Unlike our previous ‘Best Nintendo 64 Games‘ list, which was mostly objective (we just listed the game based on professional critic averages score). Today’s list is -nearly – fully subjective. These are my personal favorite Nintendo 64 Games.
The criteria used for the placement of these games is the following:
- How good (and impactful in the industry) were these games when they first launched?
- How have they aged in comparison to their peers?
- How many hours of inhibited fun did I spent with these titles?
- How did the critics of the time viewed these games?
Number #4 is important, as I am trying to maintain some objectivity here. I played, and enjoyed Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire more than some of the games on this list. Deep down in my heart, however, I knew that it was, for the most part, an average, and at times, fairly pedestrian game. I just happened to love it, but most didn’t, and I took that into consideration here.
Mont Cessna’s Take: I agree with Sam and would nominate Knife Edge: Nose Gunner for N64 (a much underappreciated gem that scored a GameRankings of 58%) Or Glover for the Nintendo 64 or at least PC somewhere here. They were more obscure, late games though.
So, without further ado, these are my top Nintendo 64 games ever.
10. Castlevania (64) – 1999
I know what you are thinking, “This game stinks!” Well, most of the game’s bad reputation actually came from its “sequel” Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness.
Legacy of Darkness is actually the complete game. The original (featuring Carrie, and Reinhardt) was epic and felt like a complete experience, but the game actually launched without some important content (including a prequel of sorts to its story) due to time constraints.
The missing extra content made into Legacy of Darkness, as well as an expanded version of the original game.
The critics were probably disappointed at the fact that Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness’ “improved visuals” with the RAM Pak, came at the cost of Frame-Rate, and that the two extra quests did not merit a full blown $59.99 price point.
That said, today, I would recommend a Legacy of Darkness purchase over the original game, but back in 1999, the original game impressed critics, and gamers alike at launch. Yes, I remember EGM showering it with 8.0s and 9.0s, and whatever your opinion is of IGN these days, back in the 1990s it was a gaming centric reputable source for reviews. The site gave the game an 8.2/10, which is not a bad score.
Personally, I loved Castlevania 64. It was atmospheric, beautiful (at times), large, and it even had multiple endings depending on difficultly level, and the time that it took palyers to take down Dracula.
In fact, it wasn’t until I played Dark Souls, that I found a game that reminded me of that game’s particular atmosphere. One of the most nerve racking moments in my gaming career has been the “Frankenstein” like guy with a gas powered saw that chased me (for what seemed to be hours in my first play-through) in that hellish garden maze. To make matters worse, he also had dogs with him.
Despite its clunky controls for platform jumps (and combat), Castlevania was one of my favorite experiences in 1990s. I still keep a copy that I play now and then for my personal enjoyment.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
Great nostalgia and atmosphere, but I personally thought Castlevania was way too slow and clunky compared to previous entries (it’s clunkier than the original on NES imo). I may just be jaded from playing the original and then the ram pack expansion. Supposedly playing Legacy of Darkness without the ram pak with some tweaks is a good gaming experience. As a long-time fan of Prince of Persia and Castlevania, this game just didn’t do it for me for platforming gameplay.
9. Mario Party 2 – 2000
The first Mario Party game ruined my N64 joysticks. The ‘spinning the joystick’ mini-games were death to the controller, and I am surprised that Nintendo didn’t see this coming (or maybe they did, but in true Nintend0 fashion, the company released the game anyways as it was good for finances if costumers kept purchasing controllers).
Nintendo noticed the controller devastation left in Mario Party’s wake, however, and eliminated these games from its sequel, Mario Party 2.
Mario Party 2, was probably the game that I most played with cousins and friends as a teen, and it is actually a game that I still boot up, and can play for hours on end with friends. Yes, even in my old paternal age.
Mario Party 2’s wonderful mini-games, and the always great (or maddening, depending on how it affected you) final ‘chance time’, made it a fiercely competitive affair that produced much yelling, screaming, and even some physical altercations. Who would have thought that Mario, and Co. could evoke such violent responses from players of all ages? But alas, that’s exactly what Mario Party 2 did.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
I didn’t know what rage quitting meant until this game. Brutal on joysticks (I’ve seen them fail-mid game) and enough random chance to make anyone scream in rage like they just lost a million bucks on black at the roulette table, and you’ve got a recipe for fun. We won’t talk about how much fun Mario Party is in college…
8. WCW/NWO Revenge – 1998
I still believe that this is the greatest playing wrestling game….today. Sure, No Mercy is a newer and more robust offering from the same developer (AKI), but given the nature of its release (late 2000) I didn’t play it as much as I did Revenge.
For the most part I was a bigger fan of the WCW brand than I was of the WWF (now WWE). Bret Hart was my favorite wrestler during my childhood years, and when he switched (was forced to switch) companies, I switched companies with him.
Either way, if you were a wrestling fan, the Nintendo 64 was the machine to own, and WCW/NWO Revenge was the most powerful reason to own the system in 1998.
Incredible controls, and hand drawn animations made Revenge an easier, and more accessible experience than Iguana’s WWF efforts. Those WWF games made it nearly impossible to pull off cool moves with any sort of consistency, and the mo-cap animations (in its primitive stages) made its wrestlers stiff, and robotic virtual contestants.
WCW/NWO Revenge was just a much more fluid experience. I could easy create high flying matches between Rey Mysterio Jr. and Juventud Guerrera. Or perhaps, just wreck Big Poppa Pump with the one and only Bill Goldberg if I was in that type of mood.
Because its controls were responsive, and easy to learn (unlike Warzone and Attitude’s combo input based gameplay), friends could join the fray and turn into competitive foes within minutes of play, which made four way matches a delightful experience.
Like Mario Party 2, this is a game that I keep coming back to, periodically, simply because, to this day, no wrestling game (aside from Wrestlemania 2000, and No Mercy) has matched it, and much less surpass it.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
Not a fan of pro wrestling since Hollywood Hulk Hogan and The Undertaker, I have to admit this game is far superior to most wrestling games I’ve played since.
7. Diddy Kong Racing – 1997
Better than Mario Kart 64. There, I said it! True, this is my opinion, but man, Rare copied and pasted Mario Kart, but with larger levels, and massively improved visuals. Once I tried Diddy Kong Racing, either solo, or with friends, it was rare (no pun intended) to find myself playing Mario Kart 64.
Diddy Kong Racing had some of the most stunning visuals (without visible frame-rate stutters) on the system. Rare would make a habit out of visually out shinning most of Nintendo’s stuff on the machine, and Diddy Kong Racing was one of the best technical showcases for the machine in 1997.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
Including this might seem like heresy, but hear me out. After beating every race at 50-150cc in Mario Kart 64, I got the opportunity to spend three hours at K-Mart and beat a number of areas in this game. (Idk how I managed to get left for three hours at K-Mart but thanks Mom! It was my plan all along.) Mario Kart 64 suffers from what my dad calls AI-level assist or field tightening (looking at you Formula 1 racing). The further you fall behind, the more of a chance of good stuff happening for you via the ? boxes. Even the value of the items for people further ahead in the field is beneficial increasinbly based on reverse-place. Basically, the further behind you fall, the more of a chance of a lightening bolt or a spiked shell or a triple or unlimited boost. If you’re in front you mostly get bananas.
Based on that, the different physics to each of the vehicles, and the larger game, DK Racing 64 wins a spot in my heart.
6. 1080 Snowboarding – 1998
Just like Pro-Wrestling, Extreme Sports such as Snowboarding were huge in the 1990s. In my opinion, there is no better representation of said winter sport on any system of that era than 1080 is for the Nintendo 64.
The snow looked real, the game’s visuals were stunning, and the gameplay was smooth and intuitive. And oh! Did I mention those visuals?
By contrast, PS1’s Coolboarders (which wasn’t a bad game) looked like a Great Value version of Nintendo’s masterpiece. 1080 Snowboarding was the type of game that you brought your PlayStation owning friends into your house in order to flaunt your Nintendo 64’s hardware superiority
It is ironic, that when people think of the Nintendo 64, cute platformers, and Rare’s Golden Eye are what they remember. The system had other stalwarts and 1080 Snowboarding is a perfect example of this.
Aside form its stunning visuals, the game had deep, easy to learn, but hard to master controls, which rewarded gamers that spent hours on end playing the title. All that was missing was a 4-player split screen mode. We were confined to two players, but given how good the game looked this wasn’t surprising.
Short of investing on an actual snowboard, and making your way up a snowy mountain top, nothing matched the thrill of snowboarding like 1080 Snowboarding did back in the late 1990s.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
Nowhere as near as good as the real game at the arcade with the brand-new board and springs/sensors, this game was more fun than the first Tony Hawk or Wave Racer (even at the arcade). There I said it. I felt they really replicated the feel of the responsive board version in this and made one of the few X-Games type console games I’ll ever play.
5. Golden Eye 007 – 1997
Golden Eye was a seminal moment for the Nintendo 64. No game was more popular with older teens, and mature audiences on the system. At the time of its release, Golden Eye, was largely considered the unquestionable king of First Person Shooters on consoles, and maybe the entire genre.
Turok: Dinosaur Hunter had shown that the Nintendo 64’s hardware was very capable of delivering FPS experiences that were superior to anything possible on the 32-bit consoles of the era, and even PC (this was just before 3-D Accelerator cards tipped scale in favor of PC gaming).
Golden Eye didn’t play like Doom, and other corridor shooters, either. Its levels were based on objective completion, and these objectives varied within the chosen difficulty options within the game.
The guns felt natural (or as natural as guns could have felt to a 12 year old boy who had never fired a gun before) on the controller, thanks to Rumble Pak support, and Rare’s incredible use of sound effects. Enemy A.I. was relatively smart for its era, and careful scripted (motion captured) reactions lent the game an air of realism, as enemies would react accordingly depending on what part of their body was shot.
Golden Eye was a graphical tour de force of the system, and game that I sunk dozens of hours in single player mode. However, Golden Eye’s true lasting appeal came in the form of its, at the time, revolutionary four split screen death matches. It reinforced the Nintendo 64’s position as the ultimate party (and dorm) machine, as four friends could “get it on” as they shot at each other through a wide gamut of deathmatch levels.
True, Golden Eye’s multiplayer often ran at single digit frame-rates, but back in 1997, ignorance was bliss, and four player Golden Eye was Nirvana.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
Playing four player, multiplayer on one machine was an eye opening experience as a child. Terrible framerate but playable. Definitely a revolutionary game as it proved consoles could run AAA FPS experiences.
4. Star Fox 64 – 1997
Somewhere in God’s green earth, Co-Editor, Mont Cessna, is smiling at the inclusion of Star Fox 64 within this list. Bafflingly, Star Fox 64 missed Metacritics’ top ten. It was a weird miss by critics because Star Fox 64 isn’t just a good game, it is an all time great one.
I even liked it more than Golden Eye. Truth be told, I am not much into Multiplayer gaming, thus I have always preferred single player experiences, and while Star Fox 64 did offered a 4 way (split screen) death match mode, I spent the bulk of my time with the game mastering the intricacies of Lylat’s solar system.
Star Fox 64 offers nearly endless replay-ability. Even once I unlocked all of the pathways that led to my ultimate confrontation with Andross, there were score records to be broken and medals to be earned.
Out of all of the games on this list, Star Fox 64, is probably the one that has aged the best. All that this game needs is a High Definition graphical update, and it would remain a highly playable and enjoyable experience on the Switch. No changes (or additions) are needed.
I would wager that the game still looks surprisingly good. The game’s opening level, Corneria, was perhaps its most stunning. Twenty odd years before Ray-Tracing, and Ray-Traced reflections became the rage in the gaming world. Little, 12-year old me, spent many of his evenings skimming the beautiful blue, and reflective waters of Corneria in my Arwing, and it was a stunning sight to behold.
Oh yeah, before I forget, Star Fox 64 also introduced the Rumbling Pak, and consequently, vibration as a standard feature in controller feedback to the gaming world. Star Fox 64 checks all of the boxes needed to be considered an all time great game.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
I’d rate this above Mario 64 tbh. Possibly the GOAT. Without this game, and the packaged rumble pack, console gaming wouldn’t be where it is today. Never forget that Microsoft and Sony licensed the rumble pack, and the rumble pack gave us Shadow of the Collolsus on PS2, with revolutionary rumble-pack gameplay that still exists in Skyrim. Are you even a gamer if you can’t do a barrel roll?
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – 2000
In someways, this game is better than Ocarina of Time, and in some others, it is not. Still, the fact that it managed to garner 10s and 9s from nearly every critic alive in the year 2000, speaks highly of its quality.
Majora’s Mask had an impossible act follow, after all, its predecessor had been anointed ‘the greatest game of all time’ by most who played it. As a direct sequel, how does a game live up to that type of pressure?
Somehow, in my opinion, Nintendo did just that. It crafted the perfect sequel, set in an eerie (yet beautiful) parallel world. Majora’s Mask was based on elaborate side-questing, and a 3-day cycle that had to be repeated dozens if not hundreds of times before seeing the game to its completion, and (if you are willing) unlocking the legendary Fierce Deity’s Mask. Link has never looked cooler.
Majora’s Mask was similar, but different enough from its predecessor to stand on its own two legs. Because Majora’s Mask deviated from the usual Zelda formula, in my opinion, it probably aged a bit better than its more famous (and elder) brother.
While storyline has never been Zelda’s shinning beacon, certain themes, and implications for Termina’s citizens are of a very dark nature. This makes Majora’s Mask a darker game than any previous Zelda before (and some would say after) it.
My only complaints about the game are that it only had 4 ‘main’ dungeons, and two of these were pretty lame, and finally, that Nintendo did not include its revolutionary fishing game…though I had Ocarina of Time for that.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
Too confusing for players new to 3D RPGs, would have been released as a proper expansion not a new game on PC. It’s a good game but I’d include Glover here.
2. Super Mario 64 – 1996
I had not realized how well Super Mario 64 had aged, until I bought the recently released Super Mario 3-D All Stars Collection for the Switch. There were no changes made to its remaster, save for a 720p upgrade (undocked) to the game. I still found myself hooked on the game’s levels, and its challenging ‘star collecting’ driven gameplay.
For all of the advancements that have been made in games since Mario 64 pretty much single handedly wrote the book on how to make a proper game in three dimensions, today’s best games still play by most of the rules that the little mustachioed plumber set a quarter century ago.
It remains an impressive title, and while games like Banjo-Kazzooie, Donkey Kong 64, and Conker’s: Bad Fur day (the three games barely missed this list’s cut) looked much better. Neither could match, Mario 64’s tight controls, and incredible level design.
Super Mario 64 was the game that showed what the Nintendo 64 could do, and until the first ranked title on this list arrived, perhaps there was no better reason to own the machine than to try Nintendo’s revolutionary first leap of faith into the 3rd dimension first hand.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
This game made me an N64 fan. It was the greatest sequel in the history of video gaming. The move to 3D was just breathtaking. I still replay every 10 years for all the stars.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – 1998
This, is by far, the best game that I have ever played, period. Nothing before, or since, has rivaled the stunningly amazing magical experience that Ocarina of Time was for me in 1998.
There was no better Nintendo 64 (or PlayStation game for that matter) that I played, and that sucked me into its world for as many years after its release than Ocarina of Time.
Ocarina’s world was magical, mysterious, gorgeous, and for 13 year old me…endless. The possibilities were endless. Hyrule was a land that I wanted to live in, and thanks to Nintendo (and my peaking imagination), I did.
Like Mario 64 before it, Ocarina set the standard that Action-RPGs, Action-Adventures, and Open World games would follow thereafter.
In someways, Ocarina of Time, ruined a certain (wondrous) aspect of gaming for me. Quite simply, in the 23 years since I first played it, I haven’t found an experience that rivals what it felt to wake up in that (now iconic) forest filled with fireflies, fairies, and eternal children, for the very first time.
Younger audiences today will never understand. Ocarina of Time is the type of game that was so revolutionary in its time, that you had to have been alive (and old enough) to experience it at launch in order to properly grasp how amazing a technical, and design achievement it was.
Words will never do it justice. I was blessed to have been able to experienced this title in 1998. Ocarina of Time remains the highest rated game of all time, and it will take a truly revolutionary title to take that crown away from it.
Mont Cessna’s Take:
I remember playing this at a Toys ‘R Us as a child and going from the opening screen to the end fight with all the stars, via loading a saved game. Blew my mind then. We’d not have Dark Souls, or the JRPGs we do now, or even Nintendo itself apart from this being rated the greatest game of all time at launch, and still the GOAT if you believe the lists.
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