It's a day of anniversaries today it seems, not only does Sonic The Hedgehog turn 26, but it is also a whopping 21 years since the Nintendo 64 was released in its native territory of Japan.
Launched on 23rd June 1996, the N64 served as a landmark moment in Nintendo's history as a video game manufacturer, mainly because of its revolutionary launch title, Super Mario 64. For the first time, players could control the portly plumber in full 3D, and the virtual playground in which you were able to do this was unlike anything previously experienced on a home console.
While Mario's first 3D outing proved to be one of the most influential moments in gaming history — so much so that it moved grown men to tears according to some reports at the time — the N64 itself wasn't quite the success Nintendo had hoped it would be. Nearly 33 million units were shifted during its lifetime — a number not to be scoffed at — but a delayed launch and stiff competition from the then-newcomer, Sony's PlayStation, forced Nintendo from its throne of video gaming dominance for the first time. More crucially, the company's stubborn decision to opt for ROM cartridges to deliver its games over the cheaper, higher-capacity CD format considerably reduced third-party support for the system, resulting in a relatively small library of just 387 games.
Despite these woes, Nintendo persevered, making the console as commercially viable as it could. With then second-party studio Rare under its wing, Nintendo-published games stood head and shoulders above the competition, with the likes of GoldenEye 007, Super Smash Bros. and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time leading the charge — the latter of which is still widely considered to be the greatest game of all time. Not only that, but the N64 popularised many of the common features we see in gaming today, such as analogue joysticks and rumble feedback in controllers.
It proved divisive with players — and the youth of today likely haven't a clue how on earth you correctly hold the three-pronged controller — but the 64-bit system marks an important point in Nintendo's history. So, Happy 21st Birthday, N64, and have a beer on us!
For more information on the Nintendo 64, we'd highly recommend checking out our N64 hardware classics feature. What are your favourite N64 memories? Let us know in the comments section below.