Defending the Nintendo 64

By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief

Defending Nintendo seems to be one of my primary functions on this here website, but hey, I figure I’ll keep writing my Nintendo puff pieces until I catch up to the number of Blizzard lovefests Steve has written, and by my estimation, I’ve still got a ways to go. Besides, after I got so much feedback–some positive, some accusing me of having ingested some form of hallucinogen–for my pro-Gamecube article, I thought I’d go one generation back and shine that same warm glowing warming glow on Nintendo’s divisive 64-bit machine.

As it happens, the first cracks in the gaming public’s unconditional love for Nintendo started to show with the Nintendo 64. Making the decision to stick with the costly, low storage capacity cartridge
format led to many of Nintendo’s former third party partners jumping ship to develop for the PlayStation, where CD-based game development was both cheaper and allowed developers a chance to do things creatively and technologically that weren’t possible on cartridges. The main upshot to this was a serious lack of third-party software for the N64, leaving Nintendo’s own games to comprise the bulk of the N64’s software lineup. And while it is may be true that the N64 had what could be considered the weakest third-party lineup of any “successful” console ever released, and Nintendo’s N64 software output during those years wasn’t exactly a steady stream of new releases, I would still say, without hesitation, that the N64 was a truly great system worthy of the Nintendo name.

 

So there weren’t dozens upon dozens of releases from Nintendo. So a majority of the big third-party releases of the late 90’s were only on the PlayStation. So what? The Nintendo 64 thrived with more than enough quality software that even if you found yourself with it as your only system during those years, you might have missed a lot, but you still had available to you some of the best gaming that money could buy. Who would possibly cry foul because they “only” got to play Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Paper Mario, Pilotwings 64, Mario Golf, Mario Tennis, Mario Party, Dr. Mario 64, Super Smash Bros., Banjo Kazooie/Tooie, Conker, Donkey Kong 64, Star Fox 64, Excitebike 64, Wave Race 64, Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini, and Pokemon Puzzle League? And that’s just the list of more obvious Nintendo games. There was also a second tier of good-to-great exclusive games to play beyond the offerings from the Big N, especially if you felt that their releases were a little too spread out for your tastes. To pass the time between Nintendo’s in-house software, you had Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Episode I Racer, the Turok trilogy, Goemon’s Great Adventure, Body Harvest, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, Space Station Silicon Valley, The New Tetris, Mischief Makers, Winback, and a personal favorite of mine, Beetle Adventure Racing. Of course, we can’t forget the handful of beloved Aki-developed WWF and WCW titles released on the N64 that are among the most highly-acclaimed wrestling games ever made and one of the most common reasons that people still have their N64’s hooked up today.

Also, something that often gets forgotten when discussing the value of a system is the multiplatform games released on it. A game being available for more than one system doesn’t suddenly make it obsolete in terms of its value on each respective platform it’s released for. Although the N64 didn’t have a flood of high-quality third-party games, and there were a lot on the PlayStation to make an N64 owner jealous, it did have a small sampling of the games that PlayStation owners were enjoying in case you didn’t happen to have one of those, too, even a few biggies like Tony Hawk 1-3, Rayman 2, Spider-Man, Wipeout, Ridge Racer, and a pretty impressive port of Resident Evil 2. Speaking of PlayStation, it can’t be ignored that there were a lot of forgettable titles shoveled onto it ranging from just sub par to complete wastes of plastic, far less than the N64 in terms of pure volume, which adds a bit of a curve when you are rating the values of the two platforms’ respective libraries. And finally, there are the solid N64 entries to a number of long-running game franchises like Madden, Quake, Mortal Kombat, Harvest Moon, StarCraft, SimCity, Worms, and Bomberman. Not that those versions are necessarily the definitive entries in any of their respective franchises, but they still had a legitimate presence on the N64, and that definitely counts for something. So if you extract all of the games that I mentioned in these last two paragraphs and try to claim that you aren’t looking at a great lineup of quality gaming for a five-year span, then you’re just being short sided. As I’ve stated many times in debates and discussions about all manner of game-related topics, at the end of the day, that’s all that matters: the games. And the Nintendo 64 had plenty of good to great ones. Just because that lineup didn’t include Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy VII doesn’t automatically invalidate the entire library – Ocarina of Time and Goldeneye may have a little something to say about that assertion.