Nintendo is known for their successful consoles. They released the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1983 and ended the video game crash. Then they released the Super Nintendo (SNES), which was incredibly successful. However, their next console, the Nintendo 64 (N64), would revolutionize the gaming experience.
The Nintendo 64 sold over 30 million copies for a reason. The console’s revolutionary controller introduced the now familiar analog stick. The console also featured some jaw-dropping titles like Super Mario 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and the original Super Smash Bros. The hits continue to be some of the most fun games released and make Nintendo 64 one of the greatest consoles of all time.
While the Nintendo 64 seemed straightforward, it had many functions and some of these features were rarely used. Some weren’t readily available. And some were just discovered and failed to hold interest.
Today we’re going to talk about 15 cool things you had no idea your old Nintendo 64 could do. These add-ons and features may come as a surprise, but they’re achievable (or were at one point) on most N64 consoles. These cool components can enhance your playing experience tenfold, creating an incredible escape for the Nintendo 64 player. Let us know which of these features is the most shocking to you.
15 Play Online
Did you know you could play your Nintendo 64 online? Although the service is discontinued, it was entirely possible to play games online. Through a disc drive expansion, the Nintendo 64DD, you could access games online. However, the attachment was exclusive to Japan only.
The Nintendo 64DD was originally planned to come out before the Nintendo 64 in 1996. After numerous delays, Nintendo finally released the add-on attachment with little success. The add-on was a failure, selling only 15,000 units.
The internet service, called Randnet, didn’t do too well. Meager sales weren’t the only problem, though that obviously contributed to the failure. Availability had a role in its downfall as well since Randnet was only available in Japan. There was also a cumbersome mail order request to subscribe to the service.
Recently, a gamer found an US Version of the 64DD, possibly the only of its kind.
14 Play Magnetic Discs
Another feature of the 64DD was its disc drive expansion. The attachment was able to play magnetic discs. Available in Japan only, except in a particular case.
Again, meager sales stopped the 64DD from reaching popularity. This means that their “magnetic discs” weren't in demand either. It’s likely due to Nintendo’s established success with cartridges, but the numerous delays played their part as well.
Nintendo tries hard to stay ahead of the game, but sometimes it can shoot them in the foot. The magnetic discs were similar in style to the GameCube, but as CDs became popular, this wasn’t a viable option. If you were lucky enough to get your hands on a 64DD, you were able to play magnetic discs on your old Nintendo 64.
13 Expand the Memory
People who played Donkey Kong 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask know that the Nintendo 64 could expand its memory. Nintendo was brilliant in coming up with more memory for the N64. With the red plated Expansion Pak, gamers were able to broaden the console’s memory from 4 MB to 8 MB. While the storage seems meager compared to your PlayStation 4, that jump was huge back in the day.
The expansion pack, although made for gamers, was mostly useful to developers. The accessory allowed game developers the ability to make better-looking games. Not only that, but it allowed games to have more features, better graphics, and longer gameplay.
Although only Donkey Kong 64, Majora’s Mask, and Perfect Dark required the Expansion Pak, most games had higher resolution and, some, more features, like San Francisco Rush 2049, where you could change rims.
12 Fix Your Loose Joystick
The Nintendo 64’s thumbstick was revolutionary. It's too bad that it was easy for the thumbstick to get loose, which hindered the gaming experience for some. This is due to two plastic pieces in the thumbstick that get worn over time. Have no fear, as this can be fixed.
The OEM style N64 thumbstick replacement is a substitute for the analog stick. Serving the same purpose as the normal analog stick, this replica can be purchased and replace the original one. However, it can also get worn out like the original stick.
With extra care and light lubrication, damage to the stick can be prevented. However, the likelihood of someone taking apart a controller is slim to none. For those that want a similar experience, but a different outcome, you can also replace the stick with a GameCube replacement stick.
11 Connect an N64 Controller to a PC USB Port
Emulators, anyone? Anyone who’s installed an N64 emulator knows how annoying it is without the controller. Having to control characters with the arrow keys or A, W, S, D, isn’t as fun as it sounds. You’re in luck, as you can connect the Nintendo 64’s controller on a PC through several methods.
The more reliable way is purchasing a Nintendo 64 replica controller with a USB on the other end, as opposed to the regular plugin. For a multiplayer experience, however, those without many USB slots will have an issue. There are several USB adapters that can be purchased and they have two Nintendo 64 controller slots.
The Nintendo 64’s controller broke numerous records, so it’s not surprising that you can find USB versions. The USB controller can play any PC game designed for Joystick and can revive the experience of a Nintendo 64 easily.
10 Rumble Controller
We’re all used to vibrations now (not that kind). Our phones and controllers all vibrate for certain reasons. When you’re hit or die in a game, get a text, or set an alarm, a vibration goes off on your device. While the popularity of rumble in controllers seems timeless, it was Nintendo who started the trend.
The bottom of the Nintendo 64 controller featured space for accessories. One of the controller accessories was the Rumble Pak. This attachment made the Nintendo 64 the first to rumble. The device used Haptic technology, a feature that recreates touch in the form of a shocking vibration.
The rumble pack originally came with Star Fox 64/Lylat Wars but could work with any N64 game, greatly improving gameplay with a sense of feel.
9 Voice Interaction
Voice interaction for N64 may sound crazy, but it was accomplished. Nintendo created one of the first voice recognized pieces of hardware, a microphone attachment for the controller called the VRU. While not as powerful as Xbox One’s voice recognition, the microphone was a stunning invention for its time.
The VRU was compatible with only two games: Hey You, Pikachu! and Densha de Go! 2 Kosoku-hen. The latter was released only for the Japan and used the VRU to announce train stations to in game passengers. Hey You, Pikachu! was the only game released in the US with the VRU. The player communicated with Pikachu through the microphone to earn its trust.
This technology served as a prototype for what would come after, with the newest systems all having some element of voice recognition available for gamers.
8 Use a Mouse
Another of Nintendo’s 64DD accessories was a mouse. It came in handy with the games that packaged with the 64DD, namely the Mario Artist suite.
Mario Artist included four different software applications: a Mario paint program, an animation studio, a 3D graphics editor, and a sharing system for players in Japan. The Nintendo 64DD served as a full on computer-like component to the N64, so it had to be paired with a mouse to use it. Along with a few other unreleased parts, the Mario Artist compilation and the added mouse never made it to the US.
Could you imagine using a mouse to move Mario? Or clicking to shoot guns in Conker's Bad Fur Day or slash Link’s sword in Ocarina of Time?
7 Use a Gameshark
For some, having a Gameshark was like the pinnacle of gaming. For others, Gamesharks were seen as cheating and looked down upon. Gameshark released cheat cartridges for a multitude of systems and the brand name is still operating under Mad Catz.
The N64 cheat cartridge allowed players to manipulate the game with cheats. Things like unlimited hearts in Ocarina of Time were attainable. It came in two different versions, one with a LED display. The second version allowed for computer hardware to be connected. There was an online service, called Shark Online, that allowed emailing and Gameshark updates through dial-up.
Gameshark stayed popular for some time and is still functioning. Maybe they’ll make a component for the Nintendo Switch.
6 Transfer Data from Game Boy
The Transfer Pak was another one of Nintendo 64’s various controller accessories. The accessory was an attachment that allowed transferring data between Game Boy or Game Boy Color games and Nintendo 64 games.
The Transfer Pak worked with many Nintendo games, but the best use was with Pokemon Stadium and Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow. While the Transfer Pak didn’t play Game Boy games directly, the Pokemon series was an exception. Pokemon Stadium had a “Game Boy Tower” mode with a built-in emulator, allowing the user to play any of the Pokemon Games on the N64.
The emulation was the beginning of a significant relationship between Nintendo’s consoles and handhelds. Starting with GameCube, Nintendo has allowed each of their handhelds to connect to their consoles. Now, the Nintendo Switch doubles as a handheld and console.
5 Play Games with a Glove Controller
Although this isn’t the first “glove” controller for Nintendo, the gaming company Reality Quest released a Nintendo 64 glove controller. The controller doesn’t have much notoriety or popularity, but Reality Quest created it nonetheless.
The Nintendo 64 glove controller was a great idea in theory, but it never saw much light of day. The player would wrap two blue straps around their wrist and hands to secure the controller’s “hand” component in front of them. However, the glove controller’s design was clunky and it didn’t have any exclusive games made for it. Tack that on with the fact that Nintendo didn’t push the device and it faded away quickly.
You had to move your wrist and palm a certain way to maneuver this accessory. While it seemed like an awkward idea, it could’ve been a prototype for the Wii.
4 Play SNES and NES Games
The Wii and Wii U aren’t Nintendo’s only consoles with “emulators” in them. This option was achieved long ago with the Tristar 64 attachment.
The Tristar 64 was an unlicensed product created by Chinese company Future Laboratory. The product plugged into the Nintendo 64 and accepted cartridges for the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System) and SNES (Super Nintendo Entertainment System) and allowed the cartridges to play. It also came with a built-in cheat code system as well as a memory editor and game save feature.
Since the accessory was not readily available, it’s pretty rare. While a Nintendo 64 could cost you under $100, the Tristar 64 add-on can run as high as $399 for a used copy. Considering the Tristar 64 is a glorified emulator, it’d be cheaper to buy a Wii and use the emulator on it.
3 Play Game Boy Games
Like SNES and NES games with the Tristar 64, the Nintendo 64 also had an unlicensed Game Boy accessory. The GB Hunter was similar to the Super Game Boy, which was an add-on to the Super Nintendo that allowed Game Boy games to be played on the system.
The GB Hunter plugs an N64 boot cartridge into the back and a Game Boy Color game on top. The combination slot then connected to the N64 and booted up a Game Boy emulator. The emulator had a variety of unique features, including a built-in cheat system called “Golden Finger.” You also had the option to choose between three color schemes.
The GB Hunter had potential to be a successful accessory. However, the emulation didn’t emulate sound. Instead, there was an endless loop included with the add-on.
2 Play Games Without Cartridges (N64 Mini)
While this one isn’t confirmed, it had to make it on the list. Due to the success of the NES Classic (good luck finding one for $60), it’s likely that Nintendo will make more ‘classic’ variations on their consoles as rumors for a SNES classic are already in circulation.
The NES classic incorporates pre-loaded games on the console without the hassle of cartridges. Imagine playing Ocarina of Time, Mario Party, or Super Mario 64 without cartridges. The product would fly off shelves as fast, if not quicker than the NES Classic. If Nintendo throws in Majora’s Mask, sales are guaranteed.
Let’s hope that if this product comes to life, Nintendo will provide more units at launch than they did for the NES Classic. The NES Classic came and went off shelves and resellers are selling them as high as $999.
1 Control Television (Hotel Only)
Back in the early 90s, Nintendo partnered with LodgeNet Entertainment Corporation (Now SONIFI Solutions) to put Nintendo games in hotel rooms. The partnership still exists and has lasted since LodgeNet put Super Nintendos in hotels.
Nothing was more satisfying as a kid, or adult, who could afford the service. The LodgeNet controller had a long extension cord and plugged directly into a television. While the controller doesn’t work on a regular N64, in the hotel, one was able to change between TV channels and the system with the controller.
While this particular controller never worked for Nintendo 64 consoles, the concept of flipping between television and console is fantastic and, currently, Xbox One does this feature well.