The Nintendo 64 (N64) was Nintendo’s 5th-generation home video game console launched in 1996. It competed with the Sega Saturn, a continuation of the console wars of the early 1990s, and with a new entrant, the Sony PlayStation. Prior to the N64’s release there was a buzz within the gaming community. We’d be getting a 64-bit console after years of being limited to 8-bit and 16-bit consoles, always wondering if we could replicate arcade style gameplay at home. The N64 promised to not only do that, but exceed it. Commercials that ran prior to its released frequently showed cuts of Super Mario 64, which created a lot of buzz. Mario had traditionally been confined to 2D bi-directional platform games. Now we were getting a 3D version, and the freedom and possibility of exploration was altering our expectations of what was capable in a home video game console.
The N64 controller was a step up from the Super Nintendo game pad. It allowed players to hold it in different ways, which was often required depending on the game one was playing. It also was likely developed taking into consideration the growth of PC gaming, which provided a lot of control flexibility with the mouse and keyboard, and 3D games games that were being developed at the time (Duke Nukem 3D and Quake were both released in 1996).
The N64’s answer to the popularity of first-person shooters (FPS) was GoldenEye 007. The game was positively received and went on to become the N64’s third best selling game ever with 8.09 million copies sold, exceeded only by Super Mario 64 and Mario Kart 64. If you bought the N64 bundled with a copy of GoldenEye 007, you’d also get your hands on a ‘limited edition’ gold controller.
The N64 described its capabilities as ‘a quantum leap in graphics realism’ with ‘realtime rendering and awesome anti-aliased graphics’ to ‘create a heart-pumping virtual gaming world!’ It didn’t disappoint. To use Nintendo’s words, gamers experienced more freedom, adventure, power and fun.
While Sony’s entry into the console wars with the PlayStation would eventually give it the greatest market share, Nintendo’s release of the N64 and subsequent GameCube would keep it competitive. Sega, on the other hand, would stay in the fight with the Saturn but ultimately bow out of the console wars with the Dreamcast, its last console released in 1998.