Best N64 Games Of All Time
Nintendo's last home console of the 1990s was an underrated powerhouse, as this subtle gaming device was home to a library of genre-defining titles.
More than 25 years after its release, the N64 remains one of. Nintendo's most peculiar landscape. Rather than opting for the new CD-ROM tech, Nintendo stuck with cartridge-based games. On top of that, Nintendo's approach to licensing third-party games led to a fairly small library of around only 400 games across its five-year run. And, of course, we could never forget the tri-handle controller design that introduced using an analog stick for Nintendo games. But the N64, as peculiar as it looks today, is an incredibly important platform in Nintendo's archive. The console brought a number of Nintendo's most iconic franchises to 3D for the first time, including Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda. In celebration of the N64, we rounded up the 15 best N64 games (in alphabetical order).
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Nintendo was responsible for some of the most influential games of all time during the N64 era, and we're taking a look at some of its greatest hits from a period in time that brought us innovative Rumble Pak technology, groin-stabbing controllers, and three-dimensional adventures that won fans over when they were first released. Some of these games are available to play on Nintendo Switch via the Switch Online Expansion Pack.
Get used to seeing Rare a lot on this list, as the developer was a heavyweight presence on the N64 and put out hit after hit on the console. A prime example of the studio's ability to create chart-topping masterpieces was seen in Banjo-Kazooie, a 3D platformer that took the building blocks of the genre and polished them to a point where it surpassed everything else on the market not starring a mustachioed plumber. Banjo-Kazooie was nearly perfect, a game that hit the Goldilocks zone of size, fun, and challenge with its design, while also offering a soundtrack that would make you tap holes in your floor.
Super Mario 64 (hint hint) might have been the N64's definitive platformer, but Banjo-Kazooie was a close second with its effortlessly charming main characters.
Read our Banjo-Kazooie review.
Rare had a solid game plan for the inevitable follow-up to Banjo Kazooie, and it involved taking everything that people loved about the first game and expanding on it with Hollywood blockbuster sequel energy. Everything about Banjo-Tooie reflected this, as the world around the adorable duo was a collection of bigger digital real estate, the move-sets were even bigger, and there were even groundbreaking first-person sections to try out.
The studio didn't stop there, as Mumbo Jumbo was now a playable character, Banjo and Kazooie could split up to cover more ground, and the game's trademark cheekiness remained intact. It'd be eight years until Banjo and Kazooie returned for a third game, but when you've got a sequel that was bursting with so much fun content, it made the wait that much more bear-able.
Read our Banjo-Tooie review.
Blast Corps can best be summed up as good old-fashioned destruction with a purpose, as players had to scramble to tear down buildings before a truck carrying a dodgy nuclear payload unleashed explosive annihilation upon the world. An absolutely bonkers concept held together by the jaggiest of polygons, the game was still an addictive hit and yet another feather in Rare's cap as players raced to demolish buildings around them using several available vehicles. A demolition derby with high stakes, Blast Corps is an underrated gem in the N64's library that helped define the direction of that console during its formative years on the market. It's also available on Rare Replay for Xbox One.
Read our Blast Corps review.
Conker's Bad Fur Day
Rare hit on a brilliant idea with its cutesy platformer Conker's Bad Fur Day, as the foul-mouthed and violent squirrel's adult antics made it stand out in an ocean of similarly adorable games at the time--after previously being a pretty standard kid-focused mascot. A solid adventure game, Conker's Bad Fur Day was memorable for a seemingly never-ending stream of censored curse words, toilet humor that you couldn't flush away, and move parodies that skewered the hottest blockbusters of the day. It's also home to one of the greatest and grossest boss fights of all time, that comes with a catchy intro song that you'll never ever forget once you hear it. For any minors in the audience, we'll just say that it rhymes with great flighty chew.
Read our Conker's Bad Fur Day review.
Diddy Kong Racing
It might be blasphemous to have an N64 list and not have any mention of Mario Kart 64 (there's the obligatory mention, though), but there's no denying that Nintendo's favorite monkey sidekick was responsible for the superior race track experience. With the DNA building blocks of Mario Kart to support it, Diddy Kong Racing took the template for high-speed racing and improved on it to create one of the best single-player racing experiences on that console. Going solo provided a chunky adventure with wildly imaginative circuits to speed through as well as boss battles and additional vehicle types to master, elevating it into a league of its own.
Read our Diddy Kong Racing review.
Being a fan of both movies and video games was tough because it regularly meant that any film you saw on the big screen would soon have a terrible video game tie-in arriving on store shelves. Rare's GoldenEye on the other hand, showed that a faithful video game adaptation of a blockbuster film was possible, as GoldenEye built on the box office success of Pierce Brosnan's debut as James Bond to deliver a surprisingly mature and suave adventure--though it did come out a comically long time after the movie did.
Most fans remember GoldenEye for being home to some of the best deathmatch action of the year, intense four-player rounds of action that were a pioneering force in multiplayer gaming. Funnily enough, that vital component almost never made it into the finished game, having only been added at the eleventh hour. That last-minute entry propelled the game's popularity into the stratosphere after launch, and just about anyone who played it has fond memories of showdowns on maps pulled straight from the most cinematic locations of James Bond history.
Read our GoldenEye 007 review.
Mario had already conquered a three-dimensional jump into the Mushroom Kingdom and a foray into the challenging world of professional golf, tennis was naturally the next step for the plumber. While the Virtual Boy console had already tested this idea, the N64 version felt like a restart and the first entry in a series that deserved to become a franchise. The end result was a game that served up a terrific selection of fun sports action and mini-games, and it was even better when extras were unlocked on the Game Boy Color version of Mario Tennis via its Transfer Pak add-on.
Read our Mario Tennis review.
Mario was a mascot for three-dimensional platforming done right thanks to Super Mario 64, but Paper Mario brought the Mushroom Kingdom back to his 2D roots with an RPG adventure for the ages. The paper theme was used to brilliant effect, with the game making even more of an impact with its quirky cast, colorful worlds, and lethal amounts of charm that could be found in every single pulpy pixel. Future entries such as The Thousand-Year Door (featured on our best GameCube games list) may have surpassed the benchmark set by the original game, but Paper Mario's debut on the N64 still stands up and will soon get a second chance at life on the Switch.
Read our Paper Mario review.
Rare had found not only gigantic success with GoldenEye on the N64, but also the experience to create a game that pushed the console to the limit of what was possible on it with Perfect Dark. Throwing every single idea that it could into the mix, Perfect Dark was a technical achievement that married sci-fi bullet-blasting action with a too-cool-for-school noir atmosphere in the far-off future year of 2023. Like GoldenEye, it had thrilling multiplayer on offer spread across several arenas, and the fact that so much game was squeezed into the modest constraints of an N64 cartridge was a miracle of coding.
More than two decades later, fans are still clamoring for the return of Joanna Dark, and with the franchise now at Microsoft, that game is finally coming... at some point.
Read our Perfect Dark review.
Nintendo's mainline series of Pokemon titles on the Game Boy had emphasized the journey towards becoming a Pokemon master, but it was only a matter of time before the company expanded on the tournament themes of the series for the N64. Bringing all 151 Pokemon of the franchise's first generation to life in glorious 3D, Pokemon Stadium retained the turn-based battling of the core games but enhanced it with dazzling effects and exciting play-by-play commentary. Though Pokemon Stadium didn't feature its own traditional campaign, it still stood out as the first turn-based Pokemon game on a home console.
Several single-player modes added some meat to the otherwise bare narrative bones of this title, and if that wasn't enough, there was even an option to visit the Game Boy Tower and play the original Pokemon games on your TV screen, a revolutionary feature at the time. For veteran Pokemon fans who had spent hours catching 'em all, Pokemon Stadium rewarded their hard work by allowing them to bring their favorite critters into the stadium for the daunting challenges ahead of them, provided that they shelled out extra for the Transfer Pack.
Read our Pokemon Stadium review.
Super Mario 64
The platformer that raised the bar for an entire industry, Super Mario 64 still stands as a technical achievement that defined Nintendo's iconic Italian plumber for a new generation of fans. An ambitiously massive sandbox that hid numerous secrets, Super Mario 64 was a home run as one of the N64's launch games. Packed with hours of fun, Shigeru Miyamoto and his team created a masterpiece that still holds up brilliantly today as one of the best Mario games, with the recent time-limited release of Super Mario 3D All-Stars cementing its legacy.
If you haven't tried the game out for yourself just yet, the good news is that it'll soon be available as part of Nintendo's expanded Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription beginning in October, and it's well worth checking out to see how Nintendo made history back in 1996.
Read our Super Mario 64 review.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Any Zelda game following in the footsteps of the Ocarina of Time had some impossibly massive boots to fill, but The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask decided to ditch the footwear and don a trendy mask instead for an adventure that went down a different path from what fans expected. A dark tale of destruction set in a melancholic world, Majora's Mask was making the idea of eternal time loops cool long before the likes of Returnal and Deathloop arrived on the scene; meanwhile, the game's mask-changing mechanics added some collectible sanity to a world that had gone mad under the pressure of regular destruction.
Majora's Mask is still a polarizing entry in the series, but for the people who love it, it's seen as an underrated masterpiece. If you still have a 3DS console, the adventure is worth a replay thanks to its excellent port.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The running theme on the N64 console was that several of Nintendo's biggest franchises received a game that could only be described as the definitive entry within each respective franchise--at least at the time. The Legend of Zelda got in on that act with the Ocarina of Time, a hugely successful jump into the third dimension that was filled with pitch-perfect atmosphere, action, and exploration at the time. Some of its features and graphical performance may seem outdated by today's standards, but there's no denying that the impact that Ocarina of Time made in 1998 is still being felt today, having influenced the Zelda series and only being recently, arguably, surpassed with 2017's Breath of the Wild (That said, we still have Ocarina of Time at the top of our best Zelda games list).
A revered classic, Ocarina of Time reshaped the industry with its magical world-building, ambitious level design, and moody story. Ocarina of Time will be available on Switch Online as well, and 3DS owners can pick up the wonderful port that includes the challenging Master Quest.
Star Fox 64
Star Fox 64 was an excellent adventure starring Fox McCloud and his dogfighting (and bird-fighting and toad-fighting and rabbit-fighting) gang, but the game was notable for one other feature which became an essential part of the gaming landscape: shaking your hands with intense vibrations from the Rumble Pak that came included with the cartridge. It was a beefy slab of plastic to slot into the N64 controller, but the haptic feedback added an extra layer of immersion to the game's on-rails shooter action, elevating Star Fox 64 into a game that looked and felt terrific to play.
Read our Star Fox 64 review.
Super Smash Bros.
Masahiro Sakurai's crossover brawler was a groundbreaking game at the time, presented in the form of a grand battle between Nintendo's heaviest hitters in an era that had no shortage of excellent fighting games on offer. The idea of a well-designed brouhaha that was distinctly Nintendo was novel at the time, and even though the roster might look downright primitive when compared to the gargantuan number of combatants available in the most recent incarnation of the series, Super Smash Bros. was a hit on the multiplayer scene with its focus on ring-out victories and its madcap multiplayer.
Read our Super Smash Bros. review.
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