Happy Birthday, Nintendo 64: Here Are The Best N64 Games Of All Time
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September 29, 2022 marks the 26th anniversary of the Nintendo 64. To celebrate the occasion, we've updated and expanded our roundup of the best N64 games of all time.
The Nintendo 64 is one of the most important consoles in gaming history. It brought numerous Nintendo franchises to 3D and helped popularize analog sticks on controllers. As Nintendo consoles often are, the N64 was also rather peculiar. 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 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.
Donkey Kong 64
Swinging onto the N64 after a successful stint on the SNES, Donkey Kong 64 is pure simian silliness in a new dimension. While previous games had been 2D platformers with a delightful rhythm baked into each pixel, Donkey 64 took the series into the third dimension that had made Mario 64 a smash-hit. With a bunch of unlockable characters in the campaign, including Diddy, Candy, Tiny, Lanky, Chunky, and more, Donkey Kong 64 offers a lot of variety. Each character even has their own gun. Weapons such as Donkey's Coconut Shooter and Diddy's Peanut Popguns are quite humorous. There are eight distinct worlds in the story mode and split-screen multiplayer where you can really put those guns to use. While it's not as good as the Italian plumber's milestone outing, Donkey Kong's is still a fun adventure with dozens of hours of content to jump through.
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.
F-Zero might be enjoying an extremely lengthy rest over at Nintendo, but before the series took a sabbatical in 2004, it was tearing up the track in a blistering display of speed and precision on the N64. The first F-Zero to feature 3D graphics, F-Zero X is racing at its fastest and most furious, a game of nuanced design and explosive acceleration that made it a legendary must-have title on the N64.
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.
Jet Force Gemini
Developer Rare could do no wrong in the late-1990s, and Jet Force Gemini was yet another example of the studio firing on all cylinders. This action-packed 3D shooter hit all the right notes with its trio of adorable characters--a dog with a cannon is an automatic win--lots of cheeky humor, and plenty of challenging gameplay. It looked fantastic, had a ton of content jammed into it, and helped solidify Rare's reputation as an all-time legend.
Nintendo's heavy-hitting answer to the Street Fighter dominance of the time, Killer Instinct's arrival on N64 brought with it the prestige of cutting-edge arcade graphics and some of the most absurd brawlers ever seen in a fighting game. Delicious combo-breaking action, a varied roster, and groundbreaking graphics made Killer Instinct Gold on the N64 a definitive port of one of the coin-munching games in arcades at the time.
Mario ruled the N64 greens with a fun diversion from the usual platforming antics. It's pure golfing catharsis featuring Mario and pals, 18 holes of solid golfing action that streamlines the sport and injects a healthy amount of color into its frame for a fun day out. Leaning at least somewhat closer to realism--with the wonderful three-click swing system--than the all-out wackiness that was present in the most recent entries, Mario Golf still has a few interesting gameplay mechanics and has loads of modes to swing through.
Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 was a massive upgrade when compared to its SNES predecessor. The graphics had been dialed up, there was plenty of Grand Prix to race through, and for anyone who fancied some real competition, the groundbreaking four-player local multiplayer turned the intensity up to 11. The legacy rubberbanding AI might be an aggravating relic of a bygone age, but for anyone looking to experience the game at its purest--and experience the dreaded blue shell's debut--this N64 game takes pole position. Though Diddy Kong Racing might be the best kart racer on Nintendo 64 thanks to its cool story mode and trio of vehicle types, Mario Kart 64 is a multiplayer triumph.
Mario Party 2
A variety of mini-games, colorful polygonal graphics, and plenty of Mushroom Kingdom citizens made the first Mario Party sequel a smash-hit on the N64. With straight-forward gameplay across dozens of activities, Mario Party 2 and a few extra controllers made it the digital board game to have around when you felt like getting up to digital mischief with any friends who were visiting.
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.
NFL Blitz 2000
A fast and fun football game that tosses the rulebook out of the window in favor of some more hard-hitting sports action, NFL Blitz 2000 was seen as an excellent arcade port on the N64. What few rules had survived were simple to understand, as this streamlined approach to football hit a sweet spot for quick matches, body slams, and physical competition.
Ogre Battle 64
The N64 is rarely thought of as a hub for quality RPGs when compared to the PlayStation and Sega consoles of the time, which is a downright shame considering that it had some terrific fantasy titles in its library. Take Ogre Battle 64 for example, a deep game of micromanagement and strategy as you delve into class warfare in a faraway land. With an emphasis on compact visuals and rich storytelling, Ogre Battle 64 still holds up as an engaging title with mountains of content to enjoy.
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 today.
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.
Pokemon Puzzle League
There's no getting around the fact that Pokemon Puzzle League is essentially Tetris Attack with a pocket monster makeover, but at the same time, it's a great version of that time-honored game. You've got a winning formula, fantastic use of the early Pokemon anime series in its DNA, and puzzles so good that you'll want to assemble your own Squirtle Squad to come join you for a few rounds of fun. What more could you ask for?
Gotta catch 'em all…on film! For anyone looking to shoot Pokemon--Not like that!--Pokemon Snap was a blast. Equipped with a camera, several regions to cruise through, and dozens of Pokemon to spot out in the wild, Pokemon Snap is a charming, breezy, and colorful tour of the franchise. Decades later, New Pokemon Snap proudly carries the torch of the original game with new-generation technologies, but the original game is still a low-poly treat for the eyes.
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.
Rayman 2: The Great Escape
Not just a great shift from 2D to 3D, Rayman 2 on the N64 is a game that somehow manages to squeeze an impossible number of cleverly designed levels onto a single cartridge. With terrific boss fights, in-game cutscenes, and quirky puzzles in the mix, this was the ultimate Rayman package and an experience that proved to be one of the most breathtaking and enjoyable platformers of its time.
Resident Evil 2
While a trip to Raccoon City is usually not recommended due to that slice of the US having an unfortunate infestation of flesh-eating ghouls and bioweapon monsters, the N64 version of Resident Evil 2 proved to be an enticing slice of tourism. The N64 version brought all of the trademark horror of the series with it, cramming unique storylines, terrifying encounters, and tanky controls to this gory masterpiece of terror. It wasn't as highly regarded as the PlayStation version, but Resident Evil 2 on N64 was still worth playing.
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.
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 is available on Switch Online as well, and 3DS owners can pick up the wonderful port that includes the challenging Master Quest.
Sin and Punishment
With the N64 era drawing to a close, developer Treasure released an on-rails shoot-'em-up that looked as if it would set your console on fire with its onslaught of ferocious pixels. An unrelenting blast of action, Sin and Punishment was ahead of its time, but it sadly didn't see a western release until 2007 on the Wii Virtual Console. Overwhelming but refreshingly brilliant with its tunnel vision approach to the shooter genre, Sin and Punishment was one of the best games to end the N64 generation on.
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.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Aerial combat games set in the Star Wars galaxy weren't a novel concept by the time that Rogue Squadron arrived on the scene, but this game just had an undeniable X-Wing factor that made it a blockbuster success story. Careening through canyons, charging through Imperial blockades, and setting S-foils to attack position never felt better, plus the easygoing controls made this game very approachable. An essential and authentic Star Wars game, Rogue Squadron allowed you to live out your wildest cosmic fantasies from the comfort of your own couch.
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.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Extreme sports were all the rage in the early-2000s, and you can point a finger at Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for motivating gamers to don some baggy cargo pants as they took to the streets while believing that they were Superman. The original game still holds up well, has a killer licensed soundtrack, and is home to some of the best stages in the entire THPS franchise. The original Pro Skater may have started a skateboarding revolution, but this masterpiece of a sequel ran wild with more polished gameplay and pure polished perfection that helped establish the series as a modern-day legend. If you want to check it out today, pick up Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2, a wonderful remake compilation of the first two games in the series.
Wave Race 64
A vast ocean of twisty turns and dangerous waves, vehicles with plenty of horses under the roof, and wetsuits that left very little to the imagination all made for a terrific day at the beach in Wave Race 64. While authentic motorsports and futuristic racers were dominating the genre, Nintendo's elegant jetski game was establishing itself as a technical tour de force on the water-soaked track. Its wave physics were unmatched, each watercraft had a subtle level of precision to its design, and the race to become champion could easily devour an afternoon in a single sitting.
PlayStation wasn't the only console where you could get a fix of futuristic locales, ridiculous speed, and a thumping techno soundtrack in the late-90s. Over on the N64, Wipeout 64 was an all-new experience, and according to Nintendo purists, arguably better than Wipeout 2097 on PlayStation. The game's selection of tracks were largely pulled from other entries in the series, but they were refined and looked great. This made Wipeout 64 feel a bit like a greatest hits collection. Lightning-quick on the track, visually mesmerizing, and brutally dangerous with its varied selection of power-ups, Wipeout 64 was a stellar anti-gravity racer. It's the only game in the series that appeared on a Nintendo console.
WWF No Mercy
The Goldust standard for wrestling games at the time, No Mercy arrived in an age where the WWE had yet to take a steel chair shot from a disgruntled panda in copyright court. The Attitude Era was kicking off, and with the likes of Mankind, The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin headlining a gigantic roster, No Mercy was ready to put on a main event show. Throw in an excellent story mode and a combat system that inspired WWE games for years to come, and No Mercy was the definitive sports entertainment spectacle of its era.
The World Is Not Enough
Any James Bond game published after the magnificent Goldeneye 64 was destined to be overshadowed by its glorious predecessor, but The World Is Not Enough deserves more love for throwing players into a solid adventure starring her (or his) majesty's favorite secret agent. Eurocom was tasked with assembling a 007 experience that admirably follow-up Goldeneye 64, and while it certainly wasn't as iconic, it was still a great shooter that remains one of the best James Bond games of all time. Exotic locales, crisp action gameplay, fun split-screen multiplayer, and witty one-liners made The World is Not Enough a superb game to play after finally tiring of Goldeneye.