The year was 1996. North American Nintendo fans, after months of watching their Japanese counterparts play the company’s newly-released console, grew giddy with anticipation as the stateside release drew close.
They knew what to expect and the promise of Mario and Link rendered in three dimensions helped launch the Nintendo 64 to critical acclaim and commercial success. At the time, however, the gaming community wasn’t sure what to make of the new console’s most unique feature.
I’m talking, of course, about Nintendo 64’s optimization for four-player gameplay. What many thought was a gimmick that would inconvenience those with small televisions, quickly grew into one of the system’s most beloved features. Nintendo capitalized on this by introducing games unencumbered by the traditional half-screen gameplay of competitors like Playstation and Sega Saturn.
By the next generation of consoles, the four-player multiplayer was no longer a gimmick. Game developers had an entire console generation to prepare and when Nintendo released the Gamecube in 2001, they bombarded the system with games that elevated the multiplayer genre.
While multiplayer is no longer considered particularly groundbreaking in a post-Fortnite world, the ever-expanding genre of battle royale games owes a debt to the multiplayer games that came before them.