N64 Month | Cubed3's Memories of the Nintendo 64: Zelda, Mario and More!

By Jorge Ba-oh 02.03.2012 10

Cubed3 begins Nintendo 64 month by digging up its dust-covered diaries and divulging some of the best moments during the Nintendo 64 era. Just why did Nintendo's multiplayer beast touch hearts and leave an everlasting fondness for blocky polygons, sore thumbs and trident control pads?

Jorge Ba-oh, Editor / Founder

The Nintendo 64 cemented my transition into a world dominated by The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario, a fascinating era of three-pronged control and blowing out cartridges. I had only, very briefly, sampled the delights of the Japanese game maker with a Game Boy and a handful of games, but the likes of the SNES and NES had been alien to me up until then. I sat firmly in SEGA's corner in the heated wrestling match, scoffing at those strangely coloured buttons and porky Italian plumber Mario.

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Around the school yard there was a growing shift towards Nintendo. Sonic figures and comics became taboo, growing dust in one corner, and GoldenEye 007 echoed around corridors as being the game to have. I counted down to my tenth birthday, the special one; I just had to get my hands on the beast. Popping in the grey cartridge, flicking the switch with palms ready to embrace a pixelised Pierce Brosnan and my love affair with the PlayStation was over. I would plod through the immersive levels -- popping bullets into confused soldiers -- ride tanks and get absolutely creamed in multiplayer. Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time came next; two phenomenal pieces that truly represented a new age of 3D games with massive, expansive words you could genuinely interact with and become part of. The polygon-based approach wasn't new or unusual, but what the Nintendo 64 offered was a greater sense of control -- being able to naturally manoeuvre protagonists like Link and Mario with an analogue stick, whilst being able to lock targets and use face buttons to perform actions. It looked peculiar, and felt almost alien at first, but are key in so many great memories.

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Mario Party was one of my fonder moments -- summers spent roaming around outside rapidly came to an end when this series suddenly gave birth: a board game on the TV; a rarity that has become such a huge franchise in just over a decade. It was like nothing I had ever played, and the joy came when four players would compete for super stardom. Control pads were slammed, friendships lost and once topping the 100 star mark and that sudden event happened, I can recall almost urinating my pants in fear. Collecting enough coins to buy stars and the feeling of trumping your foes after over an hour's play was a truly great experience.

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There is something quite special about the Nintendo 64 -- timeless games that still have strong single and multiplayer appeal today. It is no wonder fans and Nintendo themselves look back to it as a golden generation of gaming.

Adam Riley, Operations Director

Ah, the Nintendo 64. It is quite a strange console, to be honest, because even though it is now so old, I really do feel like it was only a few months ago that I was reading up on articles about "Project Reality" or the "Ultra 64."

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It only seems like a few hours ago that I was eventually hammering away on the spaceship-shaped controller, twiddling the long, protruding analogue stick and bracing myself as the Rumble Pak kicked in every five seconds, complete with a satisfactory buzzing noise thanks to my third party version that included a Memory Pak in the same device to save having to swap between the two, as required when sticking with the official products. It feels like I have been eerily transported in some crazy time machine from a time when I was care-free, with a full head of hair, to now, present day waiting for the advent of the Wii U.

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Memories of playing GoldenEye 007, International Superstar Soccer ’98, Mario Tennis and Mario Kart 64 with three of my friends from school are still firmly lodged in my mind. The countless hours spent in four-player, split-screen sessions, whooping and shouting at each other when someone had just fired off a deadly shell in Mario Kart 64 to nab the previously elusive first place mantle, or bemoaning the person who hid in a safe spot in GoldenEye 007 and waited for armour to regenerate before picking off passers-by with deadly headshots. I even fondly remember back to International Superstar Soccer 64 when I used to devastate my friends by scoring straight from corners nearly every single time, or dance my way through defences with my silky skills.

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Unfortunately, I was also at an age where defacing the sleek black curves of the Nintendo 64 did not faze me in the slightest, and to this very day there is a decal of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on it from my favourite publication at that point, N64 Magazine, purely because I really cannot get rid of it without leaving annoying glue marks and ripped paper leftovers on the casing! My console, as you might have guessed from that last sentence, is in my possession to this very day, and only got begrudgingly boxed up and put into storage when I started downloading numerous Virtual Console releases. The system now sits comfortably next to my NES and SNES, so is definitely in good company. Rest in Peace, dear N64...

Az Elias, Previews Editor

The Nintendo 64's arrival was one of the most anticipated moments for me as a guy that started his video game life playing the Super NES. Having already explored Hyrule on an epic quest in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, blasted bogies at 3 o’clock in Starwing and stomped turtles into the ground in Super Mario World, my younger self couldn't contain the excitement of playing new, huge 3D editions of these classics on the N64.

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My brother and I were lucky enough to receive the system, Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, and Banjo Kazooie as a Christmas present from our parents, setting us on a path of fantastic moments of fun for years to come. Banjo Kazooie struck a chord with the both of us; the sheer hilarity of characters' conversations was comedy gold, and the music was some of the most addictive I'd ever heard -- to this day, I can still remember just about any of the game's theme tunes. Jumping around in these incredible and diverse worlds, not only in Banjo Kazooie, but Super Mario 64 and Donkey Kong 64, as well, was almost too good to be true. Swinging Bowser by his tail in Super Mario 64, as the camera panned around him, and launching him into bombs was a pinnacle moment for that gaming era. Despite having a selection of fantastic single-player games, the N64 was the party console of choice for multiplayer events. Mario Kart 64 was usually where it was at, however, GoldenEye 007 was never far behind.

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It was the two The Legend of Zelda games that I will always fondly remember the Nintendo 64 for, though. Playing through Ocarina of Time, I really felt like I was little Link, where the whole world was my oyster, and I could go and do whatever I wanted. Sometimes I didn't feel like tackling a temple -- I wanted to hang out with Malon at the horse ranch or go fishing to catch that bloody Hylian loach! I literally spent hours at the fishing pond trying to bag me the biggest fish I could find. With Majora's Mask, everything was taken to a completely different level. The three-day clock was one of the best gaming mechanics I'd experienced, with the ability to play with time by speeding it up and travelling backwards. With a bigger emphasis on out-of-dungeon quests rather than doing one dungeon after another, as well as the fleshed out personalities of the characters, and a deeper and darker storyline, I found myself engrossed in the world of Majora's Mask more so than its predecessor.

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Despite not having as large a selection of games as Sony's PlayStation, many of the games I did have on the Nintendo 64 were of such a high quality that they kept me coming back for more. I will always fondly remember the system for the wonderful single-player experiences and multiplayer madness it gave me.

Shane Jury, Features Editor

Back when the Nintendo 64 was first released, I remember having known nothing about it until the day my brother brought one back home with a copy of Super Mario 64, thanks to the infancy of Internet access and my pocket money going on comics and sweets instead of gaming magazines.

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My young mind was mesmerised by the way I could move Mario around in this big new world with a weird mushroom-like stick, it was like magic happening right in front of my eyes, and though there was an imposed one-play-a-day rule, this got over-ruled in record time. I reminisce about the machine the most when I recall the countless hours of multiplayer time that was put into it, GoldenEye 007 not so much, but Mario Kart 64 and wrestling games were slotted into the console so often they might as well have been built-in.

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This machine is also credited with being the one to introduce me to Zelda games in spectacular fashion, namely with one of the greatest in Ocarina of Time. Ocarina took my breath away, from the curious beginning of the forest and the spiritual stones, to the future of going through a ghost town packed with zombie-like creatures (that would subsequently keep me off the game for weeks), to the epic finale, it was perfection in gaming form. Some of the greatest N64 games live on through Wii emulation and 3DS re-imaginings, but the console itself will always be a benchmark in my gaming career.

Rudy Lavaux, Retro Editor

My personal history with the Nintendo 64 goes back to before the console was released. Back then, it defined the words "next generation" perfectly. Just looking at early footage and screenshots of Super Mario 64 and other early games was enough to get any Nintendo fan salivating. Then once the console was out, albeit with few games, the promise of future games, along with the much hyped upcoming add-on 64DD -- supposed to give more storage to compete with the CD format that the competition was using -- managed to keep me hooked and waiting for more. I wouldn't get a Nintendo 64 myself until rather late in the system life, due to the fact that I owned a PlayStation first, which died in a matter of years and for which Sony asked far too much money for the repairs.

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This meant that I had to visit friends who had one in order to play Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64, although most of those times were spent playing multiplayer. Back during the early days of N64, the only multiplayer game everyone cared about was obviously GoldenEye 007. I'm sure anyone who played the Nintendo 64 in multiplayer back then is still familiar with "Proximity Mines" and the "Golden Gun."

Fond memories of borrowed games include Jet Force Gemini with its insanely hard bosses (Mizar and the Twin Mantis, most of all), Donkey Kong 64 which I had a hard time due to the headache inducing character-switching system and loads of different items to collect, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, which is still by far my favourite Zelda game. I'll refrain from going into too much detail about how much I loved the Mystical Ninja games and Resident Evil 2, which also are still some of my all-time favourites on the system.

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However, it is sad to say that in the long run, many of the promises were not kept. The difficulties inherent to programming a game for the Nintendo 64 meant that a lot of games were continuously delayed or simply cancelled, more often than not. The 64DD was only released in a very limited quantity in Japan only, and seeing as it offered only 64MB of storage (opposed to the whopping 650MB of PlayStation discs), other than the reduced production cost, many would wonder "What was the point?" considering cartridges of that capacity became available by the end of the system's life anyway, although the price for those was pretty steep.

It wasn't all about disappointments, though. It's hard not to look on bright side, with the incredible exclusive games that the system did get, which are what makes the Nintendo 64 a truly unforgettable system for the Nintendo fans of my generation.

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Ross Marrs, Podcast Editor

Remember video game magazines? Sure, they are still slouching around on store shelves, like couch potatoes clinging on for their life, but I'm talking about back in the day. Before the Internet existed in the form we know of now, these used to inform us; they had a purpose. Now all the latest gaming gossip is handed to you on a plate within seconds as an explosion of news stories erupt onto social network sites. Back in the day, you had to wait a month for your meal and you got it all in a gorgeous printed magazine containing lots of radical (as we said back in the Nineties) artwork. I speak fondly of this experience; it was the first time I laid eyes on that curvy black hunk of plastic, the Nintendo 64.

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It was called the "Ultra 64" and I remember the excitement of seeing 3D games for the first time, like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda. Of course, there were games like Starwing and Stunt Race FX for the Super Nintendo, which I played and those were 3D, but the beauty of the Nintendo 64's visuals outshone them so considerably that it was unbelievable. There was also my fond memory of a video cassette tape I got with Issue 1 of N64 Magazine (now known as Nintendo Gamer). After watching the video over and over again, it was clear we had to get the system.

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The Nintendo 64 lives on as my favourite console of all-time and I still go back to it from time-to-time to play some of my favourites, such as Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo Kazooie, GoldenEye 007, Lylat Wars, Super Mario 64 and many more, but I'd be here all day if I listed everything! Simply put, the Nintendo 64 is utter perfection.

Stuart Lawrence, Character Profiles Editor

The first time I saw or even heard of the Nintendo 64 was in what I presume to have been an electronics store somewhere in London when I was about 6 years old. I remember seeing Super Mario 64 on the machine and I thought it was amazing how I could control the games with the now-standard analogue control stick. Jump to Christmas 1997 when I got my new N64, my first ever Nintendo home console packed with GoldenEye, Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie and F1 World Grand Prix (I was a spoilt kid) and I loved it. Being used to mostly 2D Mega Drive games, this was a complete change for me, and except for F1(I was a big racing fan) it did take time to get used to; but once I did, it was pure fun from then on.

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Up until F-Zero X (and later Jet Force Gemini), Banjo Kazooie was my favourite, although I never actually completed it -- a habit of playing games and not completing them has stuck with me even today, although I do play to completion more often now. GoldenEye 007 turned me into a big Bond fan and playing the game I would just remember the parts from the film and imagine being the man himself, and playing multiplayer with my little brother and friends was great fun, too. I went on to complete more games and I became a big Nintendo fan.

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Pokémon was another love of mine on the 64. I loved Pokémon Stadium and Pokémon Snap. I thought playing my Red version on my TV with the turbo button on was the best idea ever, and, better yet, it was in colour. Another thing about Pokémon Stadium was the mini-game collection, playing with friends and family on that was just as fun and competitive as anything else. Of course, you may be wondering why I haven't mentioned Ocarina of Time yet. Well, that is simply because I didn't own the game until about 5 or 6 years ago! It has been quoted many times as being the best game ever, and while I can see why many people think/thought that (I loved the game), it has been bested by the games that came after it, in my opinion.

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Even now I'm still collecting N64 games, and with the Virtual Console I now have Majora's Mask as well as Ogre Battle 64 and Sin and Punishment, which originally never saw release on UK shores. I loved my N64, and it's still at home at the foot of my bed ready to be played anytime.

What are your favourite memories of the Nintendo 64? What games do you remember playing/unwrapping for the first time? Be sure to share your stories in the comments section below.

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No mention of Perfect Dark? Smilie

Our member of the week

Personally I only played Perfect Dark once the GameCube was already out. So it's not a game that really sticks out in how I remember the Nintendo 64 era Smilie. But a great game, no doubt, and very impressive at that.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer

Canyarion said:
No mention of Perfect Dark? Smilie

Surprising that actually, was one of my finer moments on the N64. Tis in our top 20 games, coming soon!

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer
Gryffindor (guest) 03.03.2012#4

I thought it was much older tbh. I got mine really cheap from EB just before the release of the GameCube . Banjo, Mario, Zelda all for 60 bargain!

bertyh (guest) 03.03.2012#5

Why does everyone mentions Majorca? It's rubbish compared to ocarina the time thing was lame

Majora's Mask was awesome, the 'time thing' was weird but it really added a lot to the gameplay and atmosphere.

Our member of the week

Majora offered the best atmosphere in a Zelda game EVER! Plus, the time system allowed for the NPCs to be made more credible than ever, since you could see all of them doing more than just wandering about aimlessly.

Both of those things have yet to be topped in a new Zelda game.

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
winterborn07 (guest) 04.03.2012#8

Ocarina has aged a lot, though you don't notice it after a few mins, but Mario 64 looks exactly as I remember it.

I wish the Mario games still looked like that. It's like there's too much detail nowadays, and it has this kind of fake feeling to it.

I don't know. It like they're trying to make Mario more real or something. It just feels unnatural to me kind of.

Just make things a little more rounded or smooth in some places and Mario 64 would be perfect.

Ocarina is the best though!

Monkey D Super (guest) 09.03.2012#9

Ahh, the good memories of N64...

My overriding memory of the N64, or my first contact with it was in our local branch of GAME. They had a demo pod with Super Mario 64 a few months before the console launched. Massive queue of people, most of whom weren't even going into any of the worlds. In fact, a lot of people didn't even enter the castle.

The analogue control, the 3D world, and the effortless way in which you could move Mario around that space was simply jaw-dropping. It's hard to imagine now, but it was those simple little things that had never been achieved before in a 3D game that really amazed people. Tomb Raider was the first, but it never had the ease of playability that SM64 had. It was that that really turned heads. Then I saw GoldenEye, and had to have one.

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