If you were an Aussie kid in the ‘90s, there’s a good chance you remember A*mazing, a game show for children that aired on Channel 7 five nights a week. The second-to-last round, which determined the team that got to enter the eponymous maze, featured a videogame showdown between the two competing schools. The players would face o across various games and consoles donated by Nintendo. If you stuck around for long enough, you saw the show progress from NES games in the early years, to a SNES, and finally an N64. It was smart marketing on Nintendo Australia’s part: at the time, kids were very much Nintendo’s target audience, and the show made competing in these games look exciting.
The Nintendo 64 was the family-friendly party console. Even its more violent games – most notably Rare’s shooters – were fairly light on graphic content and adult situations, and most of the system’s more popular ‘adult’ games seemed to come from a single publisher, Acclaim. You could have a perfectly good time with the N64 if you stuck to the games with cute mascots.
The PlayStation may have beaten it in sales, but it was the Nintendo kids who were getting together for gaming focused sleep-overs. The four controller ports helped – four-player gaming required an additional device on the PlayStation, so few games on the system supported more than two. Nintendo themselves published 37 multiplayer games in the west, along with their third-party titles. For many, this is still looked back at as the golden age. Goldeneye and Perfect Dark are remembered with exceptional fondness (even if neither has aged as well as you might like) as are the likes of Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and the Mario Party series (despite the game’s proclivity for injuring players – see boxout).
The N64 was also, of course, the machine where Nintendo’s sales and popularity dipped dramatically. The machine garnered a reputation as a machine for kids, which was far more damaging a reputation than it had been previously.
If you wanted serious multiplayer, well, online play was starting to take o on PC. Why gather your friends together, some asked, when you can play Quake II against anyone in the world online? This sentiment would spread over the next several console generations, as online play became an exciting prospect, and eventually an essential function.
For many, the enduring legacy of the N64 were the real technical marvels, the Super Mario 64s and the Ocarina of Times and what-have-you, the single-player experiences that showed o the machine’s abilities. But to really understand what the N64 achieved, bring up Goldeneye or Mario Kart 64 in any crowd of people aged between 23 and 35 and watch how many eyes light up.