The Nintendo 64 (originally named the Nintendo Ultra 64) is the third console that Nintendo had ever released, hitting the North American market in September of 1996. Often ridiculed for staying with cartridges rather than using compact discs like the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, the N64 was actually the most advanced of the "fifth generation" gaming consoles. The console did have its limits, though, as its texture cache was limited and the system had the worse color-depth of the three primary gaming systems of the time.
In celebration of the 13th anniversary of the Nintendo 64's North American launch, the Game Guys count down the 15 best games ever released for the console.
15. Cruis'n USA - First developed for arcade in 1994 the ported to the Nintendo 64 in late 1996, Midway Games' Cruis'n USA was easily one of the most popular racing games of the mid-90's. The high-speed auto racer takes players on a nation-wide race with fourteen stops starting in San Francisco and ending in Washington D.C..
14. 1080-Degrees Snowboarding - Considered by many as being the finest snowboarding game ever made, 1080-Degrees Snowboarding features extremely tight controls and truly seems to capture the feel and attitude of tearing it up down the side of a mountain. Plus, 1080-Degrees Snowboarding is easily one of the best-looking games on the N64 console with amazing particle effects and smooth animations.
13. Tony Hawk Pro Skater - Already popular due to its prior release on Sony's PlayStation, N64 gamers snatched-up copies Activision's Tony Hawk Pro Skater as soon as it was made available for the console. Luckily for those gamers, it didn't disappoint. THPS features controls as tight as 1080-Degree's, smooth animations, innovative gameplay, and a challenging career mode that frustrated gamers just as often as it rewarded them.
12. Mario Golf - One of the most pick-up-and-play-friendly games on the console, Mario Golf is the only golfing game that made our list (and there were plenty of them, trust us). Borrowing heavily from the popular Hot Shots Golf franchise, Mario Golf proved that you can be quirky and cute while delivering one of the best video game golfing experiences known at the time. Don't let the cutsieness of the game fool you, though, Mario Golf is legitimately challenging.
11. Harvest Moon 64 - Natsume had a winner when they released Harvest Moon 64 in 1999. The game (as it does still today) has some of the most addictive gameplay know to gamers. Void of shooting, scorekeeping, fighting, and puzzle-solving, this game somehow found a way to make basic farming fun. Any game that can make something mundane into something fun deserves mentioning.
10. Madden'99 - While the first edition of EA Sports' Madden franchise on the Nintendo 64 (Madden64) was a complete failure, Madden'99 righted all wrongs from before. The 1999 edition of the NFL-licensed video game even beats-out later N64 editions of the franchise with its pure gameplay, solid controls, and beautiful visuals. Combine with those elements a truly challenging AI that actually made you work towards success, and you have one great sports game.
9. WWF Wrestlemania 2000 - For this game, we have to go back to the "good'ole days" of the WWF (now known as the WWE thanks to a lawsuit from the World Wildlife Fund) when Stone Cold Steve Austin, Mankind, and The Rock were on top of the pro-wrestling world. In this era of yesteryear, we find THQ's WWF Wrestlemania 2000. Some gamers consider this the absolute-best pro-wrestling game ever made. While we can't exactly agree with that statement, we will say that it's easily the best pro-wrestling game on the N64.
8. Mario Kart 64 - While not quite as good (in our humble opinion) as the Super Nintendo original, Mario Kart 64 still offers one of the most entertaining racing experiences on the Nintendo 64. The array of fun-themed racetrack all based upon different worlds in the various Super Mario Brothers games and the cast of loveable Mario characters makes this game one of the must-haves of the console. The single-player game is quite enjoyable but challenging and the four-player co-op play is one of the most addictive non-FPS multiplayer experiences in existence.
7. Banjo-Kazooie - What's not to love about a big brown bear with an annoying (but helpful) bird strapped to his back? Whether that's what went through the minds of the programmers at Rare is up to debate, but regardless of the reason that brought Banjo-Kazooie into existence, it's easily one of the best games on the console. The game features a huge, colorful 3D world that pretty much blows away everything else Rare had done to that point. Add to that fun gameplay, quirky British humor, and clever puzzles to solve and you've got a winner.
6. Super Smash Brothers - It's the game that started a fighting game phenomenon. Somehow the folks at Nintendo though it would be a good idea to have some of their most popular characters (Mario, Luigi, Link, Pikachu, Fox McCloud, etc) duke it out in a four-player slugfest. Somehow they were right. The game quickly became a best-seller for the N64 and soon after, extra controllers became one of the hottest-selling peripherals for the system as the four-player versus mode became something to invite friends over for.
5. Conker's Bad Fur Day - Conker was originally Rare's kid-friendly mascot, starring in Conker's Pocket Tales for the Game Boy Color and appearing in Diddy Kong Racing. Well, for Conker's Bad Fur Day, the British red squirrel had apparently grown up, discovered beer, and found himself a hot girlfriend. Upon the game's release, it was instantly being called the best-looking game on the console touting even better graphics than the amazing-looking Perfect Dark. The game brought now-standard graphic features that gamers at the time weren't yet accustomed to seeing such as long draw distances without any fog-effects, dynamic shadowing, and detailed facial graphics with full lip-synching. Conker's Bad Fur Day also featured a full and diverse soundtrack with a well-written comedic script.
4. Perfect Dark - Another of the many fine Rare-produced video games to make the list, Perfect Dark is the second-best of them all. This tremendously-successful FPS featured cutting-edge graphics, heart-pounding gameplay, and one of the best multiplayer experiences of its time. Perfect Dark also became the poster-child for Nintendo's Expansion Pack for the N64 console as the accessory doubled the system's RAM from four megabytes to eight. The four extra megabytes truly made a difference as it made Perfect Dark look absolutely amazing. The title would be the top-rated game for the N64 if it wasn't for one problem: A noticeable inconsistent frame-rate.
3. GoldenEye 007 - The best Rare-produced game to make our list, GoldenEye 007 offered an FPS experience like none other until Perfect Dark was released three years later in 2000. The James Bond-licensed game became the definitive console FPS (like Halo is today) with its realistic graphics, great gameplay, and exhilarating multiplayer deathmatch mode. The game also set a gameplay precedence that is in play still today with its introduction of context-sensitive hit-locations (arm, chest, etc.) and the concept of a zoomable sniper rifle for "head shots". To say that GoldenEye 007 was a "pretty cool" game would be quite the understatement, "frickin' amazing" would be a better way to put it.
2. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - When Nintendo decided to evolve its popular Legend of Zelda franchise from its 2D roots it a 3D world, it was either going to succeed with flying colors or fail miserably. Lucky for Nintendo, it did the former. Ocarina of Time touted more than 40-hours of continuous gameplay, a complex unraveling storyline and exciting fight sequences while keeping intact everything that vaulted previous editions of the franchise into a video game legend. Still considered the best 3D Zelda experience (some would say best Zelda experience ever), Ocarina of Time is as close to being the best game on the Nintendo 64 without being the best game on the Nintendo 64 as a game could get.
1. Super Mario 64 - Sometimes the first is the best. In the case of the Nintendo 64, that sentiment couldn't be more true. As the original launch game and one of two games included in-box with the system (Pilotwings 64 being the other), Nintendo instantly gave all N64 gamers exactly what they wanted: a purely great game. The first (and some would say best) of the Italian plumber's 3D adventures made many firsts for the company, including re-inventing its famous mascot away from the gruff-sounding hero it had been known as from the underwhelming Super Mario Bros. motion picture and DiC's half-animated, half-live action TV show Super Mario Bros. Super Show to the higher-pitched silly-sounding Mario of today. Super Mario 64 featured 15 expansive and well-made levels, a then innovative 3D camera system, and an infamous easter egg "glitch room" that gamers would spend hours upon hours to discover. The game was amazing in 1996 and thirteen years later it's still amazing.
- Game Guy Barry White firstname.lastname@example.org