Looking back now it is hard to imagine why anyone would have bought the now iconic gaming console Nintendo 64. It featured a ridiculous controller, blocky graphics, and continued to play cartridges while the brand new PlayStation was running games off CD-ROM. While the console was nothing revolutionary in comparison to its competition, it played host to some of the best games of all time, and introduced the template for 3D game design still used today with its launch title Mario 64. Through the second half the 90’s the console pumped out a stream of stellar games, and by the launch of the Game Cube in 2001 was the console of choice for 387 games. With the Nintendo 64’s impressive run in mind I sought out to create a list of the 10 best Nintendo 64 games.
10. Perfect Dark
By the time Perfect Dark had been released in 1999, Rare had already revolutionized first person shooters with the game Golden Eye. That of course did not stop them from redefining the same genre they had mastered, with their new installment Perfect Dark. It improved on every major function in Golden Eye, including frame rate, sound quality, and it even featured some decent voice acting. Shooting up baddies remains the main focus of the game, but in between bloodbaths the player will have to complete puzzles, and other difficult tasks to advance the story. While the single player was certainly fleshed out beyond most players’ wildest dreams at the time, the multiplayer remains some of the most fun on the Nintendo 64.
9. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
While not the best space shooter game of its kind, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron certainly belongs in the top 10. At the release of Rogue Squadron, flying your X-Wing over top of Tatooine was one of the most surreal moments in gaming. What makes Rogue Squadron so entertaining, is it’s full of classic Star Wars “I’m a Badass” moments. The moments that make you feel like a powerful Jedi knight, or the best fighter pilot in the galaxy. Any Star Wars game is going to draw a large player base, it may as well be a good game, and Rogue Squadron is.
8. Star Fox 64
The before mentioned game better than Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, Star Fox was a 3D adventure beyond what most gamer`s had ever seen. The game starred Fox McCloud and company, who with their Arwings completed arcade style missions that each finished with an epic boss battle. There was nothing quite like the experience of destroying ship after ship, in a beautifully crafted action adventure.
7. Banjo Kazooie
Another game from the developers at Rare, Banjo Kazooie boasted some of the most crisp graphics on the Nintendo 64. It had stellar level design, coupled with very fun gameplay. It borrowed what made platformers so much fun in 2D and expanded on it. In the game you play as a bear named Banjo, with a bird companion named Kazooie. The two go through the game collecting music notes, and “jiggies” to find and evil witch named Gruntilda. The ridiculous nature of Banjo Kazooie only adds to the fun.
6. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Would you look at that, it’s another game by the apparent master developers at Rare. This one’s not for kids, it is profane, disgusting, brilliant, and god damn hilarious. The game had some entertaining gameplay, but what makes Conker’s bad fur day #6 on this list is its cast of colourful characters, ridiculous landscapes, and let’s not forget the boss battle where you kill a giant poop dubbed “The Great Mighty Poo” with toilet paper, oh and it sings. This clever R rated game is a must play if you were too young at its release, you can pick it up in the Rare Replay now available on the Xbox One.
5. Mario Kart 64
I hesitate to put this game on the list because of its admittedly one dimensional gameplay, but looking back I probably put more hours into Mario Kart 64 than any other game on the Nintendo 64. While racing is all you can do, it is likely all you will want to do in this ridiculously fun kart racer. The concept of karting against your buddies whilst picking up endless power ups intended to destroy friendships seems to have avoided becoming stale more than a decade later. That’s what makes Mario Kart 64 such an amazing game, there was nothing more replayable on the Nintendo 64 than this game.
4. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Majora’s Mask is unlike any game you will likely ever play, and it remains a work of art in the eyes of many gamers. What made this game stand out from others was the way the story played out, you only had only 3 days to complete the game. Three days. At the end of the cycle the town would be destroyed, and you would have to play the song of time to restart the cycle. Each time you restart however you would be armed with the new tools you had gathered, and you would have learned shortcuts, and instructions from the previous day. Even with all the repetition the game never gets boring, or even feels repetitive. Not to mention it’s a Zelda game without Navi or a Water Temple. The dark tone of the game is sure to captivate you. That is why Majora’s mask is on this list.
3. Super Mario 64
Nintendo made the seamless transition from 2D to 3D platforming with Mario 64. This launch title really showed what the Nintendo 64 could do with 3D worlds, and this game remains a template for 3D games even now. Peaches castle was full of unique worlds, and it was easy to get lost in them. Even the castle was full of fun easter eggs and secrets. Super Mario 64 was a ginormous 3D masterpiece.
2. Golden Eye 007
Golden Eye is the god father of console first person shooters. Its clunky controls and confusing HUD are always welcome in my home, because for the time this game was special. If you haven’t played before, don’t start now, you will not be impressed. Shooters have been refined to be much better, but in 1997 Golden Eye was the best anyone had seen. The single player was alright, not that anyone would know because multiplayer was the most fun you could have with friends on the Nintendo 64 hands down. It was the stepping stone for just about every console shooter after its release. If you look at Golden Eye, and spit on it for being ugly and unplayable, just remember your precious Call of Duty would not exist without it.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If you haven’t played this game, what are you doing! Go download an emulator ,and get this game right now. It is undeniably one of the best designed games ever. The geography of the game world seemed to stretch on forever, through towns, dungeons, forests, lakes, caves, and anything in between. The world was bigger than any player had ever seen before. It remains one of the most important games of all time, its 3D open world paved the way to some of the best games we’ve ever seen. Even its combat system utilizing the z button revolutionized the use of the Nintendo 64 controller. All of this solidifies Ocarina of Time as the best Nintendo 64 game, and one of the best games of all time.