Like its predecessors, when the Nintendo 64 was released in September of 1996, it was another game-changer. We already had our favorite NES games and favorite SNES games, but N64 genuinely brought us into the three-dimensional world of gaming, and it was spectacular. Having 3D ability opened up all-new possibilities for gamers and game developers alike. A lot of classic titles came from this new era of gaming. Here are some of the best N64 games.
The Best N64 Games of All Time
Command and Conquer
Already a popular PC game, Command and Conquer on the N64 did its PC cousin justice. Many challenging levels, fun infantry, tanks, and other vehicles to control, plus super weapons later in the game. Playing on the side of good or evil gave the game some replay value too. Overall this was a fun game to come back to every few months.
Excite Bike 64
ExciteBike 64 is the first on the list in the category of taking what we loved about the first game and making it better. ExciteBike 64 nailed it with massive tracks, monster jumps, fun stunts, and even a motocross soccer mode. The game was super challenging as well, so you couldn't breeze through it in an afternoon, at least not winning every race easily. ExciteBike 64 brought a fun “extreme” sport into the 3D world with a bang.
Ridge Racer 64
Ridge Racer 64 was more of a classic racing game brought to the N64. It had multiple modes, could support up to four players, and had some entertaining tracks to race on. Add in twenty-five different cars to choose from, and you had a racers dream.
Keeping the classic blow 'em up battles in, plus adding in a challenging adventure mode, made this a great game to play. Each stage had puzzles to figure out to collect all the extras in the game that unlocked more features. The classic four-way Bomberman battle was as good as ever with new power-ups and fun explosions.
The Cruis'n series included arcade titles such as Cruisin' USA, Cruisin' World, and Crusin' Exotica. Each had its own fun tracks with secret shortcuts to find. Constantly challenging yourself to get just a little bit faster by timing your nitro boosts just right each time was hours of fun.
All the Mario Party Games
What can you say about Mario at this point besides that he's awesome? Mario Party brought even the most casual of gamers to the N64. Each keeping the same premise of playing a board game with Mario characters. You could participate in tons of fun little mini-games to collect coins (or just bragging rights), but the game made it so even the last place player still had a shot at the end. All fun and creative, these titles are still going strong today.
Pokémon Puzzle League
What would have been a pretty solid puzzle game on its own, the fact that it was combined with the super popular Pokémon is what brought this game to the next level. Relatively challenging and several game modes made the game easy to come back to over and over. If not that, then it was simply the allure of seeing your favorite Pokémon whenever you wanted.
Pokémon Snap was a different kind of game altogether. Riding on a track you can't control, but with the ability to discover and manipulate different types of Pokémon, it was just fun. Figuring out where they were hiding and the puzzle of getting them to use their attacks or even evolve into a new form, plus getting the perfectly centered shot, was a challenge for even the most experienced gamers.
Ogre Battle 64
For as much as the SNES thrived on RPGs, the N64 did not, but Ogre Battle 64 certainly made up for the lack of RPG titles a bit. Building on its SNES predecessor, Ogre Battle 64 kept the same game style and mechanics, plus an enormous storyline and ability to see different endings based on your actions. Tons of different equipment, troops, and even dragons to level up; the game had tons of replay value.
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
There's a certain charm to Goemon that when we got a game starring him, you just knew it was going to be good. Similar to the SNES title, this had the same goofy, wacky, zany, whatever world you wanted to use for it. I mean, when a fart turns out to be a weapon, never mind a powerful weapon, you know you've got a great game on your hands. Using a similar backdrop of Japanese culture and style of gameplay, Mystical Ninja on the N64 is quite the classic game.
Wave Race 64
As you can see, one of the biggest genres on the N64 was racing games. Wave Race 64 took your need for speed into the water. Fun tracks, different game modes, and even weather conditions that could change the waves in the water, Wave Race 64 wasn't short on ways to play and challenges. Being on the water was different enough to make this game more fun than your typical car racing game.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
Already having success with the original in the series, Pro Skater 2 brought the world of skateboarding to a whole new level. This game has fantastic skateparks (plus the ability to make your own) and allowed you to nail moves most of us can only dream of on a skateboard. Add in the appeal of the world's most popular skateboarder at the time and maybe ever, and you have an instant classic.
Like the Tony Hawk games, 1080 Snowboarding brought another up-and-coming sport into the video game world spotlight. The game includes tons of fun tracks, cool characters, and of course, lots of sick snowboarding moves to try and master. Wining the races was no joke either, definitely a challenging and awesome game to play.
Diddy Kong Racing
Talk about a racing game that had it all. Racing as a classic character in Diddy Kong, this game challenges you the same way the Donkey Kong Country series did. Simply unlocking all the tracks and winning the racing was only the beginning of the game. Each vehicle (standard kart, hovercraft, and airplane) came with new fun tracks and secrets to find and collect around the island. “Completing” the game meant not only beating the racers but eventually find all the secrets and winning the actual final race in outer space. Oh, and with a classic Mario Kart style racing involving fun weapons and power-ups, simply racing was fun too!
Not the most graphically sound game, F-Zero still brings it where it counts most…speed. Another sequel from a SNES original, F-Zero X takes what we loved on the SNES and brings it only faster to the N64. Blazing fast speeds, incredible tracks, and surprisingly difficult opponents to beat made F-Zero X an excellent racing game on the N64.
What a fantastically fun game this was. If there was ever a game that needed a sequel and didn't get it, it was Blast Corps. The whole point of this game was to destroy towns and cities to avoid a catastrophic explosion by a runaway nuke. I mean, come on, that just sounds awesome, and it was. All sorts of construction equipment, giant machines, and missiles were used to destroy anything and everything in sight. There was also a racing component to it. It wasn't enough to clear these stages, but you needed that platinum medal too. I could go on about this game forever; all you need to know is that it was beyond awesome.
Conker's Bad Fur Day
I don't know what to say about this game except that it was totally different from any other game on the N64. Not in gameplay or graphics, but just the sheer fact that it seemed to be made for adults. Tons of crude jokes, movie references over most adolescents' heads, and other just plain old raunchy stuff going on, this title just sticks out from the rest.
NFL Blitz 2000
Realistic? No. Fun as hell? You know it. NFL Blitz is a nonstop action, hyper exaggerated version of football, and it was so much fun to play. You were real NFL teams and players, but only seven to a side. Crazy, ridiculous plays, high scoring, and did I mention exaggerated? Any way you look at it, this was a fun football game.
Using the same concept of the SNES version, PilotWings 64 brought more of the same to the N64 and then some. Again piloting around the skies in planes, hang-gliders, gyrocopters, and rocket belts, you take to the skies to accomplish all sorts of objectives. The game itself wasn't too challenging, but getting the best possible scores and times certainly gave the game tons of replay value.
One of the genres that really took off on the N64 was the First Person Shooter (FPS), and Perfect Dark was one of the best, really only rivaled by GoldenEye 007(more on that later). Very similar in structure to GE007, where you could beat each stage on an easy difficulty to later move on to more challenging objectives and bad guys, which in this case was typically Aliens. This game had so much to offer in gameplay with cool weapons, enemies, power-ups, and, of course, difficulty. Months of my childhood were spent perfecting my skills at this game, and I don't regret a single minute of it.
Doom was already popular on the PC, and bringing it to N64 was a no-brainer. Bringing all the action and carnage of the PC game, Doom 64 did not disappoint. Crazy bad guys and weapons plus just the overall Doom insaneness was just as fun on the N64 as it was on the PC.
Banjo Kazooie and Banjo Tooie
These two games were just silly fun. A bear, a backpack, and a bird as the main characters, the games had great graphics, easy gameplay, and fun levels. The storyline and overall feel of the games just made them super enjoyable. Of course, there were collectibles to gather, so simply beating the game wasn't enough. Both these games deserve to be mentioned in any best-of N64 list.
Mario Kart 64
A couple of classic Mario games coming up here, and we'll start with the biggest, Mario Kart 64. Keeping pace with the SNES Mario Kart, the N64 version took everything we loved and made it better. Huge tracks (rainbow road literally took almost a half-hour to beat on its own), with all-new weapons, pitfalls, and obstacles to avoid, Mario Kart 64 was everything we wanted. Battling friends and attempting to find the best shortcuts for all the tracks to get the fastest time kept us coming back for more.
Mario Golf and Mario Tennis
Two cases of Mario bringing his charm to sports games. Both are very fundamentally sound to their sport, respectively, but with Mario twists as always. Different characters have their strengths and weaknesses, but you also could create your own characters (at least in Golf, not sure on Tennis). Both had several game modes that could be fun to play on your own or with friends. Both titles were tons of fun to play.
Turok Dinosaur Hunter Series
Another addition to the rise of FPS games, the Turok series includes everything we like about the games and adds dinosaurs, what's not to love? Like others in the genre, there was no shortage of vast levels, objectives, fun weapons, and cool enemies to beat. Like RPGs on SNES, Turok was similar to other FPS's, but the genre just worked for the N64, and these games were all fun to play.
Super Smash Bros
Super Smash Bros finally let us see our favorite Nintendo characters go at it in this mega-crossover game. Not only could we finally see Mario vs. Link or Kirby or other beloved characters, but the game itself is just absolute chaos. This is not your typical fighting game. Literally, nonstop action, crazy physics, and overall gameplay drive each brawl to be as exhilarating as the last. With several game modes and up to four players, this was a must-have title for the N64.
Star Wars Rogue Squadron
Rogue Squadron doesn't follow any particular Star Wars movie plot. What it does do is take you to some of the best locations from all the movies. On top of that, you get to fly around in some of the coolest Star Wars ships and cruisers. There's even a cheat code to fly in the Millenium Falcon! If that's not enough to put this game on the list, I don't know what is. Overall, a very solidly put-together game that allowed Star Wars fans and non-Star Wars fans a chance to have some pretty cool gameplay.
Paper Mario is another take at putting Mario into an RPG game, and again it totally worked. The characters themselves were 2D but living in a 3D world. Paper Mario was a uniquely clever game to play through, with many chapters as part of the storyline. Each had its own allies, puzzles, and obstacles to overcome, but they were done in a way only Mario can. There have been several subsequent Paper Mario titles since all following the same basic formula. Still, none will be quite as good as the first.
Maybe suffering from an RPG hangover of SNES or maybe pressure to keep the momentum rolling, the first RPG on N64 seems like a generic unfinished product. The title itself is totally unoriginal, as is the name of the main character, Brian. The game itself holds many of the classic RPG features but is missing a few too. All in all, though, the game was a lot of fun to play. Maybe because it was the first RPG we saw in the 3D world, perhaps its overall genericness gives it a certain charm, but whatever the reason, if you love RPGs, this is a must-play.
Wwf Wrestlemania 2000
Capitalizing on the immense popularity of the WWF (now WWE) at the time, Wrestlemania 2000 was an immediate blockbuster hit on the N64. Including all the favorites like The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin, Undertaker, and more, Wrestlemania 2000 gave us more of the wrestling action we craved. The game had easy controls, let you do all the finishing moves, and even had a “Road to Wrestlemania” game mode. Get four buddies together and go nuts on tag team matches or a royal rumble; the game was hours and hours of fun.
Super Mario 64
You can't talk about the best games on N64 and not mentioned the very first game most of us played. Mario 64 was an incredibly done game. Our first look at Mario in 3D did not disappoint us. Huge worlds to explore in not only the castle itself but the world you entered by jumping into paintings. Secret stars to find, difficult levels, and all sorts of fun bad guys, Mario 64 was every kid's dream game. Of course, rumors swirled around getting Yoshi and Luigi as playable characters, but alas, they were not true.
Road Rash 64
Road Rash64 was a unique racing game. Racing on motorcycles on the streets, not on tracks. Trying to grab an opponent's weapon while simultaneously trying not to get pummelled by them or lose track of the course was a multitasking experience, to say the least. Winning the races was hard enough to earn cash for new bikes and weapons, but the gameplay itself was just a ton of fun. Maybe they should have called in “Road Rage” instead.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
By far not the most challenging game to beat on this list, but like many others, it's a case of another classic character being ushered into the 3D world. Not every game needs to be hard to be fun. Kirby 64 enjoys all the moves we like in a Kirby game, namely the ability to suck our opponents in, chew them up and spit ‘em out.
Continuing the legacy of great games, Castlevania brought everything we loved about the 2D versions into the 3D world. The gameplay was smooth, and the battle system was easy to learn. Throw in the option to play as two different characters, and you have instant replayability added in. Maybe not the most original game in most aspects, but just putting the Castlevania name on the cartridge was enough for me.
Harvest Moon 64
Similar to its SNES predecessor, Harvest Moon 64 brought the classic SNES game into the 3D world. The game had a few additional features, but the game's core was nearly the same as before, and it still worked. Working on the farm, day in and day out, raising animals, and harvesting crops was even more fun in 3D.
Resident Evil 2
N64 didn't have a version of the original Resident Evil, but we did get the sequel. Bringing its horror-like feel to the N64 was well received, and the game played just as well as it did on the Playstation. Solving puzzles, shooting zombies, and an engaging storyline are what made all of the Resident Evil games fun, no matter what system you were playing on.
Donkey Kong 64
Not surprisingly, Donkey Kong 64 was another classic in the series. With gameplay like Mario 64, but the difficulty, puzzles, and quest to get every last item to get true “completeness” of the game, Donkey Kong 64 delivered big time. Another case of DK needed to beat up on King K. Rule and saving the other Kongs, DK64 is easily one of the best games on the N64.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Clearly overshadowed by a game yet to come on this list, Majora's Mask is still an excellent game in the Zelda series ( I mean, aren't they all?). Taking place almost immediately after the events of the not yet named Zelda game, Majora's mask finds a link in yet another quest, this time against time. With only three days until the impending doom on the world, it's on young Link to figure out how to solve all the puzzles of the game within three days. Learning the schedules and timelines of all the NPCs in the game as you go helps gather enough masks, weapons, and other goods that will help you save the world.
Not as mind-blowing as StarFox on the SNES, but what a truly fantastic game this was. StarFox 64 was everything a 3D game could be. Once again, taking flight with Fox McCloud and his lovable crew, this game takes you through space against all sorts of bad guys. You could take several paths again, with many stages having alternate routes within them if you accomplished specific objectives.
Beating the game on all paths was fun enough, but the game kept track of your overall enemy kill count, and you were always trying to best yourself to get the perfect run. Add in a four-player battle mode, and you've got one of the best games on the N64 system.
Perfect Dark might have actually been a better overall game, but GoldenEye 007 was the original, so it has a more special place in most gamers' hearts. GoldenEye was one of the best FPS and overall games on the N64. Taking you through the storyline of the movie, playing a James Bond is always fun. Cool gadgets only 007 would have, weapons, plus some challenging levels made for tons of gameplay. Then there was the split-screen battle mode with friends, oh…my…god. It wasn't uncommon to spend hours just in that mode alone. Several different modes and options to choose from made each battle different.
Always ending with “Man with the Golden Gun,” which allowed you to destroy your opponents in one shot, was just the icing on the cake. The game also had super challenging time objectives for each level that would unlock cool abilities, including invisibility and invincibility, allowing you to really mess with the game, adding even more fun.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Most of this list is not in any particular order, but is it any surprise that I saved the best for last? The Legend of Zelda series consistently claims the title to “Best game on X console,” they are just that good. Ocarina of Time is no exception to this rule. You got to play as both young and old Link, work your way through some infamous dungeons (I still hate the water dungeon), got fun weapons, so many quests, and puzzles to figure out, Ocarina of Time is more of what simply makes Zelda games great. It was our first look at Zelda in 3D, and it didn't disappoint. A vast world to explore and a great storyline really just adds to its greatness.
Jeff is a fan of all things finance. When he's not out there changing the world with his blog, you can find him on a run, a Mets game, or just playing around with his kids.