The idea I had was to talk about how great N64 still is, and how many awesome games I can still pick up and play 20 years later. But instead of rambling about it on the show with no sense of direction, I decided to structure it a bit (and add some pretty pictures!).
This does not take into account sales or critical success, though I may mention those things a few times. There are no honorable mentions, and that's another reason this project has taken so long.
This is merely a collection of wonderful games for a great system. Basically I asked myself: If I had a bag full of N64 games, which ones would I play most often? Why 25? I don't know. It seemed like a good number, so I'll roll with it.
Also up top to my brother, Bill, for finding the N64 and letting me keep it at my house for the time being! So without any more rambling, let's get started!
25. Cruis'n USA
One of the first games released for the system, this is a pure nostalgia pick (and there will be at least one more of these). That, and the fact that I never owned it, puts it at the back of the line. This game was fun in its simplicity, though: be faster than the other guy and unlock new cars along the way. I was bummed out when I realized elements from the arcade version didn't make it home (roadkill and the White House party in DC to name two), but having a straight up racing game is still a good time.
|Mr. President having some good family fun!|
24. Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest
A game that I would rank higher, but I only ever got to play it at someone else's house. A classic baseball game, I'd say the best one on the system (though that's not saying a lot in my opinion). And it's one that almost everyone mentions in a "hey remember how great N64 was?" conversation. Real player names, create-a-player, several modes to crush your opponents - this one had just about everything 1990's baseball fans wanted. Plus the graphics were ridiculous and Griffey was the greatest.
23. Pokemon Stadium
Every Pokemon fan [likely] either owned this game or rented it (remember when that was the thing to do?) several times. I was the latter. I'm not sure why I never bought this game or asked for it as a gift, because every time I got to play it I had fun. Two great parts of this game were that I was able to use my own Pokemon to fight to Mewtwo and play Red/Blue/Yellow on the big TV. Why don't I have this game again?
Another game that would rank much higher if I had ever owned it. What a fun adventure!
To me, this is a great take on Super Mario 64 - which will be appearing later - with a BEAR. And It. Is. Awesome. Not only can you essentially roam free to collect stuff, but you can utilize a shaman (yeah, MAGIC) to transform into different creatures to get more stuff. This would certainly be in my top 10 if I didn't have to rent it all the time, but I had to settle for it being the last of the "great games I never owned" category.
21. Star Wars Rogue Squadron
Let's start with the obvious: Star Wars is awesome. This game is also awesome. I love the way it looks. I love the sounds of it, and it still plays well. (And yes, I realize it came out in 1998.) I think the premise is great. How could I not love flying through space shooting down bad guys? All in sweet ships from the movies, even!
But I'm going to have a totally honest moment here, friends: I would rank this game higher if I wasn't terrible at it. It is tremendous. It sold well, and critics praised it. I also praise it, but it loses spots on this list because I have yet to beat it. If I get back to it and somehow progress further, an edit might help this crack the top 20 at the very least. For the moment, though, it kicks off the "games I actually have here" part of the list, as unjust as that may seem to hardcore fans.
20. NBA Live 2000
I have two words to explain why this game is here: Michael. Jordan.
|First task when getting this - what a moment!|
This was his first appearance in the series (I'm pretty sure), and I was very excited about it. Being a 90s kid, and a casual NBA fan at best, Jordan was #1. It disappointed me that he wasn't in NBA Jam, so I jumped at this.
Yeah, yeah I know there were other cool features here. Playing with other Legends, a nice franchise mode (especially for the time), and one-on-one mode making its debut all made this game fun for me. But the fact that I'm not great at basketball games unless the rules are off means a lower score here. Though Jordan's appearance/influence puts it just inside the top 20.
19. Madden NFL 99
The first N64 game I ever owned. I still remember opening this with my siblings on Christmas morning. Confusion was quickly replaced by pure joy as we went for the big box. And then, you know, history and all that.
|Pure joy opening this on Christmas. PURE. JOY.|
I thought about putting Madden 2001 here, since I may have played that one a bit more. But nostalgia, and that my brother and I could still dominate 99 today, gives it the spot. Marino. Favre. Elway. Sanders (both Barry and Deion). I could take up the rest of your screen with the great players available in this game - harkening back to that nostalgia word up there.
The gameplay wasn't super (it was absolutely better to be lucky than good here), but the debut of franchise mode helped. And 2-player co-op, which meant my brother and I could learn that the scoring stops at 256. All of that, plus the legends, adds to the replay value for me. Surprising? Well, that'll be a theme.
18. Hybrid Heaven
This is a game a rented many times (up top, Hollywood Video...and mom!) before finally going all in on it. Aptly named, this fused together a lot of different gameplay elements: role-playing, fighting, action-adventure to name a few. And this was a rarity for N64, but I enjoyed this quite a bit.
You take the role of Secret Service Agent, Johnny Slater, tasked with uncovering a plot by hybrids (genetically modified human-aliens) to body snatch the big wigs and take over the world. Yes, that is the actual premise of the game and I love it - even if critics didn't.
Wandering through an underground spaceship shooting robots, fighting mutants with wrestling moves, saving the world from an angry ET - all in time to meet your girl under the Christmas tree. Yup, I'm glad I finally got this one for keeps.
|Into the Boston Crab!|
17. 1080° Snowboarding
I have to give a shoutout to Bump here, since he introduced me to this game. Thanks, buddy! It's one of the more challenging games in the bag for me, but I'm still better at it than at Rogue Squadron so it goes up here. I don't know if any of the characters in the game are real snowboarders, I have actually never thought about it until just now. If they are, though, up top to their parents for the tremendous names!
Three aspects of this game stand out to me, even though I'm not great at it: Trick Attack, Big Air, and the wonderful soundtrack. Trick Attack was great because you had to land every trick before you could see how to do the next one. Some of them were difficult, but that was the point. If you couldn't hit the shifty, you probably weren't ready for the 1080. It just made sense.
Big Air was just plain fun: go as fast as you could down the ramp, then do as many tricks as possible before you [hopefully] land at the finish line. Cheers or jeers awaited, along with being able to put your name at the top of the leaderboard. Do it up!
Instead of rambling about the soundtrack (since I've gone on for a bit), I will just post a tune from it for you to enjoy. Now get out there and unlock the panda!
16. Destruction Derby 64
This might be the shortest section of the whole list, and that says nothing about how great I think the game is. It's just easier to be concise with this one. This is another game we rented a bunch before buying it and again, it was totally worth it.
Not only is it a fun racing game (who doesn't love those?), but the second objective is to wreck every other car on the track. It is just as awesome as it sounds. Add in unlockable cars and tracks, and fun multiplayer modes, and you make me wonder why critics didn't enjoy this, But forget them - I did and you should join me to play it sometime. Let's wreck stuff!
15. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Kirby is a classic, I think everyone can agree. Who doesn't love hopping around as a pink ball of awesome literally eating your enemies? Not many, that's for sure.
This game is short, and not particularly difficult - especially compared to other Kirby titles. But it is super fun. The levels look great and offer unique challenges and, maybe the highlight of the game, you can absorb two powers at once!
I love this. You can either absorb two enemies at once or throw the "ability" (a colorful orb of sorts) at another enemy to combine them. One result:
I mean come on, how cool is that?
If you enjoyed the cartoon from the 90's, but have never played this game, close your browser and go on a quest. Maybe that comparison doesn't make sense to you, but it's at least better than the "don't skip this because of the crappy movies" line I had originally.
Stan Lee voice-overs. Alternate costumes with sweet power-ups. A classic the-police-think-you-are-a-big-jerk-and-you-have-to-save-the-day-to-clear-your-name story. I love this game. No matter how many times I play it, I enjoy the Spidey quips and dropkicks. Lots of action, plenty to unlock (up top for replay value!), and - for the time - sweet graphics. All of that puts the webhead in the top 15. And did I mention a lot of the voice actors from that sweet cartoon we all loved reprise their roles? Yeah, that's a thing.
|Plus, unlocking all of the sweet suits is always fun!|
13. Fighting Force 64
This game has a simple premise: pick a character and beat up everyone in your way. But sometimes, the simplest approach can work out very well. Despite not being highly rated, I think this game is great for what it is.
You have four choices for combat: Hawk, Mace (two all-around fighters), Smasher (the bruiser), and Alana (she has a sweet jump kick!). The goal is to stop the madman from taking over the world. During the game, you can pick up weapons - guns, bats, pipes - and use your environment to your advantage - throwing luggage in the train, for example. Again, it's simple. But it works and it's so fun, and much better with a buddy so let's do this thing!
12. Mario Party
This is one of the best games in the universe to find out how much your friends dislike you. Or at the very least, want to see you lose.
It's not much fun to play this game alone, even though there are a few mini-games for solo players. The all-out war of multiplayer is what makes this fun (and spawned the 78 sequels). You essentially play a board game with physical challenges at the end of each full turn. It is in these challenges that you learn of your need for better friends, or more practice to dominate.
|Gotta be quick, Peach!|
Racing, digging for treasure, basketball (with bombs!). These are some of the friend-losing contests you need to play to win the coins (and earn your way to the stars) here. It's all-or-nothing in Free-for-all, 2-on-2, 1-on-3 fun. So grab your
11. StarFox 64
Stepping away from multiplayer - though it is in this game - let's talk about how great this "campaign mode" is. You control Fox McCloud, the leader of the Star Fox team. Your mission? To save the Lylat System from the evil Andross.
You do this mainly in your Arwing ship, but you also kill bad dudes in a TANK. Shooting lasers, droppin' bombs, saving the world: how can you go wrong? You can't. N64 wins again!
In addition to being a fun adventure, this game provides some wonderfully quotable dialogue, which my brother, best friend, and I repeat often. It's great, and so is this game. So go save the galaxy, and watch out for Star Wolf!
10. Perfect Dark
Some of you may wonder, "Pat, how the hell can you put this so low?" And to you I say two things: It's at least in the top 10, and the game you're comparing it to will come next week.
Look, I enjoyed this game. I really did. It took what GoldenEye had and improved a bunch of it. My two favorite parts of this game are the bot training challenges, and the gun that lets you find and shoot enemies through walls.
|For real. It's awesome.|
But since this is my list of "games I play most" and not "best games ever," there are several titles ahead of it. Still, this game is awesome and worthy of a high ranking on any top N64 list. So go save the future and stuff!
9. NHL Breakaway 98
I did a full review of this game already, so I won't dive into it again. Although I guess I could since it's so high on the list...
Anyway, this game is still super fun for me and you should join me to play sometime. It'll be great!
8. Mario Kart 64
Ah yes, another game that is great for ruining friendships. While not the original, this is the one I always think of when someone mentions Mario Kart.
Red shells. Lightning bolts. Stars. And the wonderful - or terrible if you're in first - blue shell. The courses are fun and plenty challenging as you progress, and each character has strengths and weaknesses. Sure there's time attack and the unlockable "mirror mode," but let's be real: Battle Mode is what brings you here.
Four arenas (Block Fort #1) to choose from to humiliate up to three of your buddies. Plus, if by some bad luck/collusion you get taken out, you can become a bomb kart and ruin someone else's fun. If that's not awesome, then someone altered your dictionary. Do it up!
7. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
It was really hard for me not to rank this higher. This is the game that made most of America realize there are other pro skaters than the title character. And helped me realize the skate deck I need to display in my future home. But I digress...
I will say that as awful as I was at the multiplayer modes (graffiti especially), they were still fun. But a main reason this ranks here is replay value. Yes, I have unlocked everything several times. Yes, I have set all of the high scores. And yet, I was just playing this game minutes before writing.
The collection of skaters is great, even though I knew who maybe two of them were at the time. The boards you can unlock for each [mostly] look great. The controls are super easy to master. And the different locations for the levels look amazing, especially when you consider the release year. All of that - plus the wonderful soundtrack! - keep me coming back, no matter how often I've done it.
|Back to school!|
So skate on, my friends, and watch out for the psycho bitches!
6. WinBack: Covert Operations
I have no idea how many times we rented this game before one of us decided to buy it, but what a great choice that [finally] was. For a game that has influenced many modern shooters, I don't think it gets enough love. And before you say it: yes, I am aware that this is essentially Metal Gear Solid on N64. I also don't care because this game is super fun on its own.
You play as Jean-Luc Cougar as part of S.C.A.T.: Special Covert Action Team. Your mission is to infiltrate the enemy base before they fire their super space laser at the White House. Along the way you'll encounter enemies (so many!), traps, puzzles, and stuff that explodes. The element of surprise is key here, so the run-and-gun style won't do you much good. The strategy, the story, the rocket launcher - all of this and more make me love this game.
Do yourself a favor and give it a playthrough. Be sure to move quickly and avoid the lasers! Also laugh with me about the time Bill fired a perfect strike with his controller at the game because Bump and I inadvertently teamed up to kill him in multiplayer. A million to one shot!
5. Super Mario 64
Mario's first leap into the 3D world was nothing short of wonderful, especially for 1996. The levels look great and are still challenging, even after I've beaten them so many times. A lot of the enemies are new takes on old favorites, as is the music - and both are great. Also I love how not only the Bowser levels, but his actual battles, change each time.
And while it's tough to narrow down my top aspect of this game, a big one is the ability caps. Borrowing an idea (or reusing it I guess) from Super Mario World, you activate these by hitting big switches. And then the fun begins! Invisibility, flight, and - my personal favorite - METAL. These hit boxes are scattered throughout the world, so you can do fun stuff everywhere! Woo!
Bottom line: this game is incredible. My only gripe is the lack of Luigi, but at least Yoshi made an appearance so my nostalgia was fulfilled there. If you somehow haven't played this yet, do the thing!
|Also you can fly around on a bird!|
4. Super Smash Bros.
Speaking of great party games, and games that make you realize you have crappy friends, this one might be the ultimate. Take your pick from (initially) eight classic Nintendo characters and kick each other's asses. The main characters each get a home stage, and there is a sweet bonus stage, all with different/frustrating pitfalls. I would have liked bonus stages for the secret dudes, but that's a minor complaint.
One of my favorite parts about this is the menu that for the longest time, none of my buddies could nail down how to unlock. Truthfully, I still can't remember off the top of my head. But the ITEM SWITCH for multiplayer is super fun and it makes me sad that my current cartridge resets when I turn off the system. Basically, you can decide how often certain weapons/poweups appear. My personal favorite? High frequency Bob-ombs! Oh what fun!
In addition to the multiplayer, the story mode is super fun. Though it does get repetitive since you have to beat it with everyone to truly finish the game - also I wish Giant Donkey Kong was a playable character. And I do enjoy the Target Practice and Board the Platforms...with most characters anyway (looking at you, Jigglypuff).
|BONUS STAGE: Mushroom Kingdom! Woo!|
Part of me wanted to rank this higher, but the top 3 were locks even on the original, ever-changing list. Still, #4 is a solid spot for a game I routinely got crushed at by my brother. Still great!
3. GoldenEye 007
Wow, this almost turned into a full post. I guess that's why it merits being in the top 3! Let's wreck stuff with lasers!
I should have saved that Smash Bros opening line for this, because it definitely applies. Actually, it's more appropriate to use here than either Smash Bros or Mario Party. Because this is the game that everyone loved...unless you weren't good.
We have a rule with GoldenEye: the winner of each round picks the weapons for the next one. Guess who hardly got to pick Slappers Only? I have gotten better, but I still don't get to pick that often. (How fun is playing with chops, though?)
There are so many great weapons in this game, I could probably do a whole post about it. Maybe I will someday, but for now: lasers, rockets, several automatics, the sniper if you were a marksman, throwing knives - again, I could go all day. The fact that you could double-fist most of these is also super awesome. But the one that gets everyone who isn't fast enough: the goddamn Golden Gun. The one-shot kill to end all one-shot kills. It can be so cheap, but it's the best when you get it (much like my fantasy football bonuses).
The single-player mode, though I'll barely talk about it, is also super fun. It follows the film for the most part. Although it's been quite a while since I've seen it not on TV so I could be off on that. Even though trying to keep Natalya alive was not fun, at least this mode prevented the biggest crime in video gaming from being committed: screen-watching. I already yelled about this, but I always like to call out these jerks whenever I can. Stop screen-watching, you dicks!
|They just don't make multiplayer this fun anymore.|
Wow, this almost turned into a full post. I guess that's why it merits being in the top 3! Let's wreck stuff with lasers!
Although this is a top-2 game for me, and really this could be number one, I won't go all in-depth. "Why not, Pat?" Well, dear friend, because I did most of that in my curmudgeon post.
I will say here though, that this is my favorite wrestling game ever. The engine is amazing, and more than makes up for the graphics being not so great. The improvements from WrestleMania 2000 - ladders, tables, backstage brawling, detailed story mode - are wonderful. Do I wish the game didn't lag with more than 2 people on the screen? Sure, but that doesn't kill my enjoyment.
One of the biggest rosters at the time, a fun list of unlockables (characters and "stuff"), an awesome create-a-wrestler mode to put just about anyone you could want into the game: you get all of this and more! This game is so great and I could write and talk about it for days. For now though, since we have just one game to go, I'll leave you with a 3D!
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The story is tremendous, let's get that out of the way. It's basically two games in one if you think about it: the child Link story and the adult Link story. Is it weird that you have to save the same world twice? Maybe, but the fact that you need to travel back and forth through time to do it makes that a moo point (like a cow's opinion).
The graphics, especially for the time, are amazing. So much detail in all of those wonderful landscapes. I could fill a whole page with them. (There I go again, saying I could ramble while continuing to do it anyway.) They do get a little wonky at times, but the positives FAR outweigh the negatives here. They may be outdated now, but they still hold up for me. I didn't think a game from 1998 could still be so...immersive graphically, but dammit it is and I love that about it.
The gameplay, still, is great, It's challenging enough to keep diehards interested, yet easy enough for casual players to pick it up quickly. And the story, again, is good enough to hook everybody. Also: A lot of people dump on the N64 controller, but I love that this game made full use of it. Every button serves a purpose throughout the game. (One of them has a better use with Gameshark, but still.) Not many games do that on this system, or even today. Yet Ocarina of Time did it almost perfectly. So great!
You'd think I would have told you my favorite part of this game by now, but like most of the universe I saved the best for last: the music! Friends, I don't think I can describe in any number of words how much I love the soundtrack to this game. Every location has a different tune (or would it be score? I don't know), and they all fit so perfectly. I said up there how the graphics, surprisingly to some, make this game so immersive. Well the music does that tenfold for me. I could (and do) listen to this OST weekly, if not more often. And I wish I could have the Gerudo Valley theme on autoplay for this post. That's how stupendous a job Koji Kondo did. If this didn't win an award, I demand a recount! (I won't actually do that autoplay thing, don't you worry.)
Although it didn't factor into my decision, this game was voted the best of the year by some fancy group, which I think gives credence to this long-winded love fest of mine. This game is the one on which I base all Zelda titles. Stubborn, and a bit unfair? Sure, but it's a good way to hammer home why this game is number one. And, as a final aside, every New Year's Eve (no I don't have a reason for the date) I complete Ganon's Castle. It's probably my favorite section of the game and, like the rest of it, never gets boring.
So as often as I boot up No Mercy, which is very often, this takes the cake. Every aspect of it is incredible. The first game I bought when I [finally] got my 3DS on Black Friday was the remake of this and I pretty much couldn't put it down until I was done. It was tremendous and if I could put the Master Sword back in the pedestal, I would do the exact same thing again. No foolin'! HYATT!
And that's all
Thanks so much for stopping by, and let me know if you think I missed any great games!