Paper Mario

Last week, we looked at the best five games on the Nintendo 64 (according to critics). Many fan favorite games did not make the cut, so we are going over the next five to see if some of these classics made the list.

Once again, I will be providing my own take underneath each ranking, and either agree or disagree with how each game placed.

10. Mario Tennis (2000) – Metascore: 91

Top Nintendo 64 Mario Tennis
Few games were as fun with 3 other friends as Mario Tennis was.

When Nintendo 64 fans, and 90s video game buffs alike, talk about the great games of the era, Mario Tennis is likely to be one of the last titles mentioned in said discussion. However, critically at least, the game was just nearly as well received as the legendary Final Fantasy VII. Go figure.

The Nintendo 64 was a 3-D powerhouse, and the console itself was outfitted with 4 controller ports. Nintendo (and other devs) made good use of those ports by crafting some of the best split screen, and 4 player games ever made. Mario Tennis was a poster child for how awesome the Nintendo 64 could be when you had 3 extra controllers and 3 siblings/friends/rivals/mortal enemies in the same living room.

Mario Tennis was a blast with Four Players, and it was all thanks to its easy to learn controls (A and B buttons were used for different shot variations), and the responsiveness of said inputs. Anyone could get ‘good’ at the game with little practice.

Some shot variations did require some practice and timing to get right, which rewarded the more dedicated players for their commitment to the game.

NER’s take on the game’s ranking: It is difficult for me to say whether or not this game deserves its ranking. If you had three friends or siblings at hand, then yes, Mario Tennis was truly one of the most entertaining games you could play at the time.

However, it remains a Tennis game, and to be honest, I actually spent much more time playing Mario Party 2 with friends than I did Mario Tennis. Mario Party couldn’t be trumped on the amount of variety it offered in its mini-games.

Yes, Mario Tennis was technically the more polished title, but the sole reason why I would justify the game being a “Top Ten” entry, is solely based on its multiplayer fun.

had much more fun playing other titles (such as Smash Bros. and the aforementioned Mario Party 2) to fully agree with the critics in Mario Tennis deserving to make this list.

9. Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001) – Metascore: 92

Conker Top Nintendo 64 games
Conker’s witty humor, and amazing visuals made it a late treat for loyal Nintendo 64 fans.

Ah! Conker! Rare’s ‘adult’ masterpiece was both a brilliant platforming adventure, and late technical showcase for the Nintendo 64, as the system drew its last breaths on its death bed.

Few games were as witty, as funny, and as challenging on the system. In someways Conker was the anti-Mario. The game felt like a parody of Nintendo’s (and Rare’s own) other cute platformers, and other popular media of the time.

Puzzles, challenging combat, and gigantic worlds awaited those lucky enough to have owned a copy of the game.

A multiplayer mode was included in the game with different modes of play that considerably extended the game’s play time beyond its excellent single player campaign.

NER’s take on the game’s ranking: The game’s entire storyline is ridiculously funny, and irrational (especially the game’s plot twists in the later stages). It is one of the few “Platforming/Adventures” that I would recommend based solely on its Humor and its absurd (even within the context of Talking Squirrels and Huge Mountains of Singing Poop) storyline.

That said, if anything else, Conker’s Bad Fur Day deserves its ranking solely on how huge it was and how good it looked. Rare could truly squeeze every last drop of Hardware power (on whatever console they worked on) and Conker looked nearly as good as a Dreamcast game on the Nintendo 64.

Beautiful texture work (Rare had compression methods that were even better than Nintendo’s own), and character modeling made Conker one of the sharpest looking games of its time, and undoubtedly the best looking game ever made on the Nintendo 64.

8. Wave Race 64 (1996) – Metascore: 92

Top Nintendo 64 games Wave Race
Wave Race 64 was a true showcase of Nintendo’s powerful N64 hardware.

The early days of the Nintendo 64 were magical. The raw power of the machine allowed for unparalleled, and novel 3-D experiences that weren’t possible on competing systems.

Wave Race 64 was one of these early experiences. At the time of its release, Wave Race 64 offered ‘realistic’ water simulation and some of the smoothest graphics to have ever graced a TV screen at the time.

Along with its jaw-dropping visuals, the game’s tight controls helped to sell the experience of piloting a Jet Ski on sea water to gamers everywhere. A plethora of modes and weather conditions gave the game more replay value than other racing games of its time.

There was a also two-player split screen mode for those interested in competing with friends. Wave Race 64 was one of the bright spots in Nintendo’s brilliant, but small library of early titles.

NER’s take on the game’s ranking: I feel more ambivalent towards Wave Race 64 than I do to Mario Tennis. Unlike Mario Tennis, Wave Race 64 was truly a ground breaking experience at the time of its release. Its moving water ‘physics’ were a mind-blowing spectacle to showcase to your PlayStation owning friends in 1996.

Transparency and reflective effects on the water were truly amazing at the time, and it is hard to properly convey how gorgeous the game was in 1996. The game’s gameplay was deep, and it offered a lot modes that lent it more longevity when compared to similar titles. I feel that Wave Race 64 deserves its place on this list (Even if I did preferred Nintendo’s 1080 Snowboarding game).

7. Banjo-Kazooie (1998) – Metascore: 92

Banjo Kazooie
Banjo-Kazooie was a brilliant Mario 64 clone with better graphics, and an attitude of its own.

So, Super Mario 64 is rightfully the more legendary game, however, Banjo-Kazooie (which was a direct clone of Mario 64), was an extraordinary achievement in itself.

Better looking that Mario 64, and expertly designed (even if Rare didn’t quite touch Nintendo EAD’s brilliance in that regard), Banjo-Kazooie offered starved N64 owners with a similar, yet different experience to Mario 64 nearly two years after Nintendo established how 3-D games should be made with its famous Italian plumber’s first foray into the 3rd dimension.

Banjo-Kazooie even managed to out do Mario in certain areas, such as storytelling, and the actual size of its worlds. If Mario 64 is the best platformer of that particular era, then Banjo-Kazooie is its runner up.

Better than Spyro, and Crash Bandicoot, Banjo-Kazooie ensured that the Nintendo 64 was the machine to own for 3-D platformer enthusiasts.

NER’s take on the game’s ranking: Indisputably, Banjo-Kazooie deserves its spot. It it rightfully placed behind Super Mario 64 which was the better game (even today), even if it didn’t look nearly as good.

Banjo-Kazooie offered countless of hours of exploration and platforming challenges in an epic hunt for jigsaw puzzle pieces. The hub over-world was expertly designed, and its visuals were unmatched at the time that it was released.

Some would even go as far as to say that its graphical brilliance wasn’t matched until other Rare games like Banjo-Tooie and Donkey Kong 64 arrived to the system at later dates.

Few games were as huge, and as impressive as Banjo-Kazooie, and it remains one of the highlights of playing and living through the 32-64 bit era.

6. Paper Mario (2001) – Metascore: 93

Top Nintendo 64 games Paper Mario

As we all know the Nintendo 64 was known for its lack of JRPGs. The genre’s golden era happened during the N64’s lifecycle, but its boom took place in Sony’s competing system: The PlayStation.

Still, Nintendo 64 fans had a pair of great The Legend of Zelda games, a mediocre Quest 64, and Paper Mario.

Paper Mario is a JRPG. A Mario themed JRPG, but a traditional JRPG (with some puzzle solving) nonetheless. As a 2001 release, Paper Mario was not destined for the same type of greatness that Super Mario 64 had attained 5 years earlier.

However, even in the midst of the beginning  of a new console era, and Final Fantasy X’s own release on PlayStation. Paper Mario managed to do extremely well with critics (it actually rated better than Square’s more famous PS2 game), and sold 1.3 million units world wide, which was a respectable number for a Nintendo 64 game.

NER’s take on the game’s ranking: The nostalgia fueled, and charming Paper Mario was certainly a worthy title, and an easy game to get into if you were just starting out your JRPG career. That said, the overall plot was nothing to write home about. It is the same rehashed tale of Princess Peach being kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario coming to the rescue. It is a tale that we have come to know and mostly over look over the past 35-36  years.

With a high ranking placement at number 6, Paper Mario feels a tad overrated in my personal opinion (go ahead, stone me). I actually find myself disagreeing here, as I enjoyed plenty of other Nintendo 64 games more than I did Paper Mario.

Honestly, I feel that Star Fox 64 might be more deserving of said ranking, but I can see how Paper Mario charmed the critics of the era with it is cute visuals, powerful nostalgic feel, and polished (but simplistic) gameplay.

Games That Missed The Cut

I expected to find Star Fox 64 here, and along with co-editor Mont Cessna, was disappointed to find it wasn’t rated within the system’s best ten games. Star Fox 64 received a very good ’88’ rating, but it wasn’t enough to carry it past many other titles that were rated here.

I loved other games such as THQ’s WCW/NWO Revenge, and Turok more than some of the games in this list, but I can see why the critics scored the games the way that they did.

Feel free to let us know in our social media sites, and on the comments section how feel about this, and last week’s article that rounds out the top ten best Nintendo 64 games ever according to critics.

Agree with the author? Couldn’t disagree more and are frothing at the mouth to tell him? Leave a comment here, on Facebook or send an email and make sure to follow Never Ending Realm on FacebookTwitter, and YouTube!

Tell your friends!

By Samuel Rivera

An avid video game player and book reader, Samuel has been playing video games for the last 31 years. He has played nearly every PS1 JRPG known to man, and loves Ocarina of Time more than any other game.