by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 18th November, 2019
Nintendo 64 is a legendary video game console with a stellar library. Here are 20 legendary Nintendo 64 games everyone should play. You'll love every single one of them.
Nintendo 64 was a turning point for Nintendo. After the company dominated the market for two generations with NES and SNES (as well as with Nintendo Game Boy, which swiped the floor with competitors on the portable console market) a new kid on the block came and proven to be a worthy opponent.
Sony moved mountains with PlayStation, introducing 3D gaming to masses and well, gamers loved the console. Nintendo had to answer with power and oh boy, they sure did.
Nintendo 64 maybe didn't have the sheer horsepower of the PlayStation but its library was awe-worthy. Ever since the console debuted in 1996 it received one cult game after another so when it ultimately got replaced by the Game Cube, its library sported dozens of fantastic games, many of which were Nintendo 64 exclusives.
Numerous Nintendo 64 games are still a blast to play even today. It was a hard task but we managed to cherry-pick 20 Nintendo 64 games everyone should play in 2019.
A cult classic platformer from Rare, Banjo Kazooie is one of two Nintendo 64 platformers that can be compared to Super Mario 64 in terms of quality, the other one being Donkey Kong 64. Stellar gameplay, unreal visuals, silly story, and one of the most recognizable video game duos ever made Banjo Kazooie an instant classic.
The prime achievement of the game was its level design, which was ahead of its time with amazing platforming, lots of intricate details, and interesting NPCs inhabiting the world. When it comes to gameplay, this game rules even in 2019.
Rare went on and did a sequel named Banjo Tooie that introduced the interconnected world with massive levels and an unmatched amount of exploration. If you like platformers Banjo Kazooie and its sequel are obligatory readings.
Oh man, they don't make games like this anymore. Conker's Bad Fur Day is a masterpiece in storytelling that took the classic trope of the cute, human-like animal main protagonist (they were the talk of the town during the 90s) and turned it on its head.
Cute and technically superb visuals and adorable presentation were followed by witty humor that didn't hold back punches. Conker was an alcoholic squirrel with a dark sense of humor and the whole game was filled with mature language and sharp jokes.
Rare produced a mature video game that was a complete opposite of their previous titles and they completely nailed it. The cherry on the cake was the superb story told via long cutscenes with detailed animation and perfect voice work.
Donkey Kong was the face of the franchise during the SNES years and Nintendo managed to transform the bellowed 2D platformer into a three-dimensional world without any hiccups. The game offered huge levels filled with collectibles and marvelous platforming, visuals were stunning, and the wide cast of playable characters (you could lead five members of the Kong family), each with their own style of play and collectibles to discover was an awe-inspiring achievement.
The story was okay but the gameplay was serene. Some complained the game included too much backtracking and they may be right. But everything else was supreme and Donkey Kong 64 was another crown achievement for Rare, the kings of platforming games during the 90s.
While F-Zero X is far from being the best game on the Nintendo 64, the title deserves your attention because it offered some of the best high-speed racing at the time. Breakneck speed, excellently designed tracks with lots of tight corners, races filled with adrenaline moments, and superb handling made for an excellent hover racer, maybe the only one that could match the excitement of WipeOut.
The game offered procedurally generated tracks in the X-Cup mode meaning you drove on unique tracks every time you launched a new event, something never seen before in racing games (this feature stands quite unique even today).
And what to say about Death Races, insane events where you had to destroy 29 other racers to come out victorious (F-Zero X's Death Race was a major inspiration for Burnout games), which were the most intense racing moments on any console at the time? Sure, visuals were bland but everything else was superb.
Another classic from Rare, GoldenEye 007 is probably the most successful movie-based game of all time. Rare gave console players a superb 3D first-person shooter that had more style than all supermodels of the 90s combined.
Levels were huge and allowed players to explore and take on objectives at their own pace, something that would ultimately lead to open-world games of today. But in 1997, when the game got released, the level design of GoldenEye 007 was groundbreaking.
The single-player campaign was filled with quality shootouts but other gameplay elements, such as stealth and unique gadgets, made GoldenEye 007 to stand tall above its peers.
The best part of the game was its multiplayer component, supporting up to 4 players on one console and lots of madcap game modes. GoldenEye 007's multiplayer was the best on the market for a long time, until Halo took the crown years later.
Not the best Mario Kart regarding visuals or mass appeal but definitely the best Mario Kart title when it comes to cult status and nostalgia value among fans. Mario Kart 64 was the first 3D Mario Kart game and Nintendo made sure to squeeze every single horsepower out of Nintendo 64 with this game.
Aside from spot-on visuals, the game came with a plethora of content. Eight racers; sixteen tracks, each with two different layouts; fourteen powerups; a large, time consuming single-player Cup mode. The finest part of Mario Kart 64 was its local multiplayer mode, which was made for couch co-op with friends.
You could play the game with friends for the whole night and often the sun would rise while the gang was still busy racing. One of the major reasons why people still have Nintendo 64 hooked to their TV is the marvelous Battle Mode, which pits players against each other in bumper car-like arenas where they have to pop each other's balloons in a powerup-firing bonanza.
GoldenEye 007 was a one-time job. Rare and Nintendo lost rights to the famous undercover agent so they decided to create a spiritual successor called Perfect Dark. And the game delivered and then some.
The campaign was even better than GoldenEye's with even more gadgets, improved gunplay, and better gameplay variety. The story was on par with the original game but without any constraints tied to the James Bond universe. Visuals were improved in every single category.
And multiplayer ruled once again. Firstly, the game supported co-op and the co-op mode was a perfect way to spend time with friends, trying to beat challenges together. Competitive multiplayer for up to 4 players was as good as in GoldenEye 007, with tons of weapons and lots of unique characters to play with.
A game where players take photographs of classic Pokemon doesn't sound like much fun, right? Wrong, since Pokemon Snap is still considered as one of the best and most original games for the Nintendo 64, as well as one of the best games of the Pokemon franchise.
Each course includes lots of Pokemon to photograph and each course includes secret areas where you can take cool photos that add bonus points. The game had tons of replayability and exploration and it always encouraged experimentation with its numerous items. Even today, taking your camera and exploring Pokemon Island can be a really fun and tranquil experience.
Pokemon Stadium was something completely new for the Pokemon franchise, much like Pokemon Snap. And gamers loved it. There was no story, no huge world to explore, no hundreds of Pokemon to catch, just your Pokemon and tons of opponents to beat. Visuals were supreme, with fully 3D stadiums and detailed Pokemon models that finally showed them in proper 3D glory.
The huge campaign included four cups, each one with its own set of rules and strategies, as well as the Gym Leader Castle, the ultimate challenge for seasoned trainers. The game also allowed players to import their Pokemon from Pokemon Red, Blue, and Yellow, giving them a chance to play with their favorites in epic battles in front of huge crowds.
Star Fox for SNES was a revolution and Star Fox 64 was an evolution of an excellent space shooter formula. While the first game broke new grounds with visuals and gameplay the sequel took all the good stuff about Star Fox and refined them.
On-rail action was excellent and it took some skill even though you didn't need to pull off evasive maneuvers every minute like in Rogue Squadron. The story was solid and gave players enough motivation to tackle and beat levels.
Visuals, while not quite attractive by today's standards, were pretty enough to satisfy most gamers. The campaign was fun with branching path level design that gave the game lots of replayability. The included multiplayer was an added bonus that offered solid shootouts between you and up to three friends.
The 90s and early 00s were a golden age for Star Wars games and one of the most famous ones revolved around pod racing. Introduced in Episode I, pod racing was probably the only good thing in the movie aside from Darth Maul. The video game version of pod racing proved to be an exciting, adrenaline-filled pastime that enchanted millions of players around the world.
Slick gameplay, superb visuals for the time, unmatched sense of speed, and familiar Star Wars soundtrack made the game an instant hit. The huge number of racers to unlock added to the replayability and excellent race tracks, many of which took place at famous Star Wars locations, made the game the best racer on the market. And yes, multiplayer was a blast and there are people who still play the game with friends on their original Nintendo 64 consoles.
Rogue Squadron is probably the best Star Wars flight sim game. It's certainly the best flight sim game on the Nintendo 64, better even than the excellent Star Fox 64. Visuals were amazing and they are not too shabby even by today's standards.
Gameplay was arcadey and fun as hell, with tons of enemies to shoot and interesting objectives to complete on every level (except one, which was hell embodied into a video game level).
The main selling point for Rogue Squadron was the game's playable character and the game's story. You played as THE Luke Skywalker, leading your Rogue Squadron to many victories against the filthy Empire.
The story took place between A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back and it dealt with Luke's adventures that weren't depicted in films. An amazing game that pushed visuals limits and offered extremely enjoyable arcade flying.
The last Star Wars game on this list is a brilliant action-adventure, a part of a larger project that tied events between Episode V and VI. The game had it all; opening level taking place on Hoth, allowing players to take down AT-ATs, like in the movie; brilliant story that took players across the galaxy, searching for Boba Fett and trying to save Han Solo; diverse gameplay including first and third-person shooting, puzzle-solving, platforming and exploration, spaceship combat, even driving speeder bikes on Mos Eisley.
This is what the canceled Visceral Games Star Wars could've been. If you want to relive some of the best Star Wars gaming moments you should find this one and play it. Aside from aging visuals, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire still is an amazing Star Wars title and one of the best games from the Nintendo 64 era.
The king of platformers. Nintendo spectacularly switched to 3D with Super Mario 64. The game's so good there's still a bunch of people playing it today, either on their Nintendo 64 consoles or via emulators. Super Mario 64 is the pinnacle of platforming and since it came out Nintendo didn't manage to top it.
Yes, Super Mario Galaxy and Odyssey are incredible games on their own but neither can come close to the sheer genius of Super Mario 64. This game stood tall above every other platformer during the golden age of platformers, when we had cult classics such as Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64. Super Mario 64 showed what future games will look and play with its incredible visuals and level design that was way ahead of its time.
The first Zelda game on the Nintendo 64 and the prequel to Majora's Mask is a brilliant adventure in the land of Hyrule that's still more enjoyable to play than most modern titles. As with Super Mario 64, Nintendo pulled the switch to 3D in a brilliant fashion, giving us one of the best video games of all time, if not the best.
The scope of the game was unmatched by any other title, the gameplay loop was more addictive than what we had in Super Mario 64, and the story was filled with unforgettable adventures.
Many features found in Ocarina of Time would become staple in video game design in years to come. The control scheme and targeting system, the combat system, level, and world design, and proto-open world formula would be implemented in numerous games that came after Ocarina of Time but none would reach the quality of this gem.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask presented a new story and new land to explore. Instead of Hyrule, the game takes place in Termina, offering players a completely new world to explore. The time-bending gameplay introduced just enough improvements over Ocarina of Time to make the game fresh and different enough and the mystery of the world gave players lots of secrets to uncover.
While The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask looks similar to its predecessor and while the game offers similar gameplay, the world design and the ominous, unsettling tone of the game make The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask one of the most original games of the series.
There's no Gannon here, no Zelda, no Triforce, only Link trapped in a parallel reality surrounded by bizarre characters and seemingly impossible mission of preventing the looming apocalypse. Another game that, aside from visuals, didn't age a year since its inception.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 is the apex of the whole franchise and one of the games for the Nintendo 64 that's fun to play today as it was back in 2000. Endless trick combos were the main reason why kids from around the world spent sleepless nights with the game. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 offered lots of tricks and the control scheme was so good that lining up tricks one after another was more fun than eating, sleeping, or playing outside.
The game came with an excellent single-player campaign that was bare bones when it came to the story but landing combos and trying to reach the score that would unlock the next level was so good on itself that the story was completely unnecessary. Each stage included lots of ramps and other elements and each was meticulously designed to allow for near-infinite combos.
All you had to do is spend dozens of hours practicing, which wasn't so bad given the amazing gameplay. Oh, and let's not forget about the soundtrack which included tons of cool rock, punk, and metal bands of the time, lifting Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2's cool factor to the sky and beyond.
Spend some time online, on video game forums, Reddit, and various video game media outlets, and you'll see a peculiar trend. Each time a new remake/remaster is announced or released people rave about one game that still hasn't gotten a remake but it definitely deserves one. Yes, we're talking about Turok: Dinosaur Hunter.
And yes, the game indeed deserves a remake because it combined first-person shooting with platforming and exploration like no other game did back in the day. Add dinosaurs to the formula and you get near-perfect FPS that ended as a massive hit on the Nintendo 64, just behind GoldenEye 007 and Perfect Dark.
This is probably the best WWF game, ever. It features tons of famous wrestlers from the 90s era WWF, and it allows players to beat almost every one of them. The single-player campaign is amazing, with extremely detailed tools to create your wrestler (you could pick tons of moves, you had dozens of clothing pieces to put on your wrestler, and the game offered players an incredible amount of body customization options) and excellent scenes that include many famous feuds of the time.
But a wrestling game is nothing without tight gameplay and gameplay in WWF No Mercy is spot-on. Controls are precise, the gameplay is amazing, and the number of moves available is astounding. Aside from graphics, WWF No Mercy is miles ahead of modern wrestling games, and that's a fact.