Happy 10th Birthday, Nintendo 64!

Ten years ago today, the Nintendo 64 launched in the U.S. Critics can say what they want about the cartridge format, the lack of third party support, and the long wait between games, but there’s no denying the N64 had many successes. After all, this is the system that gave us Super Mario 64, the game that defined 3D platformers. Also, there was Ocarina of Time, which is arguably one of the greatest games of all time. And did you forget about Goldeneye 007, one of the first successful console first person shooters with multiplayer that remains legendary to this day? And to anyone else who talks smack about the console, I’ll respond with “Star Fox 64, Mario Kart 64, and Paper Mario.”

Besides its amazing first party titles, perhaps the system’s biggest claim to fame was its focus on multiplayer games. By putting four controller ports on the N64, the system was known as the party machine, with Goldeneye 007, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 64, Perfect Dark, the Mario Party series, and other games that made the original Playstation’s two controller ports seem pathetic (yes, I know there was the Multitap, but doesn’t it make more sense to have four ports out of the box?).

Sadly, to this day, there are some people who still fail to recognize the many contributions of the Nintendo 64, arguing that the system’s sales were crushed by the mighty Playstation, a console that offered more “mature” content and made games more mainstream and hip (remember the Final Fantasy 7 “games can be like movies” movement?). 1up’s Reality Check: A Decade of Nintendo 64, does a good job of summing up a lot of people’s beef with the N64:

This was to be the lot of the Nintendo 64 for the rest of its life: beloved but dusty. While it did have a dedicated fan base, it simply could not compete with the snowballing PlayStation phenomenon. Games like Super Smash Bros, Mario Party, Paper Mario, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, while excellent, could not slow Nintendo’s swift descent to a distant second place. The best titles simply did not come out fast enough, games were expensive, and there simply weren’t enough of them overall.

When the final game was released for the Nintendo 64 in 2002, it put the total number of domestically released titles at just under 300 – less than a quarter the number released for the PlayStation. Nintendo managed to move 32 million N64s into homes worldwide – 17 million less than the Super Nintendo managed to sell, and 70 million less than Sony’s 32-bit system. Nintendo, for the first time, left a console generation without the lead.

If you haven’t checked out 1up’s Decade of N64 feature, do so now. Also, make sure you celebrate the N64’s tenth birthday by dusting off the system (this does not apply to you hardcore fans who still have your N64 hooked up to your TV for regular sessions), and let the warm nostalgia brighten your day. In addition, please share your fond memories of the Nintendo 64.