Nintendo’s 64-bit console may have had a relatively small library of games, but it still featured a huge number of heavy hitters, many of which are still revered today. Here’s our guide to ten of the very best releases for the machine. How many did you play?
When Rare’s GoldenEye first appeared in 1997 first-person console shooters were instantly given a massive shot in the arm (pun fully intended) and its impact sent shockwaves through the industry that continue to be felt to this day. Sniper rifles, four-way split screen, multiple missions, even duel analogue support (via two N64 pads) all made their first-person console debut in Rare’s excellent shooter and even today it remains incredibly fun to play. With its wonderfully designed missions, intelligently structured level design, excellent array of weaponry and utterly amazing multiplayer it should come as no surprise to learn that the only N64 game to ever succeed it was the development team’s very own Perfect Dark. High praise indeed.
The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time
We remember playing The Ocarina Of Time like it was yesterday. Link’s tearful farewell to Saria, learning about the Deku Tree’s imminent death, walking out onto the vastness of Hyrule field, playing the titular Ocarina for the very first time – they’re all moments that become indelibly etched on your mind forever. If Super Mario 64 proved that classic 2D franchises could work perfectly well in 3D, it was Ocarina that truly showed console owners just how much breathtaking scope the third dimension could actually offer them. No other adventure in recent memory has matched the perfection of Ocarina Of Time, and it’s quite possible that none ever will.
Super Mario 64
Few videogames have made the tricky leap from 2 to 3D as successfully as Shigeru Miyamoto’s Super Mario 64. From the moment the Italian plumber’s cheerful fizzog appears on the title screen to the final boss encounter, Mario’s first three-dimensional outing feels as natural as breathing. Beautifully structured, perfect to control (unlike the recent DS outing) and home to one of the finest 3D cameras ever created, Super Mario 64 retains its title as the finest 3D platformer ever made. And if that’s not a good enough reason to include it in this top ten, then we don’t know what is. A masterpiece of game design that no true gamer should miss.
Playing through Lylat Wars (or Starfox 64 if you’re overseas) is like taking part in your very own space movie – hell it’s actually better than many of the Star Wars games. Everything about Lylat Wars, from its soaring operatic music, to its jaw-dropping visuals has been done on such an impressive scale that you can’t helped but get fully immersed within the on-screen action. This sense of immersion is captured perfectly by your more-than-able Arwing co-pilots. Slippy, Peppy and Falco are now fully fleshed-out characters, while the opposing Starwolf team ignites an intense rivalry that was never apparent in Starwing. Fighting the forces of Andross has never been so much fun.
Okay, so it was yet another SNES update, but no other racer on the N64 (with the exception of Nintendo’s very own Wave Race 64) came close to matching the sheer speed and excitement that F-Zero X offered. It may not have been the prettiest of games – there’s a distinct lack of detail and plenty of fog – but it was amply compensated by the fact you could race against 29 other cars and that its snaking tracks zipped along at a blisteringly smooth 60 frames-a-second (something no 360 racer has currently achieved). With F-Zero X Nintendo managed to capture the very essence of racing in a 128mbit cart – nothing more, nothing less.
If proof was needed that Rare could do no wrong on Nintendo’s N64, look no further than this superb platformer. Featuring a fascinating gameplay mechanic – Banjo and Kazooie could be manipulated in a variety of different ways to solve problems – beautiful looking visuals and some fiendishly clever level design, Rare nearly managed to do the impossible and create a game that was better than Super Mario 64!
Brimming with charm and humour – special mention must go to the hilarious hoedown at the beginning of the game–- and with just the right amount of item-collecting, Banjo Kazooie is a platform fan’s dream and should be played by anyone with even a passing interest in the genre.
Wave Race 64 was one of the first launch games for Nintendo’s new 64-bit console and it instantly set a precedent due to its incredible physics, convincing water and superb gameplay. The aforementioned physics allowed you to feel every ebb and swell that your jetbiker raced across, while the beautifully constructed courses ensured that you’d constantly return to them to shave precious seconds off your previous lap times. Ten years on and it’s still considered by many to be one of the N64’s greatest racers. After returning to it at this year’s Retro Fusion event, it’s not a statement we’re going to argue with.
Super Smash Bros
Trust Nintendo to take a popular genre (in this case the beat-’em-up) and add its own unique spin to it. Super Smash Bros allowed 12 of Nintendo’s most popular videogame characters to battle against each other in an ecstatic orgy of over-the-top cuteness. Four brawlers could take part and the aim of the game was simplicity itself: send your opponents flying from the ring before they do the same to you. While it lacked intricate special moves and the depth of titles such as Street Fighter II, the sheer amount of items you had access to – everything from lightsabers to Pokémon balls – and the chaotic battles easily made up for Smash Bros’ few shortcomings.
Rare’s second N64 title was a game of such twisted brilliance that we’re surprised a sequel to it has never appeared. When an out-of-control missile is set to destroy the world, you have to clear a path for it by jumping into a variety of different machines (including two giant robots) and destroying as much of the landscape as possible. The sheer destructive nature of the game harks back to the old arcade games of old, while Rare further fuelled the nostalgia buds by offering a variety of bonus levels that mimicked everything from Pac-Man to Defender. A refreshing, unique title that proved just what a powerhouse the N64 could be in capable hands.
Sin & Punishment
Treasure may have only released three games for the Nintendo 64, but we consider every single one of them to be a work of art that deserves to be played again and again. For the Perfect Ten we’ve gone with the superb Sin & Punishment though, because it pushed the machine like no other game. A simple on-rail shooter at heart, Sin & Punishment is nevertheless a giddying rollercoaster of a ride that instantly grabs you by the balls and doesn’t let them out of its vice-like grip until the whole dizzying experience is over.