The Nintendo 64 is the third home console for the beloved video game company. It was the first Nintendo console capable of rendering actual 3D worlds. While the Super Nintendo Entertainment System had games that gave the illusion of a 3D environment, it wasn’t until the N64 that players had the freedom to explore these worlds. With that in mind, let’s look at the very best games for the Nintendo 64.
Paper Mario is an RPG made on the heels of success from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. It’s turn-based combat, and the colorful story made it stand out as a proper successor to Mario RPG. It might not be at its height anymore, but many people love this series because of its beginnings. Paper Mario was an odd direction to take this style of game, and it ultimately paid off by delivering that classic Nintendo charm in the form of paper cutout characters.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Rare was at the height of its power while developing games for the N64, and one of its best outputs was also one of the last games to release for the console. Conker’s Bad Fur Day is one of the few mature games. Conker is an alcoholic squirrel who will face many ridiculous situations including fighting a boss that goes by the name “The Great Mighty Poo” who has an opera performance while you fight him and a sunflower who you need to get to reveal herself to a group of honey bees. Conker was an unexpected game to appear on the N64 but would go on to become a true cult classic.
Star Fox 64
Star Fox is a space combat series that started on the SNES, but Star Fox 64 is the height of the series. You play as Fox, the captain of the Star Fox crew, as you pilot his Arwing through various levels. You dodge both the environment and enemy fire on your way to defeating the evil Professor Andross. This might not be the most popular of Nintendo’s franchises, but Star Fox 64 remains in the hearts of many 90s gamers.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
How do you follow up one of the best video games ever made? By reusing its assets to create a creepier story within a year of the former’s release. Majora’s Mask is one of the more unique Zelda games. It lies as a direct sequel to Ocarina of Time and sees Link deal with many homages to the five stages of grief. The iconic 3D Zelda gameplay introduced in the previous game returns here with new mechanics introduced through the different masks you wear. Majora’s Mask is often seen as one of the best games in the Zelda series, as well as one of the best overall on the N64.
Mario Party 2
Mario Party made its debut on the Nintendo 64, but its sequel is the one that stands out. In Mario Party 2, everything is made better. Four players move around a board while collecting as many stars as possible. Mini-games are held at the end of each round of turns to earn coins to buy those stars and items. Every board in the game has a theme that has all characters dressed up to match, including cowboys, pirates, and more. The mini-games in Mario Party 2 were much better than the original, either by being updated or bringing in brand new ones that felt much better.
Diddy Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing is a game that is still beloved by many 90s gamers. It introduced many colorful characters that made playing as each racer feel different, even though it was not. Races could take place in cars, hover vehicles, or airplanes, and truly made this a unique racing game during this time. The item selection is small, but between the extensive adventure mode and fun multiplayer racing, Diddy Kong Racing is a 90s classic for the N64.
Imagine whatever first-person shooter game you enjoy. A big reason you can enjoy that game is from the success of 007 Goldeneye. Even though the N64 controller is not great by any means, the work Rare put in to make this game feel good was essential to making FPS’s feel the way they do today. The single-player campaign was great, but the real fun of this game comes from its multiplayer. Numerous nights were spent between friends and siblings battling each other in Goldeneye’s matches. It is rough to go back to play today, but this game’s importance cannot be overstated.
Our fourth (and final) Rare game on the list goes to Banjo-Kazooie. A 3D collect-a-thon platformer that features so much charm. Banjo and Kazooie need to save Banjo’s sister Tootie from Gruntilda, a rhyming witch who is trying to steal her pretty looks. The diverse worlds all are unique to each other and give you plenty (but not too many) items to gather in your quest. Combine these colorful worlds with a brilliant soundtrack composed by Grant Kirkhope and the kind of characters you only find in a Rare game, and you have one of the most beloved games of the 90s.
Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 is Mario’s first time jumping into the 3D plane. It was an instant success and became one of the most important 90’s video games released. At the time, game companies were trying to figure out how to make 3D games properly. There were issues from how to control the camera to how to make moving in the 3D environment feel right, and Mario 64 hit it out of the park on both accounts. This game gave Mario a bunch of new moves, and every world was varied and fun. Mario 64 is a true classic that introduced many to what a 3D game could achieve and still feels great to play today.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest video games ever created. Like Mario, Link made his first adventure in a 3D environment on the N64 and smashed it. In this game, you travel back and forth through time carrying out classic Legend of Zelda mechanics in an (at the time) expansive world that enamored so many people. Ocarina of Time took advantage of everything the N64 could offer at the time and put out an epic adventure that lives on today as one of many people’s favorite games. Breath of the Wild might have overtaken it as the best game in the series, but if you have access to any of its versions, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time will still put a smile on your face.