I'm back folks! After quite a hiatus big poppa HOH has cooked up a spicy meatball of Mega Man and Donkey Kong flavored ramblings.
Psych! Both Mega Man Legends and DK 64 have been left out in the cold for this go 'round, leaving a clean slate for other 2D platformers to flood the list.
Psych again, baby! There's only room for one 2D platformer to be found in these hallowed halls (otherwise known as some internet dude's opinion). Shout out to Mischief Makers though- that game's a longtime favorite that didn't quite make the list.
And shout out to my mom. I spent 10 long months working on this list and I would have died long before the list was done if she didn't keep the stream hot pockets flowing. It's only with the support of my family that I was able to keep pressing on. Sorry I've been so grumpy; writing top 10 lists is hard work and your sonny boy has to get this right. You understand.
And mom, stop calling my amiibos dolls, yeah? I spent too much money on these things for you to insult me like this. I can move out whenever I want so just stop it or you're going to ruin a good thing. I'm sorry I had to call you out like this but I don't know what else to do.
Taken on its own, the second outing of the titular bear and bird is pretty great. It's only when comparisons are made between the sequel and the original that disappointment arises. For the second outing, Rare pushed the boundaries of the series in a lot of ways. The underlying philosophy seemed to be that more was better, so we've got more moves, a ton of eggs, a bigger overworld, and more expansive levels. In some ways, this game is more creative than the first title as its levels draw from less cliche platformer environments, featuring factories, sunken cities, mayan inspired temples, a carnival, and an ancient dinosaur area.
So then what is keeping Tooie from replacing my beloved Banjo Kazooie in the cockles of my heart? Well, sometimes Banjo Tooie slips into becoming a case of quantity over quality. That aforementioned Dino level in particular has large expanses of open spaces with little interesting to do or see. The same is true of the mine level, albeit to a lesser extent. And the factory level is a convoluted mess to navigate and mentally map out. It also feels like there are too many moves that are only useful in too few situations. Banjo Tooie has it's fair number of instances where less would have been more.
But that doesn't stop Banjo Tooie from being a great game. It is a well made 3D Platformer with the unfortunate position of having to follow in the footsteps of one of my favorite games.
Conker's Bad Furday
At a core gameplay level, Conker is quite lacking. But by using creative and humorous situations, Conker's Bad Fur Day is able to create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. The clever writing takes the player on a wacky journey through a variety of situations. Not all of them are well done, but thanks to the sheer variety a fair number of them work. Thanks to making one of the buttons a context sensitive action that changes depending on the situation, Conker's Bad Fur Day is able to utilize a considerable amount of variety in its gameplay scenarios.
If I'm being honest here, I don't even find the game all that funny. It's just not really my kind of humor. But I'm down with what Conker is serving up because it leads to a wide breadth of wacky scenarios that make the gameplay more interesting.
Even if I don't find it to be very humorous, it took guts on the part of Rare to put a poop boss in their game. Kudos for the poop boss, Rare.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
He's more than you think, he's got maximum pink. And thanks to the future magic of new millennium polygons, he's more well rounded than ever. It's Kirby!
Kirby 64 is fantastic. It's got a soundtrack crafted by gods in the halls of Valhalla, capable of instilling a variety of feelings ranging from energetic optimism (Grasslands 1) to somber, mechanistic determination (Factory Inspection). It's absurd that a game so bright and cheery can produce music that feels so melancholic.
And this game has an incredible 64 different power ups! Actually I made that number up, but it's a lot! Being able to combine longstanding series powerups to create creative new abilities is brilliant. Some are much more effective than others, but even the upgrades that aren't all that useful are inspired and interesting. When I was younger, I would challenge myself to see how much of the game I could get through using the fridge ability.
The Kirby series is like the eternal bridesmaid or that employee who has been plugging away at a job for 20 years but is hardly noticed. The series puts out a ton of games, both experimental and traditional, with almost no duds and consistently phenomenal music, but the series always seems to be overlooked when considering Nintendo's greatest IPs. I'm guilty of this too, so we're all the asshole here. Kirby deserves better than this.
Like Conker, the core gameplay here isn't really anything special. There's an appeal to the simplicity of the RPG mechanics, but it wears thin after a couple dozen hours. The main attraction here is the presentation and elements surrounding that core gameplay. Except this game excels above Conker by a sizable margin.
Paper Mario is utterly charming. The character designs, writing, and story are simply delightful, effortlessly evoking positive vibes. You're pushed to keep playing because you're dying to know what new character or area you will encounter next. Of particular note are the partner characters who join your party throughout the journey.
And that's what this game feels like: a journey. You're bonking folks with your hammer throughout the land. By the end, it feels like you have thoroughly adventured through the mushroom kingdom, meeting friends along the way and stopping eccentric foes.
I think that's why recent Paper Mario titles have burned so many fans. I don't think most people are coming to these games for the gameplay. What most people want from a Paper Mario game is a fun journey with interesting characters and storylines. So when you make everything surrounding the gameplay dull and predictable, you are actively and intentionally diminishing what makes the series appealing to so many people in the first place.
IT'D BE KIND OF LIKE TAKING A WELL WRITTEN STRATEGY SERIES AND MAKING IT ABOUT MANIPULATING STATS AND ABILITIES FOR THE BEST TEAM AND COURTING SHALLOW, ONE DIMENTIONAL WAIFUS. WOULDN'T IT, INTELLIGENT SYSTEMS?
Who is your Paper Mario waifu? Mine is Luigi.
Sin and Punishment
I really debated putting this game higher because I'm a dirty fucking hipster. But in the end Star Fox 64 just barely beat out S&P. Ask me which I prefer next week and you'll probably get a different answer, though.
Sin and Punishment is this arcadey shooter where you have to move a character left and right with one control stick while aiming with the other stick. Except the N64 controller only has one control stick. Oops.
Actually, this doesn't prove to be a problem on the VC version, which I feel plays fine. I enjoy having to focus on both keeping your character out of harm's way and making sure your shots hit their target. Further nuance is added with the contextual melee attack that can be used to deal a ton of damage to nearby enemies and deflect some attacks, adding more layers to the moment-to-moment decision making. Some sections choose to focus on just shooting or dodging, cranking up the challenge appropriately.
You can beat this game in an hour or so, but like most good arcade games, it holds up to multiple replays and attempts for high scores. And the story is a delicious, cheesy mess that I can't help but enjoy. The same goes for the monster and character designs, which offer a nice variety with regard to visuals and gameplay.
Star Fox 64
I feel like I don't really have to explain this one. Star Fox 64 is a superlative arcade shooter with charming characters, a variety of environments, and a surprisingly deep scoring system. The game is short and sweet, offering a variety of paths which intersect in neat ways that are rewarding to discover. The remake is very well done as well, increasing the visual detail without betraying the simple, angular design of an N64 game. It looks awesome.
Do you see that picture? Who the heck lets Falco die on the first level and then posts a picture of it online? What kind of person does that? What happened to them to make them that way?
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina of Time is secretly my favorite game, but I have to put it here to retain my hipster cred. Don't tell anyone.
Nah, not really. But I love this game, folks.
It's a classic Zelda experience that sets a fantastic template for future 3D Zelda games. You've got your typical fire, grass, water, desert, and haunted levels, but it never feels like they're phoning it in. There aren't really any dips in quality, with a steady stream of dungeons and sidequests that all bring the fun.
So much of the design in this game feels like iconic Zelda. From the characters, to the puzzles, to the dungeons. It's prototypical Zelda, through and through. And there's a reason other 3D Zelda games use this as a foundation; it's nearly perfect. I would love to play a Zelda Gaiden type expansion for Ocarina of Time. It's just such a great template.
Perhaps I would have rated this game higher, but I've played this game too much for me to honestly enjoy it as much as I do the next 3 games.
Super Mario 64
What more could I say about Mario 64? It's a nearly perfect 3D platformer that gets so much right.
A big thing here is the core controls. Just moving Mario around feels great. But when you manipulate those satisfying controls into a speedy string of movements needed to navigate an area efficiently, the experience becomes euphoric.
It wasn't until last January that I finally beat this game 100%. I did it in a couple marathon sessions and it was such a great experience. I probably hadn't enojyed Mario 64 that much since it first came out. Something I found surprisingly enjoyable were the 100 coin challenges. They really tested my knowledge of the environments, and in some cases became grueling endurance contests.
I'm aching to try out some of the fan-made mods for this game. Like with Ocarina of Time, I feel like the foundation here is so strong that you could build countless areas on top of it before things start to grow tiresome. I sincerely hope we get another Mario game in the vein of 64 soon.
I've talked about Banjo Kazooie at length on here multiple times throughout the years, and understandably so. It's in my top 3 favorite games and is the closest thing I've played to a perfect game.
There is nothing that feels unnecessary in Banjo Kazzoie. The levels are just the right size and the game is just the right length. The core mechanics are finely honed and complemented by a variety of side missions that aren't so few that they feel out of place, yet also aren't so numerous that they make the experience feel unfocused. Just the right amount of new abilities to make it feel like your character is growing without being overwhelmed as you progress or feeling underpowered at the start.
The areas are your stock video game environments, but they have that special Rareware touch that makes them feel fresh and interesting. Fantastic writing, music, environment, and visual design go miles towards giving the familiar a feeling of newness. This is helped by features such as the match 2 puzzle and the spelling puzzles being interfaced with using the same language the player uses for the rest of the game- running, jumping, and attacking.
I've gotta cut myself of here. Banjo Kazooie is practically perfect, nailing everything on both the small and large scale.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
The reasons Majora's Mask is tied for being my favorite game are very personal and subjective. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a fantastically made game with plenty of touches that I love, such as the mechanics involving the masks, the emphasis on sidequests, and the ways it deviates from the "baseline Zelda" design of Ocarina of Time. But for me the game runs deeper than that.
I had Majora's Mask since I was little, but I was always too afraid and terrible at games to get very far in it. I reconnected with this game later in my life at just the right time. I was struggling with grief and depression when I suddenly discovered this world where you could help people solve their struggles in the face of apocalyptic stakes by observing and understanding their lives and personal problems. You have the power to help these people and help them in a personal way. It was downright cathartic. In the face of imminent death, you're still able to find some sort of joy in the little victories, such as watching a baby chicken grow up, finding a baby's grandfather so he can play a song to calm the baby down, and helping a mailman come to terms with the conflict between his vocational and personal responsibilities. The small, interpersonal victories keep you going and stack up to make a world of change. Hurt people hurt people, but if you can understand where they're coming from and why they're doing what they're doing, you're one step closer to helping them. Sometimes the answer is as simple as listening to the musician by the laundry pool, sometimes it's more involved like reuniting Anju and Kafei.
And not everyone can be saved. Darmani, Mikau, and the Deku Butler's son are dead and there's nothing you can do about it. You can wear their masks, but you will never replace them. But you can carry on their legacy- their will- within yourself through your actions and the decisions you make. They are gone from this world, but their ideas and what they fought for can live on within you. By inheriting their will (metaphorically or metaphysically, depending on your views) you can carry on a cascading effect for generations, helping those around you and creating all those little victories that gradually make things better. Do not sit around and mourn their loss forever. Use their life and who they were as motivation to become a better person and make a difference.
Like the world's most disgusting sandwich, this list has corn at the top and bottom and a bunch of sap in the middle. And some sap has leaked onto the metaphorical plate below this paragraph. I'll probably do a gamecube list at some point. Part of the reason I lost motivation before was because I have to write all of this in one sitting or copy and paste a bunch of times from a word document, both of which burn me out. It would be much easier if I could somehow save a draft. In other words I blame Zero and his terrible site about casual baby games. Stop posting on twitter all the time and make this random superfluous change to your website, you bum.
Thank you for taking the time to read this nonsense. Let those you love know how important they are to you. Remind yourself that things can get better. If you feel like giving up, remember that the small positive things in our life can make all the difference, and what may seem like a small gesture to you can mean the world to someone else.
Personal and subjective reasons for liking games are the BEST reasons, never apologize for them!
Your list is pretty close to mine, what with Majora's Mask over Ocarina of Time and Sin & Punishment actually being on it. Must be some hipster thing. I'd probably throw in Smash Bros, Pilotwings and Waverace myself though. And maybe Mario Kart 64 for battle mode.
I'd actually say Banjo is a better game than Mario 64 at the end of the day too, however my own personal experience was Mario 64 BLEW ME AWAY and Banjo was a small step up from that which I enjoyed very much, so I'd still give it to Mario 64 for what it did "at the time". Honestly Mario 64 is probably one of my greatest gaming experiences ever.
Nice list! Only a few surprises though. Three of these are in my own top ten.
I felt Banj-Tooie was such a great sequel. It not only expanded on everything from the first game, but fixed the issues I had with it as well. I think the reason I took to it so much is because one of my fave aspects of games is exploration, and it seems to have a focus on that. It certainly has a different feel from its predecessor though, feeling even more like an adventure game and less like a platformer, so I can see why people would prefer the original.
I also didn't find Conker very funny, it's more on the strange and bizarre side. Which isn't always a bad thing. The game also probably has the best production values on the N64 as well. Did you try the multiplayer? It has bots if you have to play by yourself. It's got some interesting modes and is pretty fun too.
Kirby 64 is one of my fave Kirby games, and I'm disappointed that later games in the series didn't follow with its "2.5D" approach. If it only had co-op, it probably would be my number one.
I didn't really take to Paper Mario myself. After the excellent Super Mario RPG, it was disappointing to go back to the same ol' same ol' Bowser-kidnaps-the-princess bit, and simpilifed gameplay. The badge system was interesting, but too limited.
I haven't played Sin & Punishment and Star Fox 64, so I have nothing to say there.
Nuthin' left to say about OoT either.
It's pretty amazing how well they nailed Super Mario 64 on their first try. It doesn't really feel like a first attempt at a 3D platformer because it controls so well and has so many neat ideas in it. Not to say it's perfect, as things like the camera shows the game's age, but it's still functional. It holds up well and remains one of my fave games.
Banjo-Kazooie is good but I didn't take to it as much as many other N64 games. To me, it also doesn't feel like any sort of sequel or evolution to Super Mario 64 as it's way different. Definitely feels more like an adventure game than a platformer. Which isn't a bad thing, I enjoy those too, but SM64 satisfies my platforming desire much better.
I couldn't have fun with Majora's Mask due to how tedious and repetitive it is, but I can see why people could look past that to enjoy it. It's also light on dungeons which are my fave part of Zelda games. It's certainly unlike most other Nintendo games, in good and bad ways.
Nice list! It's probably close to my own top 10 N64. The Zeldas, Mario 64, BK and Paper Mario are all really great. Like, top 30 or 40 of all-time great. I'd toss in Harvest Moon 64 myself since it's still the best farm sim I've played. Conker and SF64 are really solid hits that round out the package. I actually thought the second S&P was better than the 1st; I couldn't quite get past the unorthodox controls for the original, and the story/cast was kinda nonsensical. The set pieces were nuts in the Wii game. Perfect Dark and Smash would probably fill out the rest of the top ten for me.
I played Banjo Tooie for the first time when it was rereleased on XBLA and I didn't care for it as much. I think that a big reason was how interconnected the levels were and that you had to progress further before you could do everything in an area. It's an interesting idea but I feel like the levels should've been presented as more like a set of options rather than a linear succession where you had to backtrack to previous areas to check them off.
Generally speaking, the dirty water which will basically chew through your oxygen supply even whilst surface swimming. That plus the large number of narrow walkways and the heavy likelihood that you will fall into said water at some point.
The general layout of the level sucks too. Navigation is a pain and there's about a billion little nooks and crannies for things to hide in.
And of course the infamous engine jiggy. Narrow pathways, spinning blades, a race against the clock, and in my case (the first time) a system freeze when I was mere meters away from said jiggy. The console may have been bumped though, I dunno.
The note collecting system in the original 64 version didn't interact well with all of that either. It was just an overall unpleasant experience in an otherwise fantastic game.
I really like Rusty Bucket Bay. I'm a fan of truly imposing, challenging areas in games and it was kinda refreshing playing such a difficult stage in BK. The engine Jiggy is the hardest in the game and is probably a bit too demanding from the player (for a title that doesn't usually require that degree of precision), but I thought the rest of the stage was tough but fair. I also dig the crazy music. I usually navigate Rusty Bucket in a clockwise-ish fashion, hitting all the port stuff before exploring the ship proper. If you stick with an organized search, you can't really get lost or anything.
I do agree that in general, the note collection system was a bit flawed, but I did like how it made death a very imposing punishment.
I don't even recall it being that hard. Just a joyless exercise to play. I think Click Clock Wood was tougher for me initially and I always loved that level. When I went to replay it the whole game was pretty easy.
@Stephen I totes agree, Rusty Bucket Bay would be on my list of "worst game levels" for sure.
@Hero_Of_Hyrule Kirby Triple Deluxe also has some objects that pop out of the background, but it's still a ways off from what Kirby 64 did as well.
For Majora's Mask, it's been a long time so I don't remember much specifics. Aside from all the baggage of the poor implementation of the time mechanic, I know the mask transformation scene can be sped up by pressing a button, but it still takes a few seconds and is a pain. It could certainly be a smoother transition from mask to mask. I didn't like the way that the Zora and Goron controlled either. I remember there being a lot of repetitive tasks in dungeons and such, like playing the ocarina over and over (with its own little unskippable scene every time). I also first played the game on the GCN collector's disc, which wasn't a good place for it as it has random crash problems. And that's very bad in a game that forces you to go for hours without saving. I should probably give it a another chance sometime, it would probably be better now that I know what I'm getting into (plus 3DS version, plus an FAQ handy).
Probably not a bad plan. It's certainly a tough game to get into, and it's definitely not the first game I would recommend to someone looking for their first Zelda experience. But it's a pretty deep experience once you come to grips with all the nuances. You get out what you put in.
Majora's Mask is an amazing flawed game that has some really bad design elements. Biggest piece of advice I can give with it is that when you are unfamiliar with how it works you should do a cycle reset before any major undertaking like a dungeon or post dungeon bit.
Rusty Bucket is fine. It's perhaps the most flawed level in the game but by this point in the title you should be well versed in the mechanics. The layout isn't as bad as you probably remember as what Matthew says makes sense with the clockwise direction. Counter-clockwise almost works but it's actually easier I think to hit all the key points if you just survey the area instead of randomly find direction.
The music is nice and the engine jiggy is a bit of a pain, but it's way better depending on the side of the engine room you're on when you start that timer.
Some of what I mentioned is still going to be a problem with Majora's Mask, but it'll help to know what I'm getting into. I don't think I knew much about the game before going into it, so things like having four dungeons were a disappointment. I wasn't very into the side stuff either, since the poor time mechanic made exploration and discovery unfun, so I ended with 7 or 8 hearts which made it more difficult. If I treat it as not being a Zelda game, it should be better.
@Mop it up I'd definitely say that if you don't get into the side stuff it's not going to be your favorite Zelda game. The main quest was solid but yeah there were only 4 dungeons and they were not really the main appeal of the game for me (and I'd assume most fans of it?)
Kudos at putting Majora's Mask at #1. Such a fantastic game. I wish Nintendo would make another Zelda game with that time mechanic.
@Mop it up The time mechanic is not poor, and once you get into the game, it becomes second nature. Also, keep in mind, that you get a song to slow down time, which gives you twice as much time to do stuff in your three day cycle.