Nintendo’s 64 bit answer to Playstation and Sega Saturn hit ‘96 louder than a sonic boom, rendering a generation of future leaders to gaming zombies at all hours. While its library didn’t hit you with tons of releases every month like the PS, the system still had its fair share of landmark titles and hidden gems alike all while leaving thousands of those weird three-pronged controllers in its wake. Let’s not forget the console standardized analog sticks and four-player inputs for future consoles. Plus, N64’s best games had you covered from solo gaming to multiplayer marathons for hours on end.
The system obviously had more than 15 top titles so cutting the list short for its fifteen year anniversary proved difficult. However we believe the best of the best got highlighted even if some games barely missed the cut. Check out the lineup and reminisce on years wasted in front of the living room TV. And no, neither of Kobe’s Pre-Black Mamba basketball games made the cut.
1. Super Mario 64 — Collecting all 120 stars scattered throughout Mario 64 was the stuff of playground legend. Sure, the most average gamer could beat Bowser, but it took a certain level of determination to reach 120. A milestone built of blood, sweat and tears, the fact that so many of us even attempted to replay the game’s levels that many times is a testament to stellar gameplay and awesome level design. Mario 64 was a lot of fun.
2. The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time — Zelda had kids camped out in their rooms with Dorito’s, Hi-C and strategy books for hours. The story had so many layers and tricks, making this installment ahead of its time. Greatest Zelda game ever?
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask — Ocarina of Time offered the blueprint to which all modern action-RPGs follow, but Majora’s Mask perfected it. Much more difficult than its predecessor, the game allowed the player to manipulate time: forcing Link to relive the same three-day cycle until the bad guy was defeated. Gameplay was extremely varied by allowing Link to transform into different creatures who commonly populated the Zelda landscape. It’s hard to imagine any game giving Ocarina a run for its money but that’s exactly what Majora’s Mask did.
4. Starfox 64 — Starfox 64 continued right where the SNES version left off. Sleek controls. Mega-fun vs. mode. And a newly-invented rumble pack attachment made for a cutting edge game. Too bad he kind of became a b*tch on Smash Bros.
5. Super Smash Brothers — Tossing Nintendo’s biggest names into a no-holds barred free-for-all was a great marketing move, but what makes Smash such a classic is the gameplay. Drawing as much influence from Mario as Mortal Kombat, the game was an absolute clusterf*ck in the best possible way. Learning how to properly bash your pals with the baseball bat and staving off twenty or so Yoshi clones in adventure mode are the stuff video game memories are made of.
6. GoldenEye 007 — Got three friends? Got four controllers? Then kiss your Saturday goodbye. Golden Eye is one of the best first-person shooters and it’s hard to find many people that can tell you a single thing about story mode. Just grab some homeys and kill each other endlessly.
7. Mario Kart 64 — Few games can make a bunch of grown, well mannered adults scream and carry on as if middle school never stopped. Mario Kart 64 will definitely bring the worst out of anyone with the slightest hint of nostalgia for karting all-nighters. Just don’t be that asshole who holds on to the blue shell or the thunderbolt until the last lap.
8. Wave Race 64 — Launch window games don’t get much better than Wave Race 64. Tearing up turbulent waters in jet skis via the analog stick was sublime back when it dropped. This game’s also a bit special since few water based racing games came out before and since its release. More importantly, the game still holds up well and provides some of the most entertaining racing action you’ll find anywhere.
9. WWF No Mercy — Best wrestling game. Ever. Bar none. While later games may have better graphics, none can rival the gameplay and control scheme from No Mercy. THQ has since unnecessarily complicated the functions but, if they’d just stick to No Mercy’s controls, they’d have the wrestling equivalent of Madden on their hands. It also helps that the game came during the golden age of wrestling personalities. Keep your Smackdown vs. Raw. No Mercy is the creme de la creme.
10. Mario Tennis — During David D.’s senior year of college, he was about to break up with his girlfriend. She brought her N64 and Mario Tennis to campus from home and their relationship lasted three more months. Yes, the game is that addicting.
11. Jet Force Gemini — Rare couldn’t miss when they were at the top of their game. But even they put out overlooked gems while other games of the day hogged the spotlight. Don’t let the googly eyed cast fool you. JFG’s approach to third person shooting stayed frantic and way ahead of its time. We’d ask for a reboot but, since Rare’s more interested in making BS avatar items for Xbox Live, we’ll focus our fail safe online petition elsewhere.
12. Paper Mario — A quick turn-based RPG with action and platforming elements thrown in, Paper Mario was slept on by a lot of people because it dropped towards the end of the Nintendo 64’s life cycle. Those that stuck around can attest to the game’s brilliance. Anchored by a combat system that actually had players looking forward to random battles, Paper Mario was hard to put down.
13. Perfect Dark — PD’s the often neglected black sheep to Goldeneye’s model sibling image. Plus the game ran like straight ass when things got hectic which didn’t help its cause. Joanna Dark’s exploits still helped pioneer and feature elements shooters emulate or still don’t have over a decade later like bots, alternate fire, co-op campaign and counter-op campaign mode.
14. 1080 Snowboarding — Waverace’s spiritual successor traded the water for the slopes. 1080’s tough yet rewarding gameplay left a gang of broken N64 controllers in its path. Yesterday’s youngin’s got tons of ill calluses just to hear the announcer yell out “1080!” as they mashed out random trick combos in vain.
15. F Zero X — Now this is how you make a sequel. F Zero X provided some of the fastest races of its day with even crazier tracks and a ton of unlockable hovercrafts. Invite 3 friends over and you had some of the dopest split screen rivalries imaginable.