10. Doom 64
Even though Midway’s game scored highly on release, its simple mechanics and lack of multiplayer meant it was never spoken about in the same hushed tones as the likes of Goldeneye, Turok 2, and Perfect Dark. We’d argue that that simplicity actually works in its favor today as its polished mechanics, satisfying gunplay and reasonably high frame rate haven’t dated it as much as some of its more notable peers. The frenetic gunplay is bolstered by some exceptional map design and a truly eerie soundtrack by Aubrey Hodges, who worked similar dark magic on the PlayStation game two years earlier.
9. International Superstar Soccer ‘98
There are few sports games on the N64 that can compete with Konami’s excellent footy game. While the goalkeepers can feel a little cheap at times, the fast pace, dynamic action, and slick controls mean Konami’s game plays as well today as it did on release. While it’s rammed with a number of excellent game modes, including a grueling World League that comprises 48 international teams, it’s the excellent multiplayer that makes this one of the finest N64 sports games you can play with friends.
From the moment Banjo the bear taps on your TV screen and launches into a musical showdown with Mumbo Jumbo it’s obvious that Rare’s platformer is going to be rather special. While collectibles would drown later Rare platformers, the balance here is virtually perfect as Banjo and his backpack-based partner, Kazooie collect Jiggies, Jingos, and musical notes as they attempt to rescue Banjo’s sister from the wicked witch Gruntilda. Each level makes great use of the many new abilities the pair can unlock and also highlight Rare’s mastery of world-building on the console. It’s an excellent platformer that occasionally outdoes Super Mario 64.
7. Mario Kart 64
The N64 excelled at four-player games and few were as enjoyable as this one. While some have complained about its wider racetracks, the challenging opponent AI and imaginative track design more than make up for it. Time trials were just as fun here as they were in the SNES original and the ability to race against three other friends gave it a competitive edge that few other kart games of the era could match. The N64 had no shortage of great racing games, from Beetle Adventure Racing to Ridge Racer 64, but Nintendo’s game leaves most of them on the starting line.
6. Super Smash Bros
Few companies have married their many IPs to the success that Nintendo managed with Super Smash Bros. Nintendo’s boisterously fun brawler works on several levels, allowing you to wallow in nostalgia while finally settling the many arguments you would have had about the fighting capabilities of your favourite Nintendo characters at school (or in our case, work). Granted, Hal Laboratory’s game may not be the most finely balanced of battlers, but the same can be said for its sequels, too. Balanced or not, the chaotic battles are tremendous fun and helped build the foundations of one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises.
5. Paper Mario
Nintendo’s 64-bit console is starved of good RPGs so it’s little wonder that this charming Mario adventure has become so coveted. Developed by Intelligent Systems, Paper Mario not only lays the groundwork for the later Paper Mario games – which we’d argue aren’t a patch on this one – but also features the same sharp humor and solidly crafted combat mechanics that would become so prevalent in the Mario & Luigi franchise. The series’ flat 2D look also started here and highlighted just how good 2D-styled games could look on Nintendo’s 3D-focused console.
4. Star Fox 64
3DS remake aside, it’s rather tragic that Nintendo’s splendiferous sequel remains the best game in the series. A clear love letter to Star Wars and similar space operas, Star Fox 64 opens up the world of Fox McCloud and his anthropomorphic teammates by introducing a handy new u-turn mechanic, a large number of alternative routes - which greatly elevates its longevity - as well as regular exciting skirmishes with Star Wolf: a group of mercenaries with orders to finish off Fox and his friends. It’s easily the most exciting shooter on the system and even manages to outgun Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.
3. GoldenEye 007
Rare’s ambitious movie license opened the eyes of N64 owners worldwide and highlighted just how good a console first-person shooter could be. While its frame rate lurches about with all the finesse of a drunken hippo, there’s no denying how satisfying the combat mechanics still feel (enhanced admittedly by the smart auto-aiming), or how exceptional the level design is. Rare’s decision to add additional tasks to complete on each difficulty level ensures plenty of longevity, while the multiplayer is the stuff of legends and is so expansive that we still regularly play it today. Just stay away from Oddjob, okay?
2. Super Mario 64
Nintendo’s launch game set an incredible bar for platformers and 3D games in general on release, and its recent inclusion on Super Mario 3D All-Stars simply cements its reputation as a truly exceptional platformer. The beauty of Nintendo’s game isn’t just how well Mario’s core mechanics made the jump to 3D, but how much stuff there is to do in each carefully crafted world. One minute you’re racing a Koopa for a precious star, the next you’re retrieving a lost penguin or seeking out eight red coins. It’s this constant variety that keeps Nintendo’s game fresh and exciting and it’s rather telling that in the years that have followed, few non-Nintendo platformers have ever bettered it.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Few 3D adventure games are as important as Ocarina Of Time. It might not have been the first 3D adventure game to market, but Nintendo’s game got so much right the first time, and once again highlighted just how much mastery the Japanese developer had when it came to creating exciting believable 3D worlds. Ocarina Of Time felt huge on release thanks to its gigantic game world and an epic story that spanned Hyrule field, enchanted forests, quaint villages, and time itself. Play it today (ideally, the 3DS remaster) and it still wows. The combat remains extremely satisfying thanks to the inclusion of the innovative Z-targeting system, it still boasts some of the most exquisitely designed dungeons in the franchise’s history, while its herculean boss encounters remain immensely thrilling. Ocarina Of Time remains an absolute masterclass in game design and we’d love to see it properly remastered for the Switch.