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The Nerdist Writers Share Their Favorite N64 Memories

Today is an important day for very indoorsy people across the globe. It’s the 27th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Batman. It’s the 52nd anniversary of Joss Whedon‘s birth. Most importantly, though, it’s the 20th anniversary of the Nintendo 64, a gaming console that represented a paradigm shift in the way games were made and one that imprinted itself on a generation of gamers in a way that tends to even eclipse the likes of Sega Genesis and the Super Nintendo. There’s a certain rosy nostalgia to the games of Nintendo 64 that resonates across a vast spectrum of people–both gamers and non-gamers alike–and evokes a familiar smile, even two decades later. Whether you’re still a hardcore gamer or you haven’t picked up a controller in years, chances are there was some moment in time in which the Nintendo 64 made a lasting, powerful impact on you. That was certainly the case with many members of the Nerdist staff, so we asked them to take a stroll down memory lane, then use the right thumbstick to gaze into the past. These are their greatest N64 memories.

Kyle Hill – Super Smash Bros.


“I was Kirby. All my friends at the community center knew that. If we were playing Super Smash Bros., I was going to be Kirby, floating high above the map to slam down in granite fury on my friends below. I didn’t care if it was expected, or cheap, that’s what I did and who I was — the Nintendo 64 defined a part of my personality with a game. Smash wasn’t the system’s best game — Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, and Super Mario 64 are still being aped today by consoles with literally a thousand times more processing power — but it was one that took me out of my own head for awhile. It was my best excuse to be social.”

Rachel Heine – Banjo Kazooie


“Nintendo 64 was the first and only game console I owned growing up. For years I envied my friends and their older siblings who had SEGA, so much so that for months I begged my mom to let me get the N64. When she finally acquiesced, I had to promise not to play anything overly violent. This was both a blessing and a curse because while GoldenEye was the ‘cool game’ and I was dying to play Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, I turned out to be terrible at video games. The only ones I could get a handle on were group games like Super Smash Bros (lots of button mashing), Mario Kart, and Mario Party, or adventure games like Super Mario 64 and my absolute favorite, Banjo Kazooie. With its weird sense of humor, wacky character design, and manageable quests, Banjo Kazooie was everything I loved about the video games. Sure, I couldn’t knock down the AT-ATs and get past the Hoth level in Shadows of the Empire, but I could collect a bunch of silly feathers and beak-attack baddies. And really, what else could you possible want?”

Jessica Chobot – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time


“One of my favorite N64 memories was the one where I came home from college to spend Christmas break with my family and, after discovering that my brother had an N64 with The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, proceeded to ignore them all for the two weeks while they were at my parents’ house to celebrate Christmas and the New Year. Needless to say, my grandmother was NOT PLEASED with me (it has been whispered that I’m no longer in the will).

That said, I do feel that my decision was slightly justifiable. After all, I had a finite amount of time in which to finish Legend of Zelda (my brother was NOT going to let me take the N64 with me back to school, so it was GO time for me in Hyrule), and finishing the game was the only way Navi was going to shut up.”

Matt Grosinger – Star Fox 64


“If real life were just a 3D slalom game featuring an anthropomorphic fox, I’d be barrel rolling all day, motherfucker. Though I was really good at Mario Kart 64 and enjoyed the vicissitudes of Mario Party and Mario Party 2, I was always best at Star Fox 64. What drew me in initially were the gameplay mechanics, which I deftly mastered over the course of hundreds of hours—I think I have a gold medal on every level. The world opened up and unveiled different planets in the Lylat system that needed to be saved by air, land, sea, and I loved trying to outdo my score. But looking back on it, the storyline is the best part. It is a tale of tragic loss, friendship, and vengeance. I still take extreme pleasure in making sure Andross goes down in flames as I weave and dodge through the debris of Venom, heeding Peppy’s most famous advice.”

Amy RatcliffeGoldenEye 007


“Though I’ve fallen out of gaming, sitting in front of a screen with a controller was a constant past time when I was younger. When my sister, seven years my junior, received a transparent purple N64, we bonded like never before. Our constantly antagonistic relationship was worked out in GoldenEye marathons as we leveraged every sneak attack to work out our Feelings towards each other. We bonded over the many challenges in Legend of Zelda and shared more laughs than at any previous point in our relationship. We re-created this recently when I found an used N64 and gave it to her for her birthday. Our language is a little more colorful now, but the warm and fuzzy N64 feelings are the same.”

Michelle Buchman – Star Wars Episode I: Racer


“To be quite honest, I’m picking this game because it has a fantastic story to tell along with it. In 1999, my brother and I were determined to acquire a N64 for Christmas. We dropped hints around my parents constantly, leaving out copies of Game Informer conveniently opened on pages featuring games we wanted such as Mario Kart 64, Star Fox, etc. My parents acted like they barely noticed our carefully thought out attempts so on Christmas Eve, I went to sleep defeated and expected another year of being console-less. But lo and behold, on Christmas morning my brother and I noticed a large wrapped present under the tree. We opened it up, unveiling a brand new N64 with Star Wars Episode I: Racer included. We. Lost. Our. Minds. The only thing both of us remember is jumping up and down in excitement. We then hugged each other and started crying. Look, we really like Star Wars, okay? Holiday dreams: achieved.”

Dan Casey – Mischief Makers


“To be perfectly honest, I was always more of a PlayStation guy. But that didn’t stop me from lusting after an N64 with every fiber of my being. For my birthday one year, my dad rented me an N64 for the weekend from the local Blockbuster, with a smattering of games. The only one I wound up playing was this deeply strange platformer called Mischief Makers. You assumed the role of Marina (short for Ultra-InterGalactic-Cybot G Marina Liteyears), a robotic maid on a quest to rescue her kidnapped creator from the Planet Clancer, a world on the verge of erupting into a violent civil war. Oh, combat is entirely done by shaking your enemies and throwing them, usually accompanied by a voiceover of Marina saying, ‘Shake, shake, shake!’

This game was impossibly Japanese, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much in my youth. The N64 era seemed like the death knell for side-scrolling 2D platformers, thanks to staggeringly fun games like Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario 64, but Mischief Makers was a beacon of hope for fans of classic platformer gameplay and deeply weird storytelling. My eyeballs were red and desiccated after playing the game for hours on end, but I regret nothing. And if you played Mischief Makers, chances are you feel the exact same way.”

Edwin Garcia – Wipeout 64


“Despite not owning the Nintendo 64 myself when it originally released, the sturdy console with the spaceship-shaped controller (it always felt like tech from the future) is still one of my favorite machines of all time. See, my cousin owned one of these bad boys, so every weekend I would beg my parents to let me go over just so I could get my hands on Wipeout 64. The rush of speeding through the Tron-like tracks was otherworldly! It was always the highlight of my week, and now I own the console along with Wipeout. So, if you’re ever in town, let’s race!”

Samantha Sofka – GoldenEye 007


“Whenever somebody mentions the Nintendo 64, the first game that always comes to mind is GoldenEye 007. I remember sitting around all summer playing it with my older brother. In truth, I was never really good at it, because he always used cheat codes (and never told me what they were, or how to find them). That said, it was always a lot of fun, and one of the first experiences with gaming. Sadly, my Bondin’ days were over when my brother broke our system (WITH A FORK). The good news is, I picked up another one a few years back and went on a mission to find the game.” 

Donnie Lederer – Wrestlemania 2000


“I got the N64 as a Christmas present my junior year of college, back in 2000 (the turn of the century!). My parents got me two games, Goldeneye and Wrestlemania 2000. While Goldeneye was a great game, Wrestlemania 2000 was a pleasant surprise. Not only did the game have easy-to-understand mechanics, but it was a great multiplayer game. My friends would come over and we would spend many a weekend night having Royal Rumbles and Championship Tournaments. We even had a makeshift championship belt. Great memories from a great system.”

Jenna Busch – Super Mario 64


Mario 64 was the first 3D game I had ever played. For years I dreamed about what lay beyond the path of all the side scrollers I’d played for years. Even while watching my friends play, since we had to take turns, I’d study the backgrounds and wonder: what would I see if I could just turn right or left? This was the first time I got to wander around. It opened up a whole new world. I walked through paintings into hidden rooms. I circled up stairs. It was like walking into a dreamscape and being able to see what was behind the curtain. It opened up a virtual world. Also, Mario talks in his sleep. I, too, want to dream about spaghetti.”

Michael Arbeiter – Harvest Moon 64


“As an early teenager, I was so indoorsy that even certain video games like GoldenEye and Star Fox felt too much like playing ‘a sport.’ As such, I preferred the company of games that shafted action, logistical strategy, and high-danger scenarios in favor of dialogue, emotional reasoning, and the ubiquitous fugue of mortality’s crawl. I don’t think I have ever been more excited for the release of a game than I was for Harvest Moon, which I engaged with as a virtual access point to Samuel Beckett and played gleefully for the lion’s share of my junior high school years. While games rich in preordained story and drama, like Ocarina of Time, certainly contributed to my love of cinema, Harvest Moon offered a healthy spoonful of what would blossom into my compulsion to create my own stories: dry, weird, existentialist stories in which not much really happens, for the most part. Clearly, I haven’t strayed far from the Moontown well.”

Kendall Ashley – Mario Kart 64


“I will always have fond memories of playing Mario Kart with my parents and little brother, smack-talking each other’s racing abilities, and making fun of each other’s characters. I still have my N64 and that game, and I play it frequently with my husband (because Mario Kart is a damn wonderful game no matter how old you are). You could say Mario Kart and that N64 were my video game ‘gateway drugs.’ I know I’ll be playing games on my now TWENTY year-old N64 until the day blowing on the cartridges doesn’t make it work anymore.”

Michael Walsh – Star Fox 64


“I remember the first time I saw the sun come up because of a video game the way most people remember their first kiss. I’m not a gamer, even though I’ve been playing them my whole life, but Star Fox 64 managed to turn me into one the way no other game had before or since. I would repeat levels over and over because of how much fun they were (the dogfight levels especially). To this day hearing ‘do a barrel roll!’ makes me remember that night turned morning. The N64 had lots of great games, but you always remember your first.”

Blake Rodgers – Super Mario 64


“My favorite N64 memory, other than entire sleepovers spent playing GoldenEye until friendships crumbled, was seeing what three-dimensional gaming could be with Super Mario 64. It certainly wasn’t the first 3D game but seeing Mario break out of his usual 2D format was a very literal game changer. Even today, hearing the ‘It’s a-me, Mario’ is an auditory time machine that brings me back to seeing the game for the first time and knowing it was something really special.”

What is your favorite N64 game and/or memory? Share it with us in the comment below!

Images: Nintendo; Wikimedia Commons


Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@Osteoferocious).

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