Nintendo has yet to take the wraps off of its upcoming NX console, so while we wait to see what’s next from the Japanese gaming giant, we’re taking a look back at the golden years of their consoles. As the Nintendo 64 hits the 20-year-old mark, we present the iconic console's top 20 games ever.
20. WWF No Mercy
Back in the days when the WWE was the WWF and the WCW still existed, video game wrestling was a category in itself. We don’t remember playing No Mercy’s campaign. We honestly don’t know if it had one. We do remember four man tag team matches with friends that ended with actual wrestling breaking out and, on at least one occasion, a trip to the hospital. Just like in the WWF, those beefs rarely stayed in the ring.
19. Mission: Impossible
The Tom Cruise blockbuster, like so many movies back then, had a companion game. Unlike so many movies back then, it’s game didn’t suck. In fact, it stood out as one of the best spy games of the era, and its stealth action mixed with its extensive arsenal of spy gear laid the groundwork for future games like the Splinter Cell series that used many of the same gimmicks. It’s an N64 game that has flown under the radar for two decades that deserves some overdue recognition.
18. Donkey Kong 64
It’s easy to forget that DK is as old as Mario himself. It’s also easy to forget that he used to get his own games. And they were great. DK64 may have been the pinnacle of the ape’s career, adding verticality to a 3D-world that was groundbreaking at the time. It also felt a lot like the sequel to Super Mario 64 that we all wanted but never got on N64.
17. Mario Tennis
Once Nintendo realized they had a four-player hit on their hands with Mariokart, they opened up the Mario universe to several different sports that took advantage of those four controller ports on the N64. Mario Tennis required teamwork, expert timing and precision. If there wasn’t fire coming off of your serve, you better go back to the drawing board.
16. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Eat your heart out, Tarzan. We’ll take Turok’s man-out-of-time adventures killing raptors over swinging with apes every time. The fact that they somehow justified giving Turok a huge arsenal of heavy weapons and dinosaurs to annihilate was a stroke of genius not often seen in video games.
15. Duke Nukem 64
Violent and sexualized are not words typically associated with Nintendo 64... and maybe that’s why Duke Nukem earned a following. It zigged when everyone else was zagging and made loyal fans out of all of us with its big ass guns and legions of cannon fodder. In retrospect, Duke Nukem 64 is a pretty tame game. At the time, it was astoundingly groundbreaking, even if the N64 version didn’t let you slip singles to strippers like the PC version did.
14. All Star Baseball '99
Our national pastime didn’t need frills, just airtight controls and the feel of the crack of the bat (thanks, Rumble-Pak!). Stepping up to the plate as Derek Jeter in ASB ‘99 was exhilarating, accompanied by the pressure that comes from being a lead-off batter, knowing you need to make it on base. The NES's RBI Baseball felt as childish as playing with a slinky once All Star Baseball opened our eyes.
13. Mega Man 64
We’ve seen Mega Man’s trademark side-scrolling sequeled and "spiritually-succeeded" many times now, but the 3D world of Mega Man 64 is as underrated as the little blue robot gets. MM64 genuinely captures the spirit of Dr. Light’s universe while truly setting you free to explore it. Of all the games on this list, Mega Man 64 is the one we’d like to see Nintendo take another crack at making.
12. Cruis’n USA
Better than pumping quarters into the arcade version, taking Cruis’n USA home to the N64 made us feel like hot shots as we burned up the roads from California to New York. High scores and desperate drives to the closest checkpoint abounded any time we popped in the Cruis’n cartridge.
11. Mario Party
Setting the high water mark for party games, Mario Party honed our skills in mini-games but, more importantly, taught us the sweetness of revenge in a beg/borrow/steal sort of way. It was everything a board game wanted to be but couldn’t, because it wasn’t limited to a board and set off a franchise that's spanned ten games and counting.
10. 1080 Snowboarding
Carving huge mountains and catching crazy air were the hallmarks of 1080 Snowboarding, a game that launched an inordinate amount of extreme sport titles. Picking a perfect line down the slopes was almost as satisfying as unlocking the giant panda suit and then embarrassing your friends by wearing it while you beat the snow pants off of them.
9. Super Smash Bros.
The game that started the fighting phenomenon was a bruiser from the beginning. Four player battle royales were common, and something to look forward to on weekends with friends. If you told us back then that there'd eventually be tournaments for Smash Bros with big cash prizes less than twenty years down the line, we'd have believed you and we'd have started training to win those prizes immediately.
8. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
The foul-mouthed, English-accented squirrel game that earned a cult following was a rare gem and a Rare joint. Not only did Conker buck the trend of PG games on Nintendo, it successfully co-opted cool movies like Reservoir Dogs and The Matrix for its oddball, ultra-violent campaign and mini-games.
7. Star Fox 64
Fox’s polygon universe was a stylized wonder as we blasted through it with a memorable crew of misfits at our side (Hey, Slippy!). Huge boss battles and memorably difficult stretches made Star Fox the best dogfight game on N64 and earned Fox and his animal friends a spot on this list.
6. Pilotwings 64
We could still play Pilotwings today and love it. The gliding game’s physics were a smooth number in a landscape of other flying games on N64 that valued destruction and speed over skill. The environments were gorgeous, the music was soothing, and we eventually put that game down feeling like a hang-glider trip in the Swiss Alps was something we could handle.
5. NFL Blitz
The one and only arcade-style NFL game had all the fast-paced gameplay of NBA Jam on the gridiron. Big heads and fire footballs added the flair we wanted, but the core gameplay of smart offensive coordination and monstrous defensive sacks solidified Blitz as the arcade sport of the time.
4. Mariokart 64
The best reason Nintendo had for endowing the N64 with four controllers was Mariokart 64. It was a brilliantly executed racing game with universal appeal and the teensiest of learning curves. Anyone could play Mariokart 64 so everyone did play Mariokart 64. If you don’t believe us, ask a stranger what a blue shell is and just see if you don’t get the right answer.
3. Super Mario 64
Bundled with the N64 itself, Mario 64 was many people’s first experience on their new console and also their first encounter with a 3D video game world. It was, quite literally, game changing. The memory of grasping that weird, trident controller and making Mario run, arms flailing, and then triple-jump is one that will stay with us forever. Actually collecting all 120 stars was an accomplishment on par with graduating middle school. In fact, it’s probably more impressive.
2. Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ocarina is an icon. Link’s journey from an outsider in the forest to the mother fucking Hero of Time was the most epic adventure the N64 had to offer. The game's puzzles were brain-busting, its action was heart-pounding, its story was gripping. Of the many times we’ve saved Princess Zelda, none were as important as when we did it in Ocarina of Time.
1. Goldeneye 007
No game for the N64 had more of an impact on the future of gaming as much as Goldeneye. The movie-paralleling campaign used now-iconic scenes to create, essentially, a tutorial for the good stuff—namely, competitive FPS multiplayer. Dare we say billions of hours were lost by a generation that’s grown up making console FPSers like Call of Duty and Battlefield into blockbuster franchises. Goldeneye wasn’t the first first-person shooter for consoles, but it did bring the category to a much wider audience by invoking Bond’s uber-coolness and packaging it with perfect (for the time) gameplay. There’s no choice. Goldeneye tops this list.