The Nintendo 64 sits in a rather awkward spot in the chronology of game consoles.
Neither old enough to be considered a true throwback like its predecessor, the SNES, nor new enough to be considered modern, sadly, the landmark titles of this console have been omitted from the ROM catalogs of popular emulators.
Focusing more on the retro, typical emulators opened a time portal that circumnavigated the beloved N64, favoring Game Boy classics such as the various Zelda, Mario, and Pokémon titles, but RetroPie changes all that!
Using your Raspberry Pi tech, you will be able to play Nintendo 64 games — Hooray!
However, before you grab the soda and chips and transform your living room into a blanket fort game station like the old days, there are a few more details you should know about.
Limitations Of RetroPie When Emulating N64 Games
If, like me, you were alive and kicking when the N64 was released, you’ll understand what a landmark achievement it was in the world of console gaming.
Before PlayStation had conquered the world and long before the OG Xbox was a twinkle in Seamus Blackley’s eye, the Nintendo 64 transformed the 2D gaming landscape into a 3D dreamscape — No more platform games!..
Well, a few, but we were no longer limited to the 2D format.
Even though we’re not far from celebrating our pearl anniversary with this wonderful console, the technology was impressive, laying the groundwork for gaming as we now know it.
Thus, the complex, 3-dimensional games pose something of a challenge to emulators of all kinds.
N64 games do indeed work on RetroPie, but to get them working, the RP brainiacs had to reverse engineer a lot of the technology, which means perfect emulation, the kind you see with, say, Zelda II: A Link to the Past, isn’t always realistic.
What Does This Mean?
In a nutshell, this means that although RetroPie will run most of your favorite old-school titles, they may not run as they did on the original console.
The most common drawback is a slightly reduced frame rate, which may impact your choice of game.
For instance, everyone’s favorite 1st person shooter GoldenEye seems like a fantastic choice… until you get to the jungle level.
Even on a fully functional N64, that jungle environment was total entropy, a blurred vortex of green pixels.
Even though it was a relatively guided game as far as maps are concerned, you could still get lost for hours in that hellish Eden.
That said, if you’re using a more advanced version of the Pi format, i.e. PI 3+ or 4, as well as the latest RetroPie iteration, you’ll get a much more immersive gaming experience.
Does RetroPie Support N64 Games On Raspberry Pi2?
Even Raspberry Pi 2 has enough juice to run select N64 games at playable spec. In fact, titles such as Mario Kart, Doom 64, and F-Zero run at full speed.
It’s just the heavier games – your Perfect Darks & 007 Goldeneyes – that really cause problems, but they’re still relatively playable.
Are they worth giving a go? I’d say so, yes, but I can understand why many wouldn’t. We don’t want to relive a diluted version of our gaming youth; we want the full-fat version!
Does RetroPie Support N64 Games On Raspberry Pi3+?
As you might expect, Raspberry Pi3+ runs N64 games remarkably well compared to the Pi2, but again, due to the nature of the N64 and its groundbreaking titles, perfection is a rather distant target. The same can be said about Playstation on the Raspberry Pi 3.
Does RetroPie Support N64 Games On Raspberry Pi4?
The Pi4 improved upon the emulator technology once again, making it the best candidate to bear the heavy burden of some of the most demanding N64 games.
Do My Computer Specs Impact RetroPie Performance?
The technical specifications of your computer only impact RetroPie performance up to a certain level. Most modern computers will have the minimum requirements to run the technology at 100%.
Although, if you’re trying to play some particularly demanding games, by overclocking the Pi, you vastly increase the chances of stable gameplay across the board, but remember not to push things too hard.
The last thing you want is to fry your tech!
What Are The Best N64 Games To Play Using RetroPie?
Before we go our separate ways, let’s run through a brief list of the games known to work best on RetroPie, but bear in mind that I’m using Pi4 as a performance standard baseline.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time — This is hands down my favorite game of all time, and it’s highly playable using Pi4 with RetroPie; however, prepare for a muted color palette, and be sure to pick a suitable resolution.
- Super Mario 64 — As the initial flagship game that showed off the new camera control technology of the N64, Super Mario 64 was a game changer, and you can relive the magic using RetroPie.
I’d suggest using a compatible controller with dual sticks for the best experience (see also ‘How to Configure Controller RetroPie‘).
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater — The game that launched a thousand decks, THPS is highly playable on RetroPie.
- Mario Kart 64 — I wasted my youth flying around the courses of Mario Kart 64, and thanks to RetroPie, I can waste my adulthood too!
- 007 GoldenEye — If you’re looking for perfection, you won’t find it with GoldenEye, but Pi4 does make it look pretty darn good. Be warned though; many players have trouble getting the controller configuration right, but these INNEXT controllers seem to work just fine.
- Banjo-Kazooie — Another legendary game. This one introduced the world to the two-character format, and it works a treat on RetroPie!
- Donkey Kong 64 — Considering the particularly busy environment in this game, Donkey Kong 64 looks fantastic on RetroPie.
- F-Zero X — Another fantastic racing game that runs near perfect on RetroPie.
There you have it, folks — RetroPie can indeed play N64 games, but it’s an evolving technology, one that’s yet to reach perfection.
For the best results, I’d recommend maxing out your system — Grab yourself the latest Pi iteration and pair it with the latest RetroPie update, and you’ll be in for one hell of a time!
The quick video below will give you some extra insights into how to best set up and play your favourite N64 games on your Pi!