The Nintendo 64 (ニンテンドウろくじゅうよん Nintendō Rokujūyon?), stylized as NINTENDO64 and often referred to as N64 (formerly known as the Nintendo Ultra 64, and codenamed Project Reality) is Nintendo’s third home video game console for the international market. Named for its 64-bit central processing unit, it was released in June 1996 in Japan, September 1996 in North America, March 1997 in Europe and Australia, September 1997 in France and December 1997 in Brazil. It is Nintendo’s last home console to use ROM cartridges to store games (Nintendo switched to a MiniDVD-based format for the successor GameCube); handhelds in the Game Boy line, however, continued to use Game Paks. As part of the fifth generation of gaming, it primarily competed with the PlayStation and the Sega Saturn. Succeeded by Nintendo’s GameCube in November 2001, N64 consoles continued to be produced until its discontinuation in Japan on April 30, 2002, Europe on May 16, 2003, North America on November 30, 2003, and Australia in 2003.
The N64 was released with two launch games, Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64, and a third in Japan, Saikyō Habu Shōgi. The N64’s suggested retail price wasUS $199.99 at its launch and it was later marketed with the slogan “Get N, or get Out!”. The console was ultimately released in a range of different colors and designs, and an assortment of limited-edition controllers were sold or used as contest prizes during the N64’s lifespan. The N64 sold 32.93 million units worldwide, and in 2009, it was named the 9th greatest video game console by IGN. Time Magazine named it their 1996 Machine of the Year award.
Of the consoles in the fifth generation, the Nintendo 64 was the last to be released. One of its technical drawbacks was a limited texture cache, which could hold textures of limited dimensions and reduced color depth, which had to be stretched to cover larger in-game surfaces. More significantly, the N64 still relied upon ROM cartridges, which were constrained by small capacity (particularly in an era when games became more complex and their contents took up more memory) and high production expenses, compared to the compact disc format used by its chief competitors. As a result of the N64’s storage media limitations, many third-party publishers that previously supported Nintendo’s past consoles reduced or stopped publishing games; the N64’s most successful titles came from first-party or second-party studios.