Hello all. I have decided to talk about the Nintendo 64, because why not.
The N64 was an interesting system. Hot off the heels of Nintendo's first real disaster and previous runaway success stories with the SNES, Gameboy and NES, the N64 launched into North American stores in the fall of 1996. Well over a year after SEGA's Saturn console, *AND* a year after the Playstation, from newcomer (at the time) Sony Corporation. Despite boasting 64-bits of...uh, "power" and a "Dream Team" of talented hand-picked development studios, including Nintendo's own world renowned 1st party support, the N64 wasn't exactly a champion. It was easily outsold by Sony's new upstart console, suffered long periods of software droughts, and had minimal third party support - likely due to the system's inherent difficulty to program for and high cost of game production. Things were quite different from Nintendo's 16-bit glory days from the generation before.
DISCLAIMER: The following is a list of my FAVORITE N64 games...not necessarily the "BEST" N64 games. As such, sorry, fan favorite Goldeneye: 007 will NOT be appearing on this list. Why? Because I'm really not that big of a fan of the FPS genre. So no polygonal Pierce Brosnan, nor Johanna Dark, or Quake, Quake II, DOOM 64, The World Is Not Enough, Duke Nukem 64, Pokémon Snap, or whatever your favorite late-nineties console FPS is/was. It's...just not my bag, baby.
In addition, I wanted the games to still be unique. So if the game either had a better version of it elsewhere, or had a sequel that did...whatever the game did, but better, then it's not on the list. So before anyone cries foul for me not including the admittedly incredibly fun F-Zero X, may I remind you that F-Zero GX came out later, and blew it (and pretty much every other racing game ever made) out of the water. Though if you haven't played F-Zero X, I highly recommend it and you should totally play it.
I should note these games aren't in any real order, I'm just listing them all. My #10 spot isn't necessarily the worst game on the list, and the #1 game isn't necessarily the best. It's just how I got around to them. Alright, with that out of the way, let's get to the list! Before I manage to throw in another reference to the late 1990s era.
What? WHAT. Did I violate my owns rules already? Well, kinda. But let me explain. First of all, this game HAS to be on the list because, first and foremost, it's a great game. It was in 1996, and it remains so today. It was ground-breaking at the time, had some of the best graphics seen on consoles yet, and did an incredible job at bringing Mario into 3D for the first time. It set the new standard for 3D action games, and was the high bench-mark for the genre for the entire generation (and maybe beyond). So yeah, great game is great.
Now, I know what you guys are thinking. "But GDG, did you forget there is a DS version of this game? With improved graphics, more Stars to collect, new stages to explore, more playable characters (including Luigi, FINALLY!), as well as a very fun collection of touch-screen mini-games and a far-more-entertaining-than-it-should-be MULTIPLAYER mode?!? How is the "vanilla" version of this game getting mentioned here?"
Well, the reason is, while the DS version certainly has its perks, the N64 version has its own perks, too. The most obvious one is the fact that the N64 game has analog controls, thanks to the N64's revolutionary analog stick. Moving Mario felt so easy and natural with the trident gamepad, and being able to tip-toe, walk, jog, or sprint depending on how much pressure you put on the stick is far better than a digital d-pad. And because that pertains to the ENTIRE GAME, it's not something to ignore or shrug off. Also, the DS version corrected some of the bugs and glitches found in the N64 original. While that may seem like something that would be a perk for the newer version, the exploits found in the 1996 game actually added to its charm. Anyone who figured out how to get to the roof of the castle before getting ANY of the stars knows the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction that can give. It wasn't (and can't) be replicated on the portable version. There are other speed-runner glitches that were fixed as well, making the N64 game rather special. Check 'em out:
That said, the DS version is overall a better package (and totally playable as well) but the N64 version deserves a mention here for sure.
So okay, fine. Whatever, I know I don't have to convince a large majority of you that a console version is "better" anyway, so let's move on. My other rule was that if a sequel came along and did better than the game listed, it wouldn't be listed. (then how would it be on the list in the first place? PARADOX!) But here's the thing; I don't think Nintendo has done what Super Mario 64 has done, better. At least, not yet. Sure, the Super Mario Galaxy games and the Super Mario 3D Land/World games are fantastic. But they don't really have that open-world, explore-as-you-will vibe that this game does. There's very little freedom in comparison - those games are far more linear and challenge-based, rather than search-and-discover based. Super Mario 64 is still unique, and the best example of this kind of Mario gameplay.
Super Mario Sunshine sucks.
RUNNERS-UP:Banjo-Kazooie, Rayman 2: The Great Escape
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
Man, the N64 had *so few* RPGs, and even fewer worth mentioning. Such a bummer after the RPG-rich SNES days. But late in the N64's lifespan, Atlus came along with a new addition to the storied Ogre Battle franchise, and it was awesome. Rich storyline, deep gameplay mechanics, and surprisingly good sprite animations. The amount of detail was actually kind of surprising, with characters standing in several poses, cocking their head to the side during conversation, and more. The developers could have been much lazier with the presentation, but thankfully they put the correct amount of effort in to make this game shine.
As a strategy game, the gameplay still holds up, as the genre has (admittedly) not evolved much over the years. But why should it? It's timeless, and remains as good as it ever was. This game remains unique, because to the best of my knowledge, this is the latest release in the franchise. Not counting the PSP remake, Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together. And it was a great note to go "out" on - thankfully this entry held up over time and didn't diminish over the years. And I know this for sure, because (full disclosure) I didn't originally play this on the N64 - I didn't get around to it until the Wii Virtual Console release. Also full disclosure: I haven't finished the game yet. I plan to do so (someday) but what I HAVE played is quite good.
Another thing that's good: the music. The N64 wasn't really known for its high-quality music samples and audio output, but Ogre Battle was able to provide some pretty epic tunes.
Definitely check this out if you are a fan of the genre, and haven't played it. Heck, even if you HAVE played it, play it again. It's worth your time!
RUNNER-UP:Quest 64 (ha ha, just kidding)
Killer Instinct Gold
So the N64 was light on RPGs...but another genre that it was fairly weak in? Fighting. Again, this was disheartening after the glory days of the SNES, and because we all wanted to virtually punch and kick our family members and friends in 64-bits. Though the system did have its share of decent fighters, (including the original Super Smash Bros.) the pickings were rather slim. Even worse, the games that we considered good back in the day haven't aged well at all.
But thankfully, Nintendo's former "partner in crime" was at the pinnacle of their art, and RARE was able to create an incredible fighter for the home console. Killer Instinct Gold is actually a conversion of Killer Instinct 2. It wasn't a perfect port of the arcade game, mostly due to the fact that the N64 couldn't display FMV sequences yet. (there was no cart large enough to hold that many data) But the Stamper brothers and their team knew what they were doing, and did this game justice. Backgrounds were re-tooled to work with the new hardware, and in the process actually ended up looking better. The characters were all pre-rendered sprites, which have thankfully aged rather well, considering the era this game came out in.
This was also one of those rare games (har har) that not only showed off the N64's graphical capabilities, but also gave something for an "older" gamer to get into. This was no "kiddie" game like Super Mario 64 or Mischief Makers - this game was like, totally hardcore, bro. HARDCORE! Super-violent, bloody, and dark. No cute cartoon characters or anything like that in here. The fighting system was fun and (of course, combo-heavy), and was very unique - actually, it remains that way to this day. There's really no other fighting game quite like Killer Instinct. I haven't played the new Xbox One game yet, so I can't judge how well the new stacks up to the old. All I know is, the old is great, and remains so today.
Other fighting games on N64 are either not worth mentioning, or haven't aged well. The Mortal Kombat games were good, but the newer versions easily trump any that came out during the '90s. The first 3D Mortal Kombat was kind of sloppily handled, with rather janky fighting mechanics, and the rather lame "side-step" move that made the fighting "3D." There's a reason the newer games went back to 2D - it's just better that way. And while Super Smash Bros. may be the only other fighting game worth mentioning on N64, I think we can all agree that Melee pretty much destroyed it on every level. Nostalgia aside, there's really no reason to go back to the original.
Did anyone play the Fighter's Destiny games? I heard those were actually decent, but I never got to try them.
RUNNERS-UP:Mortal Kombat 4, Super Smash Bros.
San Fransisco RUSH 2049
As mentioned above, the N64 wasn't exactly known as an RPG or fighting game powerhouse. But the one genre that it really excelled in? ARCADE RACING. Man, there were a lot of these kind of games on the system. From the Cruisin' USA series, to the Top Gear series, to unique hits like Extreme G, WipEout 64 and even an N64 exclusive Ridge Racer entry, the N64 was bursting at the seams with arcade-style racing games. And in my opinion, Midway's RUSH series was the best of them all.
While not exactly the most impressive graphically speaking, the games had a fantastic sense of speed, fairly far draw distance, and rockin' techno beats to race to. The games also featured some very interesting course design that emphasizes shortcuts, memorization, and air time. Seriously, your rides will spend an impressive amount of time in mid-air after going over a hill or ramp at 110mph. It was an absolute blast and incredibly thrilling.
The best of the best was the third entry: RUSH 2049, an entry that takes place in the future. Here, instead of just normal cars as featured in the previous games in the series, Midway put retractable wings on the cars to help them fly when airborne. This added a huge new element to the game, and opened up all new shortcuts and stunts. Speaking of stunts, in addition to the fast and furious racing, there was also a stunt mode (first featured in the predecessor, Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA) that was a mix of racing gameplay and high-score trick attack gameplay. It was STUPID addicting, and one of the best modes of the game. The mode was so robust that, honestly? Midway probably could have shipped the Stunt Mode as a completely separate game and it still would have been worth the money.
And if THAT wasn't enough, there was also a Battle Mode, which gave both Mario Kart 64 (N64) and Twisted Metal (PSX) a run for their money. It was a complete car combat game that allowed four players to go head-to-head in split-screen play and try to blow each other up. A small arsenal of powerful weapons, power-ups and recovery items made this one of the most complete packages ever made. And it was just a FRACTION of what this title had to offer.
There was even an Obstacle Course mode that challenged your driving (and flying) skills. It's harder than it looks.
This is the best racing game ever made, and my personal favorite of all time. Check it out for sure.
RUNNERS-UP:F-Zero X, RUSH 2: Extreme Racing USA
This is one of the few new IPs Nintendo came out with during this era. And man, is it a GOOD one. Extreme sport video games were not really a "thing" yet (this was all pre-Tony Hawk's Pro Skater) and Nintendo pretty much lead the charge with this amazing sports game. Fast action, incredible graphics, challenging gameplay and a decent amount of stuff to unlock, this game is a true gem. And surprisingly, rather unique. While there are mountains (see what I did there?) of other snowboarding games on the market, none of them really do what 1080° did. Nintendo's game is more true to the sport, where balance, timing and skill are essential for making it down the mountain with the fastest time, pulling off the most tricks in Trick Mode, or simply SURVIVING the decent. Most (all?) snowboarding games now go for over-the-top, crazy, pick-up-and-play, arcade action; most famously, EA's SSX series. But 1080° stands alone as its own unique product.
The music is standard '90s butt-rock and dance beats for the most part. I don't love it, but I don't hate it. Controls and graphics still hold up reasonably well. Mostly because the backgrounds are still image .JPEGs, ha ha. But hey, it works! See the game in motion:
Y'know, I *ALMOST* put WaveRace 64 in this spot. But I chose 1080° over it because, unlike the jet ski game, the snowboarding sequel failed to surpass or even live up to its predecessor. Not to be a wet blanket, but Blue Storm pretty much blew WaveRace 64 out of the water. The Gamecube sequel drowned the N64 game with a wave of new modes, multiplayer features and of course, graphics. Sure, the N64 game made a big splash when it came out, but Blue Storm certainly dampened the impact that game had. But 1080° still stands tall as king of the mountain, and Avalanche is clearly on thin ice as far as being fondly remembered. Okay, enough with these lame jokes - they aren't very punny. Woops, that was punintentional. Okay, somebody please help, I can't stop. Call the punlice!
NOW HOLD ON. I'M NOT CRAZY. Despite evidence to the contrary thanks to my slew of awful jokes in the previous spot. But look - I know a fun game when I play one. And honestly? This game got a totally bad rep.
Okay, so this game had the unfortunate luck of not only being released after the legendary Symphony of the Night, but also other huge mega-hits like Metal Gear Solid (another Konami game) and Nintendo's own The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. As such, gamers' expectations were incredibly high (rightfully so). But this game just didn't get *quite* the level of polish it needed or deserved. But the underlying foundation? Completely solid.
This was one of the few games that really did justice to its franchise when being brought into 3D. Unlike say, when Mario went 3D in Super Mario 64, and the gameplay changed into something different (but still excellent) from its predecessors, or when Contra went 3D and became something terrible, Castlevania felt strangely(?) on-point. Sure, the game was no longer 2D, but the core remained mostly the same, with linear level progression, end-of-stage boss battles, and some particularly tricky platforming. And I gotta admit, it felt good.
The graphics were not great, even by N64 standards. Once in a while the game would have an interesting environment (I seem to recall the mansion before the garden area looking nicer than most other areas, as well as the caves area) or a surprisingly cool-looking boss, but for the most part the game wasn't exactly eye candy.
The music...is kind of interesting for this game. For a series that is known for its incredible, haunting melodies and tunes, there's surprisingly very little of it in this game. Most of the time, there is either very little ambient music in the background, or none at all. Which at first seems like a bad choice, but man. Running through the woods, with only environmental effects surrounding you, only to have that broken by the howling of a werewolf in the distance...you realize that's all this game needs. And hey, when there IS music? It's excellent. Check out the tune in the opening, with that epic violin solo:
This is a sort of hidden gem in the N64 library. Those that have played it know it's a fun game, but spreading the word isn't as easy, since the haters are always louder. But I know I'm not alone in liking this game, so I hope if given the chance, you check it out. I have no idea if its still playable today, but if you can get in the mindset of playing a game from this time period, give it a go. It's challenging, has multiple endings, and one of my favorite final bosses in any game, ever. Seriously, it's really cool looking and intimidating. Don't let this one pass you by.
RUNNER-UP:Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness
Okay, so I know I said the N64 didn't have many RPGs, and I realize I may look like an idiot when I list TWO games from that genre in a single list. But I can look like an idiot without the help of any list, and BOTH (!) of these games deserve a spot on the list. Because even though there may be the only two TRUE RPGs on the system, they are both excellent.
So. Paper Mario. This was developed by the good folks over at Intelligent Systems. It is seen as a sort of follow-up to the SNES game, Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, co-developed by Squaresoft and Nintendo. Now, long-time Nintendo fans remember that those two companies had a "bit" of a falling out during these years, and there was to be no support from Square on the N64. So, the team at IS took it upon themselves to make a new Mario-style RPG, and this is the result. And wow, WHAT a result! A fun, charming adventure, a unique battle system, fun and enjoyable party members, and a very cool graphical style. This is one of those few N64 games that still looks good, which is super-impressive.
Now, I can already hear you guys. Again! "But GDG, did you not play The Thousand Year Door on Gamecube? It's a better game, has better graphics, better music, better writing, and MORE! How could you put this game above it, especially after what you've said in the 1080° Snowboarding spot about why WaveRace 64 isn't on the list?!?" And look, I can totally see where you guys are coming from. And I adore The Thousand Year Door. Great game. But you know what they say about opinions? We all got one. Now get off my lawn.
Actually, come back, because I have more to say. Truth is, I actually like both the N64 Paper Mario *and* the Gamecube sequel...EQUALLY. I will admit that the Gamecube one does just about everything better, but the original is still just so charming and unique, and even does some stuff that the sequel doesn't. One of the best parts is reading Luigi's diary, and getting a little insight on him that we hadn't really seen before. We get to read about his insecurities, and his feelings of being overshadowed by Mario. We even get to see that he's afraid of ghosts...BEFORE Luigi's Mansion comes out! That's gotta count for something.
Here's some footage of the game:
Super charming, right? Game still holds up well, and is more enjoyable than the latest two entries in the series. Well, I haven't actually played Sticker Star yet, but the N64 game is at least better than Super Paper Mario on Wii. Again, in my opinion. NOW get off my lawn!
RUNNER-UP:Earthbound 64 (ha ha, only joking)
Beetle Adventure Racing!
Still here? Okay then. How about we put the spotlight on this gem: Beetle Adventure Racing! from Electronic Arts. Now, as I've said before, the N64 didn't have the greatest amount of 3rd party support. EA was still a valued partner though (funny to think about that, considering the circumstances today) and the teams there put out some quality software for the system. So while Playstation gamers got to play the excellent Need for Speed games, the Nintendo fans got this instead. And again, as I mentioned before, the N64 was no stranger to arcade racing games, but this one stood out from the pack.
Not only was it a looker back then, but it also featured the Volkswagen sub-compact Beetle cars. Exclusively. It was the only car you could drive (though there were different models with different specs). But it didn't matter, because the game was such a blast! And it's another unique game in the library, as it takes these real-world cars and has them driving through castles, in a volcano, and even a Jurassic Park-like area (complete with a T-rex trying to bite your car). The game featured shortcuts, power-ups, a multiplayer battle mode, and a decent amount of unlockables. Even the audio was pretty good, with a heavy emphasis on drums and "breakbeat" rhythms. Check it:
It's a worthy racer for the N64, and remains (even to this day) as an exclusive for the system. I know this one still holds up today - I was fortunate enough to be able to play it again over the summer. Fantastic.
RUNNERS-UP:Ridge Racer 64, Excitebike 64
Resident Evil 2
Ah, one of my favorite entries in the Resident Evil franchise, and a crowning achievement for the system! 2 CDs worth of information and data were stored on a single N64 cartridge, complete with all the music, spoken dialogue and FMV cutscenes. The quality of the latter stuff isn't superb, but it was astonishing to see that the N64 could actually produce that stuff. Gotta hand it to the developers here - they pulled off a veritable miracle here. Especially considering that despite all the various ports and re-releases this game has seen, THIS version is my favorite to play.
Why? Well, a number of reasons. First, (an admittedly silly reason) is the fact that it's all on one cartridge, as mentioned above. No need to swap discs or anything - it's complete in one package. And thanks to the N64's cartridge medium, the load times that plagued the Playstation original are completely gone. Makes the game much easier to play through. Also, there is a unique control scheme added to the game that allows you to use the analog stick in the way that makes sense, instead of the off-putting control scheme Capcom forced gamers to use on Playstation (pressing 'Up' to move forward, regardless of what direction the camera is pointed and which way your character is facing). You can push the analog stick in the direction you want your character to move, and BY GOLLY they move in that direction! As an incidental side-effect, it makes escaping zombies easier, and it enables the "quick turn" move (character spins 180° to face the opposite direction) prior to it being established in Resident Evil 3. And finally, there are "EX Files" to be found hidden throughout the game, which are unique to the N64 version. These files give more insight and background to the events that happened in the first game, as well as give hints to the then upcoming Resident Evil - CODE: Veronica. We even get to meet our hero, Leon S. Kennedy for the first time:
As you can see, the FMV was included, but the sound quality took a hit. Still, pretty impressive for the N64. This game may or may not be playable by today's standards, depending on your tolerance for Resident Evil's pre-rendered backgrounds, but for those that can stand it, this is one of the best survival-horror games ever made.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Ah, and now we have our final entry: Majora's Mask! If you're wondering why Ocarina of Time isn't on the list, it's because Ocarina of Time 3D is a thing that exists. If you're going to play that classic game, do it on 3DS. It's a better experience there.
But anyway. Majora's Mask is an excellent game. It's hard to follow in the footsteps of something like Ocarina of Time, but Aonuma and his team were able to create something unique, while remaining true to its roots. The time travel stuff is very interesting, and the moody, almost eerie world of Termina is engrossing - maybe more so than Hyrule, IMO. If the two Legend of Zelda games on N64 were 'Star Wars' movies, then Ocarina of Time would be 'A New Hope.' And Majora's Mask would very much Nintendo's "Empire Strikes Back" - everyone returns, the story continues, but everything is slightly darker and...dare I say, mature? It's a wonderful and unique game, and I really hope we get a remake on 3DS soon.
Did you see Link doing flips over those tree stumps?!? That's awesome. (sorry for the guy talking over gameplay...it's annoying but it's the first video I found of the beginning. I may change it later if I find some better footage)
RUNNERS-UP:The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Starfox 64
So there ya have it! GameDadGrant's favorite N64 games! And what's this?!? A majority of them are 3rd party games! Huh. I wasn't even intending on that happening, but...that's how the chips fell. Interesting.
So anyway, what do you guys think? Do you agree or disagree with my list? What are your favorite N64 games?
Comments, questions, cries of anguish...let's hear 'em (er, read them, I suppose) below! Cheers!
Well yeah, there was a period where I DID get it to work briefly by doing exactly that. But 9 times out of 10? Nothing. That's what I mean by temperamental . Who needs to muck around for anywhere between 10-20 mins just to play a game? Not me.
Now as for me, I'm a bit of a Nintendo 64 fan. Just a little bit. I don't think I could put ten games in order either, there are so many I like. Well, I know what my two faves are, but after that it's tough to choose. Here are eight more that stood out to me as being special.
Tetrisphere - What a fun way to bring a puzzler into the third dimension. This one's probably still my fave puzzler, and it's too bad that 3D puzzle games never took off and are a huge rarity.
Banjo-Tooie - The first game was good but this one took things to the next level. It was enjoyable to explore the worlds and there is a lot going on in them. It's a shame this sort of platformer/adventure went by the wayside; this game really pushed the limits of the system and more modern ones could really do it justice.
ExciteBike 64 - The original ExciteBike on NES was one of those few early games that really captured my imagination; being able to create my own tracks was like making my own game, it was a mind-blowing thing for a 5-year-old. Since hearing about its release I eagerly anticipated it, and it did not disappoint with its variety of pre-made tracks and relatively robust creator. It even had some neat extras like soccer and the hill climb, as well as a couple fun cheats and even the NES original, which actually saved a created track.
Rush 2 - Like I said, it was my favourite racer and still is. It wasn't just the racing that's enjoyable either, the tracks were actually fun to explore and look for the hidden keys and shortcuts. Plus it's one of the few games that my father actually played so there's that memory in the mix.
Blast Corps. - What a weird little game, saving the world by destroying everything in sight. A variety of challenges and vehicles keep this one fresh from start to finish.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - I know it's cliche but what can I say? The game was and still is amazing.
Goldeneye 007 - Also cliche but whatever, just can't top those grenade launchers in... whatever level you choose in the game, really. Fun stuff.
Super Mario 64 - Nothing really more to say about this than we already have.
And, my two faves are Perfect Dark and Super Smash Brothers. Perfect Dark took everything awesome about Goldeneye's multiplayer and cranked it up with even more weapons, options, and levels. As for Smash, I still find that it has the best "feel" to it, with the way the speed and physics and such work, and it has just the right amount of random elements. It just lacks content.
@Mop it up Uh. What the hell. Why do you own 18 N64s?
Great system though, I absolutely agree. Truly stellar. I agree there's much more to the system than the big hits, though those deserve all the recognition they get.
I'm shocked that I really loved Smash but never owned it. Weirdest thing to me. Once Melee came out though that's when I had to own it and play it to death. I agree that 64 felt really great but the presentation and content was SERIOUSLY lacking.
I didn't even bother with the VC release which also really surprises me. Melee just really spoiled me.
I came in here to ask where Ogre Battle 64 was, and there it is! Definitely doesn't get the widespread attention it deserves, glad it made your list! I do believe we'll do a run of this sometime in the future in the EC.
My game room is, sadly, currently in shambles, and much of my collection is hidden behind junk. And while I do have more than my share of duplicate systems, your 64 collection is brilliant and I'm envious!
I've only played a few hours, so I'm not very far, tbh. I've completed the Prologue, and the first two or three scenarios at this point. It may not seem like I've played enough to really justify it being on this list, but...I can tell this one is a great game. Despite putting so little time into it - relatively speaking.
It's strange, because I really didn't dig the SNES game (March of the Black Queen) but I'm really enjoying the N64 game.