With shipments of its Pocket handheld console finally under control, Analogue is turning its attention to a whole new retro machine. The Analogue 3D aims to be the ultimate Nintendo 64, playing original cartridges on modern 4K displays. I’d love to show it to you, but Analogue is only releasing a teaser image and a few key specs today.
The Analogue 3D is the latest in a line of consoles from the company that emulate retro hardware. All of Analogue’s machines use field-programmable gate arrays (FPGA) that are coded to mimic original hardware. Rather than playing ROM files like most software emulators, Analogue consoles play original media — in this case N64 carts — without the downsides that software emulation often brings, such as increased input lag or visual imperfections.
Analogue started out with boutique recreations of Neo Geo and NES hardware, before targeting a more casual audience with systems that mimicked the SNES and Genesis. Its most splashy release to date is the Pocket, which emulates a variety of handhelds. There’s also the TurboGrafx-like Analogue Duo, which was announced in 2020 and, after some delays, will apparently ship this year.
That may seem like a disparate group of consoles, but there is one thing that ties them together: they’re all pretty primitive. If you’ve been around a while, you’ll remember consoles being referred to as 8-bit, 16-bit, 32-bit and so on. A lot of that was marketing, but the hardware of 8-bit systems is broadly less complex to recreate than that of 16-bit systems, and so on. As the first true “64-bit” console on the market, the N64 is by far the most complex system Analogue has tackled to date. Its 64-bit 93.75MHz CPU was wild for a $200 console — even if most developers still wrote 32-bit code for it — and its Silicon Graphics “reality coprocessor” was the stuff of (extremely nerdy) playground legend. They made the T-rex from Jurassic Park with (better versions of) that thing!
The Analogue 3D is described as a “reimagining” of Nintendo’s console, and the company is promising 100 percent compatibility with carts from all regions. It will output at 4K resolution with Original Display Modes that target “reference quality recreations” of specific CRTs and PVMs. To translate, that means Analogue is building filters that might, for example, make a modern OLED or LCD display feel more like a dope mid-’90s Sony Trinitron TV. No word on whether they’re baking in a recreation of the weird LG TV with legs I played on for most of the ’00s.
Internals aside, the N64 has a small library of games and a mistake of a controller, but there are some classics in there. On the first-party side, The Legand of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask have both held up to decades of scrutiny, and Mario 64, some camera issues aside, is as fun to play in 2023 as it was in 1996. Then there’s Paper Mario, Mario Kart 64, F-Zero X, Star Fox 64, Super Smash Bros. and countless others. Rare also did some fantastic work on the N64 with the likes of GoldenEye 007, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Kazooie, Diddy Kong Racing and Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Quality third-party titles were harder to come by, but Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Mischief Makers, Harvest Moon 64 and the Turok games are all worth checking out. (I personally spent more time playing Horse in an average port of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater than any of these, but there’s no accounting for taste.)
One thing very few people remember fondly is the N64’s three-paddled controller, which at the time felt fine but boy was it not. The Analogue 3D will have four controller ports, just like the original N64, but it thankfully also supports Bluetooth and 2.4G wireless connectivity. 8BitDo will be releasing a companion controller for the console, which is all-but invisible in the picture above. After some toying around in Photoshop, it appears to be very similar to the company’s Ultimate controller, but with C-buttons where the regular face buttons would be, the A+B buttons replacing the right analog stick and a big ol’ start button in the middle.
There’s no word yet on price — early Analogue machines cost a lot, but its more recent efforts have been more palatable. The Analogue Duo, which has a CD drive inside, cost $250 when pre-orders went live, so it seems a fair guess to say it’d be in the same price range — though you’ll need to budget for a couple of controllers no matter the price, as Analogue doesn’t supply them with any of its systems.
The Analogue 3D is currently slated to ship in 2024, and knowing Analogue, pre-orders will open some time in the next few months and sell out almost immediately.