[Note: this was also posted in a reddit thread about the Nintendo 64, but I think it’s worth reposting here.]
I went to Toys R Us just before the US release of the N64 and played Mario 64. Was in my mid-20s at the time and was convinced Nintendo had just destroyed themselves because the game was so screwy with controls and camera and thus brought down the gameplay.
Imagine my surprise when it became one of the greatest games of all times thanks to Nintendo basically viral marketing the living crap out of it, paying off reviewers, and fooling the emerging new-gamer market at the game that it doesn’t matter how bad controls are as long as the game is pretty.
Reminder that Mario 64 was originally going to be something like New Super Mario Bros, using 3d as a way to render a traditional Mario 2d style gameplay (you can see elements of what this was supposed to be like in much of the Bowser boss levels, and the gameplay would have been shown from the side), but the whole Sony Playstation “3d Is King” marketing attitude towards those emerging gamers convinced them to change the game and delay it and the N64’s release to accommodate the change to 3d. It shocks me that this fact that was so often reported back before its release is basically completely absent after its release through today, possibly because Nintendo didn’t want people to think they basically changed horses mid-stream.
I’ve played SM64 many times off and on over the years to see if my view on it has changed. I even slagged through the game to get the minimum number of stars to win the game, and did beat it. It was probably one of the worst experiences I’ve ever had in a game and absolutely never wanted to touch it ever again afterwards.
So not everyone is on board the Nintendo 64/SM64 love train. I honestly think the N64 was one of the major things contributing to the downfall of classic game mechanics and the rise of shallow, style-over-substance games that have basically destroyed the industry (along with many other games of the era, notably Metal Gear Solid). Not everything for it was horrible (I think it still has the absolute best Mario Kart game), but so many things were just terrible, and its laughable mutation of a controller certainly didn’t help it.
It’s not a popular opinion, but as someone that has played games since the industry’s infancy and someone that still would rather play NES games than anything released in recent times, I think it’s pretty justified.