The Boxy All-In-One Nintendo 64 Your 1990s Self Always Wanted

In 1997, chances are that if you didn’t have a Nintendo 64 already, you wanted one. (Never mind that the games cost the GDP of a small country.) It gave you both the supreme game designing talent of Shigeru Miyamoto and graphics that left the Sony behind. The trouble, though, was that like all consoles, the N64 required a large TV set and a load of wires. There was never a compact all-in-one version that integrated console, display, and speakers in the same package, and that was something [Mason Stooksbury] evidently considered to be a shame. A couple of decades late, he’s created the all-in-one Nintendo 64 appliance that the games giant never made in the ’90s, and we’re lucky enough to be able to take a look at it.

The starting point for the build is entirely in-period, the shell of a late-1990s Compaq CRT monitor. In the front goes a laptop display panel with a monitor conversion board, leaving plenty of space behind for a pair of full-size speakers. On top of the speakers sits a bare N64, with the controller ports brought out to the front panel below the screen. It’s not all retro though, there is also an HDMI converter and an HDMI output to drive a modern TV if desired. The N64 itself has an interesting backstory, it was his original console from back in the day that died following a lightning strike, and he brought it back to life decades later after some research revealed that the N64 PSU has a fuse.

Would an all in one ’64 have sold like hot cakes in ’97? Probably, and we’d be featuring all sorts of hacks on them today. As it is, portable N64s seem to feature most often here.

16 thoughts on “The Boxy All-In-One Nintendo 64 Your 1990s Self Always Wanted

  1. Wait a minute…he took the CRT out and put an LCD in? That’s not how the N64 was meant to be played… It’s widely accepted that those games looked better on a tube. Probably because they were designed that way. The rest looks great but I’m miffed over the display choice.

      1. Back in the day, when the iMac was new and shiny, someone decided its CRT was just too small. So he took the guts of his iMac and smoothly integrated them into an (IIRC) 19 inch monitor. Of course choosing the right monitor with plenty of excess space inside its housing was important.

        Or how about hacking a Nintendo 64 into an old CRT iMac, or an eMac? The eMac was like the iMac’s rich cousin. They just looked cooler with their fully transparent case and flat face CRT.

      1. It’s really not. At all. The leaded glass blocks virtually all of it. There is nobody in the world who has been harmed by a properly-functioning CRT’s bremsstrahlung. Maybe if you significantly messed with the tube’s power supply.

    1. Not just because of how the games were designed. I worked on Nintendo64 games back then, and the antialiasing was done with an analog hardware trick that exploited how CRTs run pixels together on a row. Other consoles and arcade games look better on CRTs because the artists took their behavior and color gamut into account when making assets, but in the case of the N64, there’s an actual hardware reason.

      1. If you can get two of the same model it shouldn’t be too tricky to figure out what it is looking for and spoof it.
        Though playing around inside a CRT with probes while it is on is not what I’d call easy to do safely.

        If its a VHS model its probably easy enough to just relocate the electronic parts out of the way, tape heads are not huge most of the space of a VHS drive is air and plastic to hold things in the right place.
        Same might be true of the dvd models but there is more electronics to those which is more likely to be tightly integrated and hard to move.

  2. Here’s a healthy dose of reality…..this thing would never have taken off on current tech or tech at the time.

    On tech of the time it would have been around $200 more than a standalone N64. I think what a lot of us are forgetting is when these devices were new, the primary user base was kids 7-16 years old, and as kids with Boomer or early Gen X parents, we would be at their mercy as to what we got, and parents were not as easily pushed into buying what basically is a trivial yet expensive toy in as large a numbers as they are today. Parents would go “I’m not paying $200 more for what is basically a glorified, self-contained game console, they can use the TV we already have and if I’m on it they can just go outside….they need to do their homework anyway!”

    On what of the current tech this thing has (LCD) existed at the time, the machine, just off the LCD alone, would have been over $1000 at the time, if not $2000 if they used the only screen at the time that would have given the device a worthwhile experience (TFT Active Matrix Color). And the laptops at the time with a tiny 9″ versions of those screens were $5000-8000 in some cases (NEC Versa V/P series, IBM ThinkPad 755). Parents would have still gone with the standalone console or replaced it with a similarly expensive or even cheaper desktop computer with plenty of gaming power + internet access + the ability to do homework, family budget, income taxes, and other stuff the parents NEED to do.

    Or if you were really strapped, the parents would have said “We bought you a perfectly good Nintendo 5 years ago for $200…..just play your Super Mario Brothers 3 or go play outside…..it’s nice and sunny, and dad needs the TV for the Superbowl!’.

  3. This screams bad hotel charging per minute for games. I am still trying to comprehend how it costs 30 bucks to play N64 for an hour over a phone line.

    The monitor could use a fresh coat of paint or some stickers for the compaq. Might I suggest pikachu yellow?

  4. I’m not gonna hate like everyone else is. Could’ve had issues and these weren’t great monitors to begin with. Would’ve done it a bit differently though… And maybe with a PS2.
    If I was to go about a build similar I’d start with a Gateway Astro and strip the motherboard leaving the upper case with SXGA CRT. There’s internal DB15 VGA so the monitor powers up as soon as it sees input.

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