years there were several games that are now seen as classics.
When the Nintendo 64 hit stores on March 1, 1997, only three games were available: Pilotwings 64, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, and Super Mario 64. The latter became a classic, being the first game where players popular Italian plumber running and jumping in a three-dimensional open world. The game has sold more than 11 million copies.
NRC wrote a review about the game console in 1997 and was impressed. “When Luigi or any of the other Nintendo characters talk, you hear an American with an Italian accent, invented by a Japanese. It feels a bit artificial. The Nintendo 64 games, on the other hand, are so realistic that you can see the bumps of feel the racetrack in your stomach.”
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is considered by many to be the best game released for the Nintendo 64. Like the Mario game, this was the first Zelda game in 3d. The game came out more than a year after the European release of the N64, in December 1998. With the release of the new Nintendo Switch, the roles have reversed; the new Zelda game is out now, but a new Mario game won’t be coming until the end of this year.
GoldenEye 007 was released shortly after the European release of the N64. That shooter, based on the James Bond movie of the same name, managed to impress with its gameplay that wasn’t just about shooting, but also about stealth. That was new in the era of shooters like Doom and Quake. The game could be played with four players simultaneously in a split-screen mode on one console. With eight million copies, it was the second best-selling game on the N64 after Mario Kart 64 and Super Mario 64.
The Nintendo 64 came out at a time when Sony’s PlayStation had been on the market for a while. However, Nintendo’s alternative was the first 64-bit console. Unlike the Sony console that used discs, the N64 worked with cartridges. Nintendo made a big step from its 16bit console SNES to the N64 in one go.
Photo: Yaca2671, CC BY-SA 3.0
The Nintendo 64 contains a 64-bit processor at 93.75MHz: the NEC VR4300. The CPU was assisted by a 64bit Reality Coprocessor for processing graphics tasks, with a speed of 62.5MHz. The system has 4.5MB of rdram and that memory could later be expanded to 8MB with an optional Expansion Pak. This expansion was necessary to play some of the newer N64 games: Donkey Kong 64, Perfect Dark and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. In a number of other games, the accessory could be used to obtain better graphics.
The Nintendo 64 was sold in Europe until May 2003. A year earlier, the successor to the console, the Nintendo GameCube had already been released. In total, 32.93 million copies of the N64 have been sold worldwide.