Nintendo has confidently held the third- and fourth-generation video game
market. However, in the mid-1990s, Sony came on the scene with its
PlayStation, and Nintendo did not have competitive hardware to deliver
gaming in three-dimensional worlds. That changed in 1996 with the
arrival of the Nintendo 64 console, which appeared on the European
market exactly 25 years ago.
Nintendo began developing its fifth-generation console as early as 1993 under the name Project Reality. Numerous plans have since failed, the name materialized in the Nintendo Ultra 64, and we received the official announcement in late 1994. The console was promoted as the first gaming device to use 64-bit architecture, with little strain with Atari. which also promoted its Jaguar console with a similar claim.
At the end of 1995, the console was renamed Nintendo 64. A key decision in its
design was the decision to use ROM cartridges instead of the
then-popular CD media. Nintendo's solution proved to be faster for loading
games, but the CD-ROM had more storage capacity which ultimately proved to be
a bad move by Nintendo. Later, Nintendo tried to save the situation with an
add-on called 64DD, but it never came to life as intended.
The Nintendo 64 console went on sale for $ 200. For that price, customers received a 64-bit processor clocked at 93.75 MHz, 4 MB of RDRAM memory, support for 16-bit stereo sound, and a resolution of up to 720 × 576. Along with the console, two games were initially released - Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64, although by the time of launch in Europe, the offer had expanded further.
The console's sales results were excellent at the start and quickly surpassed the sales of the Sega Saturn console. Still, the Nintendo 64 ended up behind Sony’s PlayStation, primarily thanks to the fact that games were becoming more complex in the late 1990s and CD-ROMs proved to be a more convenient format for them.
The cartridges for the Nintendo 64 could hold a maximum of 64 MB of data while
the slower CD-ROM had a capacity of 700 MB. Although the cartridges were more
reliable and did not break down like CD-ROM media, their production was more
expensive, and it was decided that they were harder to pirate. The Nintendo 64
was therefore the last home console to use the classic cartridge format.
The Nintendo 64 also remained remembered as a console whose controller first had an additional analog stick next to the standard directional keys. To many, this controller once looked very strange and awkward, but it was designed to hold in three different positions. This ultimately did not prove practical, and Nintendo later abandoned that design.
Despite ending up behind the PlayStation in sales, Nintendo gave 64 players some of the best games in the fifth generation of consoles. Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and GoldenEye 007 are still considered the most important achievements in their genres. As of 2021, Nintendo has made some of these games available on the current Nintendo Switch platform, but only through emulation through the Nintendo Online + Expansion Pack subscription service.