REVIEW: Top 10 Nintendo 64 games of all time

Josh Rouse

There are days when I feel like I’m a very old-fashioned soul… particularly when it comes to gaming. While I love playing up-to-date sports games or the latest Call of Duty game just as much as the next person, something about playing classic video games just brings me back to my childhood and delivers so much more than an Xbox 360 or Playstation 3 game ever could.

Because of my affinity for old games, I’ve decided to make lists for the Top 10 games for old systems. This week’s system is the Nintendo 64,  which launched in North America in 1996. It was the last system to use ROM cartridges, and is widely believed to be darn near indestructible. The N64 was and still is, perhaps, the perfect machine. No disc read errors or red rings of death, no scratch discs and no need to beat the crap out of it and blow in its slot to get it to work like its ancestor, the original Nintendo. My own N64 has outlasted a Playstation 2, and it was purchased many years before the Playstation 2 was even released. In the event of a nuclear holocaust, the only survivors would be beetles… and the Nintendo 64.

However, enough of my gushing remarks about the best gaming system ever. As promised, here are the Top 10 games for the Nintendo 64.

10. NFL Quarterback Club ‘99 – The list starts of with a football game, but it’s not Madden. Any true N64 enthusiast will tell you that the best football action on the system was not from the storied Madden franchise, but rather was from the Quarterback Club series, which featured Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre as the cover athlete.

This game was unique because it was one of the first sports games to feature the option to Create Your Own Team and add only players from the free agency. It also allowed you to create your own playbook and had great sound and graphic. It had a season mode but lacked the depth that we see now in football games, only allowing the player to go through the 1998 season. However, back in those days, you didn’t really know to expect anything different.

The most interesting thing about the game was its gameplay, which was fairly realistic when you wanted it to be, but also had one giant loophole in accuracy. When scrambling, the quarterbacks are nearly impossible to take down.

9. Super Smash Bros. – Super Smash Bros. was the first of its kind, gathering iconic characters from all sorts of different Nintendo genres and pitting them against each other in staged duels. The characters include Mario, Kirby, Link, Star Fox, Pikachu, Donkey Kong and a future other gems from both Nintendo. There are also four unlockable characters in the game, which are unlocked by completing the “Classic” mode on different difficulties, and they are Luigi, Captain Falcon, Jigglypuff and Ness.

The single player “Classic” mode isn’t exactly a time-consumer, and can usually be finished within 15-20 minutes depending on individual skill level. The real draw for the game is the four-person multiplayer, which enables you to go up against up to three other people using an array of fighting moves, which are unique to each character, as well as objects that fall out of the sky. In “Classic” mode, you win a match by knocking the opponent off the screen, either by throwing them or making them fall off a cliff. In the multiplayer, the emphasis is more on the time limit and how many times you can beat up the opponents. You can even fight in teams, going 2-on-2, 1-on-3 or 3-on-1, if you don’t want to do a free-for-all.

8. Cruis’n World – This arcade favorite is everything a racing game should be. You start out by picking which car you want, then race around the world in tournaments, all the while earning custom car boosts and paint jobs by placing in races. This game, especially when played multiplayer, is extremely exciting and has enough jumps to keep things interesting. By double-tapping on the gas and moving the car in a certain direction, you could pop wheelies or even put the car up on its side wheels. When done on the top of a jump or behind cars, you can flip your car.

The different courses are broken up by skill levels, which include Easy (Germany, Egypt, Hawaii, Russia, Florida), Medium (New York, England, France, Kenya, Japan) and Expert (Italy, China, Australia, Mexico and the Moon). The game has the option of up to four-person multiplayer, which makes it extra exciting and competitive because it means someone won’t place in the Top 3 (too often with two players it becomes a Ricky Bobby Shake-and-Bake situation, with one player getting first place and the other getting second place). Amongst the multiple options for cars, you can choose from a Toyota Supra, a Dodge Ram, a Ford Econoline, a 1994 Ford Mustang, a Humvee, a police car, a taxi and a school bus.

7. Banjo-Kazooie – Banjo Kazooie was one of the earliest platform games released with the Nintendo 64, and remains to this day fairly entertaining despite obviously being a children’s game. The plot of the game is that Gruntilda, an ugly witch with a knack for rhyming, kidnaps the most beautiful girl of all to steal her beauty. Classic Sleeping Beauty. However, the knight in shining armor this time is Tooty’s brother Banjo and his faithful companion Kazooie. Banjo is a bear that carries Kazooie, a large bird, in his backpack at all times.

The game is quite deep, with a multitude of levels and challenges to overcome, and each level comes with a checklist of things that must be done before moving on in the game. For instance, the duo must gather Jiggies (jig saw pieces that help solve puzzles to open new worlds) in each world. They must also find 100 music notes on each level, five stranded Jinjos (small, colorful creatures) and complete various other tasks that are unique to each level.

The heroes can also transform into various other creatures by utilizing the help of the local shaman Mumbo, including a bumblebee, an alligator, a walrus and a pumpkin.

6. GoldenEye 007 – By and large a crowd favorite, GoldenEye 007 remains one of the most influential first person shooters of all time. In the game, you take control of James Bond and follow the plot of the movie fairly closely. What makes this game, however, are its deep multiplayer modes, which include Normal, You Only Live Twice, The Living Daylights, The Man With the Golden Gun and License to Kill.

The Golden Gun, a gold pistol that kills enemies in one hit, has drawn the captivation of many. While it is certainly one of the most bad ass weapons in video game history, their are plenty of other great weapons in this game, including laser guns and multiple automatic weapons. In Multiplayer mode, you can also choose to just fight in hand-to-hand combat if you so desire.

However, it is Rare’s “spiritual follow-up” to GoldenEye that takes the cake as the greatest N64 first-person shooter.

5. Super Mario 64 – You can’t have Nintendo without Mario. When Super Mario 64 was released, it was almost an unthinkable concept to grasp. Prior to that point, everyone was so used to seeing Mario as a pixelated, 2D character that putting him in a sharp, 3D world seemed outlandish.

However, Mario 64 delivers on so many levels as a quality platform game for the N64 – its sold over 11 million copies. The game incorporates a dynamic camera system that, although hard to grasp at first, has become a staple of 3D platform games today. The plot, like every Mario game ever, is that the evil Bowser (a.k.a King Koopa) kidnaps the Princess and it’s Mario’s duty, as her whipped boyfriend, to come save her ass. Classic damsel in distress syndrome.

This game offers a lot of new upgrades, including a few new hats for Mario that allow him to fly and turn into Metal Mario. It’s one of the first free-roaming 3D games, and one of the first N64 games to utilize secret areas. Several of the old Mario nemesis return, including the pancake-like Goombas and the turtle-line Koopas, whose shells could be ridden like a surfboard in this game. The Mario 64 world is incredibly deep, and you actually face Bowser a few times throughout the game. All in all, the creators did a great job of turning the 2D Mario world into a 3D masterpiece, and the various new movements Mario can make in the N64 version are outstanding.

4. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – When Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was released on Nintendo 64 and Playstation, a whole new crop of casual gamers became addicts overnight. The THPS franchise is, without a doubt, one of the most addicting series of games ever created. Even people who know nothing about skateboarding will almost instantly become enthralled with this game.

THPS, though not well-known for being completely realistic as far as physics go, allows gamers to skate in two-minute sessions as some of the best pro-skaters in the world, including Tony Hawk, Bob Burnquist and Bucky Lasek. It introduced the world to all sorts of new skateboarding terms, moves and styles, and led to a great deal of attention to competitive skateboarding in events such as the X-Games. Points are awarded for landing tricks, with more points given for difficulty, rotations, the smoothness of the landing and multiplied for each extra trick thrown into a jump.

The Nintendo 64 also hosted two more THPS titles, each one allowing more freedom than the first, but there is no replacing the original game and the excitement it gave so many people when Activision invented the extreme sports genre.

3. Perfect Dark – Perfect Dark, Rare’s “Spiritual Follow-up” to GoldenEye 007, combines an improved graphics engine with the basic elements that made the James Bond game so appealing. The game comes with an Expansion Pack, which further boosts graphics on the N64,

Rather than the typical male main character, Perfect Dark featured a femme fatale named Joanna Dark. The game’s plot was set in a science fiction-based future, complete with humanoid aliens. Dark, who works for the Carrington Institute, runs espionage missions against the DataDyne group, an evil defense contractor.

Many of the guns in the game can be used in both hands, and are far more advanced than any sort of weaponry we have today. Most of them have multiple uses. The most exciting part of the game isn’t the solo play, however, it is the combat simulator which allows up to four human players and eight computer-controlled players to fight, either in teams or free-for-all.

Best of all, this game manages to one-up the Golden Gun. The FarSight XR-20, an alien railgun, offers the same one-shot kill idea with a major twist – it can shoot through walls. Using this gun, you can see through walls using its X-ray scope and then shoot your enemies. Unless they have full health and armor, they will always die on the first shot, making it the most badass weapon ever conceived for the Nintendo 64.

2. Star Fox 64 One of the greatest dog fighting games ever made, Star Fox 64 is made up of an array of different animals flying space ships and shooting at each other. It’s literally a dog fight. Sounds corny, until you play it.

The Star Fox team is led by Fox McCloud, and consists of Peppy Hare, Falco Lombardi and Slippy Toad. The team’s goal is to fly through the Lylat system, taking out bosses on each planet, and eventually make it to face the evil Andross.

What makes the game even more epic is the voice acting, which includes an array of lines used over and over during the fights until they are engrained in your memory. All it takes is one person to say “Do a barrell roll!” for them all to start creeping back into your mind, and then you just can’t stop having whole conversations with people using only Star Fox lines.

1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – The legend returned in 1998 for its first encounter with a visually-stunning 3D world in “Ocarina of Time,” and it became an instant classic.

The game centers around Link, a young Hyrulian boy who has been raised by a group of forest-dwelling permanent-children called the Kokiri and a giant talking tree called “The Great Deku Tree.” Link awakens from a nightmare about a man from the desert to find that he, like all his friends, now has a fairy companion… well that’s cool. The young lad then proceeds to find and sword and a shield, go inside the tree and kill a giant scorpion thing, leave the forest even though everyone tells him he’ll die if he does, go inside a volcano and kill a big lizard, get swallowed by a fish, promise marriage to a fish-woman and then make it back to the castle just in time to open the Door of Time and let the evil Ganondorf enter and use his evil to turn Hyrule into a place of pure evil. Nice going, Link.

The young Link gets trapped in a temple and falls asleep for seven years, and when he wakes up he’s a man (cue the cheesy Disney music). He then has to go awaken a bunch of spiritual guardians, find his horsey and bulk up his arsenal with swords and shields and magic and, most importantly, a bow and arrow that you can use to shoot, among other things, crows.

All the while, he’s constantly being distracted with side job such as fishing, finding chickens and selling silly masks to people. It is, without a doubt, one of the deepest games created for the Nintendo 64 and is challenging to people of any level of competency with a Nintendo remote. It’s very time-consuming, and hours seem to slip away like minutes while you’re playing it. However, the reason time seems to go by so fast has nothing to do with the fact that you’re constantly jumping back and forth between the past and the future – it’s just plain fun.