Top 10 Favorite N64 Games
Image source: Steve Johnson

Top 10 Favorite N64 Games

The Nintendo 64 was the first console I played to have full 3D graphics. I was really young during the N64’s heyday, therefore I hadn’t played a lot of video games yet. So seeing video games in 3D for the first time probably wasn’t as revolutionary as it was to someone who’d played a lot of NES or older systems. But I still have some great memories of the games the N64 has to offer!

N64 aficionados will no doubt see an enormous omission from this list: Super Mario 64 isn’t on it! This is because I never had Super Mario 64. My time playing it was very limited, as I could only play it when we rented it from the video store, which probably only happened a few times. Of course, my save file wasn’t guaranteed to be kept between rental periods, so each time I would have had to start over. Those factors mean I missed out on the groundbreaking experience of Super Mario 64 when it initially released, and now it’s probably too late for me to go back to it now that I’ve played more recent Mario games, like Sunshine and Galaxy.

10. Star Fox 64

  • Developer: Nintendo EAD
  • Release: June 30, 1997

We never owned Star Fox 64, but we rented it from the video store a few times. It was basically the perfect game to rent. A single playthrough is meant to take only a short time, and there are multiple paths through the game.

The gameplay is a lot of fun, you control Fox as he pilots a few different vehicles, but its primarily his Arwing that you control. Flying through space shooting down evil robots and henchmen of the evil Andross is a great time! And of course, Star Fox 64 is legendary for giving such memorable quotes as “Do a barrel roll!”

9. Pokémon Snap

  • Developer: HAL Laboratory
  • Release: June 30, 1999

Pokémon Snap is an interesting game. You play through on-rails levels in first-person as your auto-piloted vehicles takes you through scenic vistas where you see various species of Pokémon. Your goal is to take pictures of these Pokémon for Professor Oak. In addition, you have apples and “pester balls” that you can throw at Pokémon to interact with them. This is the only way to get certain species to show up, whether it be due to triggering a Pokémon evolution or just luring out an elusive species!

This game is fun, if not all that re-playable. Once you know what to do to get photos of all the species, it probably doesn’t take long to beat.

8. Donkey Kong 64

  • Developer: Rare
  • Release: November 22, 1999

As a kid, I enjoyed Donkey Kong 64 a lot. I played this before I ever played Rare’s Banjo Kazooie titles, but they all share the same formula. You navigate through levels collecting a bunch of things, and gradually gain new powers to enable you to collect more things. By collecting more things, you gain access to new worlds, with more things to collect.

These days, Donkey Kong 64 generally appears to be considered inferior to Rare’s Banjo Kazooie games. Personally, since I haven’t played through Banjo Kazooie or its sequel Banjo Tooie, Donkey Kong 64 reigns supreme among Rare’s collect-a-thons.

7. Mario Kart 64

  • Developer: Nintendo EAD
  • Release: February 10, 1997

Battle mode in Mario Kart 64 was the best of the series, at least of those that I’ve played. Compared to Super Mario Kart, it innovated a ton, and kickstarted the Mario Kart series, in my opinion.

That’s all I really have to say about this one. You control Mario and other Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants and drive around in karts. It’s fun!

6. Super Smash Bros.

  • Developer: HAL Laboratory
  • Release: April 26, 1999

The game that launched an incredibly successful fighting game series: Super Smash Bros. on the Nintendo 64. When my family got this game, I don’t think any of us knew what it was all about. My parents saw Mario and Pikachu on the cover, and they probably though, “Hey, it’s the kids’ favorite characters, let’s get this for them.” The rest is history.

Beyond introducing me to what turned out to be a really fun game to play with family and friends, Smash Bros. also introduced me to brand new characters. I’d never heard of Ness or Captain Falcon before playing this game. When I unlocked Ness for the first time, I thought he was the coolest character ever. A kid with PSI abilities and a baseball bat? Awesome!

5. Pokémon Puzzle League

  • Developer: Nintendo Software Technology
  • Release: September 25, 2000

In a rare twist, this is a Pokémon spin-off game that never released in Japan. It only came out in North American and Europe! It’s part of the Puzzle League, or Panel de Pon, series, which all share similar puzzle gameplay. Pokémon Puzzle League just puts a Pokémon theme on top of it.

Played a lot of this on the N64 as a kid. The mechanics were so fun. You swap two tiles and try to make chains 3 tiles or longer. The longer the chain, the more obstructions you add to your opponent’s play area in versus modes like the campaign. I always wanted to beat the campaign mode on the hardest difficulty, but the final battle against Mewtwo was way too hard for me!

4. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

  • Developer: HAL Laboratory
  • Release: June 26, 2000

Kirby games are always fun, and Kirby 64 is no exception. With its early 3D graphics, it’s not as visually charming as Kirby’s other adventures, but it still has a decent amount of cuteness. One interesting feature Kirby 64 brings to the table is the option to combine copy abilities to form new ones. So for example, you could combine the Fire ability with the Bomb ability to create the Fireworks power. So while there are only 7 different base copy abilities, since they can all be combined with themselves and one another, there are quite a few possible powers.

Another fun element in Kirby 64 were the Enemy Cards you could collect. At the end of each stage there’s a mini-game where you jump to get a reward, and one of these is usually a random Enemy Card. Once you collect them, they show up in the Enemy Book, and I always wanted to collect them all. I don’t think I ever did though.

3. Mischief Makers

  • Developer: Treasure
  • Release: October 1, 1997

Mischief Makers is a 2D side-scrolling platformer starring Marina, the Ultra-InterGalactic-Cybot G. Marina’s long-winded, over the top title gives you an idea of the mood of the game: whimsical, and ridiculous. Marina’s creator, Professor Theo, is kidnapped by brainwashed cronies of The Emperor, and Marina is the only one who can rescue him!

I have no idea what drew me to this game as a kid, but I am so glad I convinced my parents to buy it for me. It’s criminal that Mischief Makers has never had a re-release. There’s a really charming story here too! I’d definitely recommend Mischief Makers to anyone looking for a new N64 game to try.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

  • Developer: Nintendo EAD
  • Release: November 23, 1998

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often heralded as a classic. One of the greatest games of all time. Critics will say that this is nostalgia, and I can’t rule that out since Ocarina of Time was a big part of my childhood. However, I still enjoy Ocarina of Time a lot today, and as a kid it was such an eye-opening experience. Before leaving Kokiri Forest, I was introduced to a world with fairies, and the mythos of the 3 goddesses who created this fantasy world of Hyrule. This was only the beginning the adventure, and it was a great beginning to what would be an incredible adventure. It remains near and dear to my heart to this day.

1. Paper Mario

  • Developer: Intelligent Systems
  • Release: February 5, 2001

Like the title of the game indicates, Mario is made of paper this time! In fact, everyone in Mushroom Kingdom is. It’s not some curse of anything, it’s just the way things are in this game. Probably because the entire game is basically happening inside a storybook. Paper Mario is the spiritual successor to Super Mario RPG on the SNES, another great game, in that you fight turn-based battles, explore, level up, gain new party members, and play as Mario. Everything you could ever want in a Mario RPG!

This is my favorite N64 game. I find that it holds up incredibly well today, both gameplay-wise and graphically. Unlike many of its contemporaries, Paper Mario avoids the now dated-looking polygonal characters by having a cast made of paper, and represented in game via 2D sprites. The game is just so fun and charming too!

Ben

(bsinky)
Ben
The self-proclaimed "Guy with the Backlog", as of this writing his Steam backlog is slowly growing to the point of consuming him. Meanwhile, he spends most of his time trying to catch up on the retro classics he missed, as well as replaying the games he grew up with.

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