Nintendo 64 or simply N64 is a video game console from Nintendo released on June 23, 1996 in Japan and September 29, 1996 in North America. The Nintendo 64 was released with only two launch games: Super Mario 64 and PilotWings 64. The system is occasionally referred to as "Project Reality" or "Ultra 64", two names which Nintendo used in press releases prior to the system's launch.

After first announcing the project, two companies, Rareware (UK) and Midway (USA), created arcade games which used certain components of the Ultra 64 hardware. These games were Killer Instinct and Cruisin' USA. Killer Instinct was the most advanced game of its time graphically, featuring pre-rendered movie backgrounds. This led to extreme hype for the system, which would turn out to completely rely on real time rendering which looked much worse then the pre-rendering used on Killer Instinct. Without the excitement generated by these "false" Nintendo 64 titles however, the Nintendo 64 would have probably sold far less. Nintendo touted many of the systems more unusual features as groundbreaking and innovative. But many of these features had in fact been implemented before. The first game console to bill itself as "64-bit" was actually the Atari Jaguar (although the truth of this is disputed). The first console to use an analog joystick was the Emerson Arcadia. And the first to feature four controller ports was the Bally Astrocade.

The system was designed by Silicon Graphics Inc., and features their trademark non 32 bit color dithered real time graphics look. It was the first console to support mip mapping.

While not being home to as many highly rated games as Nintendo's prior console (the Super Famicom (in Japan) and SNES (in North America and Europe)), and lacking the essential third party support (which would eventually be its downfall), it still has seen some particularly notable games. Games such as GoldenEye, Super Mario 64, and Ocarina of Time are still considered by some gamers to be among the greatest games of all time.

Apart from Nintendo's own in-house development, Rareware (now second-party to Microsoft's gaming division) also produced a steady stream of popular titles for the Nintendo 64. From their first N64 title, Blast Corps, through GoldenEye, Banjo-Kazooie (and it's sequel, Banjo-Tooie), Perfect Dark, Jet Force Gemini, Donkey Kong 64 to the surprisingly adult-themed Conker's Bad Fur Day.

Table of contents
1 Specifications
2 Decline
3 External links


  • 93.75 MHz MIPS 64-bit RISC CPU (customized R4000 series)
  • RCP (Reality Control Processor) maps hardware registers to memory addresses and contains:
    • 62.5 MHz RSP (parallel processor, mostly used for sound and graphics)
    • RDP (pixel drawing processor) Z buffer, anti-aliasing, and realistic texture mapping (tri-linear filtered MIP-map interpolation, perspective correction, and environment mapping)
  • Ram: RAMBUS D-RAM 36Mbit
  • Media: 32 to 512 megabit cartridge
  • Controller: 1 analog joystick; 2 shoulder buttons; one digital cross pad; six face buttons, 'start' button, and one digital trigger.


The Nintendo 64 was the last home video game console to use ROM cartridges to store its games. Nintendo defended this choice for the following reasons:

  1. ROM carts have very fast load times.
  2. ROM carts are difficult to duplicate (resist piracy).
  3. It is possible to add specialized support chips (such as coprocessors) to ROM carts.

At that time, competing systems from
Sony and Sega were using CD-ROM discs to store their games. These discs are much cheaper to manufacture and distribute, resulting in much lower cost to third party game publishers. As a result many game developers which had traditionally supported Nintendo game consoles were now developing games for the competition because of the higher profit margins found on CD based platforms. As well, the limited storage size of roms limited the amount of textures that could be used in the games, resulting in games which had a more flat shaded look. Later cartridges (such as Resident Evil 2) featured much more ROM space, which demonstrated that N64 was indeed capable of impressive, detailed in-game graphics when the media permitted, but this performance came at a high price.

In 2001 the N64 was replaced by the Nintendo GameCube.

External links