While the Nintendo 64 got crushed by the PlayStation One sales-wise, this console had the best hardware and one of the best libraries pound-for-pound in it’s era.
If you are feeling nostalgic and want to revisit some Classic Nintendo 64 games, read on as we hand-pick our favorites.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda has been an iconic franchise in the world of video games since its debut on NES in 1986. Over the years, the series has seen several follow-ups on various platforms, including the Gameboy and even CD-I. However, none have managed to surpass the Nintendo 64 installment of the series until Breath of the Wild.
This game is an absolute joy to play, with a perfect blend of challenging gameplay, lengthy adventure, and pure fun. Nintendo has poured its heart and soul into creating this masterpiece, taking the franchise to new heights with its 3D-ish and interactive world, filled with diverse environments, including water bodies, lava pits, and hot sandy deserts. The game features massive bosses and unexpected mini-bosses, as well as a puzzle-filled world that will keep players engaged for hours.
In Ocarina of Time, players control young Link as he embarks on a journey to fulfill his destiny and face the ultimate evil, Gannon. Throughout the game, players must guide Link through various stages of his life, learning new abilities, and collecting powerful stones. Along the way, players will meet unexpected allies, face challenging foes, and discover weapons and items to aid in their quest.
The Nintendo 3DS remake is the better version, not just because of the graphical facelift and control recalibration, but because it is more available for purchase.
2. Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 on the Nintendo 64 was a game changer. It revolutionized the 2D platforming genre by introducing a new level of freedom and exploration in a fully 3D world. The game allowed players to control Mario as he navigates through Peach’s Castle, collecting power stars and discovering hidden secrets.
Mario 64’s open-world design, intuitive controls, and colorful graphics set a new standard for 3D platformers and paved the way for future games in the genre. The game’s influence can still be seen today in popular titles such as Super Mario Odyssey and Spyro the Dragon. Super Mario 64 was a major milestone in gaming history and remains a timeless classic.
The DS remake has substantial changes in core gameplay that veteran players abhor. The changes may not matter for those people who are young enough not to be born during the 90s. Truthfully, the DS remake does not desecrate the greatness of the game, but it takes a different approach to update the game.
3. GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye 007 is a classic first-person shooter that started the trend of multiplayer FPS on consoles. It showed that consoles can handle good FPS games, and it paved the way for popular franchises like Halo and Call of Duty. But since the gaming industry is constantly evolving, the question is, does GoldenEye still hold up today?
Visually, the game is a mix of realistic graphics for its time and outdated polygon graphics. It may not have the polished graphics of today’s games, but its clean look with a subdued palette and excellent animations are still impressive. The sound effects and music are top-notch and still hold up to this day.
What makes GoldenEye so special is its gameplay. It offers an open-ended, realistic experience that was different from the linear shooting galleries of today’s FPS games. The game also has a balanced difficulty system that allows players to tailor the game to their skill level and encourages replayability. However, some old-school gameplay mechanics like the stop-start aiming system feel a bit outdated now.
For many, GoldenEye is most remembered for its multiplayer suite. The multiplayer offers five different modes that each bring a unique gameplay mechanic, making it a blast to play with friends. The game’s split-screen multiplayer is still incredibly enjoyable, and the flaws in the game become trivial once you get a group of friends involved.
GoldenEye is a classic game that still holds up today, especially in its multiplayer. It may have some outdated graphics and gameplay mechanics, but it remains a trailblazer and a masterpiece that deserves to be played by new generations of gamers.
4. WWF No Mercy
Other than WWE Smackdown! Here Comes the Pain, no wrestling game stood the test of time than WWF No Mercy.
WWF No Mercy features a large roster of WWF Superstars, as well as a robust create-a-wrestler mode and a variety of match types. The game’s graphics and animation were top-notch for the time, and the controls were tight and responsive. The soundtrack and voice acting were also impressive, adding to the overall atmosphere of the game. With its deep gameplay mechanics and rich storytelling, WWF No Mercy is widely considered one of the best wrestling games of all time and a must-play for fans wrestling, or even those who do not give a damn about the “sport”.
5. Super Smash Bros.
Super Smash Bros. is a multiplayer fighting game that features characters from various Nintendo franchises, such as Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and Kirby, along with a few third-party characters, like Pikachu from Pokémon and Fox from Star Fox.
The game received critical acclaim for its fun, fast-paced gameplay and its large roster of characters. The game also introduced many of the franchise’s staple gameplay mechanics, such as air dodging, the ability to use special moves, and the concept of knocking opponents off the stage.
In terms of legacy, Super Smash Bros. is considered a classic and is often remembered as one of the best fighting games of its time. Its popularity has only grown over the years, with the franchise going on to release multiple sequels, each one building upon the foundations set by the original N64 game. The franchise has become a staple in the competitive gaming scene, with large tournament scenes and dedicated communities around the world.
6. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is a sequel to the highly acclaimed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Majora’s Mask features similar gameplay to Ocarina of Time, but with a darker and more sinister tone. Some contrarians would have put Majora’s Mask as the better game as compared to Ocarina of Time.
The game takes place in the land of Termina, which is threatened by the moon crashing into the world in three days. The player takes control of Link, who must navigate time travel and find a way to stop the moon from falling.
Compared to Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask is more focused on character development, with a deeper and more intricate plot. The game’s characters are more complex and have their own distinct personalities, and the game’s central conflict is more personal and emotional. The game also introduces the ability to transform into different creatures, adding new elements to the gameplay.
Majora’s Mask is often considered one of the better Zelda games, and it is highly regarded by fans and critics alike for its unique and innovative gameplay, dark and atmospheric storytelling, and memorable characters. Its legacy continues to this day, with many players still playing and enjoying the game, and with its influence being seen in later Zelda games and other action-adventure games.
7. Paper Mario
Paper Mario is a classic RPG that utilizes the Mario universe and characters to create a unique and entertaining experience. The game sets itself apart from traditional Mario games with its turn-based combat, charming storytelling, and unique paper-style graphics. Compared to other games at the time, Paper Mario offered a more in-depth and story-driven experience, as opposed to the more straightforward platformers that dominated the market. The game has since influenced numerous RPG franchises, such as South Park: The Stick of Truth and Undertale, with its charming humor and innovative gameplay.
8. Star Fox 64
Star Fox 64 is a reboot of the Star Fox series and features Fox McCloud and the rest of the Star Fox team fighting off the forces of the exiled scientist Andross in the Lylat system. The game features on-rail shooting action and switches to “all-range mode” for free movement battles. The game also features U-Turn and loop maneuvers, as well as tank and submarine missions. The game originally came bundled with the Nintendo 64 Rumble Pak, providing haptic feedback to the controls.
The game has branching levels and a variety of planets and space battles. The game’s visuals and audio are greatly improved from the SNES original and the English voice acting adds to the excitement. The game has a well-judged difficulty and a multiplayer mode for up to four players. The game still feels cinematic and exciting, with alternate paths and medals to earn, making it a total delight to play.
9. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a platformer that stands out for its unique humor, irreverent tone, and mature themes. The game follows the titular character, Conker, as he navigates through a variety of environments, solving puzzles, and battling enemies. The game is well-regarded for its hilarious writing, clever level design, and overall charm, which has earned it a cult following. Despite its popularity, Conker’s Bad Fur Day is often cited as a “hidden gem” of the N64 era and remains a standout title in the platforming genre.
10. Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark is a first-person shooter that was developed by Rare, the same studio behind Goldeneye. The game is often compared to its predecessor, as it shares many similarities in terms of gameplay and style. Perfect Dark sets itself apart with its more advanced technology, increased variety of weapons and gadgets, and deeper storyline. The game was highly acclaimed at the time of its release and has since influenced many subsequent FPS games with its innovative features and refined gameplay mechanics.
11. Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 is a classic game that still holds up today. It was one of the N64’s biggest hits and the second-best-selling game on the system. The split-screen multiplayer mode was a huge draw at the time and it still provides plenty of fun today.
One of the highlights of Mario Kart 64 is its selection of items, which provides depth and strategy to the gameplay. The item system is influenced by your position in the race, so if you’re trailing, you’ll have access to more powerful items like the lightning bolt or the blue shell. If you’re leading, you’ll receive weaker items like banana peels or single green shells to use against other racers. The item system is a defining feature of the game and mastering it can be the key to securing the lead. Gamers refer to this as rubberbanding, an artificial way of making the game challenging.
Mario Kart 64 also features heavily rubber-banded AI, which means that opponents are always close to you, even if you’re leading. This creates a tactical aspect to the gameplay, as you have to be strategic about using items. The character categories also play a role in the game, affecting their top speed, handling, and acceleration.
The tracks in Mario Kart 64 are vibrant, colorful, and fun, drawing inspiration from the Super Mario universe and the real world. The 3D graphics bring the tracks to life, with plenty of ups and downs, bumps, and jumps. The battle mode is another highlight, where up to four players can face off in one of four arenas, using items to win a battle royale scenario.
Mario Kart 64 is still a great game to play today, with its chaotic item system, tactical gameplay, and memorable tracks. Its light content and repetitive single-player mode may detract from the experience, but the multiplayer mode more than makes up for it.
12. Blast Corps
Blast Corps is a 1997 action-strategy video game developed and published by Rare for the Nintendo 64 console. It received positive reviews for its unique gameplay, challenging missions, and varied-level design. Players control a demolition squad tasked with clearing the path for a runaway nuclear missile carrier by destroying obstacles with a variety of vehicles and tools. The game was praised for its innovative gameplay mechanics and attention to detail, with many reviewers noting its addictively fun and satisfying gameplay.
13. F-Zero X
F-Zero X is a high-speed racing game released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. The game features fast-paced, futuristic racing action with a wide range of tracks and vehicles to choose from. Players can race against each other or against the clock in a variety of modes, including Grand Prix, Time Attack, and Versus. F-Zero X received positive reviews for its smooth and intense racing action, with many critics praising its graphics and attention to detail.
14. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron is a Star Wars-themed action game released for the Nintendo 64 in 1998. The game puts players in the role of Luke Skywalker, leading a team of X-wing pilots on various missions against the Empire. Players can fly a variety of Star Wars vehicles, including X-wings, A-wings, and Snowspeeders, and complete missions such as dogfighting and bombing run. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron received positive reviews for its faithful representation of the Star Wars universe and its exciting action gameplay. Critics also praised the game’s graphics and sound design, which effectively captured the look and feel of the Star Wars movies.
15. Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
The Nintendo 64 console was starving with RPG games as most of the golden era JRPGs found their way on the PlayStation 1. Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber absolutely quenches all the thirsty gamers who only have the Nintendo 64 as their system.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is a strategy game that is a sequel to Ogre Battle: The March of the Black Queen. Players control groups of units and send them out to explore areas, fight enemies, and seize strongholds. The unit squads have a 3-by-3 square formation, and players can place five units on each squad, choosing their placement carefully to maximize their effectiveness. Each unit can be equipped with items and can change into more powerful classes if they level up. Battles are automated and players can only tell their units which enemies to attack. The game has 43 different missions with storyline scenes between each mission. The game features both 3D and 2D graphics, with the map screen being 3D and other parts of the game being 2D.
16. Mario Party 3
Mario Party 3, like its predecessors, is a multiplayer board game where players compete to possess the Millenium Star. The game has a flimsy storyline and its complexity has increased compared to previous editions. The game introduces the new duel map which is the game’s greatest innovation but is flawed as it eliminates the strategy element.
The presentation of the game as a whole is confusing, with many options to choose from, and the maps are not as fun as they should be, with interactive elements that get frustrating. The game also implements a system of items that makes it difficult to keep the stars won. However, the game offers a variety of new mini-games, around 70 in total, which are different from the previous games and are generally more polished. Despite its faults, Mario Party 3 is still a good multiplayer title if you have friends to play with.
17. Mario Golf
Mario Golf is the first sports game that Nintendo made for its star character Mario, released on the N64. It was developed by Camelot who had previously made the addictive Hot Shot Golf game. The controls are easy to learn, leading to great satisfaction when shots go as planned. The game features different stats and special powers for characters like Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and others, with various costumes to unlock. It also has various courses to play on, despite the Mushroom Kingdom-themed courses appearing later in the series. The Mario Golf series is still popular today, with Mario Golf Super Rush being released on the Nintendo Switch in 2021.
18. Banjoo Kazooie
Banjo-Kazooie is a beloved video game that has stood the test of time, with its popularity evident in the excitement generated by its inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate more than two decades after its initial release. Developed by Rare, the game was a follow-up to the game-changing Super Mario 64 and built upon the elements that made that game so special. Players embark on a hilarious adventure with the unlikely duo of Banjo and Kazooie, who must overcome various challenges to save the day. The game is filled with memorable characters, such as the evil Gruntilda and the quirky Mumbo Jumbo, and tasks players with searching for golden puzzle pieces called Jiggies, as well as rescuing hidden Jinjos placed around each level.
19. Pokemon Puzzle League
Pokemon Puzzle League is a fun tile-matching puzzle game that features covers of nostalgic themes from the US version of the Pokemon anime, along with multiple playable characters with unique voice quips. It has a challenging story mode where players fight gym leaders and collect badges to become the greatest Pokemon Puzzle Master.
20. Wave Race 64
Wave Race 64 is a Nintendo 64 game that offers a unique experience of racing on Jet Skis. The game features precise controls and realistic water physics, making the experience of riding the Jet Ski very engaging. The main mode of play is the Championship, where players select one of four characters with different abilities and compete in three-lap races. Points are awarded based on the finishing position, with the racer with the most points declared the winner. The game has bright and colorful graphics, with the water being the most impressive aspect with its rippling, bobbing, and crashing waves that affect the Jet Ski. The controls are spot-on, allowing players to perform stunts like barrel rolls, flips, and handstands. The game also features good background music that is usually unnoticed during gameplay.