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Top 10: Nintendo 64 (N64) Games
Posted on 2nd March, 2017 - By Jonathan Hezzlewood
To me, the Nintendo 64 is one of the greatest games consoles. To help justify such a bold statement, here are my top ten N64 games, that make this console a must-own.
Holding the no. 10 spot on my list of N64 games is the fast, futuristic and frustratingly competitive racer, Extreme-G.
In the distant future, humankind have colonised a new planet, which of-course, leaves only one thing to do… fill the barren, empty wasteland of Earth with rollercoaster racetracks and Tron-like plasma bikes.
Suspended hundreds of feet in the air, you pilot your way around many intense, looping tracks, littered with an array of offensive and defensive weapons, it becomes clear that there are only two things that will determine who will be the intergalactic racing champion – your nerve, and your reflexes.
Developed by British studio Probe Entertainment, this fun, competitive racer was the very first ‘ultra-speed’ racing simulator on the N64.
Extreme-G would later have to compete with the faster; but graphically inferior F-Zero X.
Although the single-player ‘contest’ was breathtaking (for its time), it didn’t compare to the frustration and satisfaction that came with racing against your friends in local multiplayer.
9. 1080 Snowboarding
Another great racing game now, swapping out the nitro-induced speed-bikes, and futuristic tracks for a snowboard, and snow-covered mountain-sides.
Developed by Nintendo in 1997 as an N64 exclusive, 1080 Snowboarding showed us how much fun performing crazy tricks at high-speed, over crisp, white snow can truly be.
With a development time of only nine months, it was great to see such a good selection of options. From the five skill-varied snowboarders, eight levels, plus various race and trick modes from which to choose; 1080 was praised for its atmosphere, handling and graphical quality.
So, what are you waiting for?! Grab your board, strap on your gloves and get ready to carve.
8. Vigilante 8
Set in the 1970s, Vigilante 8 is about vehicular-combat that takes place across various stages; farmland fields, a hydro-electric dam, night-lit city streets and the secret compound of Area 51.
Although I did play the story-mode on a few occasions, I mainly played the game for its exciting multiplayer. Racing and battling across eleven stages in a game of cat and mouse with your friends. Driving through ‘power-ups’ to weaponise your vehicle to rain down as much destruction as possible on your opponents. In addition to the standard machine-gun that accompanied each vehicle, players could collect up to three additional weapons to add to their arsenal to help secure the win.
You could choose from a broad variety of characters, each with their own unique attitude, aesthetic and vehicles. Whereby you could drive anything from a semi-truck, and school bus to my favourite, ‘The Manta’ – a Corvette inspired vehicle, covered in flames.
This was the first game developed by Luxoflux, who would eventually go on to develop instalments of the True Crime series, before being shut down after Activision acquired them.
Although Vigilante 8 wasn’t as well received as some of the other N64 games on my list, for me it was a fun game that had and still has a great amount of replay-ability.
7. Mission: Impossible
“Expect the impossible!” That was my first experience of this N64 game.
A third-person stealth shooter, that also leaned heavily into puzzle-based action. I remember getting up very early in the morning – fresh on the buzz of having spent some of my birthday money on a copy of GoldenEye 007 the night before, from none other than my colleague and friend; Brindle’s (well, his parents) video rental shop. Anyway, as I said I woke up early, walked into town and stood outside what was then known as ‘Electronics Boutique’ for forty minutes.
You’ve got to remember, this was early December in 1997, so it was very cold, although a sunny morning. Once they opened I browsed the N64 games and set my eyes upon Mission: Impossible. Still wanting more spy and espionage antics, and very much a fan of the Tom Cruise film I had watched at the cinema with my parents the previous year, I bought it and set off back home.
Although enjoyable, I eventually found some of it a little frustrating and difficult. But, through persistence I eventually completed the entire game with the help of explosive gum and the Facemaker, and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Developed by Ocean Software, the game roughly followed the plot of the film, adding in a few extra story elements for good measure. Although the game released to mixed reviews, I am one fan who thinks the game is underrated, and deserves more love.
6. Diddy Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing is the final racing game on my list. Now, yes, I know what you’re doing. You’re crying out at the TV that can’t be, because I haven’t yet mentioned the brilliant Mario Kart 64. Now yes, while that game is brilliant, and brought both myself and my friends many hours of competitive fun, for me; Diddy Kong Racing had that little bit extra.
A superb soundtrack from David Wise (come on, I know you can hear that little earworm that is the Dino Domain theme), complimenting a great array of racetracks – twenty in total, that you can race and battle through using cars, hovercrafts and aeroplanes. Plus, on top of that, you can choose from a selection of very charming characters to be your racing champion – two of which would go on to star in their own amazing games; Banjo the Bear – from Banjo-Kazooie, and Conker the Squirrel – from Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
Another Rare development, Diddy Kong Racing proved both a critical and commercial success upon release, with greater graphical fidelity than its competitor; Mario Kart 64, and for me; a more fun experience overall, by providing interesting racetracks, characters and vehicles – Diddy Kong Racing is a game that has oodles of replay value.
5. Lylat Wars (Star Fox 64)
Lylat Wars, or Star Fox 64 (in America) was one of the first aerial combat games I played as a kid, and the first N64 game to support the Rumble Pak.
Although when looking back now, it was a very basic 3D scrolling shooter that followed a fixed corridor through a relatively straight-forward environment. Yet back then, it was an immersive fighter by which you could ‘barrel roll’, somersault and laser-blast your way clear of danger. And although I say ‘straight-forward’, you had the satisfying addition of being able to take various paths through the game, making it feel like you were in control of where you voyaged next.
You played as Fox McCloud – leader of the Star Fox team, and through-out the game, could take control of the Arwing – a type of fighter craft and the primary vehicle in the game, the Landmaster tank and the Blue-Marine submarine to battle your way through various levels, for it all to culminate in a final showdown against the big-bad; Andross – a disgraced mad-scientist, exiled to the of planet of ‘Venom’, and a giant floating brain to boot!
A critically acclaimed classic, full of charm and character that its sequel just failed to capture.
Let’s hope we get a ‘Star Fox: Switch’; that sets the record straight.
4. Super Mario 64
Let me just start off by saying, that if I had traversed through harsh worlds, battled dangerous foes and defeated a spikey-shelled, fire-breathing, giant turtle (3 times!), to rescue a beautiful, golden-haired damsel in distress, I’d be expecting a little more than a kiss on the nose and a cake as my reward. I’d at least want to have icing, and with sprinkles too. Anyway, I digress…
A launch-title for the N64, Super Mario 64 was the first 3D iteration that follows the adventures of the mushroom-eating Italian plumber as he battles against Bowser to rescue Princess Peach.
Beloved by critics and fans alike, the conventional approach to platforming was swapped out for a more open-world exploration-esque approach, whereby players had to complete missions to obtain golden power stars that then unlocked doors to rooms within Princess Peach’s castle.
You can access each course via paintings, secret walls and a grand-father clock, located throughout all tiers of the castle.
Mario’s first 3D adventure followed a close visual aesthetic to previous 2D instalments, Super Mario 64 was somewhat basic, graphically.
Yet, with many gameplay elements preserved from the earlier games, a catchy soundtrack and a great variety of levels and puzzles – ensuring many repeat playthroughs. There is simply one thing to say… “Here we goooo…”
3. Perfect Dark
Step into the lycra bodysuit of the gun-wielding special agent; Joanna Dark.
The year is 2023, and your mission is to prevent the conspiring dataDyne corporation partnering with an alien race known as the “Skedar”. Their plan, to kidnap and clone the U.S. President in-order to gain access to a planet destroying alien super weapon.
Set in a world that feels like the birth child of Blade Runner and The X-Files, you battle your way through a 17 mission campaign. From the dank; rain-ridden streets of Chicago, via the clinical corridors of Area 51, to the Skedar home-world.
Considered a spiritual-successor to GoldenEye 007; and building on everything that made that game great, what you have is a challenging and immersive single-player campaign, accompanied by an intensely improved multiplayer experience – complete with laptop guns.
Rare developers planned to make a sequel to their first-person shooter success, GoldenEye, but were outbid by rivals; Electronic Arts. Although EA’s attempt at Tomorrow Never Dies was, well, let’s be honest – a mess, I would have loved to have seen Rare’s version.
But, as they say, every cloud has a silver-lining. Because of this, Rare created a dark, dystopian sci-fi classic that really is, perfect.
Next, I have chosen the first instalment that follows the adventures of the bear and bird duo; Banjo-Kazooie.
An exciting, colourful, comical romp where our unlikely heroes must traverse through Gruntilda’s Lair – the home of a twisted, rhyme ranting, wicked witch – to rescue Banjo’s sister, Tooty; from impending doom.
Through-out the lair, Banjo & Kazooie unlock nine beautiful worlds, using golden jigsaw pieces known as ‘Jiggies’, which are then used to piece together puzzles, that open each world upon completion.
Released in 1998, and yet another critical success developed by Rare, Banjo-Kazooie’s non-linear levels; each with their own charming aesthetic, whereby the player has to rescue Jinjos, collect Musical Notes and obtain the elusive Jiggies; by helping, and facing-off against the unique characters of each world, easily rivals that of the afore mentioned Super Mario 64.
Spawning two home consoles sequels, with the equally brilliant Banjo-Tooie (2000) and the mediocre Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (2008). It has been a long time since we have had a platformer of such character, that encourages repeat exploration.
Thank heavens for Yooka-Laylee.
1. GoldenEye 007
The N64 game that holds the No. 1 spot for me, has got to be the one and only; GoldenEye 007.
This one, also developed by Rare; released exclusively on the Nintendo 64 way back in August 1997. Feeling old yet? Yep, that’s right. Happy 20th Birthday, GoldenEye!
Released two years after Pierce Brosnan’s first, and best; silver-screen foray as the iconic British Secret Agent. On paper GoldenEye 007 should have been an absolute disaster. Although originally intended to be an on-rails shooter, the game was re-imagined as free-roam. And in-development for almost three years by a small, inexperienced team of eight people. It’s safe to say that GoldenEye blew it out of the water.
Receiving critical-acclaim – with 96/100 on Metacritic, selling 8 million+ copies worldwide and winning several awards – including Game of the Year. Thanks to its engrossing single-player campaign, random level layout, superb soundtrack and amazingly competitive, friendship ‘bonding’ (and breaking) multiplayer.
This game is one of, if not the, most exhilarating first-person shooters in existence. Responsible for many fond memories and still a major reason to own an N64 today.
GoldenEye has still yet to be beaten, 20 years on.
Well done 007, well done.
Lastly, check out the 1997 commercial for GoldenEye 007 on the N64. It certainly takes me back to my childhood:
What’s Your Thoughts on the N64?
Are you an Nintendo 64 fanboy or fangirl? If so, do you agree with my list, or do you have any other N64 games that you consider great?
Please let us know, by dropping a comment below.