The glory days of the N64 may now seem like a distant memory, but there are still some companies out there supporting it – at least in terms of hardware and accessories.
You only have to take a look on eBay or Amazon to find a wealth of products for the N64: controllers, new joystick modules, and memory expansion packs. The majority of these items are often not particularly good quality, but there are a few that are definitely worth your money.
That’s why we’re taking a closer look this week at the EverDrive 64. It’s a device we feel all N64 players should own.
What is the EverDrive 64?
The EverDrive 64 is a flashcart: a bespoke N64 cartridge that has a built-in SD memory card slot. It was created by Igor “Krikzz” Golubovskiy in 2009.
What does it do?
Using the SD memory card slot, you can load N64 game files (ROMs) onto the EverDrive 64 and play them on an N64 console. This way, you no longer need the original N64 cartridge to play the game, and you can play multiple games through just the EverDrive 64. It currently comes into two versions: V2.5 and V3 (although you may find older versions on eBay).
In order to use the cartridge, you need to install the EverDrive 64 operating system (which enables you to select games and configure settings) on the SD card, as well as add ROMs.
How do I get hold of ROMs?
There are a number of websites on the internet where you can download N64 ROMs. Just type N64 ROMs into a search engine, and you’ll find them.
But aren’t ROMs illegal?
Yes, and so it is important that you are comfortable with downloading ROMs before investing in an EverDrive 64. It’s also why we haven’t directly linked to any sites hosting them. However, the chances of you getting into trouble for downloading N64 games are slim. It’s important to note that the EverDrive 64 cartridge itself is not illegal.
Why not just buy the original cartridges?
There are a number of reasons why the EverDrive 64 has become increasingly popular:
Some original cartridges are hard/expensive to get hold of
Many N64 games are now becoming difficult to get hold of, because they either sold poorly or were only released in limited quantities during the N64’s lifespan. This has resulted in many games now fetching high prices on auction and classified-advertisement websites such as eBay and Craigslist.
The N64 was popular with children in the late ‘90s, but its games were quite pricey compared to other systems at the time. These children are now in their 20s and 30s, and in many cases have a lot more disposable income than they did as a child. Nostalgia for these old games has resulted in them becoming desirable to many of these people again. Demand for certain games (rare and popular titles) has resulted in some game prices climbing considerably over the past 10 years.
Now the EverDrive 64 isn’t cheap. Prices will vary between sellers, and you should expect to pay more for the V3. At the time of writing, the official EverDrive store has the V2.5 on sale for $107 USD, whereas the V3 is $175 USD. That’s a lot of money for a single purchase, but it’s worth remembering that this device will allow you to play every single N64 game and more.
Original cartridges may no longer work
Compared to CDs and DVDs, N64 cartridges are incredibly durable, and they can last a long time without too much care required. Nevertheless, many original N64 game cartridges are nearly 20 years old. Depending on how they have been used and/or stored during this time, some of these cartridges no longer work correctly.
Some original N64 games have a built-in CR2032 battery that powers the cartridge’s game save function; these batteries do not last forever, and they are not straightforward to replace unless you are familiar with basic soldering. The majority of companies that published these games either no longer provide technical support or have since ceased operating.
It’s a great alternative to playing your original N64 cartridges
If you’re a collector then there’s a good chance you’re keen to protect your cartridges. Using your cartridges naturally results in wear and tear over time, not to mention that repeatedly opening the fragile boxes that your N64 games came in is not ideal.
With an EverDrive 64 you can play the system while keeping your collection on display or in safe storage. For some reason, many people think you have to choose between an EverDrive 64 and a physical collection; why not just have both?
The quality of N64 emulation on PC is still pretty poor
The N64 was a complex system, and not all of its games can currently be emulated accurately on a PC. Because the EverDrive 64 enables you to play these games on an original N64, they run just as they did back in the day.
What else can the EverDrive 64 do?
The EverDrive 64 isn’t region-locked, meaning that you can play Japanese (NTSC-J), North American (NTSC) and European/Australian (PAL) ROMs through it on any system. Over 80 N64 games were only ever released in Japan, so there’s a good chance there are a lot of titles you’ve never played.
You can also use the EverDrive 64 to:
- boot up prototypes of unreleased games (although it’s worth noting that how well these work varies from game to game)
- play 64DD games without needing the actual 64DD unit
- play modded N64 games, such as games with changed control configurations, new content, or English-language patches (for Japanese titles).
- remove the N64’s notorious anti-aliasing blur through patches
- play homebrew games
- play NES games through an emulator
- use GameShark cheat codes.
What’s the difference between V2.5 and V3?
The V3 is the latest version of the EverDrive 64 and has a few additional features. With the V2.5, you have to reset your N64 system in order to save your game data; you don’t need to do this with the V3.
Otherwise, the V3 has a built-in real-time clock, which you’ll need if you want to play Dōbutsu no Mori (Animal Forest), and a USB port, although the latter is only useful for developing games for the N64.
Does it store memory card saves?
Yes, but not in the way you may think.
The EverDrive 64 does not and cannot (currently, at least) act as a memory card; you will still need to have a memory card inserted into the controller for games that require it. However, you can back-up the data of your memory card to the EverDrive 64 (and transfer it back to the same or a different memory card), which is useful if your memory card ever becomes corrupted.
Should I buy one?
We feel that the EverDrive 64 is a way to help futureproof your N64. So long as N64 emulation remains inconsistent in terms of quality and original games continue to attract absurdly high prices, an EverDrive 64 is a great way for you to enjoy N64 games the way they were meant to be, and for a reasonable price too.
And what about you?
Do you have an EverDrive 64? If so, what do you think of it? Let us know on Twitter!