Last update :- February 19th, 2012

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Nintendo 64 (N64)

Nintendo released their N64 64-bit games console in 1996 to jump ahead (technology wise) of the 32-bit Sega Saturn and very successful Sony PlayStation. What was strange was Nintendo's decision at the time to go with a cartridge for their games rather than the CD of both the older Saturn and Playstation. This meant faster loading games - and this made life easier for the emulator programmers and users with ROMs being easier to emulate and most games being smaller than 100MB.

The console had the following specifications:

For more detailed information on the console see the Nintendo 64 article on Wikipedia.

Nintendo N64 Console

Nintendo N64 Console

Of 387 games available for the console, the Top 10 (according to GameFAQs from GameSpot) are:

  1. Zelda: Ocarina of Time
  2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
  3. Super Mario 64 (main promotional character for Nintendo and spawned a number of games)
  4. Paper Mario
  5. Goldeneye 007
  6. Super Smash Brothers
  7. Ogre Battle 64
  8. Banjo-Kazooie
  9. Donkey Kong 64
  10. WWF No Mercy

Those in bold above are amongst my own favourites and to them I can add:

Emulator

There are quite a few emulators out there now and for a long time the legendary UltraHLE stood head and shoulders above the rest due to it's compatibility and speed. That all changed though when Project64 established itself firmly at the top of the pile. If you look at Emulator Zone's list of emulators for the console, in excess of 40,000 voters give it an average rating of 8.9/10 - with the nearest at 8.1 from 2400+ votes!

You'll need a PC with a reasonable specification to play games using Project64, ideally with a dedicated graphics card, this shouldn't be a problem with most modern PCs. The following is the recommended system configuration:

Project64 game list Project64 plug-ins Diddy Kong Racing
Project64 game list Project64 plug-ins Diddy Kong Racing

Compatibility

Project64 has a very high game compatibility and a number of plug-ins are available to help the emulator. In addition to the emulator (obviously!), it's also recommended you download the latest RDB (Rom Database) and GameFAQ file from the Project64 homepage - which includes a game compatibility list for the default plug-ins. The best place to get plug-ins is emulation64 and make sure you read any associated "read me" file to make the most of them. The default plug-ins, those I use and my default choices (in bold) are shown below:

The N64 has a low native display resolution compared to a typical PC - with games normally designed to use in the range 320x240 - 640x480. This means that choosing high resolutions can create a noticeable distinction between 3D parts and 2D (pre-rendered bitmap) parts of a scene, in games that mix the two (e.g. Zelda). Arguably the best appearance is achieved by using a "low" resolution such as 640x480 and a high level of FSAA (full-screen anti-aliasing - to reduce the appearance of jagged edges).

Although a video plug-in allows you to set any resolution, you should really only use ones that are exact multiples of native N64 resolution (which you can assume is 320x240), such as 640x480 and 1280x960. Using other resolutions, particularly ones with non 4:3 aspect ratios (4:3 is the aspect ratio of a conventional TV set), can lead to image distortion that is very noticeable in some games. The decision is left up to you however and I prefer 1280x960 with my nVidia GeForce GTX 550 Ti graphics card.

I complied a spreadsheet with the settings and plug-ins that I found worked for some games and turned it into a PDF - you're welcome to download it here (you'll need a suitable PDF reader such as Adobe's).

Tutorial

I could now go ahead an give you a tutorial on how to use Project64 to play a game but there's no need when an excellent online interactive one has already been written by Emutastic. Whilst there, check out the other tabs for more information, pictures, downloads and links.

Controller

If you want to make the most of your Nintendo 64 gaming experience, ideally you want a controller similar to the originals - see the photos below (courtesy of Wikipedia). You can probably still get hold of an original controller from eBay but you would also need some kind of adapter to use it via a USB port (which you may also find there - look for Adaptoid). In addition to the 6+1 buttons shown, there are 2 additional shoulder buttons (L & R triggers). One unusual feature is the "Z" button on the underside - it's just about visible in the middle of the second photo, at the base of the middle grip.

N64 controller N64 controller - underside
N64 controller N64 controller - underside

If you were familiar with the original, ideally you want a controller with the same 6-button layout on the right-hand side. The problem is, a lot of modern game controllers follow the pattern of either the Sony Playstation series or the Xbox - with 4 buttons in place 6 and additional "shoulder buttons". You can find suitable ones though and if you can find one that has 10 buttons it's ideal as it matches the button count of the N64. Personally, I use the Saitek P2600 Rumble but you could try either of the following:

Saitek P2600 Dual Analog Saitek P990 Dual Analog
Saitek P2600 Dual Analog Saitek P990 Dual Analog

Links

ROMs

If you want to play an N64 game in an emulator you need an image of the game in question - also known as a ROM. If you still own the original cartridge you're legally entitled to own a copy of the ROM image for backup purposes. When it comes to games that you don't already own we enter a huge "grey area" as they are technically copyrighted but are not making anyone money and in many cases the developer no longer exists. For a better description of this complicated area I recommend you read more at ClassicGaming.

Possible sources of ROM images (whether you legally own the game or not) to use with your emulator are:

Be warned that sometimes when you visit ROM sites you will be flooded with pop-ups, have to click on top 10 lists, or be presented with adult content related material - it goes with the territory unfortunately. Don't ask me for any games as I won't reply!

Games

For a complete list of all 387 Nintendo 64 games with their alternative titles, developers and release dates see the Wikipedia List of Nintendo 64 Games.

Screenshots from some of my favourites are shown below. Click on the thumbnails to see a larger version and the name for an external review.

1080 Snowboarding AeroFighters Assault Aero Gauge Army Men - Air Combat Banjo Kazooie Battletanx - Global Assault
1080 Snowboarding AeroFighters Assault Aero Gauge Army Men - Air Combat Banjo Kazooie Battletanx -
Global Assault
Chopper Attack Destruction Derby 64 Diddy Kong Racing Donkey Kong 64 Doom 64 Duke Nukem 64
Chopper Attack Destruction Derby 64 Diddy Kong Racing Donkey Kong 64 Doom 64 Duke Nukem 64
Earthworm Jim 3D Extreme-G 2 F1 Pole Position 64 FIFA '99 Forsaken 64 Goldeneye 007
Earthworm Jim 3D Extreme-G 2 F1 Pole Position 64 FIFA '99 Forsaken 64 Goldeneye 007
Indy Racing 2000 LEGO Racers Mario Golf Mario Kart 64 Mario Party Micro Machines 64 Turbo
Indy Racing 2000 LEGO Racers Mario Golf Mario Kart 64 Mario Party Micro Machines 64 Turbo
Monaco Grand Prix Monopoly 64 Mortal Kombat 4 Nascar 99 Nuclear Strike 64 Quake 64
Monaco Grand Prix Monopoly 64 Mortal Kombat 4 Nascar 99 Nuclear Strike 64 Quake 64
Rainbow Six Ridge Racer 64 Road Rash 64 San Francisco Rush 2049 Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Rainbow Six Ridge Racer 64 Road Rash 64 San Francisco Rush 2049 Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth Star Wars: Shadows
of the Empire
Super Mario 64 Tarzan Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Top Gear Rally 2 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Virtual Chess 64
Super Mario 64 Tarzan Tony Hawk's Pro Skater Top Gear Rally 2 Turok: Dinosaur Hunter Virtual Chess 64
War Gods Wave Race 64 Wipeout 64 007: The World Is Not Enough Wrestlemania 2000 Zelda: Oricana of Time
War Gods Wave Race 64 Wipeout 64 007: The World Is
Not Enough
Wrestlemania 2000 Zelda: Oricana of Time

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