The Essential Nintendo 64 Games Collection: Top 10 Nintendo 64 Games of All Time
Introduced to the world as Project Reality and later under the moniker the Ultra 64, Nintendo’s first 3D gaming console, the Nintendo 64 (released originally on September 26th, 1996), was built from the ground up for two things: Multiplayer gaming and powerful 3D graphics, then an absolute novelty in video games. Not only did the console succeed in these two mandates exceedingly well, but it also changed the landscape of home console gaming forever.
Whether it was the pseudo-open world concepts found in Super Mario 64 or The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or the addictive multiplayer elements brought to life in GoldenEye 007 and Mario Kart 64, many gamers remember the console to this day for being the one that they shared, whether with friends or family, in a world before ubiquitous Internet connections and online multiplayer.
Let’s take a look at why people are already excited about the rumours that Nintendo are working on an N64 Classic / N64 Mini
Here are ten games we think helped define the console:
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
One of the more notorious games to be born out of the Nintendo 64 era was Rare’s raunchy, debauched yet thoroughly hilarious and engaging platformer Conker’s Bad Fur Day, starring the titular Conker, a heavy drinking red squirrel bent on a quest to return home to his girlfriend.
If that alone doesn’t sound different from almost every other platformer you have ever played on a Nintendo console, well, that’s because it is. Even to this day, Conker’s Bad Fur Day still tends to amaze with its edgy though, at times, dated humor and more than competent gameplay. It is a fun title that shows how great Rare was on Nintendo’s consoles, and how many different directions the tried and true formula of a platforming game can take.
A recurring theme you will notice on this list is the prevalence of games developed by Rare, then an absolute powerhouse developer for both Nintendo’s Super Nintendo console and then later the Nintendo 64. Perfect Dark is a refined take on the rules and gameplay elements established in the monumental classic, also by Rare, GoldenEye 007.
It’s a first-person shooter of the highest order and puts the player in control of Joanna Dark, a spy tasked with stopping an extraterrestrial conspiracy.
An absolute must-play game for fans of the Nintendo 64 and a doubtless classic for the sister alongside its brother game, GoldenEye 007.
Another platformer from Rare, Banjo Kazooie was originally a game called Dream and was in development for the Super Nintendo before coming to the Nintendo 64 in 1998. After winning a slew of awards, Banjo Kazooie was followed up with a sequel called Banjo Tooie and continues to be a fan favorite to this day, finding a home on Microsoft’s X Box consoles.
The game’s various mechanics and innovative set pieces place it apart from the many other 3D platforming games on the system and its masterful execution of a proto-open world concept make it a seminal game for the genre in general.
Super Smash Bros.
Developed by longtime Nintendo partners and collaborators HAL Laboratories, this is the game that started it all and barely needs an introduction as it is an ongoing series that dominates the hearts and minds of its fan base and rocks the competitive circuit on a regular basis.
Before Super Smash Bros., you had to imagine what combat between your favorite Nintendo all stars would be like but with Super Smash Bros. you got to live that fantasy. A combination of bright, colorful graphics and a unique fighting game system that stands out among a vast sea of competitors, Super Smash Bros. is, in many ways, emblematic of the chaotic, multiplayer era of gaming that the Nintendo 64 both introduced and normalized on console systems.
While today gamers benefit from robust online networks to match up with their friends (among others), back in the era of the Nintendo 64 the four controller ports, along with games like Super Smash Bros., introduced multiplayer gaming to a wide swath of a gaming generation, changing the whole industry along with it.
Star Fox 64
While not the direct sequel to Star Fox on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Star Fox 64 is nonetheless the system’s rendition of the Super FX Chip-based classic and presents a refined presentation (bolstered by the considerably more powerful Nintendo 64 chipset) and an engaging storyline to augment the already classic gameplay.
Interestingly, Star Fox 2 was shelved for the SNES prior to the launch of the Nintendo 64 because the Big N did not want to detract from their upcoming console, which was being touted as a 3D gaming powerhouse. Star Fox 64 is easily one of the best Nintendo 64 games because it takes something familiar and established and shows that, with further refinement, absolute gaming perfection can be achieved.
Anyone who has owned or knows anyone who owned a Nintendo 64 knows this game. This is the James Bond-based first-person shooter classic that destroyed friendships with its amazing multiplayer mode and thoroughly enjoyable single player experience. In many ways, GoldenEye 007 both anticipated and prototyped the kind of cinematic first-person shooters that many of us take for granted on consoles today.
It certainly introduced the world to fps multiplayer combat on a home console, the most successful version of that to come home (PC’s were more than happy with DOOM and its many clones) so while GoldenEye 007 did not pioneer many gaming concepts, it did them perfectly and that, along with the many memories its multiplayer generated, is the reason for the game’s hallowed place among the N64’s greats.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Normally two titles from one series would not be permitted on a list, but this exception is more than a rule breaker, it established an entirely new set of rules altogether for sequels that utilized similar engines to their predecessors.
In the spirit of NES sequels of days past, Majora’s Mask is an acid-drip infused story that departs wildly from the staid-by-comparison mainline Ocarina of Time, itself an epic saga in the Zelda tradition. Majora’s Mask stars Link, as always, but this time he is tasked with saving a world on the brink of an impending apocalypse – a setting removed in geography and plot from the Hyrule and Ganon’s of other games.
Using masks, Link can assume various powers to solve puzzles and save the world from a looming moon threatening to crash down. The moon itself serves as a gameplay element, placing upon the world an arbitrary timeline of completion that eschews Ocarina of Time’s more open-world, do as you please concept. Majora’s Mask is not only essential for the Nintendo 64, it is necessary for any Zelda fan.
Mario Kart 64
I cannot mention this game without mentioning another game on the console that is also beloved by kart racing fans and more than deserving of a place on this list: Diddy Kong Racing. While the addition of DKR would add yet another Rare game to this list, it would not be faithful to the spirit of this list which seeks to both capture the Nintendo 64’s innovative place in console gaming as well as its groundbreaking multiplayer gaming
Mario Kart 64, released before DKR, broke new ground in an already well-known multiplayer game, Super Mario Kart. Whether racing against friends or battling them in one of the game’s arenas, Mario Kart 64 gave players endless hours of fun either solo or with friends and represents the perfect combination of graphics, sound, fun factor, and innovation that only the best games attempt.
Super Mario 64
The game that launched the console, and to many the game that should be number 1 (after all, it was the best selling title on the console). It is a debate among Nintendo fans as to whether or not Mario’s first 3D platformer is the best game available on the system, or if that is an opinion arising out of nostalgia for its place as many N64 gamer’s first game on the console.
Indeed, Super Mario 64 showed off what the N64 could do and set it apart from the Sony Playstation’s more block graphics and the Sega Saturn’s non-existent 3D lineup. Placing gamers in worlds drawn straight from Mario classics, Super Mario 64 tasked gamers with exploring and defeating well-known enemies in a whole new way that was both mesmerizing and game changing. Many games after Super Mario 64 attempted 3D platforming, but few could do it right, and the game had such a great impact on the Mario series that every 3D entry is compared to it whether intentionally or not.
The recent release of Super Mario Odyssey on the Nintendo Switch is perhaps the closest the gaming world has come to a true sequel to this legendary title.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The number 1 game for the Nintendo 64 has to be, without a doubt, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, a game still held in the highest esteem to this day and an entry in a long-running series that placed it firmly among the greatest of all time.
This game introduced time traveling elements, open-world gameplay, and an epic saga of a story that left gamers in awe of Nintendo’s ability to use its consoles to not only deliver novel gaming concepts but also tell memorable, iconic stories.
Seemingly built for the system Ocarina of Time has also found a home on subsequent iterations from Nintendo and even its handheld systems – such is the power of a classic.
The racing series born on the Super Nintendo, the Nintendo 64 version is fast-paced action with loud colors and sounds to boot. Not quite the multiplayer powerhouse that Mario Kart 64 was or the variety box that was Donkey Kong Racing, F-Zero X is a worthy entry in the series nonetheless.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron
Hate it or love it, if you want to add to your Nintendo 64 collection, you cannot pass this title up from the Star Wars universe. Star Wars video games can be generally hit or miss anyway, but this title, when it does land, hits the sweet spot time and time again.
Diddy Kong Racing
If not for the already Rare-heavy list and the prior advent of Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing would undoubtedly be near the top of this list. This was the first kart game to introduce loads of variety and present the gamer with options as to how they tackled each track – land, sea, or air – and it is because of this that it has a solid hold as a classic for the N64.
Wave Race 64
Wave Race 64 is another one of those special games that came out in the early life of the system and, because it was gorgeous and different, still warrants a look to this day. Even if you don’t enjoy racing games, Wave Race 64’s infectious environments and beautiful graphics will warm even the most jaded heart.
Donkey Kong 64
Another Rare title, and a bit fetch-quest heavy at that, Donkey Kong 64 is another capable platformer on the system known for its 3D platforming games.