The Nintendo 64 (N64) made its way to North America 25 years ago, on September 29, 1996. In the years following, the N64 enjoyed immense success in Japan, North America, and elsewhere. At the time of its release, the N64 brought innovation to the console world through features like its trident-shaped controller, designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, that allowed players 360-degree analog control. The critically acclaimed console was one of the first to allow four people to play at one time and was the last cartridge-based system that Nintendo would create.
And while the N64 did face heavy competition from Sony’s PlayStation, it went on to become an extremely recognizable console with its own fans. That recognition was evident in 2015, when it was named the ninth-best console by IGN on its list of the top 25 video game consoles. That goes to show that the N64 has remained beloved by players and the industry well into the 21st century. That love is especially in players who have become collectors in the interim.
In anticipation of the 25th anniversary of the N64, I had the chance to speak with two collectors who shared their passion for the console, the games, and some key memories tied to their collections. A shared sense of nostalgia for the console serves as a driving factor behind why both collectors turned to collecting for the N64; a sentiment that will most likely strike a chord with many N64 fans who grew up playing in front of the family television.
Why the N64?
When it comes to video game collecting, there is certainly no lack of variety. From current-gen consoles to systems such as the Atari, collectors have their pick of gaming systems that they can go all in for.
So what exactly was it about the N64 that set the console apart from others for collectors and what has actively kept them interested in collecting? In talking with Julie, an artist who has been collecting for about 10 years, and Nankoshi, a collector and gamer who regularly shares her varied collection on Instagram, (both of whom chose not to share their last names) I got to know more about what drives their collecting and why they’re so passionate about it.
Julie: A key player in my N64 collection is the nostalgia. Some games in my collection are ones from my childhood, while others are ones I didn’t get to play as a kid. Expanding my collection is a way to reconnect with all the joy and wonder I had when I played my first N64 game.
I play a lot of new releases too and sometimes when I feel burnt out it helps to take a step back and boot up the N64 to get a different perspective. I think it makes me appreciate both new and old games a little bit more.
I’ve been collecting for around 10 years. I’d save up and buy games as a child and now as an adult, I have been collecting games that are harder to get a hold of.
Nankoshi: I became really passionate about the N64 in 1998 when I was 11 years old. I had only a small collection back then, but took good advantage of Blockbuster’s summer game rental pass that they had going around 2000 and played a bunch of games.
Like a lot of older gamers, I regrettably sold all of my N64 games to save up and buy the next big console. My current collection started in 2007 when my boyfriend, who worked at a local game store at the time, rebought my favorite N64 games for me for Christmas, and we’ve collected ever since.
Nostalgia plays a key role for both collectors in why they’ve gravitated towards the N64 as both pointed out above; a common feeling that other N64 fans can probably relate to. From the familiarity of the console and the chance to replay old favorites, nostalgia seems to only add to the experience of collecting.
Julie: The nostalgia for sure and the chance to get more of that feeling. There’s a comfort in the way that bulky controller feels in your hands. Even though they’ve been around, a lot of N64 games haven’t been spoiled for me, so It’s fun to go into something completely blind. It almost feels like opening a time capsule.
Nankoshi: I grew up playing Nintendo and Sega consoles prior to the N64, but nothing impressed me quite the way the N64 did. I fell in love with the incredible games that came out for it and the memories made with them were so vivid. I collect N64 games because I still have a huge desire to play them and they hold up as amazingly as I always remembered them!
On the topic of nostalgia, that brought us to discussing a memory or two that stood out in relation to an N64 game for both collectors. Most players can point to a few standout moments tied to their favorite game that they remember, and Julie and Nankosh were no different.
Julie: I remember passing the days playing Mario Party and Mario Kart with my twin sister. We are total opposites, so having the common interest of video games really brought us together and remains one of the most joyful memories of my childhood.
I remember one day we were both huddled around the TV playing Animal Crossing in the middle of a terrible storm and the power went out. The console turned off and we had lost all of our progress. In that game, there’s an evil mole character named Mr. Resetti who yells at you if you turn the console off without saving and he popped up and started yelling at us. We were devastated! We stayed up past bedtime to try and recover the damage that had been done.
Nankoshi: Probably my most cherished memory playing N64 was when my dad would join me to play Mario Kart 64. I played as Yoshi and he always picked Wario and would do little impressions of him as we played. That made me really love Wario. I also smile remembering that he would often blame the controller for him going off course, but we know the controller wasn’t to blame.
The specifics of collecting
Oftentimes there’s the notion that collecting video games and related items might be limited to a certain category. And when it comes to the N64, there’s certainly no shortage of games or different versions of the console itself to consider. Over 300 games were released during its lifetime and Nintendo also produced 20 different variations of the console itself.
In talking to Julie and Nankoshi, I learned that both had their own areas of focus for the games that they look for.
Julie: I definitely have a soft spot for Rareware games during their partnership with Nintendo. I love the silly art direction and have kept my old guidebooks for those games as well because they’re just fun to flip through. There’s such a unique essence to those games that is such a product of their time.
I also really love the Mario Party games and am only missing one or two in my collection. I love how it brings out the different personalities in my friends when we play; some get super competitive and some just really love the minigames. The N64 Mario Party games have such a charming art style that’s so vivid and chunky they always make me happy to look at even when I’m in last place.
Nankoshi: I’ve really just focused on collecting any of the games I played when I was younger, though I’m still missing a few. I’ve also filled out the collection a bit with some games that others seemed to cherish that I had missed out on previously.
When I asked about a specific game that stood out in their collections, both collectors had a well-known game in common that just about everyone will be familiar with.
Julie: I didn’t know this until recently learning more about versions of games, but I have a somewhat rare version of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It was the copy I had as a kid and had no idea! One of the most jarring differences is that my copy has red blood in it when you beat the final boss. I think that’s also my favorite; like many kids that were born in the 90s, I spent many hours with Ocarina of Time.
Nankoshi: The gold edition of Ocarina of Time, my favorite game ever, and just narrowly beating Majora’s Mask with the holographic sticker for that spot. Both games were, and still are, just incredible to me. Between the story events, exploring each area, the well-made dungeons, and the most fantastic musical score, they’re both perfect games in my eyes.
When it comes to collecting, there are going to be games that are more difficult to find and might require cleaning up. Or there may also be that game you just happen to come across at a random time.
Julie: Getting a hold of Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a little tricky. I wanted a legitimate copy, but didn’t want to spend so much money. Recently prices have been going up for games that came out in the early 2000s so I knew the clock was ticking for me to nab it at a good price. I had daily alerts on eBay for that- you never know when a deal is going to come up.
I was watching the listings like a hawk and then my friend surprised me with it for my birthday. The copy was old and had to be cleaned out a few times with isopropyl alcohol, but we got it to work.
Nankoshi: Nothing I have was particularly difficult to find, but there is one game I always wanted and somewhat obtained. The North American version of Bomberman 64: The Second Attack is one of the rarest games for the N64, and a bit pricey, but I recently came across the Japanese version complete in box on a whim!
The conversations I had with both Julie and Nankoshi give a unique look into what collecting for the N64 can be for two different collectors. While collecting can certainly be about the physical items themselves, there’s also a real power to be found in the nostalgia that can work its way into collecting. For both, nostalgia plays a large part in why they collect, and that’s an indicator of just how meaningful the console and its library of games is to them even 25 years on from its initial release.
Interview responses have been lightly edited for clarity.