Despite the Wii U being dead in the water for the whole year, Nintendo had a pretty fantastic 2016, as they not only enjoyed new successes in the mobile gaming space, but also released the highly coveted NES Classic, a miniature edition of the Nintendo Entertainment System packaged with 30 of the console’s best games. Clearly, there is a healthy market for retro gaming products, especially when Nintendo’s name is involved, which means that we should be open to the possibility that Nintendo will release “Classic” editions of their other consoles. We’ve already taken a look at which games Nintendo should include if they were to release a mini Super Nintendo and now we’ve done the same for that system’s successor, the Nintendo 64.
Please bear in mind that this is a wishlist of the 30 games we would most like to see on a N64 Classic, which is why you will see multiple games made by Rare on the list. We realize that with Microsoft now having owned the company for almost fifteen years, it’s highly unlikely that we’d see some, if any, of their games make the cut, but considering how important many of them were to the system, we had to give them their due.
30. Yoshi’s Story
Yoshi’s Story tends to get unfairly maligned in retrospective articles such as this, primarily because it had to follow Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island, one of the finest 2D platformers ever made. While Yoshi’s Story pales in comparison to its SNES predecessor, it’s a solid platformer in its own right, with absolutely gorgeous visuals for its time and is arguably one of the N64’s most underrated games.
Admittedly, the game is fairly short and way too easy, but there is fun to be had in trying to best your high scores in each level. The N64 had many better platformers than Yoshi’s Story, but it’s still worth playing through today, especially if you avoided it upon its initial release.
29. Rocket: Robot On Wheels
Long before Sucker Punch went on to become an important cog in the PlayStation machine with the Sly Cooper and InFamous series, they created the 3D platformer Rocket: Robot on Wheels for the N64. Don’t let the game’s somewhat bland title fool you though, as the actual gameplay is much more imaginative than a game with the name “Rocket: Robot On Wheels” would suggest.
Unlike the majority of mascot platformers of its time, Rocket de-emphasizes its lead character in favor of crafting enjoyable environmental puzzles built around a unique physics engine that allowed for levels of interactivity rarely seen in video games of that era. While it’s unfortunate that most N64 owners probably never experienced the underrated thrills of Rocket: Robot on Wheels, an inclusion on the N64 Classic would help ensure that audiences new and old are able to experience of the console’s hidden gems.
28. Harvest Moon 64
As the recent success of 2016’s Stardew Valley shows, farming sims continue to have a sizable audience and games like Stardew Valley are indebted to pioneering titles in the genre, such as Harvest Moon 64. Long before Netflix and Chill became a popular pastime, Harvest Moon provided the gaming equivalent of comfort and relaxation, as its low key gameplay was the antithesis of fast-paced action games.
It was rare at the time of Harvest Moon’s release to see a game that had so much to do, as it was quite easy to get lost in being a virtual farmer. Although there are much better farming sims available now, Harvest Moon 64 helped lay the groundwork for the genre as a whole and even though its visuals are dated, its gameplay remains timeless. Besides, it was pretty difficult to even find a copy of the game when it first came to the US in late 1999, so there’s a good chance that many N64 owners never even got to play it.
27. Bomberman 64
Bomberman 64 wasn’t the first Bomberman game to support four players, but considering most Super Nintendo owners never bothered to purchase four controllers — let alone a multi-tap — for Super Bomberman, it’s safe to say that the N64 gave most people their first taste of Bomberman’s four player multiplayer mayhem.
Bomberman 64 is easily at its best when played with a group of friends, as its bomb-blasting arena gameplay is easy to understand, but tough to master. That being said, the game also featured a surprisingly good single player mode, which traded the multiplayer’s arenas for more traditional platforming levels. However, unlike most platforming mascots, Bomberman couldn’t jump, which forced players to use well-timed bomb explosions to propel them over gaps. While Bomberman has struggled to stay relevant over the years, its multiplayer gameplay is quite timeless, meaning that the Nintendo 64 version is still just as enjoyable now as it was twenty years ago.
26. Pokemon Snap
We debated about which N64 Pokemon was the most deserving of making the cut here and in the end, we had to go with Pokemon Snap. Pokemon Stadium was fun for its time, but subsequent releases have improved upon the original substantially. For whatever reason, Nintendo has never put out a sequel to Pokemon Snap, so we’re stuck with the original, for better or worse. Fortunately, it’s much more the former, as Pokemon Snap is a neat little game that gave players a much different perspective on the world of Pokemon.
An on-rails shooter where you shoot pictures instead of bullets, Snap tasks you with taking photos of a variety of Pokemon in their native habitats. At the end of each level, players select their favorite photos and submit them to Professor Oak for review, who then scores each in terms thing like framing, posing, and the number of subjects. The only real drawback is that, by today’s standards, Pokemon Snap is quite ugly to look at, which somewhat diminishes its charms, but it’s still well worth a revisit.
25. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Even though Nintendo has put out dozens of Kirby titles over the years, the adorable pink mascot seems to always be an afterthought, as while Kirby games are often reliably of good quality, rarely are they system-sellers. Case in point: Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards, a title that successfully transported Kirby into three dimensions,but one that rarely gets brought up when discussing the Nintendo 64’s seminal games (to be fair, Kirby 64 technically isn’t a true 3D game). That’s a real shame, as even though Kirby 64 doesn’t quite measure up to the likes of Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie, it’s an enjoyable platformer in its own right.
Ironically, it’s also one of the few 3D Kirby games that Nintendo has ever put out, as more recent entries in the franchise have gone back to using 2D plains. While Kirby 64 is neither the console’s best platformer or even the best Kirby game, it’s an enjoyable affair that deserves to be talked about more.
24. Jet Force Gemini
Although Nintendo released the best overall games for the N64, second party developer Rare gave them a run for their money, releasing a slew of classic games for the console that represent their best creative output to date (nearly fifteen years after being sold to Microsoft, we’re still waiting for Rare to find their way again). Jet Force Gemini was neither as acclaimed or popular as some of Rare’s other N64 titles, but it was still a fantastic game in its own right.
A third-person adventure game featuring a blend of shooting and platforming action, Jet Force Gemini offered players a a strong single player campaign with three playable characters, each with their own unique abilities. In addition, the game had a sizable multiplayer portion that not only featured the traditional suite of head-to-head split-screen modes found in other N64 games of the era, but also had a variety of other modes, including racing and fire-range mini games, as well as a non-split screen cooperative mode that put an emphasis on teamwork.
While the definitive version of Jet Force Gemini currently exists on the Xbox One as part of the Rare Replay collection, it remains an essential title in the N64’s library and absolutely deserves to be part of a re-release if it were to happen.
23. WWF No Mercy
The final wrestling game released on the N64, WWF No Mercy is considered by many to be one of the greatest wrestling games of all time. A lot of this has to do with the game’s wrestling engine, which remains deep and nuanced to this day, but also because the game was feature-rich with engaging content. No Mercy featured a robust story mode with branching paths and was also one of the first games to venture outside the ring and let players wrestle in backstage areas.
It also had a deep character creation tool that helped extend the game’s lifespan, since players could create real-life wrestlers who weren’t included in the original roster (remember, this game came out before online gaming truly caught on). Even non-wrestling fans were hard-pressed not to be taken in by No Mercy’s charms. Sure, it’s no Here Comes The Pain, but on N64, no other wrestling game could top it.
22. Mario Golf
Mario spinoffs were still relatively rare before the N64 was released, but Nintendo expanded the portly plumber’s toolset quite a bit on the console, including several different sports. While Mario had appeared in various golfing games in the years prior, Mario Golf was the first Mario-branded golf game and featured the likes of Luigi, Yoshi, Princess Peach, and other characters from the Mushroom Kingdom. In a clever twist that would be adapted by many future Mario sports titles, each character had their own strengths, weaknesses, and unique abilities that changed up the style of play depending on which character you selected.
For instance, a character such as Bowser could drive the ball really far, but lacked the control of weaker characters like Yoshi. Perhaps most surprisingly, the game was no pushover in terms of difficulty, as later stages ratcheted up the challenge quite a bit and could prove to be frustrating. Of course, like any good N64 game, Mario Golf also featured an engaging multiplayer mode, which could be played with up to four players. Although Toadstool Tour for the GameCube is arguably the pinnacle of the franchise, the original Mario Golf is still well worth playing to this day.
21. NFL Blitz
Midway Games gave us some of the best arcade style sports games of the 90s and one of their best and most fondly remembered titles is NFL Blitz. Similar in style and tone to NBA Jam, Blitz took NFL football and cranked it to eleven, including when it came to player count, as the game notably featured seven players from each team on the field instead of the regular eleven. Blitz also did away with pesky things like penalties and allowed you to pummel the other team in any way you saw fit, leading to some truly spectacular physical plays that would leave the other guy in a pile of his own broken bones.
Admittedly, NFL Blitz would be a tough game to license on the N64 Classic given that it featured actual NFL teams and players, but at the end of the day, this is a wishlist, and we say that NFL Blitz should be brought back, licensing issues be damned!
20. Mario Party 1-3
The Nintendo 64 is fondly remembered by many as being a fantastic couch multiplayer console and one of the best examples of this was the Mario Party series. Countless sequels and several console generations later, Mario Party is still going strong, but the newer titles simply don’t hold a candle to the first three N64 titles.
While the first Mario Party featured a few too many mini-games that would absolutely destroy the N64 controller’s fragile analog stick, Mario Party 2 and 3 were solid, go-to titles for multiplayer gaming that was somehow casual and intensely competitive at the same time. And since we can’t decide which title should make the jump to the N64 Classic, we decided to just include all three here, as any one of them would be a good choice.
19. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Like pretty much any third-person shooter from the mid-90s, Shadows of the Empire hasn’t exactly aged well and those that seek it out today will likely be unconvinced by its status as one of the greatest Star Wars games. For its time however, Shadows of the Empire was something of a revelation and was a huge early success for the Nintendo 64. In particular, the game’s first level was a stunner, as it represented the most authentic game recreation of the famous Battle of Hoth sequence from The Empire Strikes Back up until that point. Flying a snowspeeder and attaching tow cables to an AT-AT may be old hat these days, but in 1996, it was nerd nirvana.
Admittedly, the rest of the game, which featured non-canonical Han Solo-wannabe Dash Rendar running through scenarios and locations from the films, failed to impress on the same level. That being said, it did have an intriguing storyline set between the events of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Still, and any game that features boss fights with both an AT-ST and Boba Fett is doing something right. Shadows of the Empire is not only an important part of Star Wars video game history, but a significant title in the N64’s library that deserves to have its legacy preserved.
18. Blast Corps
Another fine outing from Rare, Blast Corps is one of the developer’s lesser appreciated N64 efforts, but one that rivals some of the best of them all the same. The game essentially revolves around destruction, as you must clear entire buildings to make way for an out-of-control nuclear missile carrier.
That being said, there’s much more to Blast Corps than just mindlessly destroying stuff, as each of the game’s eight playable vehicles have their own unique abilities and learning curve that help maintain a decent challenge level through the admittedly short campaign. It’s a shame that Rare never made a Blast Corps 2, as the original remains one of their most creative outputs on the N64 and an essential title in the console’s library.
17. Excitebike 64
It’s surprising that more people don’t talk about Excitebike 64, as it’s easily one of the best racing games on the N64. Mario and Zelda get all of the attention for successfully bringing their core gameplay concepts into three dimensions, but developer Left Field deserves praise for taking the original 1981 Excitebike and making a compelling 3D dirt bike racer out of it.
For its time, it was hard to find another racer of its type that featured such an excellent physics engine or visuals. Excitebike 64 is also insane in terms of its value proposition, as it was not only a deep racer in its own right, but even included the original game as a bonus! Arguably, Excitebike 64 is still the best entry in the franchise and it’s a real shame that Nintendo has largely abandoned it. We can only hope they’ll bring it back in some form on the Nintendo Switch.
16. 1080 Snowboarding
PlayStation may have had its Cool Boarders, but the N64 arguably had the best snowboarding game of its era with 1080 Snowboarding. Featuring impressive (for its time) visuals, a rocking soundtrack, and most importantly, great controls, 1080 was one of the N64’s best sports/racing games. Although it only featured a paltry five playable characters, each one had their own strengths and weaknesses, forcing players to master each.
Most of the game modes involved racing of some sort, but the separate Half Pipe mode, where players would try and pull off as many tricks as possible, was similar to what players would be doing in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but 1080 had the distinction of arriving on the scene a full year ahead of Neversoft’s genre-defining skateboarding game. For whatever reason, snowboarding games have become a rare sight in recent years, so it’s a good thing that 1080 Snowboarding remains entertaining to this day.
15. Diddy Kong Racing
While Mario Kart 64 tends to get more attention, an argument can be made that Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing is the better kart racer, primarily because it added racing on water and in the air to the mix! Diddy Kong Racing hails from a time when Rare was putting out incredible game after incredible game and while it blatantly rips off Mario Kart 64’s design, DKR introduced enough new ideas to set itself apart from Mario’s racer.
In particular, the option to race not only in traditional karts, but hovercrafts and planes as well was an exciting touch that gave players multiple ways to experience each of the game’s wondrous tracks (although taking to the skies was always the best option). Sure, DKR’s somewhat childish design sensibilities make it a bit more embarrassing to return to now as an adult, but that’s also kind of part of the game’s charm. What a shame Nintendo hasn’t put out another one of these games or even done a solid port job on its modern consoles (the DS remake from 2007 left much to be desired).
14. Wave Race 64
Jet ski racing games are practically non-existent nowadays but back when the Nintento 64 launched in 1996, Nintendo released Wave Race 64, a jet ski game so good that it still stands as the best of the bunch. Wave Race 64 was a true visual showcase for the console, especially when it came to its realistic physics engine. This is a game that long ago lost its visual splendor but its wave physics still hold up surprisingly well, making this one of the most impressive technical achievements on the console.
It also helped that the game itself was a lot of fun, nailing that difficult to capture mix of being easy to pick up, but hard to master. Nintendo would release a follow-up title, Wave Race: Blue Storm, on the Nintendo GameCube and while it is arguably the better game, we’ll always have a fondness for the N64 release, which alongside Super Mario 64 introduced many to the wonders of 3D gaming.
13. Donkey Kong 64
Donkey Kong 64 represented the franchise’s first foray into 3D and naturally, Nintendo called upon Rare to make it happen after the developer’s outstanding work on the Donkey Kong Country series for the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately, Donkey Kong 64 was no Mario 64, as it was at best a serviceable platformer that made up for its lack of creative level design with mountains of doo-dads to collect (it also gave the world the DK Rap and the less said about that, the better). Still, even with its faults, Donkey Kong 64 was still an important title for the N64 and the Classic just wouldn’t feel right if it didn’t have it included.
12. Mario Tennis
Long before Wii Sports came along and got people waggling their make-believe tennis rackets, Mario and his friends (and enemies) took their rivalries to the court in Mario Tennis, which is arguably still one of the finest Mario spinoffs there is. A perfectly competent recreation of tennis in its own right (to be honest, we learned the rules of tennis thanks to this game!), Mario Tennis gave the game a unique spin thanks to the abilities of its various characters. Much like in Mario Golf, each character played differently, with Mario and Luigi representing the best all-around picks in the bunch.
Of course, no Mario sports title would even be worth playing if it didn’t have killer local multiplayer and Mario Tennis had this in spades, with the ability to go one-on-one or two-on-two in doubles matches. Multiple installments have since been released on different consoles, but the N64 is where our obsession with Mario sports titles well and truly began.
11. Paper Mario
Drawing inspiration from the beloved SNES title Super Mario RPG, Paper Mario offered players a whole new look at the titular plumber, as the game’s 2D characters set against 3D backgrounds was a striking visual. Admittedly, many N64 owners were likely taken aback by how differently Paper Mario looked and played from Super Mario 64, but once they got on board with the game’s RPG styling, there was a lot to love about Nintendo’s experimental Mario game.
Later sequels, such as The Thousand Year Door on GameCube, improved upon the original’s formula, but Paper Mario is still a treat to play, primarily because it’s visual style has aged much better than the majority of N64 games.
10. Star Fox 64
The original Star Fox for the SNES was a cool tech demo, but it wasn’t the most entertaining game from a pure gameplay perspective. Star Fox 64 successfully built upon the foundation of its predecessor by giving its colorful cast of anthropomorphic starship pilots full voice overs and a winning mix of spot-on shooting controls and clever, multi-path level design.
Twenty years later, Star Fox 64 remains the pinnacle of the franchise, which certainly doesn’t reflect well on Nintendo, but at least proves that they put out a timeless game. It’s also the rare N64 game in which we enjoy the campaign more than the multiplayer, as it’s highly replayable nature makes it perfect for revisiting and completing in one sitting.
9. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
The Nintendo 64 had no shortage of mascot platformers developed by Rare, but after releasing Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64, the studio decided to try something a little different for their next effort. Believe it or not, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was originally conceived as a family-friendly game, but was reworked from the ground up to be a Mature-rated game featuring a hard-drinking, potty-mouthed talking squirrel.
Of course, toilet humor and foul language do not a good game make, but fortunately Rare was able to back it up with smart level and puzzle design that rivaled some of the developer’s best work. As already mentioned, getting Rare games onto the N64 Classic would be a miraculous feat given that Microsoft currently owns the studio and their IP, but the console just wouldn’t feel right if it didn’t feature Conker and his furry antics.
For many, GoldeneEye: 007 rarely left the N64’s cartridge slot, so addicting was the game and its competitive multiplayer. Golden guns, the Facility map, no Oddjob, screen-peeking; there was so much to love (and hate) about playing GoldenEye with your friends and the game’s split-screen mayhem paved the way for future multiplayer shooters on console, most notably Halo: Combat Evolved on Xbox. It also came out at a time when legitimately great licensed games were hard to come by, and Rare did a commendable job translating the 1995 Bond film into video game form.
Ironically, GoldenEye is one of the few fondly remembered N64 games that is actually hard to go back to, as first-person shooters have come so far in the two decades since the game’s original release. Still, for a certain moment in time in gaming history, GoldenEye was THE game and we look back at our time spent with it fondly.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
One of the stranger Zelda adventures, Majora’s Mask is a game that only seems to have become more beloved with age. A direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask moved the setting away from Hyrule and lacked important characters such as Zelda and Ganandorf. However, Majora’s Mask is much more than a rushed-to-market spinoff, as it features one of the most unique premises in the entire franchise. Link’s adventure in the doomed land of Termina is decidedly darker and weirder than other Zelda titles, as Link must work to stop a scary-looking moon from falling out of the sky and killing everyone.
In a Groundhog Day-like twist, Link must continually play out the same three days in order to successfully prevent Termina’s doom, presenting players with a challenging time travel mechanic that hasn’t been seen in the franchise before or since. While we still still feel that Ocarina of Time is the better game overall, Majora’s Mask remains an absolute treasure and even though the definitive version currently exists on the 3DS, it remains an essential part of the N64’s library.
6. Mario Kart 64
While the debate over which Mario Kart reigns supreme is neverending (we’re pretty much locked in a three way tie between Double Dash, Mario Kart DS, and Mario Kart 8 ourselves), Mario Kat 64 will always be a frontrunner in that discussion. Even setting aside the intense nostalgia that every N64 owner has for this game, one can’t deny the innovations that Mario Kart 64 introduced that we now take for granted. For one thing, it introduced four player racing to the franchise for the first time, which helped it become one of the most accessible and greatest multiplayer games on the console.
It also featured one of the best battle modes in the franchise’s history, primarily because it nails the essentials (something that Mario Kart 8’s terrible battle mode seemed to forget). And while the game’s graphics certainly aren’t as hot as they used to be — okay, they’re pretty terrible — the actual gameplay of Mario Kart 64 holds up surprisingly well, which is something that can’t be said for many games of its era.
It’s been argued that Rare’s Banjo-Kazooie is just a Super Mario 64 imitator and while that accusation is true to a certain extent, it discredits the sheer amount of work and creativity put into the game’s design. One of the purest mascot platformers ever made, Banjo-Kazooie takes the formula established by Mario 64 and tweaks it in interesting ways, from the way its two title characters’s move sets are intertwined to the varied level design, which rivals that of Nintendo’s iconic platformer.
While mascot platformers have largely fallen out of favor these days, Banjo-Kazooie remains one of the most beloved entries in the genre, to the point where a spiritual successor is only months away from release at the time of this writing. Although the game’s sequel, Banjo-Tooie, is arguably just as good as the first, we had to give the nod to the original in this case.
4. Super Smash Bros.
The Smash Bros. series has moved far beyond the N64 original in terms of its character roster and features, but it’s still kind of amazing that the first game ever even got made. The game’s creator, Masahiro Sakurai, had so little faith in Nintendo approving his idea for a fighting game featuring the company’s mascots that he developed a prototype in secret and did not show it to Nintendo until he was confident they wouldn’t be able to say no.
In truth, it would have been difficult for any Nintendo fan to not want to buy a game that let you pit the likes of Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, and other Nintendo characters against each other, but the first Super Smash Bros. still holds up remarkably well as a decent fighting game in its own right. Sure, it’s been easily eclipsed by its predecessors, but when you look at the core concept of Smash Bros., not much has truly changed since the first game was released in 1999.
3. Perfect Dark
GoldenEye may elicit fonder memories, but Perfect Dark remains Rare’s magnum opus and the best game they put out on the Nintendo 64. Although Perfect Dark was a completely different franchise, it took what worked in GoldenEye and improved on it in almost every way. The main draws of course were the game’s futuristic weaponry, which mixed in all sorts of creative gadgetry alongside the traditional shotguns and machine guns, as well as the ability to add A.I. bots to help fill in multiplayer matches when human players couldn’t be found.
It’s fitting really that Perfect Dark was one of the final important releases on the Nintendo, as it is a game that was arguably ahead of its time and one that truly pushed the console to its limits (the updated release put out on Xbox 360 really highlights how hard it was for the N64 to run this thing). It may be dated by today’s standards, but back in 2000, no other console first-person shooter was on the same level as Perfect Dark, which remains one of the N64’s very best games.
2. Super Mario 64
Super Mario 64 is one of the most important video games ever made, proving not only that Mario could successfully make the jump from 2D to 3D, but also that 3D gaming was the future of gaming. Everyone can remember the first time they got their hands on the Nintendo 64’s awkwardly designed controller and started playing Mario’s first 3D adventure. This was the future of gaming and nobody ever wanted to go back … until years later when 2D style Mario games made a comeback, that is.
Still, no other game truly encompasses the Nintendo 64 experience quite like Mario 64, which single-handedly ushered in an entire new era and proved that Mario was a character who could stand the test of time; more than 20 years later, so too does his first foray into a whole new dimension.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Still considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time — nearly two decades after it was originally released — The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time is especially notable for how well it holds up. Emerging onto Hyrule Field for the first time and realizing you can go pretty much wherever you want is a moment burned in the memories of millions of gamers worldwide and few games before or since have been able to deliver the same sense of wonder and spirit of adventure as Ocarina of Time.
Whether or not it’s your favorite 3D Zelda adventure, there are few games like Ocarina of Time that remain must-plays almost two decades after release. While Mario 64 helped prove the N64’s capabilities, if we’re talking about the one game that defined the console, it has to be Ocarina of Time. We just hope that the N64 Classic version improves the game’s performance, as the frame rate on the original version is just atrocious, especially by today’s standards.