Today marks 25 years since the original Japanese release of the Nintendo 64 and its seminal launch title Super Mario 64.
The Nintendo 64, originally dubbed Project Reality and then the Ultra 64, was released in Japan on June 23, 1996, before coming to North America in September 1996 and Europe in March 1997.
The console was notable as Nintendo‘s first proper foray into polygonal graphics (although its Super FX chip had led to a handful of polygonal games on the SNES).
It’s also remembered for being one of the first systems to include an analogue controller as standard, and one of the first to include four controller ports allowing for 4-player multiplayer without the use of a peripheral.
Nintendo’s insistence on sticking with cartridge-based software instead of the CDs being used by the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn had some benefits, most obviously near-instant load times in most games.
The fact that carts cost far more to make than CDs and held far less data, however, meant that the console struggled to gain the sort of third-party support being enjoyed by Sony in particular.
This was most notable when Squaresoft, who had been testing a possible Final Fantasy VII game on Nintendo 64 hardware, decided to develop on PlayStation instead, moving the series away from Nintendo for the first time.
Even with this lack of strong third-party support, the N64 is still memorable for having a large number of critically acclaimed games despite its relatively small library.
The likes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, Paper Mario, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Super Smash Bros, 1080 Snowboarding and many others ensured the console’s status as one of the all-time greats.
Sitting near the top of this list is Super Mario 64, which launched alongside the N64 and also enjoys its 25th anniversary today.
Although there had been 3D platformers released before Super Mario 64, the Nintendo EAD-developed title is widely credited for writing the rulebook on the 3D platforming genre and inspiring countless imitators.
Super Mario 64 was re-released last year as part of Super Mario 3D All-Stars, a compilation of three 3D Mario games.