ByRob Harris, writer at
Sometimes I play video games.
Rob Harris

On September 26, 1996 the Nintendo 64 was officially released in North America, sending shockwaves of mass school truanting and fabricated sick days throughout the country. With over 32 million units sold worldwide, the console became an instant phenomenon, and was responsible for creating some of my most cherished childhood memories.

For me and thousands of other '90s born kids, the N64 - or 'the wondrous plastic box of dreams,' as my 8-year-old self called it - was the very first inanimate object I ever truly fell in love with.

But despite my everlasting adoration for the console, there are still plenty of little known facts about it that surprise me to this day. How many did you know?

1. It Once Had a Different (and Pretty Damn Awesome) Name

Way back in 1994 Nintendo announced its much anticipated follow up to the SNES, but it wasn't called the Nintendo 64. Oh no, it had a totally different, rad-sounding name I'm sure some branding execs thought would "totally speak to the youth market." That name was the Ultra 64!

However, this working title was shortly dropped due to video game company rival Konami already owning the trademark to Ultra Games.

2. You Could Play It with a Mouse

Yep - Nintendo actually supplied a first party peripheral mouse, included for use with Mario Artist: Paint Studio. In fact, that was pretty much the only thing it could be used for. It's a shame, really - imagine how awesome Goldeneye would have been with pinpoint-accurate mouse control!

3. It Had a Fully Functioning Online Service

Eons before Xbox Live and the Playstation Network were born into fruition, Nintendo offered its own online service called Randnet through the 64DD - a magnetic disk drive peripheral that attached to the bottom of the console.

I wouldn't be surprised if you've never heard of Randnet as it was only ever available in Japan, but gamers were able to download demos and compete against each other over the internet. Meanwhile, us Western-born suckers were stuck playing split screen.

4. It Cost Nintendo $80 million to Supply Protective Gloves for the Controller

As every true gamer knows, there are few parties more competitive than a Mario Party. The friendship-ruining mini-game collection was responsible for causing some pretty gnarly hand injuries to its players, who were self-destructively compelled to waggle that analogue stick as furiously as their pain threshold would allow.

After a successful lawsuit, Nintendo was forced to drop $80 million on supplying protective gloves for its customers. I still have my scars.

5. Its Groundbreaking Controller Broke Multiple Records

Not only was it the first controller to use the now ubiquitous analogue stick, but it was also the first to incorporate rumble technology. Those clever folks at Nintendo were always an innovative bunch.

6. It Was the Last Home Console to Use Game Cartridges

Though the Playstation had already made the transition to optical discs, Nintendo was the last company to support their (admittedly dying) cartridge technology.

The video game giant claimed cartridges offered graphical advantages, but most believe it was a shrewd tactic to reduce costs of their console by about $100. In any case, the N64 represented the last bastion of the now outdated technology, bringing an end to the long history of pre-game dust blowing. I gotta admit, I kinda miss that ritual...

7. It Launched with Just Two Games

It's hard to believe it was such slim pickings for software at the N64's birth, with just Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 available to play on the shiny new box. Luckily Mario 64 turned out to be one of the greatest games ever made, quickly shutting up any Nintendo naysayers. As Howard Lincoln from Nintendo of America put it at the time:

"We're convinced that a few great games at launch are more important than great games mixed in with a lot of dogs."


8. The Developers of Goldeneye Had No Idea What the N64 Could Do

When you know a little about its history, you'll realize how amazing it is the game turned out so well! Because Nintendo hadn't finalized the design of the N64, Goldeneye's developers had to estimate the power of the console while they were making the game.

When Bond finally booted up on the new machine, they were unexpectedly forced to cut the texture quality in half, which is why all those soldier's faces looked so damn strange up close!

[Source: RantGamer]


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