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The Nintendo 64 turns 20 in Europe

Overpriced cartridges and a slim launch lineup. Never again, they said.

The Nintendo 64 came out in Europe on this day 20 years ago.

The console launched on these shores on 1st March 1997 priced £250 with just three games available (and you thought Nintendo Switch's launch lineup was bad):

  • Pilotwings 64
  • Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
  • Super Mario 64

I remember popping down to Dixons in Tooting with my dad to pick up my N64. Wide-eyed with wonder, I marvelled at the brilliance of Super Mario 64. I also played Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire.

The N64 marked Nintendo's transition from the Super Nintendo and the 16-bit era to the 3D-fuelled 64-bit era, and went up against the already-established PSone and the Sega Saturn.

The console is probably best remembered for the wonderful Nintendo-made games it housed, including the aforementioned Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.

Rare, which made a raft of superb N64 games for Nintendo, established the first-person shooter genre on console with GoldenEye 007. Diddy Kong Racing was better than Mario Kart 64, too (there I said it).

The N64 went on to sell just shy of 33m units. Nintendo followed up with the 2001 launch of the GameCube. Between the release of the two consoles we saw the launch of the PS2, the Dreamcast and the original Xbox.

There seems a nice symmetry between the Nintendo 64, which turns 20 just two days before Nintendo's next console, the Switch, comes out on these shores. Like the N64, the Nintendo Switch uses cartridges. And like N64 games, Nintendo Switch games cost an arm and a leg.

Plus ça change...

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