Widescreen gaming is something we don’t even think about in today’s era of gaming. In 2005 the Xbox 360 released, and with it, the standardizing of games shipping in widescreen for consoles began. Prior to 2005 however, widescreen gaming was usually reserved for PC gamers outside of select titles on the Dreamcast, PS2, GameCube and Xbox where many of us first got to experience the majesty of wider view angles, if we had a compatible display, that is. There were a few console titles prior to Gen 6 however that teased this new future of wider gaming and today we are going to focus on the earliest titles available on a Nintendo platform with N64 games with widescreen modes! Today I will only be covering games with native anamorphic capabilities. Letterbox titles will be covered in a separate video.
The year is 1997 and Rare has just released GoldenEye 007 to critical acclaim. Topping bestseller lists for months, GoldenEye proved that not only could a shooter be done on consoles, it could also be done in a fashion to rival most PC games at the time. GoldenEye also holds the distinction of being the first title released on a Nintendo platform to include a widescreen viewing mode! A quick visit to the pause screen and a few menus over, you can see down at the bottom a “screen” and “ratio” option. Utilizing the 16:9 ratio we get a wonderful anamorphic widescreen presentation of the beloved N64 shooter! Unfortunately, 2D elements such as the start menu and HUD will be stretched in this method, but it works for both single player and multiplayer! There are ways to get wider view angles utilizing the screen modes but those will be covered next time, as they require letterboxing!
The next game on our widescreen list is Mission Impossible, developed by Infogrames and published by Ocean. This spy game is loosely based on the Mission Impossible movie with iconic setpieces being used, like the CIA vault! While the game has been largely forgotten by most, I still enjoy its unique gameplay and missions. It isn’t a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, but doing a replay in anamorphic 16:9 has made the trip down memory lane that much more enjoyable! To access the feature, pause the game during a mission and scroll down to options. From here scroll down to “screen ratio” and change it to 16:9! Again, HUD elements will be stretched while using this mode.
Of all the games on today’s list, this is the one I have spent the least amount of time with. Starshot: Space Circus Fever is an odd platformer by Infogrames released in 1999 that tasks players with various goals across different planets to help their space circus. The game itself is pretty forgettable, but it does offer a 16:9 aspect ratio! To access it, just pause the game at any point and click on options. From there select “video settings” and change the 4:3 ratio to 16:9! All HUD elements do get stretched out from the 16:9 aspect ratio so keep that in mind.
The end of 1999 saw another widescreen game released for the N64, with Donkey Kong 64 from Rare. Unlike GoldenEye, which had a myriad of video options, Donkey Kong 64 only features anamorphic widescreen. The feature is only accessible through the main menu before starting a game, so rotate over to options and turn that sucker on! Like every game featured so far, HUD elements are going to be stretched as a result of the widescreen mode. Widescreen also looks like it works during multiplayer modes to my eye.
Rare is also responsible for the next game on our widescreen list, with the year 2000 release of Perfect Dark. Perfect Dark is the spiritual successor of 1997’s Goldeneye 007 and improved upon it in numerous ways including enhanced animations, better textures, voice work, co-op campaign and multiplayer bots. Thankfully, Perfect Dark does keep every video mode that was included with GoldenEye all those years earlier. After selecting your save you can access “video modes” either on the main menu or during missions in the pause screen. Scroll to the right to options and change the ratio to 16:9! I’d personally recommend keeping that hi-res mode turned off to help with performance though. Campaign and multiplayer both seem to benefit from widescreen but again HUD stretching does come into play. Like GoldenEye there are options to get wider viewing angles but we will save those for the next video.
The next game on our list is EA’s first foray into first person 007 gameplay in 2000’s The World is not Enough. Developed by Eurocom, who would go on to make the stellar 007: Nightfire, Twine was meant to leverage every strength in the N64 hardware to provide a fast-paced shooter experience and for the most part, they pulled it off. Twine featured a good number of missions and a complete 4 player multiplayer mode and best yet, a 16:9 aspect ratio! Pausing the game during play and opening the options menu will reveal the “graphics” tab where you can turn on widescreen. There is also a hi-color mode which I think makes the game really pop! Like always, HUD stretching will be a thing when utilizing widescreen mode. Multiplayer mode also doesn’t benefit from the wider aspect ratio with both screens being stretched on a 16:9 display.
Unsurprisingly, the last game on today’s list is brought to us by Rare in the year 2000 release of Banjo-Tooie. This direct sequel to the 1998 original Banjo-Kazooie saw our bear and bird heroes once again facing off against Gruntilda. This time around not only is the game bigger and more detailed, it also has support for widescreen! To turn it on go to the “settings” tab on the main menu and tick widescreen mode on! The whole game will now be displayed in 16:9 and every mode seems to benefit from it in my eye, with both campaign and multiplayer being supported. Of course, as I hope you have all come to notice, HUD elements will be stretched out when utilizing the wider aspect ratio. Doing a replay in widescreen on the N64 should prove to be a treat for all die-hard Banjo fans!
That brings us to the end of today’s list of N64 games that can be played in widescreen utilizing anamorphic 16:9 options! This isn’t the end of the story when it comes to N64 games in widescreen though, as numerous other titles in the N64 library also provide a widescreen mode utilizing letterboxing. What do you think? Did you know that the N64 had games with widescreen support? Were there any games in today’s list that caught you by surprise that you might want to go try now? Let me know in the comment section below!