Disclaimer: these are the memories of when I was 12 years old, over 22 years ago! Some facts may not be quite as I remember.
Back in late 1997, my brother and I had just received an N64 for Christmas. I was an avid reader of magazines over the last few years, albeit quite sporadically, although I never really had an up to date console besides a Game Boy. Picking up a magazine to go with our new console seemed like a good idea, but which one? At the time there were 6 to choose from in the UK, and between us we bought at least one copy of all of them over the holiday period
Official Nintendo Magazine
ONM was one of EMAP’s flagship magazines at the time, having been published since 1992 and a successor to the amazing Mean Machines. Being official from Nintendo, they managed to get all the top stories first, and featured loads of screenshots of new games. Unfortunately this was sometimes a bit too much, as there often wasn’t a lot of text to support it, relying on the images to tell the story. Being official also meant that sometimes review scores were slightly over-inflated, possibly in an attempt to sell some of the games.
ONM was also all about its giveaways, and there were always big prizes to be won. A large portion of the magazine was dedicated to high score competitions and tips, almost a must in the days of so few N64 games. In the long term, I did revisit ONM after their rebranding in the summer of 1998, but for now it wasn’t the right fit.
Despite the similar title, this was in no way affiliated with N64 magazine, and was initially the biggest selling unofficial magazine. They were actually the first unofficial magazine to launch, although the first few issues were on a bi-monthly schedule, so it looked like it hadn’t been running quite as long.
64 magazine was quite well presented, and followed a very similar structure to N64 magazine. The art design wasn’t quite so good, using Sans-serif fonts in several places, and occasionally capitalising sentences where it wasn’t necessary. The paper stock used was also quite low quality in the first few issues, which may have helped make my final decision. Also the issues were just simply numbered, rather than dated (common for Paragon’s titles), that’s perhaps just my OCD making decisions for me though.
N64 Pro (Later Nintendo Pro)
N64 Pro’s first issue was actually in December 1997, so it had a fresh take on the world of the N64. This issue also had a free video, so was ultimately quite attractive to the 12 year old me. Despite the free video, the magazine did feel a bit cheap, with all the pages quite glossy.
Inside, the magazine was full of puns, especially in the news section, in which almost all the articles had some kind of play on words for example “kong-gratulations” on an article about Diddy Kong Racing - most cringeworthy! Reviews were quite well put together, although there was a bit of catching up to do, with the N64 having a 9 month head start.
Ultimately this magazine wasn’t too bad, it just felt like something was missing - there wasn’t enough there to make me come back and buy another issue, although I did revisit when it was rebranded as Nintendo Pro in 1999.
Unfortunately I don’t remember too much about 64 Extreme, it was one of those magazines that didn’t leave much of an impression on me, and that was enough for me not to buy more than one issue. The price did feel a bit expensive, as it was a pound more than its closest competitors at the time. I bought issue 8, which had Diddy Kong Racing on the cover, and also seems to be the final issue released.
The same was true of Total 64 - again it never really left a lasting impression. Looking back on the magazine, from a few scans that have been released, the magazine seems to use quite a few block colours as backgrounds, normally a bit of a no-no nowadays as it can make the issues pages look garish - but it was the 90’s, so anything goes.
As with 64 Magazine, many different fonts seemed to be used, often mixing upper and lowercase, again it just didn’t feel very polished and professional compared to other magazines of the time.
This was the granddaddy of all the magazines, at least in my opinion. N64 had just got into its stride over Christmas 1997, with regular free gifts. The quality of these gifts was pretty impressive with issues 8&9 (November and December) coming with a poster magazine and issue 10 having a nicely printed calendar.
Another feature that particularly attracted me was their accessories buyers guide in issue 10 (Xmas 1997) which went through all the 3rd party controllers and accessories in great detail, something that certainly helped me when I was trying to kit out my N64.
Ultimately it was the presentation of the magazine that made me want to keep buying it. The team was also an influential part of the magazine - Paul’s plant diary and Jes’s obsession with Aqua were just two of many lasting memories. Once I had the Xmas 1997 issue, there was never any looking back, I never missed an issue right until the final issue of Nintendo Gamer, that’s almost 15 years and nearly 200 magazines later!