Shigeru Miyamoto N64 Wii U
Shigeru Miyamoto with the N64 and Wii U consoles.Getty Images

Unlike most relics of the 1990s – Furbies, double denim, Freddy Prinze Jr - the Nintendo 64 is still fondly remembered. Even as it hits the 20th anniversary of its initial Japanese launch, the device is well-remembered for a number of reasons – despite being a relative failure for its creators.

Nintendo 64 failed to match the sales of its predecessors, the Super Nintendo and Nintendo Entertainment System, and was utterly trounced by Sony's debuting PlayStation – which sold over 100 million units compared to the N64's 33 million. Sony didn't just win, they mopped the floor with Nintendo – slaying the giant and changing the gaming landscape for good.

Those of us who grew up in the 90s don't remember the N64 for how well it did or didn't sell though – we remember it for the games. This is where it's possible to draw a comparison with Nintendo's ailing Wii U, and ask whether its current console will be remembered as fondly in sixteen years.

In terms of raw sales, Wii U has been nothing short of a disaster, but in terms of software it has showcased Nintendo at their very best. Super Mario 3D World, Super Smash Bros Wii U, Super Mario Maker, Mario Kart 8 and Splatoon have been marquee releases – each met with glowing reviews.

Last year's Splatoon and Mario Maker in particular weren't just quality, but inventive too – offering experiences Nintendo had never before produced.

Beyond those, Nintendo also gave the world adorable puzzler Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, an anticipated sequel to a cult favourite in Pikmin 3 and a great launch title in Nintendo Land. Other treats on offer include New Super Mario Bros U, Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Xenoblade Chronicles X and Wii Sports Club, an evolution of the incredibly successful Wii title.

A lack of solid third-party support has been a problem of Nintendo's since the N64 days, and that hasn't changed – but there have still been delights for the Wii U in this area too. Bayonetta 2, Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate, The Wonderful 101 and Zombi U spring to mind.

There's been so much to love on Wii U, but of course a comparison with the N64 only goes so far. While both consoles enjoyed quality first-party software line-ups, the late 90s were a more revolutionary time for the industry and bore more landmark games. Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time revolutionised gaming in three dimensional spaces, while Goldeneye and Mario Kart 64 gave players multiplayer memories they'll never forget.

British developer Rare also enjoyed its own golden era, headlined by Banjo Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Conker's Bad Fur Day and the aforementioned Bond classic.

With the Wii U heading towards the end of its lifespan and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (also out on new console the NX) looking set to be its final hurrah, the main thing tarnishing the Wii U's memory is what it might mean for Nintendo as a company.

Many, some gleefully, have wondered whether the console has doomed Nintendo – and until we know if that's the case or not, it will be hard to remember the Wii U as anything but a disastrous piece of business that failed wholesale to capitalise on the Wii's enormous success.

If NX proves to be Nintendo's next success however, suddenly the Wii U will be cast in a different light. The realities of its sales failures will never go away, but with the stigma gone the console can be remembered with as much fondness as each and every Nintendo console before it.

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