The Nintendo 64’s Retroactive Failure

efore delving any further, I want make one thing perfectly clear, I absolutely adore the Nintendo 64. It was the first console I ever owned. To this day, I remember the joy I felt seeing the console beneath the tree back in Christmas 1998. Anyone who owned an N64 could attest to its awesomeness. The console provided one of the best multiplayer experiences to date. Thinking back though, it may have been a failure for Nintendo. For one, the PlayStation absolutely demolished the N64 in sales. The N64 had a small library compared to the PlayStation and Sega Saturn (in Japan anyway). The technical limitations of the cartridge-based hardware held back the 64-bit console. While the N64 was incredibly fun, it signified Nintendo’s stranglehold on the video game industry had been usurped. Many of these problems plague Nintendo to this day.

PlayStation Annihilated The Competition

The winner of the fifth-generation console war was the PlayStation 1, no contest. The PS1 sold just over 100 million units compared to the N64’s 33 million units. The N64 sold well in North America but sold poorly in their native Japan. Even the Sega Saturn beat it out in Japan. You know you’ve messed up if a Sega console beats you. The N64 continued Nintendo’s downward trend in sales as competition stiffened. Lower sales usually result in less games being released on that platform.

A Small Library of Games to Choose From

The N64 had a surprisingly small library of games, with just under 300 games released in North America. Japan had even less games. The saving grace of the N64 was the percentage of good games released on the console. The best quality games were the ones produced directly by Nintendo. 3rd parties struggled to program for the console it seems. Luckily, Nintendo released heavy hitters on the console. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, Mario 64, Smash Bros, Rareware games, and the many Mario spinoffs sold incredibly well. This made the console profitable despite the drop off in units sold. These games could provide you with hours and hours of fun. The N64 was the go to console for multiplayer. I still get together with friends and play Mario Party. Surprisingly, no friendships ended by it.

supe mario 64
So much nostalgia!

Unfortunately, the N64’s library pales in comparison to the thousands of games released on the PlayStation. More games meant more variety. Nintendo lost many third parties to Sony in this era. These companies enjoyed more freedom on PlayStation compared to Nintendo’s stringent and overbearing policies. Nintendo was brutal to many developers when they were dominating the market. Jumping ship was their way of getting retribution against Nintendo. Nintendo’s attitude and the N64’s hardware limitations contributed heavily to 3rd parties making the switch to PlayStation.

The Cartridges

banjo kazooie
A decision that began a long line of even worse decisions

The N64 was severely hampered by the baffling decision to stick with cartridges. CDs hold significantly more data than cartridges. The CDs of the PlayStation allowed for bigger games to be produced. FMV and pre-rendered cut-scenes became widespread during this time and the N64 could not perform those functions. Games like Metal Gear Solid or Final Fantasy VII would not have been possible on the N64. Using cartridges rendered the 64-bits irrelevant. PlayStation and the Sega Saturn were 32-bit consoles that were capable of much more than the N64. If there’s one thing I can say about Nintendo, it’s that they always find a way to overcome technical limitation and give us fantastic games.

I Still Love It Anyway

Let me reiterate this, the Nintendo 64 is a fantastic console. It was one of the best multiplayer consoles ever released. Unfortunately, Nintendo began to lose touch with what gamers want. The problems the N64 had were amplified in future console releases. The PlayStation trounced the N64 in sales, despite Sony being new to the console market. A trend that continues to this day, save for the Wii. Having sold less consoles, this meant less games getting released on the platform. Nintendo’s decision to use cartridges severely hampered the technical capabilities of the N64. Nintendo struggles with the technicals to this day. The N64 provided hours upon hours of high quality entertainment, but PlayStation offered more. Therefore, I say the Nintendo 64 is retroactively a failure. Agree or disagree, let me know in the comments.

It looks as if Nintendo is on the up and up and the Switch has been a success!  The world wouldn’t be the same without Nintendo.  Looks like their here to stay.



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