In celebration of the 20 year anniversary of the Nintendo 64, we asked our staff to vote on the 40 best games released for the system. While Nintendo 64 will never be remembered for sheer selection of software (only 296 titles released) it will be remembered for the quality of most of it’s games. We had over 100 titles nominated, with the number one game snatching the top spot by only a single vote. Note: We decided not to include any titles (such as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3) that were also released on the Gamecube since by that time, most of us had already moved on to playing these on Nintendo’s sixth generation console.
Special Mention: Sin and Punishment
Anyone who plays many of the games found on the Virtual Console should be familiar with Treasure, a tiny Japanese developer with a huge cult following and a back catalogue packed with classic titles including one major hit, Hideyuki Suganami’s Sin and Punishment.Originally passed over for localization, Nintendo only released the arcade-style action shooter stateside via the Wii Virtual Console in 2007. It’s the N64 game that many North American gamers imported purely on the positive buzz from respected gaming magazines such as EGM. For the unfamiliar, the game is essentially a 3D Cabal-styled shooter with a grandiose anime-inspired storyline; massively detailed levels; epic set-pieces (the ocean fleet chapter is most memorable), intricate character and enemy models and action that was so rapid, it was almost impossible to keep up. Treasure’s unique approach to game design coupled with Nintendo’s trademark polish makes this worthy of being remembered as one of the 64-bit greats and easily one of the best rail shooters ever made. Fans of arcade style games should love the fast-paced action, brilliant controls, and fantastic over the top storyline. (Ricky D)
40. Ridge Racer
When people think of the N64, Mario Kart 64 is usually the first racing game that comes to mind, but there were so many great racing games released for the system that the N64 might just have the best lineup of that genre. Among them is San Francisco Rush, Road Rash, Beetle Adventure Racing, Micro Machines, Wipeout, Wave Race, Diddy Kong Racing, Excitebike and our first entry in this list – Ridge Racer 64, one of the best racing games ever to hit Nintendo’s system. Namco’s classic franchise hit the N64 four years after debuting on Sony’s Playstation, complete with new tracks, new cars, a four-player mode, rock solid frame rates, faster speed and an all-new gameplay mechanic to boot. This wasn’t just a port of the original game and, in fact, Ridge Racer wasn’t even developed by Namco, but instead it was the very first game developed by Nintendo Software Technology. They obviously poured their heats into making the game since everything about it is excellent! – (Ricky D)
39. Body Harvest
If there’s one game on this list that was way ahead of its time, it’s Body Harvest. Essentially an open-world action game in which the player fights off hordes of invading aliens, the simple concept doesn’t signal even an inch of the games incredible depth and innovation.
For example, as you roam the ridiculously huge world map accomplishing your various missions, you can literally take control of any vehicle you want to help you reach your destination. Sound like a certain million dollar franchise that you’re familiar with? It also allowed you to free-roam the map, doing whatever you wanted at almost any time, rather than doing what you were supposed to be doing. Are you getting it now? It’s a franchise that rhymes with HAND DEFT GELATTO, but only kind of.
Now, here’s the thing, Body Harvest came out in 1998, and unfortunately, on a console that was way underpowered in helping it to achieve its incredibly lofty goals. Still, an ambitious failure comes out way ahead of a successful doppelganger any day, and I can guarantee you’ve literally never played a single game on the Nintendo 64 like Body Harvest. (Mike Worby)
38. Excitebike 64
It’ll set the daredevil inside you free! Excitebike 64 is nothing like the original Excitebike. It comes with 20 stadium tracks, amazing outdoor courses, six different riders, each with a unique style, and of course, stunning 3D graphics. Following on the success of Wave Race 64 and 1080 Snowboarding, Excitebike 64 upped the ante by resurrecting a beloved NES racer with tight controls, a ridiculous number of modes and a ground-breaking track editor. Excitebike 64 was one of the deepest racers to hit any videogame system – PC or console – and what’s really surprising is how the game stands the test of time. More importantly, the game is not only fun but full of replay value. Nintendo may not have had much third party support when it came to AAA automotive sims but they had no problem in self-producing a handful of top-notch arcade-style racers. (Ricky D)
37. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was the start of a very successful run for publisher Acclaim, which would grace the N64 with some of its most technically accomplished titles. The game went on to sell 1.5 million copies keeping Acclaim (who were one flop away from bankruptcy) in business. Looking back in hindsight, it’s easy to see why Turok: Dinosaur Hunter was such a success. By combining first-person shooter elements with multi-layered platforming and open-world exploration, Turok was somewhat ahead of its time. On home consoles, the first-person shooter genre had not yet blossomed into the money-making behemoth that it is today, but any kid who played the game back in the day was instantly hooked. Goldeneye 007 may be remembered as the game that popularized the FPS genre on home consoles, but Turok predated it and gave us a large, open-world environment that pushed the N64 to its technical limit. It was also one of the first M-rated games for the console and back in 1997, this was a huge deal for Nintendo fans. Turok may be horribly dated as a result of the genre innovations that followed, but there was very little else like it on home consoles at the time, and for all these reasons and more, it deserves a spot on this very list. Acclaim would build on Turok’s success with several sequels/spinoffs but the original stands out as a genuine classic. (Ricky D)
36. Bomberman 64
While many franchises struggled to make the transition to a 3D format, Bomberman 64 handled the series’ evolution with a level of finesse and nuance that, frankly, I wasn’t expecting when I first played it through. Released in 1997, this game marked the Hudson’s leading mascot’s first single-player foray, turning a primarily multiplayer based arcade style action game into an action-adventure that spanned multiple worlds. As a band of space pirates begin to use a device called the Omni Cube to drain planets of their energy, they set their sights on planet Bomber, prompting our hero to travel to the world under siege and defeat the leader of the Black Fortress. Adding platforming and light puzzle sections, Bomberman 64 radically changed its own traditional formula to deliver a more entertaining experience than a few seconds of multiplayer action ever could. Across four vibrant worlds, Bomberman has to use his newfound abilities to toss and kick bombs at his enemies and the environment to progress through stages, collect hidden gold cards, and defeat inventive bosses. Familiar power-ups that increased bomb strength and explosion size were strewn throughout the game, making the gameplay feel very connected to preceding titles, while also moving the games forward.
Rather than simply giving the players a jump button, Bomberman 64 maintained its own unique style by forcing players to bounce atop bombs to reach higher ledges and cross wide gaps. To compensate for the new dimension, players could both move in eight directions and manually rotate the camera to more easily navigate the world. Zones like White Glacier and Red Mountain each had distinct puzzles and enemies that required the player to approach every situation differently and had amazing soundtracks to go along with them. If there is one shortcoming of Bomberman 64, it’s that the multiplayer mode that made the series so popular in the first place is somewhat underwhelming and unbalanced. Despite having several maps and cosmetic choices for their avatar, the 4-player battle mode wasn’t nearly as polished as it was in other games, and failed to match the ingenuity of the single-player campaign. (Matt Bruzanno)
35. NFL Blitz
Those that game with close friends or siblings will know that sometimes when you game with loved ones, tension and emotions tend to run high. Consequently, there’s nothing that quite matches the emotional cocktail that follows watching your friend intercept a ball and tauntingly run in the winning touchdown in a football game, replete with sour notes of sorrow, frustration, a hint of disbelief, and shame. And nothing quite alleviates those antagonizing sensations better than tackling your friend’s celebrating avatar after the play is already done. Therein lies the beauty of the Midway’s N64 classic NFL Blitz, a hilariously exaggerated version of an American football game. Taking inspiration from Midway’s own NBA Jam, an over-the-top basketball game, NFL Blitz ignores the aims of its compatriots, Madden and the like, to deliver the most realistic football simulator possible and delivers a laugh-inducing, fun experience so overblown it can be enjoyed by people who don’t like sports games or even the sport itself. Blitz allows players to make unbelievable plays, impossibly far passes or unfathomable blocks, go Beast Mode and stiff arm any defenders in the path to the end zone, and tackle in brutal, outrageous ways. Those tackles can even take the form of late hits delivered after a play is dead in some of the games funniest moments. Without the ridiculous likes of NFL Blitz, it’s unlikely we’d have any of the zany, off-the-wall sports games, like Rocket League, we have today. While many a game may have carried on its bonkers tone, no sports game may ever truly surpass NFL Blitz. (Tim Maison)
34. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Although it remains one of the most underrated titles in the series, Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, is my personal favorite entry in the titular mascot’s career. Following his N64 debut in Nintendo’s hit fighting game Super Smash Bros, HAL Laboratory’s mascot made the jump to a 2.5D platforming adventure that took him on a journey across the galaxy. At face value, Kirby 64 is a well designed, albeit brief, experience featuring the amazing music, bosses, and moves that the series is known for. However, what the game lacks in difficulty and length, it makes up for with replayability and entertainment value. Naturally building on Kirby’s iconic ability to copy the powers of his enemies, Kirby 64 allows players to combine two abilities to form a completely new one. This simple change radically altered the gameplay, bumping up the slim 7 original powers to a whopping 35 total forms for Kirby, introducing a level of customization that the series never had. New combinations such as the flaming sword, volcano and, my personal favorite, the refrigerator, were miles ahead of the comparatively bland base abilities of earlier games and simultaneously introduced the factor of having to actually create the combination, by swallowing an enemy and hurling their energy towards another monster to fuse them. Every level had a plethora of different powers to be toyed with, and although they were often designed to emphasize the viability of certain abilities over others, there was no one correct style to play through each world. Ingeniously encouraging multiple runs, 72 crystals were hidden throughout the game, requiring some light puzzle solving and exploration. Upon collecting them all, players were treated to one of the finest bosses in Nintendo history, the uncharacteristically disturbing 02 (accompanied by a killer battle theme). In addition to the main story, three mini-games with four difficulties could be played with up to four players, and although they were fairly simplistic, they acted as a nice bonus to top off a phenomenal Kirby game. (Matt Bruzanno)
Not a usual contender for many Top N64 Games lists, but it would be a tragedy if this gem was overlooked for its bigger, badder Sony brother.
Spider-Man sees the web-slinger brought to the third dimension for the first time, quips and all. The story follows Spidey as he takes on a “reformed” Doctor Octopus, who plans to release a symbiote virus on New York City. Along the way, Spidey fights some his classic foes, from Venom, Mysterio, Carnage, and the Rhino, as he tries to foil Doc Ock’s sinister plan. He even gets some help from friends, like Black Cat, the Punisher, and the Human Torch. The game is just chock-full of Spider-Man lore and references to keep any fan entertained, but if that wasn’t enough, the game itself is fantastic. Being able to swing through the skyscrapers of Manhattan and tie bad guys up in Spidey’s signature web leaves the player feeling more than satisfied, like they’re the Web-Slinger himself.
On the N64, the game had concessions made for the cartridge space, removing many of the voice tracks (though thankfully Stan Lee’s narration is still there) and bumping down the resolution of the graphics, but that can be forgiven as the game still plays just as great as on the PS1. One addition that they made, mostly out of necessity, was the introduction of comic-book style cutscenes in lieu of the fully-animated ones on the original. While on a technical level it may seem inferior, from a player’s perspective the comic book cutscenes evoke more of the genuine Spider-Man tone than the Sony version, and really enforce the idea that this is Spidey, coming out of the comics and onto the screen.
Whatever the case, Spider-Man (64) stands as a testament to the ingenuity developers have to make limitations work to their advantage. There’s plenty of fun to be had with this one, so definitely check it out. (Arturo Bory)
32. Mario Party 3
Heatedly contested with Mario Party 2 as the best game in Nintendo’s mini-game infused board game franchise, Mario Party 3 just barely edges out as our favorite, due to its story mode, inventive mini-games, and amazing levels. As is the general consensus, the third game in the iconic party game series reached the perfect balance of luck and skill to keep things equally entertaining and fair. This was done by both increasing the player’s storable items from one to three, and making them more tactical and creative in general. Items like the Lucky Lamp were introduced to counter pre-existing items, retroactively nerfing aspects of the game that were considered too random. Mini-games were also greatly improved from Mario Party 2. Rather than simply re-skinning ideas from the original, many of the 71 mini-games in Mario Party 3 were completely original, and often more fleshed out experiences. Eye Sore, Frigid Bridge, and Locked Out were noticeably longer and more intricate than many games in the sequel, setting the bar high for the entries that followed it. The game boards themselves received a similar upgrading, containing more branching paths and events than prior levels, with Waluigi’s Island perfecting the developers’ style. Almost doubling the amount of levels, new “Duel Boards” allowed two players to go toe-to-toe against one another in a more competitive setting. The largest addition, however, was the inclusion of a single-player campaign, which pitted gamers against AI opponents on shortened versions of each map, before facing off with an actual final boss (a rarity for the series) The Millennium Star. Aside from being one of the best mini-games in the series, the fight somehow gave a sense of grandeur to the campaign of what is essentially a glorified game of Monopoly. (Matt Bruzzano)
31. International Superstar Soccer 98
It goes without saying that football is a big deal; the prestigious World Cup is a big deal, but the introduction of an all-new 3-D perspective for football-specific titles was not yet a big deal. The stiff and confusing controls of the annual FIFA games failed to capture the freestyle nature of the beautiful game – EA’s dominance of the sports genre would be halted for a number of years as another videogame heavyweight entered the ring: Konami.
International Superstar Soccer 98 was Konami’s chance to capitalize on the upcoming World Cup hype, and it was also a golden opportunity to ease the slippery transition from the classic isometric/top-down to 3-D. What the older titles, like Sensible Soccer, lacked in presentation they more than made up for with fun and engaging gameplay, but those days were long gone. International Superstar Soccer 98 might not have been perfect, but it laid the foundation for which EA and Konami would continue to build on for their future 3-D installments.
52 Teams, 20 players a team, 6-game modes and 3 sponsors meant ISS 98 had the content (despite not having the license for player’s names), but in the end, it was the gameplay that shone through. Every well-placed pass, hotly contesting the ball in the air and finishing off your opponent with that ecstatic goal – that you won’t let them forget anytime soon – all came together to form the tightest and most visceral football experience imaginable, one that wouldn’t be bettered until Konami released its Pro Evolution series on the PlayStation 2.
So, players, had the ball glued to their feet when they dribbled, and header parties occurred far too often thus disrupting the flow of the game, but in the end, ISS 98 captured the passion and the competition of the beautiful game. (Craig Sharpe)