Round Table: Remembering the Nintendo 64

Check out the polygons!

Thomas Whitehead: Another major feature of the console, which Nintendo even speak about in their official details, is that the N64 was a 'party machine'. What are your favourite memories and experiences of this?

Corbie Dillard: True to form, I've just never been into multiplayer on game consoles very much. I've always preferred to play video games all by myself and the N64 didn't seem to change that. In truth, other than a little Mario Kart 64 at a party one night, I don't recall ever playing multiplayer on the system.

Jonathan Wahlgren: I wouldn't even know where to start. At first we only had two controllers, one for me and my brother, and the two of us played insane amounts of GoldenEye: remote mines, Archives. Eventually we picked up two additional pads and the console really picked up steam at my house: a few buddies of mine would come back during longer breaks at school and play the hell out of Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., GoldenEye, Perfect Dark and Conker. I would typically trounce everyone since, hey, host advantage, but never a bad time was had.

Christopher Ingram: The countless hours spent bashing each other in Smash Bros. in the dorms while I was away at college will never be forgotten. It's amazing just how many guys you can fit into a single dorm room when a good Brawl match breaks out! We also spent a lot of time with Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Mario Kart 64, Excitebike 64 and GoldenEye 007 as well, but Smash Bros takes the cake by a long shot.

Zach Kaplan: Creating custom wrestlers and fighting them in the WWF and WCW/nWo games was a favourite pastime for my best friend and me. Of course, GoldenEye provided many cherished multiplayer experiences, as did Perfect Dark after it. And battling in Mario Kart 64. No Mario Kart has been able to match it as battle modes go, as far as I’m concerned. Oh, and Smash Bros.! In college, there were about four people who had consoles and copies of the game, and no matter what time of day, you could walk into our hall and follow the sound to an open door where a Smash game was going on. An amazing time.

Jamie O’Neill: I was a student in ’97 and ’98 and we would often have over ten people in our house, with a focal point being multiplayer on N64. Everyone took turns, so we all became really skilled. Two girls who I lived with were not gamers, but became killing machines in GoldenEye 007.

Marcel van Duyn: The two biggest usual suspects: Mario Kart and GoldenEye. Strangely, I could never find anybody with Mario Party and Smash Bros., and I never bought them until much later.

Patrick Elliot: Most memorable for me was Conker's Bad Fur Day, especially the Beach and Heist modes. I loved the way stuffing would spill out of those Nazi Teddies!

Thomas Whitehead: For me it was GoldenEye all the way. My brother and his Uni buddies would even stick post-its over the radars on each quarter of the screen.

Jamie O’Neill: My friends and I knew where body armour was hidden amongst every GoldenEye level, they would run away after giving you a cheeky slap and they could take you down with a ‘one hit kill’ head shot. I think that all five of us who lived in the student house completed Secret Agent mode, but only two of us were gamers before N64. I reckon they could still reminisce about the Aztec Moonraker level today.

Marcel van Duyn: Oh man, I actually didn't manage to beat Aztec on 00 Agent until two-three years ago, I was really glad I finally managed to do that.

Jonathan Wahlgren: I never finished GoldenEye on 00 Agent but I did crush Perfect Dark on Perfect Agent. Go figure.

Jamie O’Neill: I probably couldn't do that now. We lived and breathed GoldenEye as students. Mario Kart 64 too, with bits of 1080° Snowboarding, Wave Race 64, Lylat Wars (N64 four player split-screen Star Fox was weak though).

Patrick Elliot: Playing GoldenEye Temple map with all rocket launchers also stands out.

Christopher Ingram: Paintballs! Why was it so much fun to shoot paintballs in GoldenEye 007? But, those flipping proximity mines always ticked me off!

Patrick Elliot: Remember all the different Sims you could pop into Perfect Dark multiplayer? Vengeance Sim would hunt you down if you killed him, or something...

Jonathan Wahlgren: Taking on an army of Meat Sims was the best way to boost your ranking AND feel like Rambo.

Patrick Elliot: All meat Sims and all N-Bombs = hilarity

Thomas Whitehead: So it's clear that the multiplayer was a big part of it. Is that a major part of the console's legacy do you think, the source of the best memories?

Marcel van Duyn: Definitely, it was the first console to support four players without an accessory and it got some of the most fun multiplayer games ever to take advantage of that.

Zach Kaplan: Yes! Nothing can match the multiplayer experiences I had on that, and it was so impressive to be able to have four people playing at once anyway. It also happened that I had many school friends at the time and could have them over to play, followed by lots of college friends for Smash matches.

Christopher Ingram: Multiplayer was a huge part of my memories with the system for sure. Either in big dorm room brawls, or me and my cousin staying up all night trying to shave a few seconds off our lap times in Wave Race 64, multiplayer was a major factor for the system.

Patrick Elliot: I think that the multiplayer helped differentiate itself from the superior PlayStation power. And the fact that I still play the original Smash Bros. in my pal's basement speaks of its endurance.

Christopher Ingram: You know Patrick, I've never really thought about it, but we all had PSOnes in our dorms too, but when it came to multiplayer events, it was the N64 every time. We always played JRPG's and Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation.

Jamie O’Neill: My most fond memories are the four player games, but for me N64 was even a social gaming console for single player games. Me and my mate raced to complete Ocarina of Time. Ha, he finished it first by staying up all night as I worked the late shift at a factory. D'oh!

Jonathan Wahlgren: I don't see how you could separate multiplayer from the N64. It was built for it through and through: those four ports on the front weren't just for show!

Corbie Dillard: Let's face it, there were some amazing multiplayer games for the system, a la Mario Kart 64, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros., so there's no question it was a popular console for multiple player sessions. Just not for me.

Thomas Whitehead: What did you make of the inevitable peripherals, namely the Rumble Pak and Expansion Pak?

No matter what time of day, you could walk into our dorm hall and follow the sound to an open door where a Smash game was going on. An amazing time

Zach Kaplan: The Rumble Pak blew me away, that a controller could actually shake! (It really improved Wheel of Fortune too, haha!) The Expansion Pak was impressive too but few games used it that I owned, so it didn’t have as much of a chance to wow me.

Jamie O’Neill: Yep, I thought that the Rumble Pak included with Lylat Wars was insanely brilliant, it felt like having a little electric shock in my hand, it freaked me out wonderfully.

Marcel van Duyn: Never used the Rumble Pak much because it ate through batteries like mad, but of course the Expansion Pak was awesome just because it enabled you to play Majora's Mask!

Jonathan Wahlgren: Bought, 'em, loved 'em. I thought it was so cool that the functionality could be expanded by buying more RAM. I'm less keen on peripherals nowadays but I think the N64 made me a little more open to the idea of them.

Patrick Elliot: Star Fox just needed to be played with the Rumble Pak. My local renter even loaned out the peripheral with the game. If I had to buy it though, I may have passed. I did enjoy those third party cheap ones though that were bundled with more save memory.

Christopher Ingram: The Expansion Pak was brilliant and the Rumble Pak worked too, but I never felt that the rumble feature ever reached the potential that it could have had on the N64. Feeling the DARPA Chief's heart-attack in Metal Gear Solid on the PlayStation is a gaming memory I will never forget, and nothing on the N64 ever reached that kind of potential for me. It was also kind of frustrating to take the thing in-and-out to use a Memory Card as well.

Corbie Dillard: Those two peripherals, although fairly useful when it comes right down to it, felt more like an afterthought to me. Sure, the Expansion Pak cleaned up the visuals in a couple of games, but it just didn't seem worth the trouble in most cases. I think Donkey Kong 64 was probably the only game of mine that got any significant use out of the Expansion Pak and I don't think I ever used the Rumble Pak until years later when I picked one up cheap on eBay.

Thomas Whitehead: Final question — what was your absolute favourite game, and do you still revisit it today?

Patrick Elliot: I'll never fall out of love with Ocarina of Time. Playing that game on Christmas on a 13" TV still felt bigger and more immersive than many games I play today. The sound of the game is what really stuck with me though! I definitely still revisit it on the original system (though I feel I have matured since my uncouth manner of naming save files) and on the Wii VC. Nintendo was even nice enough to give it to me in 3D!

Zach Kaplan: Ocarina of Time, and yes I revisit it – in 3D! Though Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a second, partly because of its amazing journey from Twelve Tales: Conker 64, a game about two cute squirrels gathering scattered housewarming gifts, to what it eventually became.

Marcel van Duyn: GoldenEye for me, absolutely; I only recently finally managed to unlock all those cheats for finishing levels within insane times and it's still fun to run through the game while messing around with said cheats (all guns, paintball mode, DK mode) and blowing up everything with dual wielded rocket launchers!

Jamie O’Neill: Shucks, unfortunately, I can't choose one top game: I revisit the classics, all the games I’ve already mentioned. I particularly enjoy fast fun racers like 1080° Snowboarding, Mickey’s Speedway USA, Wave Race 64, Diddy Kong Racing and F-Zero X.

Jonathan Wahlgren: For me it always comes back to Perfect Dark. Having played ridiculous amounts of GoldenEye I had excessive frothing demand for its spiritual successor, and I would basically memorise magazine article previews for the game when it was in development. I was so hyped on the game that by the time it released and, holy crap, actually lived up to my sky-high expectations — the whole thing was just mind-blowing. I know that game inside and out, and there are very few games that stuck with me like it did. I do pop in the cart from time to time, but having it on XBLA in HD makes things a lot easier to look at. It's a case of technology allowing for the completion of the vision.

Corbie Dillard: Banjo-Kazooie is what I consider to be the greatest 3D platformer of all time, even eclipsing the great Super Mario 64. And while I used to drag it out from time to time on my old Nintendo 64, I've since began playing the gorgeous Xbox Live Arcade version instead. Plus I much prefer the Xbox 360 controller over the crappy N64 model.

Christopher Ingram: This is a hard one, because I adore Wave Race 64 so much, but my overall favourite game on the N64 just has to be Mario 64. I would've never thought it possible that a Mario title could actually still have that 2D platformer 'feel' inside a 3D environment, but that's exactly what we got. Not to mention all of Mario's new moves to boot, and achieving all 120 Stars was a feat that will challenge even the most hardcore gamers out there. I think it's the best Mario game in the series and I play through it at least once a year.

Jamie O’Neill: My head was stuck in the idea that ‘3D polygons are pure awesome’ in the late ‘90s, but I also made a special effort to relish the N64's side-scrolling 2D style games (Mischief Makers, Mystical Ninja 2 Starring Goemon, Disney had a fun Tarzan game and I even enjoyed Yoshi’s Story). I never imported as much during the N64 days, so I missed Bangai-O, but thankfully I got to enjoy the incredible Sin & Punishment through Wii’s Virtual Console. Perhaps retrospectively Sin & Punishment is my favourite. That would be if I was decisive. Which I'm not.

Thomas Whitehead: My favourite at the time was GoldenEye, I played that a heck of a lot. I’ve still got an N64 hooked up, and occasionally fire it up for a bit of retro goodness.

Christopher Ingram: My N64 is the only retro system that I keep hooked up year round! I still play quite a few games on it quite regular. Beetle Adventure Racing is one that I always seem to come back to constantly. It almost makes driving a Bug cool!

Thomas Whitehead: Thanks everyone, quite a diverse bunch, aren’t we? Four player GoldenEye, anyone?

Our thanks to everyone who shared their time and thoughts on the Nintendo 64. Share your own memories of the console with us in the comments below!

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