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Why Did The Nintendo 64 Use Cartridges?

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Have you ever been playing on the Nintendo 64 and wondered about the gaming cartridges? Maybe you want to know why Nintendo decided to use gaming cartridges on the Nintendo 64 instead of discs like many other consoles. Well, in this article we will go over everything you need to know about the Nintendo 64 and the gaming cartridges. 

So why did the Nintendo 64 use Cartridges?

Although some people think that Nintendo should have used discs, instead they decided to use cartridges for the Nintendo 64. They did this because it kept Nintendo separate from the rest of the competition. The cartridges were harder to copy and make fakes of, as well as it was something that made Nintendo stand out from its competitors. 

If you want to know more about the Nintendo 64 using cartridges, you will want to keep reading. You can also check out this video that will explain this simple question and why the answer is so complex. 

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Was using the cartridge a mistake?

Cartridges being used for the Nintendo 64 was not a mistake. They were used because cartridges were known as the fastest source of loading the games on the console. Also, the usage of cartridges at that time was considered as prevention from Piracy. Although they were wanting to move to discs by their 5th generation, they ended up staying with cartridges. 

How does Nintendo compare to other popular systems? 

  • System Specifications of Nintendo 64

To get started with the comparison, we need to break down the system specifications of each device one by one. From there you can compare them with each other in order to know which one is the best.

NameNintendo 64
Launch PriceUS$199.99 (equivalent to $326 in 2020)
Release DateJP: June 23, 1996, NA: September 29, 1996, EU: March 1, 1997, AU: March 1, 1997
Best Selling gameSuper Mario 64 (11.2 Million)
CPUNEC VR4300 (64 bit RISC) @ 93.75 MHz (125 MIPS)
GPUReality Co-Processor (64 bit MIPS R4000 based, 128 bit vector register processor) @ 62.5 MHz
Sound ChipReality Signal Processor
Memory4 MB RDRAM (8 MB with Expansion Pak)
VideoResolution: 320×240 to 720×288 for Progressive use.
AudioThe Nintendo 64 is capable of running MP3 tracks, MDI and tracker music
AccessoriesController Pak, Memory Expansion Pak, Rumble Pak, Fishing Reel, Transfer Pak, Nintendo 64DD (Japan only), Microphone TiltPak
Online ServicesOnline services are available for the US and Japan
  • System Specifications of Sony

It’s time to talk about another masterpiece. That masterpiece is the Sony PlayStation.  Here are the specifications of the Sony PlayStation. 

Launch PriceUS$299.99 (equivalent to $503 in 2020)
Release Date
JP: December 3, 1994, NA: September 9, 1995, EU: September 29, 1995, AU: November 15, 1995
Best Selling gameGran Turismo, 10.85 million
CPULSI LR333x0 and system control coprocessor
GPUSony GPU and Vector Math Unit
Sound ChipSony SPU (Sound Processing Unit)
Memory3587 KB RAM, 2MB DRAM, 1026 KB VRAM and 512 KB Sound RAM
VideoResolution: 256×224 to 640×240 for Progressive use.
AudioThe Sony is capable of running MP3 tracks, MDI and tracker music
AccessoriesPlayStation Multitap (up to 8 players), Fishing reel controllers (Bass Landing and Reel Fishing), Dual Analog Controller, DualShock, GunCon, Jogcon, Konami Justifier, NeGcon, PocketStation (Japan only), PlayStation Mouse, Analog Joystick, Dance pad, LCD screen, Memory card, Link Cable
Online ServicesNone
  • System Specifications of SEGA

When comparing Nintendo with Sony, you can’t ignore Sega. They are another great company that had many great games and some great consoles. Below are the specifications of the different Sega consoles. 

Launch PriceUS$399.99 (equivalent to $671 in 2020)
Release DateJP: November 22, 1994, NA: May 11, 1995, EU: July 8, 1995
MediaCD-ROM and Cartridges
Best Selling gameVirtua Fighter (1.7 Million) in Japan
CPU2× Hitachi SH-2 7604 (32 bit RISC) and SCU 32-Bit
GPUSega VDP1 (32 bit Video Display Processor)
Sound ChipYamaha YMF292 SCSP
Memory4.5 MB RAM, 2MB SDRAM, 1026 KB VRAM and 512 KB Sound RAM and 1 MB DRAM
VideoResolution: 320×224 to 720×240 for Progressive use.
AudioThe SEGA is capable of running MP3 tracks, MDI and tracker music
AccessoriesArcade Stick Saturn, digital gamepad, 3D controller, Light guns, Multitap (up to 12 players) Keyboard Sega NetLink (online modem and keyboard), Mouse 1.44 MB 3.5″, floppy disk drive, DirectLink (LAN), Memory card, MPEG cards, RAM expansion, cartridges
Online ServicesAvailable in North America and Japan
  • System Specifications of Atari

There is one more system that we cannot overlook when comparing popular gaming consoles. That is the Atari. Although it was released before the PlayStation and other consoles of today, it was still a great console when it was first released. It has great sales, and even had some very big hit games including Pong and Frogger! 

NameAtari Jaguar
Launch PriceUS$249.99 (equivalent to $442 in 2020)
Release DateNA: November 23, 1993, EU: June 27, 1994, JP: November 21, 1994
MediaCD-ROM and Cartridges
Best Selling gameAlien Vs Predator (More than 50k Copies)
CPU“Tom” (32 bit RISC) @ 26.59 MHz and “Jerry” (32 bit RISC) @ 26.59 MHz
GPUTom chip: GPU, Object Processor, Blitter and Jerry chip: DSP
Sound ChipJerry Chip
Memory2 MB FPM DRAM (4× 512 KB chips)
VideoResolution: 320×220 to 360×220240 for Progressive use.
AudioThe Atari is capable of running MP3 tracks, MDI and tracker music
AccessoriesJaguar TeamTap, Jaguar Pro Controller, Jaguar Memory Track, Cartridge, Jaguar JagLink Interface
Online ServicesAvailable in America and Japan

Now that you know the differences between all of the popular consoles, you can see how Nintnendo compares to the competition. This is how they were able to stay ahead of the competition, and even though at one point, Sega sold better than Nintendo, Nintendo was able to stick it out and take back the lead as the most popular console. 

Nintnedo has been through a lot of scrutiny about their systems as well as them using cartridges instead of discs for their consoles. Even though the cartridges were more expensive to make for Nintendo, they did not just go for the cheap products as there were issues with the discs. This is just one more way that Nintendo has been taking care of its customers since its first console was ever sold. 


Now that you know why the Nintendo 64 used the cartridges for games, you can clearly see that they were doing it to give the customer a better experience. Even though discs would have been cheaper, Nintendo did not want to sacrifice quality of the game to save a little bit of money. 

Nintendo has shown over and over again that they care about their customers more than making money. This has been proven many times throughout the years, and them using the cartridges instead of the cheaper discs, is just one more way that Nintendo was looking out for its customers.