The Nintendo 64 console, released 20 years ago today, is now regarded as something of a misstep for a company that had come to be synonymous with games. (During the NES and SNES era, people would literally say, “I played Nintendo after school,” instead of, “I played games after school.”) The N64’s reliance on expensive and clunky cartridges helped to ensure that Sony’s upstart CD-based PlayStation console ate its lunch, attracting more developers and selling three times as many units.
But in many ways, the N64 blazed trails for the era of console dominance that would follow, when even PC-centric genres like the first-person shooter would find a home on living room TV screens. The N64’s innovative controller – with its analogue thumbstick designed for navigating 3D environments – created a template that all subsequent console makers would embrace. Meanwhile, classic titles like the groundbreaking Super Mario 64 and later Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and GoldenEye established a framework for 3D game design that many future franchises made their own.