Nintendo’s force-feedback peripheral not only gave gamers a new level of immersion, but shook up the entire industry.
First released in April 1997 in Japan, the Rumble Pak’s release coincided with the launch of Star Fox 64 (which also celebrates its 20th anniversary this month), the first game to support the accessory.
The Rumble Pak was one of the earliest examples of a force-feedback peripheral for a home console, and it’s credited with popularising the now-standard feature. Within a single generation, rumble functionality was incorporated into all major home consoles.
Whereas controllers today have rumble built into them, the Rumble Pak is in fact a separate, detachable accessory that you plug into the expansion port on the underside of the N64 controller. The Rumble Pak requires two AAA batteries to function.
Although Star Fox 64 was the first game to support the Rumble Pak, there were a number of N64 games that also used it. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask both use the Rumble Pak as a gameplay mechanic. Explained in-game as the Stone of Agony item, the Rumble Pak is used to find hidden areas, vibrating with increasing strength the closer you are to one.
A number of third-party rumble accessories were released after Nintendo’s official version. Some of these didn’t require batteries, had variable rumble feedback settings or included a built-in memory card – useful for games that supported both features.
The Rumble Pak arrived in North America in June 1997 alongside Star Fox 64, and in Europe and Australia in October the same year.