Why a Nintendo 64 Classic Wouldn’t Work

First came the NES Classic. Then came the SNES Classic. See the trend here? It only seems like a matter of time before we get to see Nintendo follow it up with another retro styled “classic” console this year, right? If Nintendo sticks to the pattern, it’s only going to be a matter of time before the Nintendo 64, AKA the N64, is shrunk down into “mini” size and we’ll be hunkering down on some sweet Super Mario 64 platforming action.

I know a lot of of gamers out there would be incredibly excited at the prospect of getting a smaller version of the Nintendo 64. I’ve even seen some websites saying (rather hyperbolically) that it might even be the best retro console if it ever gets made. It also seems like a sure thing because Nintendo has made some moves that hint at an impending N64 Classic reveal as they’ve made 19 N64 game manuals available at their UK site and they even filed for a trade mark for the iconic controller the system used. With that being said, I’m not all that hyped for a miniaturized version of the console. In fact, I actually think it wouldn’t be that big of a success.

Now, before you accuse me of being a Sony/Sega/Microsoft fanboy, I do have to remind you that I have an SNES Classic, which I actually reviewed and loved. I would’ve gotten myself an NES Classic if it wasn’t so darned hard to find and expensive as well. I even had a Famicom growing up as well as the Game Boy Advance. Suffice to say, I love Nintendo games. So, no. I’m not “anti-Nintendo” in the least. But I just don’t have any nostalgic feelings or love for the N64 because I see it as one of Nintendo’s greatest missteps due to its hubris.

When the N64 was released, it was actually the most powerful system of that console generation. While its competitors, the Sony PlayStation and Sega Saturn, had 32-bit processors, the Nintendo 64 had a beefy 64-bit processor. This made a lot of the games that were released for the system look much better than the games on the PlayStation and Saturn. However, Nintendo was rather shortsighted on how you were going to get your games onto the system. Instead of using the cheaper CDs that Sony and Sega did with the PlayStation and Saturn, Nintendo went on to make the N64 a cartridge-based system.

Why would anyone need 2 copies of Mario Party 3?

This by itself wasn’t a terrible idea but CDs were much cheaper to come by and developers and publishers didn’t have to order the components to make the game cartridges from Nintendo if they wanted to make games for the N64. This led to most third party developers flocking over to Nintendo’s competitors. Because of this, the N64’s games library is comparatively smaller than the PlayStation or Saturn’s. This was pretty much when Nintendo lost their lead as the dominant gaming force and took a back seat to Sony. But a bigger side effect to this lack of third party games was also the lack of really spectacular games.

While there were a lot of great games for the N64, there isn’t really a huge library of incredibly “classic” games. I mean, it’s so easy to name some games that were left out of the NES Classic or the SNES Classic, and those systems had 30 and 21 games, respectively. With the N64, I can’t really think of 20 exclusive games the system had. You may have your Super Mario 64, Legend of Zelda, Mario Kart, Goldeneye 64 and Perfect Dark. Those games are sure to get in a N64 Classic system if it ever gets announced, but after that, everything gets really muddy. That’s not to say that there aren’t any good games outside the ones I mentioned. It’s that most games outside that list of games really made me scream “I had to get an N64” then and they don’t do so now.

It may seem strange but one of the N64’s greatest strengths may be the N64’s Classic’s greatest weakness: its out-of-the-box ability to handle 4-players. This is one of the reasons why the N64 is still remembered by a lot of gamers that played the system growing up. They will recount the hours of fun they had kicking the crap out of each other in Super Smash Bros., destroying the lead racer with a blue shell in Mario Kart 64 or owning everyone with Oddjob in Goldeneye 64… because he’s short.

I don’t remember Oddjob being that short!

The console was the crown jewel of local multiplayer and was the system you needed if you wanted some 4-player mayhem. Of course, in order to do that, you’ll need 4 controllers. But I don’t think Nintendo will bundle the N64 with 4 controllers. I know they learned their lesson as they bundled the SNES Classic with 2 controllers instead of the measly 1 the NES Classic had. But I doubt that Nintendo would even include 2 controllers for the N64 Classic. That’s because the “regular” N64 controller is much more sophisticated than the NES or the SNES controllers.

You have to remember than the N64 controller was revolutionary for the time. It was the first controller that featured full analog control, giving players precision when navigating platforms like in Super Mario 64 or driving really fast in Mario Kart 64. There was also the Rumble Pak add-on, so you can get your controller to… rumble. These two things would make the controller an expensive piece of hardware in its own right so Nintendo would limit them to one per N64 Classic. I’m pretty sure Nintendo will graciously sell players extra controllers if you really wanted that 4-player multiplayer euphoria you had. I know the prospect of having to shell out extra cash for 3 extra controllers won’t be a big deal for fans of the system but I don’t think they’ll be many of them.

Those reasons are pretty minor to the biggest problem a N64 Classic would have to hurdle. That issue is that, frankly speaking, not all that popular. The N64 wasn’t a flop nor was it a failure but it certainly never reached the heights of success its predecessors had. It was incredibly successful in the United States as it sold over 20 million units there but it failed to really make sales numbers in Japan and Europe, only selling just over 5 million in those locations each. Not only did the PlayStation soundly trounce the N64 in Japan with 15 million units sold, the Sega Saturn sold 6 million units in the Land of the Rising Sun. Generally, I think more people just have more fond memories of the Sony PlayStation than the N64.

When console wars were all about how many  bits…

While I’m pretty sure there are some contingent of fans that are going to be clamoring for it and they’ll definitely want one made, the N64 just doesn’t have the same mass appeal as the NES and the SNES do. Like the original N64, it’s probably going to sell well enough to be financially successful but it just won’t sell as well as Nintendo would want it to be.

Do you think Nintendo should release the N64 Classic? Let me know in the comments section below!


4 thoughts on “Why a Nintendo 64 Classic Wouldn’t Work

  1. You do make some very valid points. Though there are a couple you should add. It is unlikely that GoldenEye, Perfect Dark or Banjo-Kazooie will come to the classic edition due to them being developed by Rare and the company is now property of Windows. Even emulation of these games for an official replica of Nintendo’s own console has too much red tape that the Big N would prefer to avoid than try and work through it. That’s why we have never seen these games on Virtual Console. Another good point is whether the N64 controllers will bring along their own attachments? This would be unnecessary as the memory Pak will not be required as save data can be kept on the console and most controllers have rumble built into them now any way. This would leave the Transfer Pak which allowed gamers to play Gameboy games on the N64. This only really worked with Pokémon Red, Blue & Yellow via Pokémon Stadium. As much as the game would work well on the N64 classic. A fair bit of content is locked behind the integration of the Pokémon GB games, so the in-game transfer would be useless. Fighting the Elite Four with the stock Pokemon would be extremely tough and competing in the main tournaments won’t have the same appeal without using your own Pokémon. I would still buy an N64 Mini though, to accompany my NES & SNES Classic editions.

  2. While one could argue that the N64 was Nintendo’s worst console effort, the games were ground breaking, and are highly respected, even to this day. The kids who grew up with this are now in their early 20s, a demographic known for spending. Nintendo, as always, is banking on their nostalgia. As for the clunky controller: they need to lop off the superfluous left third of it; the d-pad was basically useless on N64. One YouTuber theorized a compatible GameBoy Classic would elevate an N64 Classic from quaint novelty to must-own in the eyes of many retro gamers.

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