Top Ten Tuesday 23

My Top Ten Nintendo 64 Games

Disclaimer: There are many top ten lists, but this one is mine. If you think a game is missing here, I either didn't play it, didn't have any interest in it, or I just hate you.


Pre-List Notes

Let's travel far back in time when Nintendo reigned supreme in video gaming and gamers were still slamming cartridges into their consoles. A simple time when the dorky naming conventions of Super Everything from the SNES carried over into Everything 64, and splitscreen multiplayer was the central focus of any home get together. The Nintendo 64 takes me back to that tumultuous time of middle school to high school, but thankfully came equipped with some of the greatest games ever made.


My Top Ten Nintendo 64 Games


10) Bomberman 64

My first Bomberman game would've been a mediocre platforming experience if not for the multiplayer. But as became synonymous with great games from the era, the splitscreen mutilplayer featuring a multitude of arenas, powerups, and your friends-as-Bombermen gameplay cemented it as one of the best multiplayer titles on the 64, and certainly the definitive Bomberman experience.


9) Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

Probably the most hyped non First Party title in the early days of the N64, Turok helped show off the console as a legitimate First Person Shooter host, with Turok's freedom of movement and now-laughable but then impressive draw distance and frame rate. Turok helped pave the way for more technically impressive and well-rounded titles still to come, and the franchise has been beaten to death with sequels and reboots over the years (though I did really enjoy the first sequel, see Honorable Mentions). Mainly though, I was crazy into dinosaurs at the time (still am really) and Turok featured plenty of them!


8) Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

At a time when the N64 was showing off impressive 3D gameplay with big franchises like Mario and Zelda, a Kirby title quietly snuck unto the console with more traditional side-scrolling gameplay that I fell in love with. Having not played a Kirby title since the original Gameboy game (which made my Top Ten list), Kirby 64 brought back the same great, whimsical sidescrolling adventure while adding the cool ability for Kirby to absorb abilities from defeated foes. Kirby could also swallow two enemies in a row and combine their abilities. Electric + Sword = lightsaber, Stone + Fire = Volcano. It was an awesome feature that essentially allowed you to customize your abilities for each encounter.


7) Duke Nukem 64

I was a huge fan of Duke Nukem 3D on my PC. I could never get into Doom or Quake but that bubblegum chewing, ass kicking action hero stole my heart and many sleepless nights and sleepovers killing aliens, spouting one-liners, and discovering the joy of downloading custom maps off this new-fangled internet. The console version was surprisingly awesome as well, featuring mostly similar gameplay with all new levels, but more importantly adding splitscreen multiplayer. LAN parties were still a few years away, so playing Duke Nukem 64 was the best way to experience FPS multiplayer action with the Duke. Hail to the King, Baby!


6) Mario Party

The Mario Party franchise was quickly driven into the ground by an endless string of sequels and an increasingly amount of frustrating and derivative gameplay. But when it was first released, Mario Party provided an often enjoyable and always hilarious multiplayer experience combining the tedious roll-and-move gameplay of our worst but somehow most popular board games (grumble grumble) with genuinely fun and addictive minigames at the end of each turn. It was the perfect party game to play with friends and family that weren't quite hardcore into video games but still enjoyed having a controller put in their hands. The end result of all the sequels may have sullied the franchise, but I still consider the original game and concept to fill an important need for the console.


5) Mario Kart 64

If there's one thing the N64 was great at, it was building upon the successful franchises from Nintendo's previous console. Super Mario Kart was unquestionably one of the greatest things to come out of the SNES era (and definitely made my Top Ten list), and the N64 followup was hotly anticipated. Mario Kart 64 blew away all expectations bringing the Kart racing franchise into the 3D world. The racing modes returned as did the crazy entertaining battle mode, with awesome arenas that utilized the new verticality that the N64 was capable of. Oh, and full four player splitscreen. Not only was Mario Kart 64 a tight racing game but multiplayer mayhem was second to none. Well until you go higher up on my list....


4) Goldeneye 007

Who'd have thought that a move tie-in would become one of the most beloved console games of all time? Goldeneye did a remarkable job of recreating the film's story and action setpieces while giving you tons of great guns and cool features, like having a bare minimum HUD and only showing your health when you brought up your menu (in the form of your wristwatch). The singleplayer alone would've cemented Goldeneye as one of the better N64 titles, but as the console became known for its splitscreen multiplayer, Goldeneye helped usher it into legendary status. Everyone, and I mean everyone played Goldeneye. It was the Halo and Call of Duty of its day; we might not even have those games if not for the groundwork laid by Rare. Inviting friends over to hang out translated to "come over and let's play more Goldeneye." Setting up matches with custom guns, AI bots, a great selection of levels and parameters gave this title near infinite replay value. Nothing could top it in sheer awesome multiplayer First Person Shooter action. Until Rare's own original follow-up.


3) Perfect Dark

Rare and Nintendo knew they had a huge hit with Goldeneye, and built upon the successful FPS gameplay with an original science fiction story involving secret agents and alien conspiracies, allowing for even more weapons (and spiffy new alien technology), more game modes, more customization, and more awesome. Perfect Dark was the best example of how to make a sequel without making a sequel - marry the core gameplay that everyone loved while adding in a new world and story and upping the awesome level of all the features. Perfect Dark completely replaced Goldeneye in my household as our go-to console FPS, and that is an impressive feat. Also, bonus points for having an awesome kickass female protagonist in Joanna Dark!


2) Super Smash Bros.

The Smash Bros. franchise is a Nintendo fan's wet dream come true: pit all of Nintendo's famous characters against each other in a free for a brawl for fun and profit. It could have been a silly little one-off arena style fighting game, but instead spawned one of the most beloved franchises in Nintendo's history, and sadly one of the few that I can still get excited about. The original Super Smash Bros. was a slower affair than the sequels with a smaller but still adequate roster including Link, Samus, Mario, Donkey Kong, and Pikachu. While having only a basic fighting game style singleplayer campaign mode, multiplayer reigned supreme. With a thankfully customizable AI difficulty and single screen couch multiplayer (thanks to a dynamic zooming camera), Smash Bros was simply the greatest multiplayer offering on the N64 that didn't involve guns. The fully customizable game modes - from Time to Lives to turning on and off the various crazy items let you play the game as either a ridiculous free for all party game or a hardcore one on one fighting game. Thus far Smash Bros. has appeared on every major Nintendo console (with a Wii U version coming soon), and each one has easily been in my Top Three for that console.


1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Not only was the first fully 3D Zelda title the greatest Nintendo 64 title ever made (and one of the greatest games ever made, period) it was personally my first experience with an open world action game, a genre I would continue to love to this day. Ocarina of Time was a brave step forward for a franchise that had previously been confined to traditional top-down or sidescrolling perspectives. Giving players control of Link in a large, interesting world with the freedom to explore, side quests to complete, items to hunt for, and a sweeping, time travel storyline that told Hyrule's story as much as did Link's garnered Ocarina of Time universal praise from critics and gamers alike. Somehow Nintendo was able to translate the series' staple gameplay mechanics - dungeon crawling based on puzzles and item usage along with combat into a sprawling 3D world. I haven't even touched on the music, with the titular Ocarina providing a ridiculous amount of quick catchy licks and numerous themes, ballads, and beautiful orchestral arrangements creating one of the best video game soundtracks in history. Ocarina of Time is one of those rare games that I've happily purchased on multiple systems just to experience its greatness all over again, and hope to do again on the 3DS as well!


Honorable Mentions


Turok 2: Seeds of Evil I actually ended up enjoying a bit more than the original, if only for the inclusion of Goldeneye-style splitscreen multiplayer, and the fact that you could play as a Raptor! I must also mention the likes of Pokémon Snap and Pokémon Stadium, two titles that helped fuel my Gameboy addiction. Stadium allowed you to import your Pokémon from the main series to battle it out in glorious 3D (more a gimmick than a full game), while Snap somehow made an on-rails picture taking game way more fun than it had any right to be.


Wrap Up

Like my SNES list I have to address the missing link...err Mario game. My Nintendo 64 didn't come equipped with Super Mario 64, instead I got several cool early titles like Turok, Duke Nukem, and Mario Kart. At some point I would rent the Mario launch title to see what all the fuss was about - only to come away frustrated and unimpressed. I was already an old fogey when it came to the platforming genre - vastly preferring the 2D, sidescrolling gameplay to trying to navigate jumps in a 3D world with a questionable camera. I realize I'm in the vast minority here when it comes to one of the seminal games of the early 3D era, and I admit as such in my Gaming Confessions blog post.

I loved my N64, and it comes with a heavy heart that I admit that I no longer own it or my impressive library of games, having traded it all into Gamestop during my college years. I believe at the time I was able to get a Gameboy Advance and some games, which was a great deal for a console I hadn't played with in years. Now of course, I'm super bummed that I don't have it (I also no longer own my NES, but I do still have my SNES, Sega Genesis, PSOne, Gamecube, and PS2). After college my trading-in days diminished as I became more of a staunch PC Gamer and had more of a desire to hold on to my collections.

The N64 was also the beginning of a priority shift in how I viewed console gaming versus PC gaming. While any gaming forum will reveal the funny little battle between console fanboys and another battle between console gamers and smug PC gamers, I always enjoyed both. But the N64 quickly grew into the premiere couch multiplayer system with its phenomenal splitscreen games and awesome series like Smash Bros. If I wanted to play great single player content, I'd play PC, but if I had friends over it was all N64, all the time. I didn't realize it at the time but that was definitely the split where I started treating a lot of consoles as secondary and complimentary to my primary PC gaming habits. Sure there were tons of exceptions: I loved playing many notable JRPGs on Sony consoles and vastly preferred the GTA series with a controller rather than a mouse/keyboard, but it's interesting in compiling this list and looking back and realizing how many games I loved purely because of the fun I had playing them with friends. That is not to take anything away from the N64 but it does reflect my own gaming sensibilities. If anything, the N64 helped cement my love of consoles and prevented me from dropping them all together in favor of the PC.