A few years ago, Nintendo fans would be forgiven for thinking mini consoles were here to stay, with both the NES Mini and SNES Mini releasing to critical and commercial acclaim. Naturally the expectation was for more consoles to come, but since the SNES Mini’s release in 2017 we’ve only seen limited edition Mario and Zelda Game & Watch systems.
So… where’s the Nintendo 64 Mini? Well, let’s break it down.
For starters there’s the most obvious issue — the N64 was a more powerful system than its predecessors, thrusting Nintendo into the third dimension. Not only that, but even modern hardware can have a difficult time emulating its idiosyncrasies. With all of that said, it’s not impossible, and it’s certainly more affordable to create a cost-effective system capable of running the hardware than it was half a decade ago.
Another major issue is a simple shift in shopping habits. Plenty of other companies have tried to mimic the success of Nintendo’s Mini consoles, but few have hit the same lofty heights. Sega even ended up making its second Mini Genesis a retailer exclusive.
Not to mention Nintendo has an incentive to keep players subscribed to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack — if a N64 Mini had all of the company’s first party games the standalone system would effectively make the online library obsolete. By comparison, the NES and SNES Mini both existed before the subscription service began. Even flashing back to 2018 there is a quote from former Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aimé where he stated that “the way that consumers will be able to continue participating with [Nintendo’s] classic content is going to be through Nintendo Switch Online.”
Is there still hope? Of course. Those aforementioned Game & Watch Mario and Zelda consoles had similar issues facing them but still saw release as niche collectibles with relatively low specs. It’s also noteworthy that current Nintendo president, Shuntaro Furukawa, didn’t outright deny the chances of more Mini consoles happening in the future, stating that the company would “like to continue to consider methods for communicating the appeal of Nintendo products to the parent generation, including series such as the NES and SNES versions of Nintendo Classic Mini as well as classic content in our online services.” With the parent generation now firmly including those who grew up with the Nintendo 64 and even the GameCube, things seem a bit brighter.
Another positive in the N64 Mini’s favor is the fact the games don’t take up too much space, thanks to the original hardware using cartridges. Even the largest N64 game can’t pass 64MB, and very few hit that number. Needless to say it wouldn’t cost Nintendo much to include all of their heavy hitters and have room to spare.
One final thing worth considering is the possibility of cancelled games hitting a Nintendo 64 Mini as a major marketing tactic, just as the SNES Mini saw the release of the feature-complete Star Fox 2 after it was cancelled back in the day. Perhaps the most exciting prospect is Rare’s Dinosaur Planet, the game which was fairly far into development before it shifted gears and became the GameCube’s Star Fox Adventures. Of course, we can only imagine what projects Nintendo sat on, not to mention all of the 64DD games which didn’t see localization.
So, will Nintendo ever make a 64 Mini? A few years ago it seemed incredibly unlikely, but the tides may have shifted and we could be gripping a three-pronged controller before long.
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