Few gaming consoles can live up to the might of the Nintendo 64, which is why the N64 Mini has people on tenterhooks.
One mention of this compact console and people start shivering with excitement and running around like those wizards in the first Harry Potter book after Mouldy Voldy disappears.
Retro gaming fans can now get their hands on a much-more portable version of their favourite consoles to play games they once owned in their youth, and younger gamers who will only touch a console if it comes with an HDMI cable can experience the iconic titles that started it all.
It’s a win-win situation, and with the success of the NES and SNES Mini consoles, the N64 Mini can’t be far away.
While we love all gaming platforms, it’s no secret that we have a bit of a soft spot for Nintendo. I spent most of my childhood (and my adult life come to think of it) working my way through the best N64 games and the best GameCube games on the planet, and we have so many Nintendo Switch Lite accessories in the Retro Dodo offices that we could start our own shop!
So when it comes to making a wish list for the N64 Mini and hashing out the rumours that have been floating around the internet, we’re pretty qualified to give you a full rundown of what you can expect from Nintendo’s next classic console.
So, as my second-favourite Italian plumber usually says; ‘Lets-a Go!’ (My favourite just shivers and screams a lot which doesn’t make for a good transition into an article).
What Can We Expect From The N64 Mini?
Ok, before we go any further, we need to address the elephant in the room. No, I’m not talking about Taj the Genie from Diddy Kong Racing; I’m talking about the issue with Emulation when it comes to N64 games.
The Nintendo 64 is a tricky console to replicate, which is why we think Nintendo hasn’t made a move on starting production on one yet.
Take a look at replica consoles like the Hyperkin Ultra Retron for example and you’ll see why. Framebuffer emulation settings often make retro gaming fans wake up in a cold sweat, and that’s the main problem that we tend to find with N64 emulators such as Mupen 64.
Twinned with the fact that mapping controller buttons always tends to be a massive farce, you start to see why Nintendo might be holding off.
The risk of ruining a classic console with a modern remake could well be too great, but surely if anyone can pull this off, then it has to be the original creators?
Every ROM playing handheld or online emulator that we have tried has yet to score 100% when it comes to replicating our favourite N64 games, and Nintendo won’t accept anything less than perfection when it comes to releasing the N64 Mini.
I wouldn’t be surprised if they were waiting for an independent company to crack the problem first before swooping in and taking them on board – they’re too busy working on the next Zelda BOTW sequel at any rate!
But if the N64 Mini were to land on our doorstep with compliments inside a Yoshi egg tomorrow morning, then what would we hope that Shigeru and the gang had included in the new all-in-one package?
The biggest thing for me would be a better screen resolution. I’m not talking making these games full 4K HD, because that would ruin that 64-bit charm, but it’s nigh on impossible to play these games on a widescreen TV without feeling like your eyes are being corroded from the inside.
Upscalers like the Super 64 do a good job of pulling the graphics up to 480p, but they cost twice as much as the average second-hand N64 and around the same amount as a SNES Mini. Nintendo needs to find a way of building an upscaling device into the N64 Mini itself or has to remake the 25-30 classic games that it includes on the console from scratch.
That sounds like a lot of work, but with the success (and heaps of cash) that it’s first two Mini consoles produced, it might well be worth it.
We’d also like to see a built-in Expansion Pak too. If you knew how exciting it was to open up Donkey Kong 64 and see the Expansion Pak staring back at you, then you know how hard it is for me to write this, but people just want everything at the same time now.
They don’t want to buy a classic console and then to upgrade it in a years time with a new bit of kit; they want it to work out of the box and to be the best it can be from the off.
They’ll be missing out on suddenly seeing twice as many Stalchilds on Hyrule Field, but maybe that’s me just being nostalgic about the ‘good-old-days’.
An Updated Controller?
Nintendo has always gone hard when it comes to designing controllers; just take a look at the Wiimote and the Joycon controllers if you don’t believe me.
The N64 remote was one of the oddest looking controllers around, but it’s also one of my all-time-favourites. There were just so many buttons compared to what had come before, which meant that you had to be alert when moving through dungeons to remember what each one of them did!
Still, many people found the button layout and the ‘DK’s Banana Bunch’ design a little hard to handle (literally), so perhaps a new controller could be an option to lure in new gamers?
Take a look at the Hyperkin Wireless N64 Remote, for example, a WaveBird like remote called the ‘Admiral’ for a console that we never dreamed would have Bluetooth capabilities or wireless play. It has a nice new design with all of the buttons placed much closer together like the Nintendo Switch Pro controller and the shape is more akin to the controller styles of modern consoles.
The only problem is the receiver unit on this product is huge as it has to be able to accommodate your old memory cards, and the Admiral itself doesn’t have any rumble functionality whatsoever.
Here we have another problem; the saying, ‘if it ‘ain’t broke, then don’t fix it’ comes to mind here. To please the gaming purists, Nintendo will have to come up with a controller that looks exactly the same but has built-in rumble technology, eradicating the need for a backport at all and moving memory saving functions directly into the console itself.
While the memory card was only really used for games made by third-party-developers, I would hope to see some of those titles like Goeman Mystical Ninja on the N64 Mini. They might also have to consider their own wireless remote if they want to compete with third-party-hardware manufacturers.
Choosing The Games
One of the things that I loved about the N64 was the sheer amount of games that you could play on it, and whitling those titles down to just 20 or 30 of the best is very tough indeed.
I found it hard enough when I was working on my best N64 games article, so rather than going through the agony of choosing them all again, you can check out my list and see which ones I would like to see on Nintendo’s next Mini console.
But which ones are the obvious choices that Nintendo needs to include on the N64 Mini? Well, you can’t package a classic Nintendo remake without throwing in Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64, and Ocarina Of Time now, can you?
Then there are the epic multiplayer titles like Super Smash Bros., Goldeneye, 1080 Snowboarding; the list goes on and on. Developers have long moved on from making games on the N64, but we might see a few new levels on our favourite games.
Oh, and they can finally sort out that mess with Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie syncing together, (if Microsoft will allow them it, of course).
Don’t panic, I’m not suggesting that Nintendo changes the classic shape and design of the N64 when they make the N64 Mini.
Can you remember when you went round to your mates house and they suddenly produced a Pikachu Yellow N64 or a Crystal Blue console where you could see all of the wires and chips inside? I remember playing on an orange console at one point too, though the original grey was always my favourite because it was mine and grey is cool, alright!
It would be nice to see these colour options on any future N64 Mini releases. There doesn’t have to be hundreds of different choices, but a few different colours for the dedicated collectors amongst us would be nice. Gotta catch ’em all!
Nintendo has always been about couch co-op and playing games in the same room with your real-life friends and family. That’s one of the things that I have always loved about them; playing Superstar Soccer 98 or LylatWars with your mates and stuffing your face full of biscuits and fizzy drinks were what weekends were made for, but that’s not the case these days.
Whack on a pair of earphones and a mic and you can suddenly play your favourite multiplayer titles with people all over the world. Would this be something that we might see on the N64 Mini?
Think about it; if Nintendo added WiFi connectivity to the N64 Mini, then you could hook up and play a couple of rounds of Mario Kart online just like you can on the Switch.
This could either complement or conflict with the Nintendo Online Subscription that the company are currently pushing, but it’s definitely something that I know some gamers would like to see in the new Mini console.
Will it go against the ethos of the console? Possibly, but if it opens classic games up to more players, then surely that’s a good thing?
As of 25th October, Nintendo has launched a handful of Nintendo 64 games on the Nintendo Switch. This makes us think that the N64 Mini won’t be launched for a while, as Nintendo would rather lure you into a monthly subscription rather than a one off payment for a physical product.
While it’s exciting to think about the possibility of unboxing an N64 Mini and running up Spiral Mountain in semi-clear HD, the chances of us seeing this console any time soon still remain very slim.
So slim, in fact, that Nintendo has actually said that they don’t have any plans to put one into production.
That could just be a ruse to put us off the scent, especially since they have put so much time and money into stopping the distribution of ROM replications of their classic games online since their Nintendo Switch paid membership came out.
If you’re still holding out for an N64 Mini, then here’s hoping that we get out hands on one soon. Realistically, I think it more likely that we might start to see classic N64 titles heading to the Switch so that we can play them on a smaller screen in a higher quality.
That could give us the best of both worlds without compromising on game graphics and the need to rework the entire controller setup. For now, I would suggest dusting off your old N64 and finding a smaller television set, because the original is still by far the best.
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.