The Nintendo 64, often abbreviated as N64, can be considered either Nintendo's last classic console, or their first modern one. While I personally consider it more of the former rather than the latter, it's included here because it marked several important benchmarks for Nintendo's home consoles. Furthermore, many modern game play elements can have their roots traced back to games on the Nintendo 64, albeit often in a rougher form.
Originally called the Ultra 64, the Nintendo 64 was primarily the result of two factors, increased competition from Sega, and the heavy focus on making more powerful gaming systems that sprung up in the mid to late 90s.
By far the bigger of those two factors however, was the obsession from both consumers and the games industry in making more technically impressive and superior consoles. I like to call this era of the game industry "The Bit Rush" .This bit-centric mindset was the result of increasing console capabilities opening up new gameplay experiences never seen before, as well as aggressive direct marketing campaigns by competing companies. In this time, "more bits" became practically a shorthand for "better."
After all, why would you settle for the dinky 8-bit NES when the Sega Genesis has 16-bits! What's that? Nintendo's new SNES is a 16-bit system? That's nothing! The Sega 32x has a whopping 32-bits! The Nintendo 64 was Nintendo's response to this craze. The fact it's a 64-bit system is even in the consoles name!
- The N64, as you might guess, was a 64-bit system. However, interestingly, the systems 64 bit capabilities were not often used, as 32 bit operations were sufficient to render 3d graphics and were more efficient.
- The Nintendo 64 was the last major console to use cartridges. The reason cartridges were used instead of discs was because of their faster load times compared to CDs. However, the reduced storage space would become an issue later on in the N64's life span, as 3rd parties often opted for the 650 MB offered by systems like the playstation over the 64 MB limit for N64 cartridges.
- There was an add-on made for the N64 called the 64DD, "DD" standing for "Disc Drive".The accessory released only in Japan as it sold poorly, resulting in several games being made for the 64DD being made for a standard N64 cartridge instead.
- The infamous layout of the N64 controller, with 3 handles and the control stick in the center, was created in an effort to preserve the function of a traditional controller for 2d gameplay, while still having the option to be held for 3d gameplay. Apparently, nobody though that people would want a controller that gave the access to all the buttons at once.