The king of “I did it first,” the Nintendo 64, is one of the most innovative consoles ever manufactured, having set many of the standards we now see today. It’s the first console to support four players out the box, the first to introduce analog controls, and the first with integrated force feedback. The N64′s truly under-appreciated, and for all of its innovations, it should be hailed as the greatest console of all time.
The N64 also has many great titles. Yes, many of them are first-party gold, but don’t let that fool you; a number of third-party developers supported the console with excellent games. With the rise of the Nintendo Wii Virtual Console, players can now experience some of the games they might have missed. Complied here are the ten greatest N64 games. The list is subject to opinion and debate, but without a doubt these are one of the most solid games on the console.
Gauntlet Legends took the multiplayer action of the original arcade game, and brought it to the ’90s multiplayer mecca, the Nintendo 64. Multiplayer without the use of external peripherals (*cough Multitap cough*), made this a favorite among dungeon crawler aficionados. But none of that would matter if the game didn’t have such an addictive leveling system. Powering up the four unique classes (Wizard, Valkyrie, Archer and Warrior) is challenging, frustrating, and rewarding. The gameplay’s a bit repetitive, but being able to co-op monsters saved this title. Teamwork is essential: Wise players play Warrior in the front line, the Wizard and Archer in the back, and Valkyrie as the X-factor that cleans up stragglers. Small details like that kept gamers coming back for more.
WWF No Mercy
WWF Mercy is a wrestling game with a deep fighting system that rewards precise timing and players’ abilities to guess their opponents’ next move; if you button-mash, you lose. Wrestler entrance animations are amazing–Stone Cold wagged his head heedlessly, The Rock smells what he’s cooking, and Shane McMahon even has his famous “Where He Go Dance.” The violence is bloody and beautiful; cracking an opponent with a 2 x 4 covered in barbwire is cruel, but immensely satisfying. Players can create original characters, and even custom matches (Ladder,Cage, and custom pay-per-views). WWF No Mercy is the go-to wrestling party title to enjoy with friends and family who you want to nail with a steel chair.
Orge Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
Orge Battle 64 is an exceptional strategy RPG and easily one of the most forgotten gems of the N64 era. Players take the role of Magnus Gallant, military graduate turned captain. The intriguing plot keeps players glued to their seats with its morality system that constitutes which ending a player sees. Kill everything and anything, and you won’t see the good ending. Orge Battle 64 also has one of the most robust class systems ever; unlocking new classes requires players to procure equipment and then train troops. Classes range from Beast Masters to dragon-taming Dragoons to magic-using mages. The battle system is a game in itself and requires players to place the appropriate classes together. For example, placing two mages in a unit causes their magic to combine to make new spells. Placing an archer in the back of the unit formation gave it an archer’s attack bonus. Those small details, when paired with some of the best looking character sprites of that generation, makes Ogre Battle 64 one of the best on the system.
Pokémon Stadium is every Pokémon trainer’s dream game. Players take their Pocket Monsters from Blue, Red, and Yellow versions, and duke them out against friends (courtesy of the bundled Transfer Pak). Battles are rendered in beautiful 3D, and the improved theme songs are astounding. Players can also battle the Kanto region gym leaders and the Elite Four, just like in Game Boy games. Sadly, the game isn’t a N64 version of the portable games–it’s strictly battles. If players could explore the Kanto region, Pokémon Stadium would certainty be higher on the list.
Donkey Kong 64
If swag exists, this game’s theme song is the originator–and one of the most loved and hated theme songs in gaming history. DK 64 has one the most ambitious and rewarding quests in video gaming; it takes time and dedication to get a 100% completion score, but, hey, at least it looks good. This is easily one of the best looking games on the console thanks to the bundled Expansion Pak, which increases the N64’s RAM from 4MB to 8MB. The result is detailed textures and amazing lighting effects. Let’s not forget the tons of characters (Donkey, Tiny, Diddy, Lanky, Chunky) that keeps the game fresh hours into the story. The game’s hampered by excruciating difficulty and inconsistent pacing, but it’s still aces.
Star Fox 64
Do a barrel roll!!! And with that phrase, one of the most annoying internet memes was born (type it into Google for a surprise). Star Fox 64 is the first console game featuring force feed back via the included Rumble Pak, enabling players to experience every shake and vibration of their Arwing or Landmaster. For the most part, the game is a on-rails aerial shooter that tested players’ reflexes and accuracy. Occasionally, players fly around freely when the Arwing is in All-Range Mode. The boss battles are challenging and unique, requiring players to find weak spots and use different strategies. Our main hero, Star Fox, is never alone, either; he has the old but wise Peppy, the young naïve tech guru Slippy, and the battle-tested Falco, who occasionally help you find branching paths during missions. The branching led to multiple progression paths and more challenging routes. Nintendo, sadly, has yet to work on a proper sequel.
The great grand daddy of console first-person shooters, GoldenEye is one of the most addictive and innovative games of its time. The N64 has much to do with the game’s success as the license–mainly due to the controls. The analog stick makes it possible for gamers to move with ease in 360 degrees. Aiming is flawless, too. It requires players to hold down a button, which would cause a reticle to appear on-screen, thus letting players to pick their shots. The single-player, which followed the film’s plot, is worth the price of admission, but what makes the game legendary is its incredible multiplayer shooter. Four players shoot it out in a number of maps. The multiplayer suite is highly customizable: If players want paintball ammo, play with huge-headed characters, or run around at 200% game speed, they can do so. This set the standard for competitive shooters; it’s the N64′s Halo. GoldenEye is a testament to FPS on consoles, and proved that it could be done well.
Super Smash Bros.
What happens when you pit a dozen Nintendo characters against each other? Super Smash Bros, a game in which players face off in a battle royal with the goal of knocking their opponents off the playing field, and one of the greatest displays of fan service in videogame history. Smash Bros. features Nintendo legends like Ness, Captain Falcon, and Samus Aran, thus giving the younger players a small history listen. The game is absolute chaos; fireballs are thrown, Pokeballs drop from the sky, as do baseball bats, mushrooms, turtle shells, and other Nintendo items. The stages are themed after popular Nintendo games, such as Saffron City and Hyrule Castle, and features their respective musical themes. The fighting mechanics are surprisingly deep and require strategy; as such, Smash Bros. appears on the pro gaming circuit. If you own a N64, you need this game.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a masterpiece that’s a beautifully crafted experience from beginning to end. A quest of epic proportions? Check. Amazing audio quality and musical pieces? Check. 40+ hours of side quests? Check. Dungeonswith unique puzzles? Check. Besides the famously difficult and tedious Water Temple, each dungeon is near flawless, and requires the use of numerous items to complete the task at hand. Ocarina of Time has exquisite character design and animations; watching Zoras swim around aimlessly or Epona gallop is beautiful. This is also one of the more darker and grittier takes on the Zelda lore, which separates it from the other titles in the series. Ocarina of Time could easily be number one on this list, but that honor goes to….
Super Mario 64
Come on, are you really surprised? This is the beloved plumber’s first appearance in 3D, and showcases the N64′s power. The story sees the player travel through various rooms in the princess’s castle in order to rescue her from Bowser once again. It’s the model by which all-3D platformers should follow; the level design is phenomenal, and the camera rarely obscures the player’s vision. The game is also the first in the series to ditch the previous games’ linear approach in favor of a world that encourages exploration. Super Mario 64 has aged amazingly well and is still playable today.
So there you have it folks, sound off in the comments below, give us your opinion or, better yet, your list.