Recently, we took a look at what we consider to be the sexiest consoles Nintendo has ever created. Team NL convened in our online office space to assemble a fine-looking shortlist which you lovely people have been voting on. We were very happy with that line up, although eagle-eyed readers may have noted one particularly curvy console missing from our shortlist: the Nintendo 64.
Be assured, dear reader, that its exclusion didn't come without heated discussion. While we're all in agreement that the console has some stellar software to its name, Team NL is divided as to the 64-bit machine's aesthetic value. Some of us believe it's up there with the loveliest hardware ever made, a sentiment only enhanced by the satisfying "KER-CHUNK" emitted when you place a cartridge in its slot or slam one of its many 'Pak' peripherals into the back of the controller. Other team members, however, can't see it was anything but a big bland 'toy', with primary coloured Fisher-Price pads and chunky, unsophisticated stylings. Different strokes.
Regardless of our own squabbling, we wanted to give the 64-bit machine its chance to shine, and give you the chance to vote on your favourite variant. After all, 2021 is the console's 25th anniversary and we're hoping Nintendo has a surprise or two in store to celebrate the system that took the console gaming world into the polygonal third dimension. Fingers crossed.
Before we get to the poll, though, let's remind ourselves of the main variants of the console that were available...
The Nintendo 64 console variants
In this brief round up we've excluded a couple of obscure editions that only launched in Japan. The website Console Variations has a handy and comprehensive list of each and every N64 ever made, so check that out if you're interested in the All Nippon Airlines version (essentially a bog-standard charcoal console with a sticker), the South Korean Hyundai Comboy variant (another regular version with a rebrand to get around an import ban at the time), or the infamous plug-and-play IQue from China.
The standard 'Charcoal' Nintendo 64
The original and the best? The standard console mixes straight lines with curved edges, a gentle hump along the front edge concealing the RAM expansion port, and subtle vents leading backwards to a recessed cartridge slot highlighted with light grey 'bay doors'. The controller ports carry the same colour with two sturdy pillar-feet framing the front end and keeping everything rock solid and symmetrical.
Its stylish and elegant — perhaps a little straight-laced, but it's got personality, too. The control pad might be divisive, but the console itself is a solid, lovely lump of plastic and metal.
The 'Funtastic' Series
The rainbow spectrum of transparent models that Nintendo produced a few years after the console's debut carried the 'Funtastic' label. Arguably, everybody that wanted an N64 had already bought one by the time they arrived, and this was a long time before incremental updates were a thing in the home console market.
Still, Nintendo was used to selling colour variants for its Game Boy lines, and it was refreshing to see its flagship home console follow Apple's lead (those colour options looked suspiciously similar to the stylish iMacs colour options of the era) and offer a range of colours for the console itself, not just the control pads.
Back in the day we we found it very tough to justify buying a second console just to have a different hue, although several of Team NL count one or two of these 'Funtastic' N64s in our collections nowadays.
Nintendo initially produced the following six colours in the series:
- Fire Orange / Sun Orange
- Grape Purple / Midnight Blue
- Ice Blue
- Jungle Green
- Smoke Black / Clear Black
- Watermelon Red / Fire Red
Two other two-tone variants were also available depending on your region, each with a clear white bottom and the top half taken from the Ice Blue or Watermelon Red lines respectively. The latter is particularly handsome if you can find an example where the white half hasn't started yellowing:
- Clear Blue
- Clear Red
There are a couple more colourful variants which we won't include here — again, see Console Variations for more details on the Japan-exclusive Daiei Hawks and JUSCO 30th Anniversary Edition two-tone consoles.
The Pikachu Nintendo 64s
A handful of Pikachu N64 consoles launched when Pokémania was in full swing. Each one featured a Pikachu embedded in the right side on the top, with the shape of the standard N64 seemingly stretched on the right side to accommodate the little yellow guy. His right foot was the reset button and his cheeks lit up red when you pushed the Poké Ball-shaped power button on the left.
The bottom half of the console (and its accompanying controller) was yellow, while the top half came in one of three colours; the West received the Dark Blue variant only, while Japanese gamers could choose from a Light Blue or Orange version.
On the one hand, the light-up cheeks and detailing goes above and beyond what we'd expect and we can't help but love it. However, mentally remove the Pokémon on the top and the console beneath is a bit of a lopsided mess. We're a little torn on it.
PAL regions got another Pokémon N64, too — the Battle Set console (see above). It's a standard N64 in terms of design (there's no Pikachu on this one), although it adds some graphics and borrows the colours of the Pikachu Dark Blue version (and flips the yellow half onto the top of the control pad).
The 'Gold' Nintendo 64
Finally, we come to arguably the pièce de résistance of the Nintendo 64 console canon: the gold model.
Never released in Europe, this lovely thing was a Toys "R" Us exclusive. Not much more to say, really; just look up there again, gaze upon its majesty. And pity us poor Europeans — the only gold we got a look at was a Limited Edition bundle containing a standard Charcoal N64 and a gold controller.
So, a gold pad that you had to buy an entire console to get your hands on. 'Rub-bish!', as we say around these parts.
So, we've briefly recapped the major variants, but which is your absolute favourite? Scroll down and let us know in the poll below:
Can you imagine a Nintendo 64 Classic Mini available in every one of these Funtastic colours?...
While we head off to have ourselves a little 'moment', feel free to let us know below which N64(s) you have in your retro collection.