Still, there's plenty to talk about with the N64 beyond its struggles. It was the first Nintendo system to have a controller with an analog stick, a feature that was a necessity for the many new 3D games that were being made for the console. Chief among those was launch title Super Mario 64, a game that totally upended the Mario playbook. Gone were the relatively linear side-scrolling levels, replaced with open 3D worlds rife for exploration, a formula Nintendo has used on many successful Mario games since.
Nintendo used a similar formula for The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, but on a more massive scale. Taking the Zelda series into 3D was perhaps an even bigger deal than the move was for Mario games. Between the new perspective and the new gameplay options it opened up, Nintendo built such an epic quest for Link that some would say the company didn't top it until 2017's Breath of the Wild. Simply stated, Ocarina of Time was regarded as one of the best video games of all time when it arrived, and it has lost little of that acclaim over the years, even if the early 3D graphics look a bit primitive now.
And it's impossible to talk about the N64 without mentioning Goldeneye 007, a game that brought multiplayer FPS shooters to the living room. If you're of the right age, you certainly have vivid memories of blowing multiple hours with friends trying to rack up the most kills. At this point, the influence of the game is almost certainly greater than the movie it's based on. It's the kind of game that paved the way for franchises like Halo, perhaps the biggest console-based FPS series out there. If you didn't play it when it was first released, you might not get what a big deal it was in 1997, but with the possible exception of the Mario Kart series, it might be the most important multiplayer game to ever hit a Nintendo console.
Those are just a few of many iconic games for the N64, but it wasn't quite as iconic as the two consoles that preceded it. It was overshadowed by the PlayStation, and marked the beginning of a period in Nintendo's history where it was more of a niche player in the console market, in the shadow of Sony and, later, Microsoft. Of course, Nintendo rebounded in a big way with the Wii in 2006, but it did so in a way that carved out an identity totally different from Sony and Microsoft. A decade earlier, Nintendo was still the leader, but with the N64 it was just beginning a move toward a more offbeat future.