50 reasons to go Ultra
Out of all the Nintendo consoles, N64 might be the most unappreciated. It didn't have as many classic games as the PlayStation, the blocky graphics and fuzzy textures look a little terrible today, and the controller was an acquired taste. But don't dismiss the system just yet.
The N64 was host to many of the best games from the second half of the '90s. Its games defined and introduced concepts of 3D game design still used today. And for all the games on our countdown of the (newly updated) 50 best, the gameplay still holds up, even if the visuals occasionally falter. Let's start with the still unique...
50. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
He may have wandered around the ol' reboot block a few times too many, but Turok was the Boy Most Likely when he debuted on the N64 in 1997. The title launched something of a golden age for publisher Acclaim, which--along with frequent dev partner Iguana Entertainment--would favor the N64 with some of its most technically accomplished titles.
It's easy to forget what a risk Turok represented for Acclaim, then (as always) one flop away from bankruptcy. As one of the first M-rated games for the console, the game earned its rating with deep-red gouts gushing from downed, writhing enemies. Mario 64 this wasn't. The game pushed its chosen genre as well, incorporating divisive platforming elements that foreshadowed the likes of Metroid Prime. Acclaim would build on Turok's success with sleeper hits like Shadow Man and Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M., as well as later Turok titles. But the dark, bloody original stands out as a genuine N64 revelation.
49. Excitebike 64
In the struggle to keep pace with industry trendsetter Sony, the Nintendo 64 never really had a good answer to the endlessly engrossing Gran Turismo. However, the lack of a AAA automotive sim didn't stop Nintendo's platform from hosting a handful of top-notch arcade-style racers, a category in which Excitebike 64 definitely deserves mention.
Following on from the similarly addictive Wave Race 64 and 1080 Snowboarding, Excitebike 64 upped the ante by resuscitating a beloved NES-era racer for the particles-'n'-jaggies era. The exacting controls left little room for error, and with the game arriving late in the console's lifespan, many gave the demanding racer a pass. Those who persisted were rewarded with a tight racer which retained that old-school flavor while branching out into adventurous new game modes.
48. Star Wars Episode 1 Racer
Among the myriad complaints levelled at Jar Jar Binks' cinematic debut, film critics of 1999 delighted in pointing out that the movie's pod-racing set piece looked more like a non-interactive video game than an actual scene from a movie. If that was the setup for a joke about cynical game-industry cash-ins, the punchline defied critics by actually being pretty great.
While the PlayStation made do with middling Star Wars titles like Dark Forces and Masters of Ters Ksi, Episode 1 Racer continued the N64's run of high-quality Lucas licenses while allowing you to delve deeper into the world of the prequels (should that option prove enticing). History may remember Episode 1 Racer as a lesser Wipeout or F-Zero--but having outsold both series to achieve a Guinness World Record for sci-fi racer sales, maybe Watto and friends got the last laugh after all.
47. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Nintendo wasn't shy about milking the presence of a new Star Wars title in the N64's launch lineup--but developer LucasArts' unexpectedly thrilling side story quickly justified the hype. Taking place alongside episodes V and VI of the original trilogy, the game includes fresh perspectives on beloved sequences like the Battle of Hoth and the infiltration of Cloud City; impressively, such fan service isn't even Shadows of the Empire's strongest offering.
The canon-skirting adventures of newbie mercenary Dash Rendar took you through a variety of gameplay styles, from run-and-gun third-person platforming to piloting challenges behind the controls of several different craft. By the time you got through the cleverly interwoven plot, events of the original movies had taken on new significance.
46. Bakuretsu Muteki Bangaioh
Shooter diehards looking for a truly bullet-hellish experience on Nintendo 64 need look no further than Treasure's mecha-powered sci-fi challenge. That's if you can find a copy: While remakes of the game made waves on Dreamcast and later XBLA (the American release is called Bangai-O), the original cartridge saw an extremely limited, Japan-only release.
But assuming you can get your hands on one--we'll always believe in you, after all--what sort of an experience are you in for? A frenetic, fast-paced one of the sort that developer Treasure excels; an explosion-counting, fruit-collecting, pilot-swapping epic that's always good for just one more go.
45. Yoshi's Story
While Mario made a swift and successful transition to 3D, his new reptilian BFF was nowhere to be found in the third dimension for some time. Instead, Nintendo issued this sign of continuing dedication to both Yoshi and the side-on platforming that had served the company so well.
Yoshi's Island fans expecting a full-fledged sequel to the SNES classic found the game hard to love: With a shallower difficulty curve and greater emphasis on cutesy presentation, the game's often remembered as One For The Kids. But even were that true, it's an uncommonly generous offering for younger players, and the short game's high repeat-play value makes it worth looking out for.
44. Harvest Moon
Continuing on from the Super Nintendo original, Harvest Moon 64 built on that game's surprisingly engrossing formula with a greater emphasis on community and interaction--giving your lonely farmer a choice of prospective wives and a variety of NPC-filled festival days to break up the solitude of an agricultural lifestyle.
The basic order of the day remains the same: Guide your peppy land-steward through a variety of crop-tendin', animal-husbandin' chores. If you were actually living in the country, these would be the sort of things you were forced into before breaking out the N64; but as it is, sheep-shearing proves a welcome diversion from the console's other challenges.
43. Pilotwings 64
Pilotwings' recent foray onto 3DS didn't set the world alight like earlier entries in the series--but when Nintendo revealed this 3D follow-up to the Mode 7-taxing original, it was a triumphant demo of just how much the Nintendo 64 had to offer.
Players old enough for the original Pilotwings will thrill to this title's expansion on the formula, offering a variety of challenging craft whose exacting controls are a buzz to master. Neophytes may wonder where all the enemies are meant to be--but once you get the hang of it, there's never been a Pilotwings quite like this one.
42. San Francisco Rush 2049
The original San Francisco Rush was a fast-paced, futuristic arcade racer whose competence on Nintendo 64 showed that the console could keep pace with slick arcade standards of the late '90s. The followup, Extreme Racing USA, managed to outdo the Nintendo-pushed Cruis'n USA at its own cross-country game; but it's Rush 2049 that really pushed the N64.
With vibrant neon graphics, a soundtrack of the thwoomp-thwoomp tunes we all loved back then, and the addition of stunt-enabling winged vehicles, the N64's Rush 2049 gives the arcade version a run for its money. It's a high point for the Rush series, which faltered with the next generation's L.A. installment.
Bashing on the N64's competence with comic-book properties is an easy way to make friends, so notorious is the platform's attempt at a Superman license. But it would be a mistake to write off all attempts at 64-bit superheroism, particularly with a Peter Parker sim this competent on offer.
Developed by Tony Hawk maestros Neversoft, the game was a revelation upon its 2000 release, putting to rest years' worth of mediocre side-on web-slinging titles. It's in this title--coded by future Dragon Age convertors Edge of Reality--that Spider-man emerges as the high-flying hero who'd captivate players as the character continued to shine throughout the 2000s.
40. Dr. Mario 64
Mario continues to flout his questionable medical credentials in this slick, brightly colored update of the pill-slinging NES original. Hurling medicine into a jarful of scowling bacteria is as Hippocratically sound as it ever was, but the game manages a couple of sweeteners to entice you back into the flow of things.
Most notable is the addition of an assortment of fresh villains, drawn from Wario Land 3 and including Mario's stinkiest antagonist, Wario himself, as a playable character. That's the dressing on an offering that also includes six different single-player modes and several ways to infect friends, including a four-player party mode.
39. Wave Race 64
When you release a new console, one of the key goals is being quick out of the gate with a title that demonstrates that console's ability to render water so convincingly that all previous efforts look like so much stagnant blue crud. Does Wave Race 64 qualify? Sure, why not.
The game's central graphical trick might not pack the same punch as it did in 1996, but this is a Shigeru Miyamoto game, after all, so there's plenty going on beneath the shiny surface. Besides looking like a passable approximation of actual H2O, the game handles noticeably differently to a land-based racer--with some courses offering a placid surface for exacting turns, while others churn and knock you off course. The original and Virtual Console versions both offer a challenge even today.
38. Mega Man 64
To call Mega Man's 3D outing divisive is an understatement: Why, when fitting the game into The Ultimate Mega Man retrospective a few years back, we had trouble even getting past the baffling decision to redesign the Blue Bomber as a helmetless, spiky-haired everybot.
Still, Mega Man is Mega Man, and with the series' troubled release history over the last few years, we'll take what we can get. Overseen by creator Keiji Inafune and rife with voice acting, cinema cutscenes, and RPG elements, it's an intriguing look at what happens when a beloved retro character leaps oversized-feet-first into next-gen trends.
Having built on the Mario 64 formula and created the collect-'em-up to end all collect-'em-ups, Banjo-Kazooie creators and Nintendo darlings Rare were expected to deliver big things with the game's 2000 sequel. As fans of the game's XBLA rerelease will attest, Banjo-Tooie does a pretty good job of expanding upon what was a pretty flawless model to begin with.
Offering new tricks for the bird and bear, and a persistent hub-based world for their quest, Banjo-Tooie may not represent the same novelty as the original, but it makes up for it with technical and gameplay innovations that improve on that title in numerous ways. Simply put, this is the genre for which the N64 was built, and Banjo-Tooie is one of its finest examples.
36. Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
Nintendo 64-owning RPG fans were never spoiled for choice during the console's lifespan, with genre flag-bearers Square infamously moving Final Fantasy to Sony's PlayStation for its greater multimedia capabilities. But role-play aficionados always knew Final Fantasy wasn't the only game in town.
For instance, while Sony players were gorging on multiple discs' worth of FMV and orchestral soundtracks, N64 players got a continuation of the thinkier, more tactical Ogre Battle saga, making good use of the console's greater processing power for the most technically accomplished game in the series. Rereleased on Virtual Console in 2010--the first third-party title to hit the service--it's well worth checking out for retrogamers looking for an alternative to the likes of FF7.
35. Killer Instinct Gold
Nintendo 64 players eager for the promised, arcade-perfect home version of Killer Instinct may have felt shortchanged when such a title failed to materialize--but when Killer Instinct Gold finally appeared, it turned out to be a more-than-satisfactory alternative.
The multimedia-saturated presentation of the coin-op was stripped back for cartridge play, but in its place came a Killer Instinct 2 with plenty of extras--including full 3D stages, multiple gameplay modes, and numerous unlockables. It wasn't a KI cabinet in your living room as originally teased: It was considerably better.
34. Donkey Kong 64
From the moment the lengthy, now-infamous DK Rap blows a hole in your speaker, it's clear that Donkey Kong 64 intends to amuse and impress in equal parts--and doesn't care if it looks like a monkey in the process. Bundled with the compulsory N64 Expansion Pak, star developer Rare pulled out all the stops for the biggest DK adventure yet--or since.
The free-roaming 3D gameplay isn't as tight as the notoriously demanding Donkey Kong Country, but in its place is an expansive Banjo-Kazooie-style romp full of twists and humor. Well worth a look, if you can track down Rare's rare Virtual Console holdout.
33. Mario Golf
Originally the Sega division behind RPGs like Shining Force, it was Mario Golf that put Camelot Software Planning at the top of Nintendo's call list. Built on a modified version of the company's own Everybody's Golf engine, the game began a partnership between Nintendo and Camelot that's only grown over ensuing generations.
The Nintendo 64 version of Mario Golf eschews the RPG elements of the Game Boy Color and Advance versions, focusing instead on tight, eminently accessible sessions behind the tee. Don't be fooled by the game's approachable facade: This is as challenging a game as you'll encounter on N64.
32. NFL Blitz 2000
Midway put a dent in the ubiquitous Madden-ification of console football with this hard-tackling, arcade-style gridiron package. Doing for football what stablemate NBA Jam had done for basketball, the 64 version of Blitz 2000 sees the series hit an early high point on a console not known for its sporting accomplishments.
Retaining the fast-paced gameplay of the coin-guzzling original, the 2000 iteration adds a few sweeteners for home players: four-player head-to-head matches, a new system-exclusive play editor, a smoother interface, and passing play streamlined for the N64's distinctive control layout. The NFL roster might not have been updated in 14 years, but the gameplay's still fresh.
31. Mischief Makers
The perpetually mischief-prone Treasure strikes again, this time with an oft-forgotten side-on platforming gem that hasn't aged a day. Developed in partnership with Japanese publisher Enix, the game was the first N64 outing for a Treasure team composed heavily of veterans from beloved run-and-gun Gunstar Heroes.
But Mischief Makers doesn't need to lean on its lofty pedigree. The title's distinctive grab-'n'-shake gameplay showed that collect-'em-up 3D epics weren't the only trick in the N64's arsenal. Undersold and left off the Virtual Console, Mischief Makers is crying out for a revival if you can only find a copy.
30. Pokmon Stadium
One for the diehard pokmaniacs, Nintendo persisted with Pokmon Stadium even after its Japan-only predecessor died at retail. And a good thing too: There's every indication that this is the game which developer HAL Laboratory wanted to make all along.
Boasting a full Red/Blue/Yellow roster of 151 pocket monsters, the game doesn't have time to get bogged down in the stories or side quests of the handheld titles: This is all full-color, 3D-modelled pok-battles, all the time. Packaged with the N64 Transfer Pak, veterans of the portable games could now show you their Pokmons like never before.
29. Bomberman 64
If you weren't a fool in the late '90s, your console had a competent version of Bomberman on it; and Virtual Boy/Mortal Kombat fiascos aside, Nintendo wasn't a fool in the late '90s, so players had plenty of Bombermans to choose from.
Bomberman 64 was the pick of the lot on Nintendo 64, mainly for the inclusion of a comprehensive multiplayer mode alongside the single-player story game which came to dominate later entries like Bomberman Hero. It's always nice to have a quest for Bomberman to go on, and the new 3D engine provided far greater variety than earlier single-player B-man escapades. But the series' heart is still in its furious P2P battles, and it's in this area that Bomberman 64 is happy to oblige.
These days any new Tetris game that gets released has settled into the comfortable groove of gingerly updating the core gameplay, with few really challenging the formula. Not so with this inventive twist on the Tetris formula, which sadly never caught on with players enough to get a sequel. The puzzle gameplay is all about searching and exploring the multiple layers of a sphere to find the best place to drop a piece and clear an area.
It took Tetris into three dimensions in a way that hasn't been done since. Other puzzle games for N64 might be a little "better," but none are as special as Tetrisphere.
27. Pokmon Snap
One of the more inventive Pokmon spin-offs, Pokmon Snaps gimmick of a first-person photographic journey through a Pokmon-rich world made the concept of the franchise more real than ever. Basically the game is a virtual amusement park ride where Pokmon are jumping out at you, though you have to work a little to make some of the rarer ones appear and allow you to capture them on celluloid.
It came at just the right time as Pok fever was hitting its stride, and to this day its one of the best-looking Pokmon games. Don't dismiss it just because of its cutesy concept or light gameplay demands. Give in to the beauty of the world of Pokmon!
26. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Kirby showed up late to the N64 party when Kirby 64 hit the console in 2000, but those who still owned the system were in for an adorable treat. It brought traditional Kirby style to the system while experimenting with the formula in interesting ways.
The 2D trappings were replaced with 2.5D polygonal visuals, while Kirby's enhanced copying ability allowed for Kirby to combine powers and abilities from the folks he swallowed. Add to that some interesting minigames and the usual Kirby charm and you have another memorable entry in the classic series.
25. Pokmon Puzzle League
Japanophile purists may wail and moan to see Nintendo's beloved Panel de Pon sullied with a whole lot of extraneous Pokmon window-dressings... but for the other 95% of you, here's a great puzzle game replete with Ash Ketchum-themed interludes.
As the game's cosmetic component--drawn from the then-blockbusting Pokmon anime--will attest, this is a package designed with casual and younger players in mind. However, by the time you've mastered the basics, there's still some challenging puzzle play in there, and it remains a great setting for cross-generational multiplayer matchups.
24. Sin and Punishment
Compared to the SNES and NES, there weren't many great N64 games that failed to make it to America. But out of all the ones that did, Sin and Punishment was the best. And when the game was finally released stateside on Wii's Virtual Console, we were at last able to appreciate the on-rails shooter in all its explosive glory.
Not unlike later entry Star Fox, S&P takes you through auto-scrolling stages with hundreds of enemies to blast to bits. It also took Treasure's unique approach to game design and coupled it with Nintendo's trademark polish. That, along with its offbeat art and story, make it more than worthy of being remembered as one of the 64-bit greats.
23. Diddy Kong Racing
By the time the 32/64-bit generation rolled around, the kart genre was in full swing, as every Muppet, Smurf, and Flintstone starred in their own racer. Only a few distinguished themselves from the crowd, but Diddy Kong and his cavalcade of furry friends eventually found a way to bust out of the mold.
Instead of just settling for karts, Diddy Kong Racing added planes and hovercrafts to the mix, with multilayered racetracks made to accommodate all of the different vehicles. Though the racing might not have felt as balanced as in Mario Kart, Diddy still succeeded at karting greatness.
22. Jet Force Gemini
While Rare is known for GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie, it also gave birth to another franchise during the N64 generation--one thats essentially halfway between its two other popular games. Jet Force Gemini had the same focus on exploration and collection as the Banjo games, but also brought with it something neither Banjo nor Kazooie would have ever used: guns. JFG was a shooter, first and foremost, and what a shooter it was.
Traveling around the alien planet and blowing apart bad guys while saving adorable tribal creatures (or shooting their heads off, as we were known to do) was incredibly satisfying. The games co-op was fantastic, too, even if it wasnt as fleshed out as it was in some other games. Beyond all of that, though, what the game had that many others didnt was originality. There simply arent many games like Jet Force Gemini, and thats a damn shame.
21. F-Zero X
The N64 had its fair share of racing games, including the perfectly acceptable Cruisin' games and entries in the Ridge Racer series, but none owned the concept of speed like F-Zero X. This sequel took the concepts of the SNES original into 3D with pulse-pounding style.
At the time some knocked it for its graphics, but the devs made the choice of sacrificing polygons for silky-smooth 60 frames per second speed. It was the right choice, as brain-melting speed is the heart of what makes F-Zero a beloved franchise. If you weren't a fan, that's just because you couldn't keep up.
20. Mario Party
Mario Party and party games in general might seem pretty stale now, but think back to a time before the genre was oversaturated beyond belief. Imagine when the concept of four friends playing a board game on your TV was incredibly fun and novel. That's why Mario Party is on the list.
Almost all the best N64 games embraced the system's four controller ports, and Mario Party did it spectacularly. The minigame variety kept pulling us back in for one more game, as did the satisfaction of screwing our friend out of their hard-earned stars. Sure, a few challenges might have ripped the skin off your hands, but that was just another example of our dedication to winning!
19. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
Mystical Ninja was absolutely ridiculous. Goemon and his ninja friends were on a quest to stop alien dancers from blasting Japan with a giant laser. This laser wouldnt destroy the country, however--it would convert it into a giant stage, turning all Japanese people into dancers. Yup. And while this sort of tale could be botched horribly, Mystical Ninja pulled it off, with hilarious characters and an awesome style.
All of this awesome style would have gone to waste if the gameplay wasnt strong, and, luckily, it was. Goemons 3D world was a blast to explore, and switching between ninjas made for some awesome gameplay opportunities.
18. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
When you first boot up this semi-sequel to the X-Wing/TIE Fighter series and fly out over Tatooine, it's almost hard to believe it's actually running on a Nintendo 64 at all. That's how masterful a job LucasArts and Factor 5 performed on this, the first--and in some ways, still the best--in a trilogy of superlative flight-sim titles.
A dauntingly comprehensive campaign, filled with variety and authentic hells-yeah-Star-Wars moments, is capped off by a musical score by Turrican maestro Chris Hlsbeck to leave you with one of the N64's most essential shooters.
17. Body Harvest
Believe it or not, Body Harvest is basically a prequel to GTA3. It was developed by DMA Design, the same company that would eventually become Rockstar North and redefine the industry. But first it had to make a game about battling giant bugs.
One of the few western-developed N64 games of any note not made by Rare, Body Harvest was a sandbox game before we even knew the genre existed. You explore open cities, hop in vehicles, and complete missions, all while fighting giant bugs. Woefully ahead of its time, Body Harvest was a taste of the future for those who gave it a chance and earned recognition as a bug-killing pioneer.
16. Blast Corps
Blast Corps' plot isnt its strong suit--you need to stop nuclear warheads from blowing up, because nuclear warheads blowing up is bad for everyone. In order to prevent catastrophe, you need to... blow up stuff. Like, level cities and stuff. It might not make a whole lot of sense, but its extremely fun, and thats all that matters.
Destroying buildings is just fun! Thats all there is to it. Even if the graphics dont hold up, the gameplay, which is about as raw and powerful as it gets, absolutely does, making for an awesome, original, replayable experience.
It's funny sometimes how fast Worms can spread. What started as a simple PC distraction quickly became one of the most beloved party games in dorm rooms and bachelor pads worldwide. Once the annelids came to the N64, they were right at home on the multiplayer-friendly system.
The turn-based action and hyper-precise shooting controls made each duel a pressure cooker of intensity. It was hard not to love Worms for its collection of comedic weapons along with the humor of watching a a friend miss a jump and splat right into the ground. The unpredictable nature of the game made it a joy to come back to every time, and it's why we're still hungry for Worms to this day.
14. Mario Tennis
Mario began a sporting renaissance during the late '90s thanks to developer Camelot taking Mario and friends to athletic greatness. The Mario Golf games were great fun, but it was Mario Tennis that had us most hooked, with an approachable style that held a shocking amount of depth.
Each character had subtle differences to their playstyle, as did each court, making for fast and intense matches. Tennis also saw the return of Birdo and Daisy to the series (along with the notorious Waluigi). Additionally, it was one of the few games that allowed for connectivity between the N64 game and its Game Boy Color counterpart, a feature Nintendo would come to embrace more in the future.
13.Conker's Bad Fur Day
After Nintendo, Rare was probably the most dominant developer on the N64, but following a series of all-ages collect-a-thons, the UK dev needed to shake things up. So Rare went all out and created the profane, sprawling, excessively British, hilarious, bloody brilliant Conker's Bad Fur Day.
Taking full advantage of the comedy skills only hinted at in other games, Conker is a thoroughly R-rated game filled with clever platforming stages and scatological humor. Expertly mocking gaming conventions and then-current films like The Matrix, Conker proved the N64 wasn't only fun for kids.
Banjo, a bear, and Kazooie, the bird that lives in his backpack, are on an adventure to defeat the evil witch Gruntilda, and youre in control. Granted, this was a Rare game for the N64, so when we say that they are on an adventure to defeat the evil witch Gruntilda we mean they need to collect hundreds of random, spinning objects placed throughout the world.
Some look back at this sort of collection-driven platforming with distaste, but at the time it was a completionist's dream. Banjo-Kazooie was essentially a game about achievements, years before Microsoft even entered the console race. This sort of gameplay wouldnt have worked if the game wasnt just so damn fun. Banjo-Kazooie was simply a blast to play, with hilarious, memorable characters.
After the early success of Wave Race 64, Nintendo decided to stick with the more extreme side of racing, but traded in water for snow. 1080 took snowboarding games to new heights and stands out as the best sports game the system saw.
Boasting amazing graphics and physics for its time, many proclaimed it the best realization of snowboarding in gaming to date. Also, it ably mixed tricks and racing in a way that EA eventually made famous in its SSX series. One of the hippest games on the console, it's too bad that Nintendo has basically abandoned the series after its GameCube sequel.
10.WWF: No Mercy
No game before or since got wrestling better than the AKI/THQ games did on N64, and the pinnacle of that series is WWF: No Mercy. You may think the graphics look bad now, but it doesnt matter what you think! The deceptively simple weak/strong grapple and strike system created matches dense with strategy, as a well-timed reversal could turn the tide at any moment.
Whether building momentum for a powerful finisher, or working over a limb for a submission, No Mercy understood the logic and drama of wrestling, making it unique from other sports and fighting games, putting everything we love about sports entertainment right there on the screen. With all that and one of the deepest character creators ever, its easy to see why many diehards are still playing it today.
9.The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Majora's Mask is the dark horse of the Legend of Zelda series. Knowing your way through Ocarina of Time might be essential for Nintendo 64 know-alls, but Majora's Mask is the codeword you have to drop to get into the back room at parties. And besides, it isn't the one with Navi or the Water Temple. Phew.
But you can be sure there's lots else to get confounded by here. The game requires that you've plugged an Expansion Pak into your N64--and an extra one into your brain. A dark fairytale of a story brings together repeating timelines and impending apocalypse, in an alternate version of Hyrule in which everything's just a little bit delightfully off. Prepare to see The Legend of Zelda in a whole different way.
Thanks to the Bond license going elsewhere to Die Another Day, Rare could never make an official GoldeneEye sequel, so it did the next best thing. Perfect Dark took the super spy concept, mixing in some sci-fi and retaining virtually everything that made GoldenEye great.
After playing the campaign to unlock everything in the multiplayer, Perfect Dark had the same irresistible FPS gameplay that got us to sink hundreds of hours into a whole new Rare game. Perfect Dark featured an unheard-of amount of customization and stat-tracking for a console game, and the only thing that stops it from surpassing its older sibling are some minor glitches here and there. But so long as you had the Expansion Pak, Perfect Dark was a must buy.
After Square brought gamers Mario's first brush with role-playing greatness in Super Mario RPG, players had to wait five long years before Nintendo returned the plumber to the genre. But seeing as how Paper Mario is better in virtually every way, we're glad the publisher took its time.
The flat visuals simplified the already-cute Mario world to new levels of adorableness, and the similarly scaled-down combat makes for dynamic battles that still feel deep. The localization is top-notch, with Nintendo's usually great dialogue showing off its adeptness at humor. An epic adventure for the ages, Paper Mario proved the N64 could have amazing RPGs when it wanted to.
6.Mario Kart 64
If your family's home had an N64, it had better have had four controllers on hand, or you weren't getting all you could out of the system. One of the first games to prove to owners the fun of split-screen competition was this particularly addictive version of Mario Kart.
Super Mario Kart created the kart racing genre with such ease there was little room for improvement, but Mario Kart 64 offered some up anyway. Whether we were drifting around Moo Moo Farm, having hyper-competitive balloon fights, or doing our best to shave seconds off our ghost runs, this game inspired a real dedication in us. Other Mario Karts look prettier, but for many this was the Kart they played the most.
5. Star Fox 64
The original Star Fox on SNES was proof that Nintendo could do a polygonal space opera, but it wasn't until the game was basically remade on the N64 that the series become truly great. The 3D adventure was perfectly suited for the system, as each stage flew by as a fully realized world unlike anything we'd seen before.
With a concept any Star Wars fan could get behind, Star Fox 64 had Fox McCloud and friends hop in their Arwings and blast away thousands of ships all over the galaxy. Each arcade-style stage climaxed in a stellar boss fight. It might not be the longest game, but we dare you to play any of the stages only once.
4. Super Smash Bros.
The original Super Smash Bros. seems like such an obvious idea, its astounding that nothing like it had really happened before. Until that point Nintendos many franchises had been pretty separate, but SSB brought them all together in one incredibly frantic brawler. Dream matches like Mario vs. Link or Pikachu vs. Samus played out over and over in levels slathered in Nintendo love and nostalgia.
Fighting game purists may complain that SSB is a cheap, shallow affair that has no right being called a fighter, but the fans know better. The cheapness, the insanity, the unbalanced nature of the fights, all of it adds to the total chaotic pleasure of the whole thing. In no time at all SSB became one of Nintendos most successful franchises, thanks in no small part to Super Smash Bros. fans being some of the most dedicated in the world.
3.Super Mario 64
After years of dominating 2D side-scrollers, Nintendo (in one try, mind you) perfectly translated Marios silly, colorful levels into then-bleeding-edge virtual worlds that begged to be explored, leapfrogging the competition and ushering in a new age of analog controls.
Each world had so many things to see and do it was easy to completely lose sight of the main goal (collecting stars to progress farther into Peachs overrun castle). Said castle offered hours of hidden areas and Easter eggs tucked away in its many rooms. It still blows us away that Nintendo, in one game, could make a brilliant 3D adventure when so many still have trouble getting it right today. Granted, the early 3D visuals are getting on in years, but the controls, level design, and open-endedness of each area make it a must-play even now.
2. GoldenEye 007
Though PC owners had been enjoying first-person shooters for years, the majority of console owners never understood what the big deal was until GoldenEye. Though based on the James Bond film of the same name, the plot is basically meaningless to most N64 owners, as the multiplayer consumed their lives like no other.
Up to four players could enjoy the split-screen fun, as Rare's approach to gameplay made FPS action more enticing than ever before to home console owners. Elitists may have scoffed at it, but we were too busy memorizing Facility's layout to care. For every game of Halo or Modern Warfare you enjoyed, know that GoldenEye paved the way for it.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
There's little new to be said about Ocarina of Time, as it remains one of the most historically important games of all time, as well as one of the best. At a time when other companies were struggling and failing to understand how to transfer 2D gaming concepts and ideas into a 3D world, Ocarina did it so effortlessly that it's hard to believe it was ever a problem.
Set in a world bigger than anyone thought technologically possible at the time, its mythic story spanned cities, dungeons, lakes, mountains, deserts, forest, and divergent timelines. The Z-targeting and combat set the standard for years, and the soundtrack still rings in our ears to this day. Later Zelda games further improved and refined Ocarina's formula, but it was this title that proved such a game could not only exist, but be this extremely good.
What do you think?
Obviously not every game could make the list--there are only so many games that can be labeled the absolute best. We're sure that some of you have games you think should have been added, cut, or rearranged, so let us know in the comments below what you would change about our list of the Best Nintendo 64 games of all time.