At the time, the N64 was amazing. I may be alone in this opinion, but the Nintendo 64 is the company's worst home console. Their biggest failure was undoubtedly the Virtual Boy. I'm not crazy here. It was our first taste at 3D with Nintendo, which was a tremendous evolution for the industry. What was mind blowing back then, is ugly and clunky in terms of the graphics and gameplay mechanics. Pretty negative way for an article about ranking the thirty best games right? There is a silver lining though.
More so than anything else I love playing games I missed the first time around. Discovery pushes me to keep writing. That's why I took this topic on. Getting familiar with the roots of a classic console goes a long way. Remembering what was innovative during the mid to late 90s. It lets us appreciate how far games have come. There is no doubt (for all of its failings) that Nintendo 64 is synonymous with industry milestones, and it charted a lot of unknown territory for the company itself. Not to mention the introduction of the analogue stick (on a mainstream home console).
The Nintendo 64 maybe not be Nintendo's best system, but it is certainly deer to a lot of people, and the industry itself. So let's look back at Nintendo's last cartridge-based home console. Here is a ranked list of the Nintendo 64s best games of all time.
27 Mario Party
Let's begin with the worst best game. Only joking, well, mostly. Truthfully the first Mario Party isn't that bad. It's become tired thanks to Nintendo spewing out uninteresting sequels. It maybe changes once a generation, and that's being overly friendly. Anyway, the first game was a novel enough concept that is still pretty fun. Ugly as hell, but it's good to pop out for nostalgia reasons, or if you're incredibly drunk. Playing Mario Party isn't the worst decision given that circumstance. There’s always Monopoly, which the series holds close ties to. You pick a character, try to make your way to the end with the most valuables, and in-between you’ll play some mini games. Like Monopoly, the only real bad thing about Mario Party is how time-consuming it can be to play and set up.
26 Conker’s Bad Fur Day
If it weren’t for Rare, the N64 would have been a flop. If you take their crop versus Nintendo’s first party stuff, it'd be close to a draw. That said both sides also have some less than stellar titles. While not the worst, Conker's Bad Fur Day doesn't hold up as well as most of the company’s other games. There's a lot of dialogue and cutscenes that you can't skip, the platforming is average at best, and the jokes are extremely dated. On another note, it's all too vulgar. Swearing and eroticism are great, but this game tries too hard. It's annoying more than it is bad, but I applaud Rare for trying something risky on a family friendly Nintendo device.
25 Mischief Makers
I remember seeing this box at my local rental store all the time and it reminded me of Mega Man Legends. I don’t know why. Hope maybe? Anyway, you're this tough-as-nails robot girl who must rescue a professor from the evil minions. It's a side scrolling puzzle platformer that still plays great. You can dash and boost in multiple directions and grab enemies to shake them to death. This was in a pre-Wario Shake It world too. I have two issues that keep it from getting any higher. One, while the character portrait art looks great as do the backgrounds, the in game models look off. The best way I can describe it? The models look too 3D if that makes sense. Two, it's painfully difficult. Gripes aside it's definitely one of the more unique titles on the console.
24 Pokémon Stadium
If you read my article on bad Pokémon spin-offs, then you'll know I'm not too fond of Pokémon Stadium. As I said in the list, it's not that the game is necessarily terrible. It’s just that it boils the series down to its simplest form: battling. It loses the adventure of the mainline portable games. That’s where I was going with that piece. On its own though, and for the time, yeah, it was crazy awesome. I mean aside from the anime this was the first real 3D representation of Pokémon. Technically Pokémon Snap came first, but that was just a looking game. Here you could actually control the Pokémon! Their move sets and animations still look really awesome today even if the models are a bit, er, jagged.
23 Pokémon Snap
Yeah, I have said some mean things about Pokémon Snap too, but again, at the time it was a unique concept. Not just for Pokémon, but for the on-rails shooter genre. Who would have thought that a game would come along where you didn’t have to kill something? I can’t believe there aren’t more copycats like this. Actually, I guess walking simulators are kind of the same laid back concept, but I digress. You play as Todd Snap who has come to visit and aid Professor Oak in his research. It's a simple concept that's fun, but a little too short. I'm actually pretty surprised Nintendo never made a light gun shaped like a camera. If they had maybe I'd look back at this game more fondly.
22 Bomberman Hero
Bomberman's normal gameplay is fun when in groups, but I never found it compelling when playing with myself. It's more, or less a puzzle series and that genre just doesn't suit me. So when I saw the cute bomber made a 3D action platformer I jumped on board. It's not the greatest platformer on the console. Far from it, but it takes what made Bomberman special and applies it aptly into a fun little experience the whole family can enjoy. It's not as catchy as Bomberman 64's jingle, which is just a rip-off of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon, but I'm fine with that. Also, unlike Bomberman 64, it doesn’t feature any multiplayer. Again, that’s fine for me. It let the developers polish what they started with the previous iteration.
21 Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
I've never been one for vehicle-based games. It's just not in my wheelhouse. Same with sports. I am, however, willing to give licensed-based video games a shot. Especially when it comes to Star Wars. While this first entry in the Rogue Squadron franchise isn't perfect, it's still a hell of a lot of fun. If you have the N64 expansion pack then this game still looks visually astounding. The environments are bland, but all of the effects and ships are wonderfully designed making you really feel like an ace pilot in the rebel alliance. Yeah, we have better versions now, but it’s still fun to play the classics. Especially when they launch a series like this one.
20 Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire
Rogue Squadron is a great air combat simulator, but Shadows of the Empire had variety. This is essentially episode 5.5 following the exploits of Han Solo’s smuggler friend, Dash Rendar. There were vehicle-based levels and turret sections, but for the most part, it was a third-person shooter. Variety aside, it had tank controls similar to Resident Evil and the shooting was awful. You could aim, but only while standing still. So yeah, if you wanted accuracy you had to get shot. What? Plus the game looks like butt today. Despite some set backs, I appreciate the significance of Shadows of the Empire. Star Wars merchandising had been dead up to this point, but the release of the book sort of kick-started a revival, which led to this game.
Unsurprisingly this was also Castlevania’s first attempt at a 3D version for their franchise. PlayStation kept it 2D, but evolved what made Castlevania special. Ultimately it’s the better experience. Some would say even the best in the series. Now while Castlevania, or Castlevania 64 as it’s also known, is no Symphony of the Night it's also not that bad. Graphically it's rough around the edges and the controls are equally as impaired at times, but it's a solid action title and a good first step into 3D. There's really not that many terrible games in the franchise. How many series can say that? It's slightly above average and that's okay. Still a pretty good get for your N64 library.
18 Hybrid Heaven
Hybrid Heaven is reminiscent of Metal Gear Solid. Konami made it as well so there’s bound to be some similarities. You're a rogue agent who has to infiltrate an underground base filled with mutant aliens trying to take over the White House. Gameplay will also remind players of Parasite Eve. You can around in battle while waiting for your power meter to charge up. Once it does you can pause the action in order to deal out some melee strikes. It was unique for the time and the crazy story makes it hold up relatively well. In a campy sort of way that is.
Turok 2: Seeds Of Evil
Remember when dinosaur games were huge? There's so many to choose from between the 8-Bit, 16-bit, and early polygonal consoles. You can chalk that up to Jurassic Park’s popularity problem. Dinosaurs were just cool back then and then eventually, like NASA space travel, it became uncool. Before the interest degraded, Nintendo locked down the Turok franchise exclusively on their systems. The first game was a good first step, but Turok 2: Seeds of Evil is the pinnacle entry in the series. It’s not just about cutting down dinosaurs with led either. There are aliens involved too, which is completely insane. Look guys. I would have been happy with just killing dinosaurs, but kudos for going that extra mile with this bizarre concept. Not the best N64 FPS, but still loads of fun.
WinBack: Covert Operations
Did you know Omega Force has worked on more than just Dynasty Warriors and its many spinoffs? It's true! You can learn more about their history in this brief retrospective. Anyway, WinBack: Covert Operations is a 3rd-person shooter that released for the N64 and PS2 later on. You’re part of a special unit tasked with tracking down terrorists. The run and gun action is excellent even it can be clunky to aim at times like in Shadows of the Empire. You can definitely feel Dynasty Warriors in the game too, which is either good or bad depending on if you like those games. For me, I appreciate it, as I’m a pretty big fan. It may lack hundreds of troops, but the handful of enemies the game throws at your are fun to blast too.
Ogre Battle 64: Person Of Lordly Caliber
Before Yasumi Matsuno was snatched up by Square to make their Final Fantasy spinoff, he created his own world in Tactics Ogre. Each game is different mechanics wise. Tactics Ogre: Let Us Cling Together is pretty much the exact same concept as Final Fantasy Tactics. It’s also great. Even though it’s an Ogre game, Matsuno didn’t have anything to really do with it. It’s more akin to an RTS where you guide generals around an open map. When they touch an enemy an automated battle occurs with a small army. It may be a bit different, and super hard, but if you like Matsuno’s other games, especially ones involving dark themes and political content, then Ogre Battle 64 should be right up your ally.
17 Diddy Kong Racing
I first covered Diddy Kong Racing way back in February. In it I said the game was better than Mario Kart 64. The reasons being variety and the campaign. It has a story, which was novel for kart racers or even racing games at the time. Plus it added hovercraft and planes to the vehicle roster. While this gave the game more variety I don't think it's better overall. Like most Rare games though I think it's a very close second. There were apparently plans for a second one, but it was sadly canceled a long time ago. Go ahead and give Mario and his buddies a break for a while Nintendo. Diddy Kong Racing deserves a comeback!
16 Donkey Kong 64
The one thing everyone remembers about this game is the rap. So much so that it was paid homage too with Yooka-Laylee's launch back in April. They're both pretty, er, special let's say. As for the game it's a big departure for the side scrolling platforming of the SNES games. What's more Rare didn't use pre-rendered models this time. With the power of the N64, there was no need. In fact, I think this jump in technology kind of made the team go overboard. Everyone was so hyped on 3D that they never stopped to imagine what a 2D game should play like in 3D. It just sort of copied other attempts instead of trying to be its own thing. I still think it’s fun though.
15 Majora’s Mask
While Majora's Mask gets a lot of grief from gamers all over the world, I do applaud it for changing things up and cranking the weird factor up to eleven for The Legend of Zelda. Nintendo also made the game kind of depressing and stressful, which is where my turn off comes into play. I hate when games put you on an artificial timer. Implementing it in a Zelda game, a series that started on letting players freely roam around, is downright sinful. Yay. Time management. That's exactly what I want to escape the tedium of life with. Putting all that aside learning about and solving everyone's problems and transforming into different creatures is still cool. It was impressive that they made it so fast too. It’s just, you know, got some issues.
14 GoldenEye 007
Before Halo was heralded as the greatest first-person shooter on consoles we had GoldenEye 007. It defied so many expectations. For one Bond games were garbage prior to this title. Not only that, but video games based on movies were usually terrible. Technically it wasn't exactly a tie-in. While it is based on the film its release is unusual as it launched two years after the movie came to theaters. Then there was the FPS market on consoles. It had been done numerous times before, but nothing felt as good as GoldenEye 007. All that said, it's pretty rough now. So many games have trumped these FPS mechanics and multiplayer innovations. Still, it should be recognized as a game changer. That's why it's close to the top ten, but not quite there.
13 Mario Golf
Sports games are not my thing. I love to play sports and get outdoors. There’s something disconnecting about playing a video game version of football, or baseball. I just don’t get the craze. Golf is (strangely) a whole other story. It’s boring to play in real life and even worse to watch. Yet I can’t help, but love video game versions of the sport and not Tiger Woods, or PGA games either. I’m talking about the hyperactive, cutesy ones like Mario Golf and even PlayStation’s equivalent, Hot Shots Golf. It's nothing stellar in terms of visuals, but the easy to remember controls, memorable cast of characters, and colorful courses all make this a classic. The series has only gotten better over time. It really is fun for the whole family.
12 Resident Evil 2
Another thing PlayStation got to lord over the N64 is the better version of certain games. Resident Evil 2, for example. First of all it’s impressive that Capcom could fit two discs worth of content into one cartridge. However, this means that everything in the game is extremely compressed so pre-rendered backgrounds look horrible by comparison. All of the models still look good though. There are some pros to getting the N64 port though like not having to swap out discs if you’re lazy. Plus the loads are faster. At its core, this port is still a great game. I like Resident Evil 4 the best for taking the series to a new level, but Resident Evil 2 is by far the greatest “classic” style game in the franchise.
11 Goemon's Great Adventure
One of my favorite underrated games on the SNES is The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. I got that game on clearance at a Shopko as a kid. Do you even know what a Shopko is? Never mind. Point is it's easily in the top twenty for me. Anyway, I remember reading a preview about the N64 game, Mystical Ninja starring Goemon, and being hyped even after going the way of PlayStation. I wanted to play it no matter what, but the opportunity never came. I've tried it now and while it's a decent Zelda clone it's just okay. The better game in the series for the N64 is Goemon's Great Adventure. It’s exactly the same 2D side-scrolling action I loved on the SNES with just a few more bells and whistles.
10 Perfect Dark
These next ten games are must owns as they best represent the N64 system. Now as I said earlier GoldenEye 007 was a groundbreaking FPS for consoles at the time. We’ve gotten better since, but even the N64 had a greater first-person shooter and from Rare no less. I’m talking about the incredible Perfect Dark. I’m glad the team was able to take what they learned from the Bond game and apply it to their own thing. Plus it stars a female spy. Hot! The first level was is an incredible introduction to the action the entire game is based. It's raw adrenaline as you make your way into a secret lab while gunning down thugs. It looks good today, but even better in HD on the Xbox 360.
That opening theme song welcomes players in for a good time. It's so jolly and fun! This is definitely Rare's crowning achievement. Banjo-Kazooie could go toe to toe with Super Mario 64. In some cases, it winds up being better. Having two playable characters jammed into one was a great concept and worked well not just for the story, but for gameplay too. It doesn’t have as many worlds, but the humor and charm is a lot thicker with this bear and bird. Yeah, there are still some annoying aspects of it. Some dialogue can't be skipped and the camera can be wonky. Overall Mario is better, but Banjo-Kazooie is still amazing. Like Perfect Dark it also has an excellent HD port. Where’s Mario’s HD version?
8 Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
You know what's crazy? Kirby has never gone full 3D. He has been in spin-offs yeah, but never in a main platformer. At best he's gone 2.5D like in some of the more recent 3DS games. I know. I was as shocked as you are right now, but I discovered this while researching the pink hero's history for yet another retrospective. While I am curious what a 3D Kirby game would be like, I'm pretty thankful it didn't start with The Crystal Shards. It's one of the reasons why it's in the top ten. The gameplay and even graphics hold up a whole hell of a lot better because of it. It's still the same great suck ‘em gameplay you've come to love, but better.
7 Mega Man 64
Part of me wants to put this is number one as I'd gladly play it any day of the week. While most of Mega Man Legends has stayed the same in Mega Man 64, there are a few changes made to this port. Graphically it's mostly on par, but at the time critics seem to fuss about the game not updating the art style from the PlayStation version. Were they high? That game is still gorgeous and it shows even with the N64’s more blocky textures! That said, it's still a very deserving game — and it easily fits in with the masterworks of the top 10. Despite not getting perfect review scores, at its core, the game is perfect (to me) —PERFECT!
6 Paper Mario
Paper Mario is the first spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG. Square siding with PlayStation during this console war made all possibilities of a Super Mario RPG 2 impossible in terms of the licensed rights. They're thankfully backed on good terms now, so maybe we'll see a true sequel someday. Hah, hopefully. What we got in return in place of a sequel is also special though. Don't let my lamentations fool you. Paper Mario is wonderful. In fact, in some ways, I’d say it’s better than Super Mario 64. Graphically, for sure. The paper aesthetic still looks fantastic, and the humor is gut busting. The RPG mechanics are a bit clunkier, and the music is downright boring compared to its processor, but it's great nonetheless.
5 The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
As I've reiterated numerous times on here, nostalgia is a powerful thing. A Link to the Past is my favorite Zelda, but that may be because it was first. My friend’s first console was the N64 so thus Ocarina of Time became her first, which may be why it’s her favorite. That assumption doesn’t always hold up though. My first Mario was the original and that game isn’t as fun anymore. My point is, I understand why so many people look back fondly at this game. In many instances, I think it’s a masterful recreation of what made the other games fantastic, but in 3D. Ocarina of Time took the format of A Link to the Past and gave it an unprecedented open-world treatment that inspired a generation of video game developers.
4 Mario Kart 64
Okay, so what does Mario Kart 64 do better than Diddy Kong Racing? Diddy may have a story and vehicle variety, but that alone isn't enough to topple over Nintendo’s own world and characters. It was the natural evolution of what made Super Mario Kart so special. It created the colorful character kart game genre. Great clones have come and gone, but seriously, this game is one of the best. For my money, it didn't get good again until Mario Kart 8 if I had to rank them. The courses and roster are all so memorable. Yeah, they've improved since, but Mario Kart 64 is still so easy to plug in and play with three others. The only issue today is that split screen size.
3 Super Smash Bros.
Another commercial that is stuck in my brain is this one for Super Smash Bros. Every time I hear Happy Together by The Turtles this ad pops on in my head. It was one of the earliest crossovers I can remember. Comics did it all the time, but it seemed relatively new to games. I'm still waiting for that Kingdom Hearts caliber RPG based on Super Smash Bros., but while I wait for that let’s talk about the original behemoth. The roster was small in the beginning featuring only the biggest names in Nintendo’s library including Mario, Captain Falcon, Star Fox, Donkey Kong, Jigglypuff, Kirby, Link, Luigi, Ness, Pikachu, Samus, and Yoshi. Like Mario Kart 64, it’s still fun to play with friends even with the series’ later improvements.
2 Starfox 64
This may be an incredibly short game, but dang if this isn't a blast to play still. It's the best in the series so much so that Nintendo hasn't topped it since. They keep remaking it, and I'm not talk about the 3DS port. Star Fox Zero is basically a retelling of sorts, but so is Starfox 64 compared to the original Starfox. It’s like an infinite time loop of alternate dimensions. When they do branch off into new territory they always wind up being terrible. Cough, Starfox Adventures for the GameCube, cough. Anyway, this game has everything. An engaging story, memorable quotes, fantastic levels, and stupendous action. And let's not forget about the music. Again, this is Starfox and his pals at their finest.
1 Super Mario 64
So I played this game in almost its entirety when my cousin gave me his N64 to borrow with this game. I remember loving it at the time, but I never got to finish. Years later I tried the DS port and hated it. I tried it on Virtual Console and through emulation and I thought, well, this game just isn’t good. That was my theory, but I invested $100 to get an actual N64 with this game just for this article and I was blown away. Yeah, some things don’t hold up like the camera, which isn’t that surprising given the other entries. That said, boy, playing the real thing is magical. The N64 and even that awful controller make it practically perfect. Easily number one by miles.