June 19, 2000 - Whether you agree with Nintendo's philosophies on game design or not, there really is no arguing with the fact that the company makes some of the best software in the world. Five years ago Nintendo proved this when it released its new 64-bit console alongside the Shigeru Miyamoto designed Super Mario 64, a 3D platformer that outlined the way 3D games are made even now. Five years later, the pioneering effort remains one of best titles in existence.
Since that time dozens and dozens of other great games have graced Nintendo 64. We've seen the arrival of unsurpassed first- and second-party efforts -- be them from Nintendo itself in Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Wave Race 64 or developer Rareware in GoldenEye 007, Banjo-Kazooie and Perfect Dark. And we've seen spectacular third-party contributions too -- games like WWF Wrestlemania 2000, Resident Evil 2 and Rocket: Robot on Wheels. While Nintendo 64 will never be remembered for sheer selection of software (only 230 titles released thus far compared with more than 800 on Sony's PlayStation), it could very well be remembered for the most quality games.
With this in mind IGN64 set out to compile a list of the 25 best games to ever appear on Nintendo 64. The selection process we used was totally straightforward and honest, but most of all simple in nature. We threw our rating system out the window, disregarded the software's impact on the market when it was initially released, and rated everything based on how it fares in the current marketplace. That's it. What you see is what you get and there's nothing else to consider.
Note: Bear in mind that our list does not take into account unreleased software like Eternal Darkness or still-import games like The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. IGN64 will construct a future list that encapsulates upcoming software.
In the meantime, here is our full list of 25 games:
Synopsis: Many N64 owners lobbied long and hard for Harvest Moon 64 to come to the US and when Natsume released this charming game at the end of 1999, it grabbed a lot of attention over the Holidays. It was unique to say the least, and copies of the game were hard to come by early in 2000. There was more stuff to do in this game than your average Rare platformer, but this proved to be Harvest Moon's hook. Keeping up with the variety of daily tasks in HM64 was an exercise in patience and persistence. There's nothing else like it on the N64.
Aaron Boulding's Take: Harvest Moon was by far the best farming simulator on the system, but it makes the Top 25 thanks to some of the richest and most addictive gameplay I've ever come across. The big head graphics, isometric point of view and poor audio elements were all forgotten once my first crop of potatoes came in, and that's all that matters. There wasn't any shooting, puzzle solving, or even jumping in Harvest Moon, but with all of that farmwork to be done everyday, who would have time for all of that nonsense anyway? It wasn't fast, it wasn't frantic, it was, however, chock full of something we at IGN like to call "fun." You haven't experienced happiness in a videogame until you've won Karen's heart.
Synopsis: First-time Nintendo 64 developer Sucker Punch Studios jumped onto the scene with a highly original 3D platformer called Rocket: Robot on Wheels. The design philosophy behind the title is simple -- rather than build the platformer around the main character, the software house opted instead to focus on the interactivity of the 3D environments he travels. To that end, Rocket employs an advanced physics engine which allows the main character, a lovable unicycle-based robot named Rocket, to travel and experiment with colorful, platform-esque worlds with realistic gravity and inertia.
Matt Casamassina's Take: Rocket is one of the most underrated games for Nintendo 64 and it's really a shame because the game really does advance the platformer genre with great main character control, well-designed 3D worlds and fun puzzles. But even more, there is an enormously impressive physics engine powering this game that allows for a truly realistic sense of gravity and inertia, and interactivity between objects. Every object has its own set of lifelike attributes that must be "weighed" into consideration when solving puzzles. Can Rocket stack certain objects on top of each other or will everything become too heavy and fall over? Can the robot latch onto objects as they fly through the air and use them to travel across to areas that can't otherwise be reached? It's all in the puzzle solving.
This is a really well balanced little platformer that absolutely deserves to make the Top 25. It's too bad though that most Nintendo 64 owners haven't realized it.
Synopsis: When the whole Nintendo gang got together and jumped into a golf game, who knew it would be one of the most addictive sports games of summer 1999? Camelot's attention to detail on this Nintendo published title --heckling during someone else's turn is great stuff-- made what could've easily been a lame experience, a whole lot of fun. To get more life out of Mario Golf, there were extra characters available in the Game Boy Color version, a nice advantage this game has over other golf titles.
Aaron Boulding's Take: There are more golf titles on the N64 than hockey sims (Gretzky doesn't count) so Mario Golf had to earn its place on our list. It gets major points in my book for pick-up-and-playability even though it borrows heavily from Hot Shots Golf. The learning curve was a lot steeper than you'd expect from such a fruity looking game, and believe it or not I actually took some tips from this game onto the course with me. Any game that allows you to heckle should always be on a Top 25 list somewhere.
Synopsis: The wacky team from DMA Design has created an equally off-the-wall product in Space Station: Silicon Valley, a 3D platformer of sorts that puts players in control of a variety of different robotic animals. All of the madness takes place in the future as a Space Station housing the creatures glides steadily on a destruction path towards Earth. The unique title encourages players, as a robotic chip, to jump into the bodies of these cyborg-animals in order to accomplish various missions.
Matt Casamassina's Take: Silicon Valley, like Rocket, is one of the 3D platformers that most Nintendo 64 owners seem to have overlooked for no good reason. The game features 30+ levels of remarkably well put together missions that have players doing everything from jumping into the bodies of hovering sheep to taking over farting rats in order to solve puzzle-based challenges and advance. The action is odd; in the opening level, you actually get a bonus for positioning a clueless sheep underneath a spaceship's rocket booster, where of course you power the sucker up and roast the poor animal. Sure, it's odd and even questionable behavior, but it's ingeniously hilarious too.
At the end of the day, Silicon Valley is a 3D platformer that you can pick up and play without worry of tedious collecting and formulaic puzzle solving. It controls great, looks solid, and is a crack up -- and original designs like this should be embraced.
Synopsis: Back in 1997, Blast Corps served as an important reminder that not every game had to be a sequel to an existing franchise to pack mass appeal. Put together by British second-party developer Rare, Blast Corps is almost like a nostalgic trip back to the heydays of the NES or the time of Robotron and Missile Command. The game puts players behind the controls of current and futuristic destruction machinery with the objective of clearing a path for an out-of-control nuclear missile carrier. Released to very little media hype on March 24, '97, Blast Corps quickly won the hearts of N64 owners by offering a well-rounded combination of destructive gameplay and intelligent puzzles, topped off with a rocking soundtrack and good graphics.
Peer Schneider's Take: I actually bought Blast Corps for the second time just a few months ago (someone borrowed my first copy and never gave it back, but I can't remember who...). While the graphics are a bit dated now, especially when compared to more recent Rare titles, it still remains one of my favorite Rare games of all times. Unlike Diddy Kong Racing, Donkey Kong 64 and Banjo-Kazooie, there is nothing else like Blast Corps on N64 -- or any other console, for that matter.
Although the game is a tad too short, Blast Corps's strength lies in its sheer gameplay variety. None of its eight vehicles are alike, but all of them have one thing in common: a steep learning curve. Learning how to control the Backlash dumptruck is one thing -- mastering it is another story entirely. If you haven't played Blast Corps in awhile, pick it up again and see if you can beat the Diamond Sands railroad tracks level without breaking a sweat. I get tense just thinking of the alarm buzzer that sounds every time the missile carrier gets close to a building... Add to that some of the best bonus levels around (the shuttle sequences were truly inspired) and you've got one of the most explosive action titles on the console to date.
Blast Corps continues to show that there is still room for original gameplay mechanics beyond the "but-now-it's-in-3D" sequelmania that has befallen many console game developers in recent years.
Synopsis: One of the more difficult gaming experiences to be had for Nintendo 64, Rare's Jet Force Gemini is a third-person 3D action-shooter set to the backdrop of an entire galaxy in a war engulfed future. Players control Juno, Vela and Lupus the dog through tons of beautiful 3D environments plugging enemy after bloody enemy in order to save groups of kidnapped "Tribals" and retrieve spaceship parts. JFG also features a semi-cooperative mode for two-players, and various deathmatch battle options for up to four gamers.
Matt Casamassina's Take: Jet Force Gemini is one of Nintendo 64's best action games, and yet it's also one of the most frustrating. The game has a wonderfully original style mixing cartoony characters and over-the-top violence -- and it works. In JFG, it's not uncommon to run into groups of gun-wielding insects, zoom in on them with your sniper, and pick their heads off one by one. Of course, it wouldn't be a Rare game if their noggins didn't explode in a bloody mess spilling green bug slop everywhere. But while gore plays a big part in JFG, the title is hardly limited to it. Complex and varied level design coupled with a whopping amount of enemies to destroy ensure the action never slows to a standstill, but the Rare design -- the collection of dozens upon dozens of well-hidden Tribals in an effort to extend replay value -- does get on the nerves. All things said and done though, JFG still has no trouble whatsoever making the Top 25 as its one of the most refreshingly original games to hit the console -- even if it does have a few drawbacks.
Synopsis: MBL Research did a bang up job on NHL '99. The development team did the best job of bringing the rowdy fun of 16-bit EA Sports hockey to the N64 and many hockey fans were finally able to relax and enjoy a hockey game worthy of their attention. Yes it was a port of the previous year's PlayStation NHL game, but when you give a starving man a cracker it's going to be the best cracker he's ever had. With all due respect to both Eddie Murphy and MBL Research, NHL '99 took advantage of the N64's capabilities well enough to provide a robust and full hockey game regardless of the other drivel that had appeared on the N64 to that point. You had the full license, you had all of the arenas, you had all of the rules and regulations of hockey, of course. More than all of that however, you had the nonstop hockey action that had been missing from the N64 library. There were 3D players, but with the overhead perspective it didn't really matter, all you needed to see was the man with the puck and your opponent's goal. Hockey is a game that's best played from a top down perspective, even if that isn't the best way to show off a system's 3D capabilities. What we did get in NHL '99 was plenty of speed and a perfect balance of hockey realism and arcade thrills rolled into one outstanding game.
Aaron Boulding's Take: Not only did the guys in the movie Swingers get it right in regards to the inclusion of fighting in the Genesis NHL games ('93 had it, '94 didn't) but they inspired me to pick up NHL '99 immediately and dig into it like the rabid skeptic that I was. The game stood up to every criteria for greatness that I had. With hockey I don't need a lot of extra features, create-a-pucks and bells and whistles. I need a nice responsive turbo button, some bone jarring checks and a realistic one-timer mechanism to see me through. The C-down button was a little tough on the thumb, but being the hockey veteran that I am, I played through the pain because turbo and power checking is just that important to me. Since the automatic deke move hasn't been in a NHL game for a good six years, setting up for a clean shot was that much more important. The one-timers didn't happen as often as I would've liked, but the extra challenge made me enjoy it even more. An enjoyable, well designed sports game can never be too difficult. NHL '99 was all that and a red-flavored sno-cone.
Synopsis: Ten years from now, when we look back on all of this, Acclaim's legacy on the N64 should be limited --for their own good and ours-- to Turok and the marvelous All-Star Baseball franchise. You know you've put together a realistic baseball sim when readers send in comments like "Why can't I steal signs from the catcher with my third base coach?" or "Are they going to include fan interference in the next game?" ASB first dazzled us back in 1998 with its truly next generation graphics and animation. Baseball games, by nature, are limited and narrow in scope, but that's all the more reason to make your game look and move as well as possible. By the time the 2001 version rolled around, ASB had been refined with a ton of options and spruced up gameplay. ASB 2001 had the most flash and depth, so it's the definitive baseball game on the N64.
Aaron Boulding's Take:: Unfortunately, the bad continued with the good as that annoying statistics bug and some baseball no-nos (double switch anyone?) found their way through every version of All-Star Baseball including this most recent one. Despite these obstacles, I still found myself strangely hooked on it once I got a final copy of the game in my hands.
Believe it or not, this is one of the few baseball games, where I actually enjoyed playing defense more than being up to bat. Give me Pedro Martinez and I'll throw a complete game 1-hitter any day of the week. That's much more fun than hitting five home runs in one game with Sammy Sosa. The batting interface in ASB 2001 should certainly be considered among the videogame innovations that came to life on the N64.
ASB '01 was written off by many as simply more of the same old baseball, yawn, yawn, blah, blah. As we said then, the game of baseball hasn't changed so if you can get anything new and substantial out of your new videogame, then the mission's been accomplished. And if nothing else, the final edition of ASB had such detailed stadiums you could even read the fake Budweiser and Coke signs at Turner Field. That's as American as it gets.
Synopsis: Depending on who you ask, Mario Kart 64 is either one of the greatest racers to hit Nintendo 64 or one of the console's biggest let-downs. Many would argue that the single- and multiplayer modes present in Super Mario Kart are superior to those in the 64-bit version, and while we can certainly sympathize, Mario Kart 64 still offers one of the best multiplayer experiences to be had on Nintendo 64. Like its predecessor, the title is once again a kart race featuring classic Nintendo mascots. This time around players can race as everybody from Mario himself to Luigi, Bowser, the Princess, Yoshi, Donkey Kong and Wario. Mario Kart 64 features a good selection of straightforward single-player levels that allow players to sabotage computer controlled opponents on the roadside with various power-up bonuses. The title also sports an addictive multiplayer mode in which up to four players can battle against each other through several arena-style environments.
Matt Casamassina's Take: The single-player game in Mario Kart 64 is fun. There are lots of different levels to race through and each one has its own unique theme. The power-ups are a nice addition as you can really knock opponents out of position with a well-placed shot to the back. The graphics, even by today's standards, are simplistic and cartoony, but colorful and polished all the same. It all comes together for a solid little racing experience.
But Mario Kart 64 simply wouldn't be on our list if it wasn't for the game's fantastically addictive multiplayer mode. The simple truth is that it's still one of the best multiplayer games to be had for Nintendo 64 thanks to some classic Nintendo gameplay mechanics, balanced controls and power-ups, and well-designed battle arenas. Once you've whipped around a corner as Mario, triggered your Star Power, and rumbled through three friends in your path, you'll be hooked -- guaranteed. And your friends will be too. We popped the game back in for the purposes of the Top 25 and ended up playing it for hours. Time sure can fly when you're having fun.
Synopsis: You didn't think we'd forget about Nintendo's snowboarding game, did you? The EAD developed 1080 Degrees Snowboarding was somewhat of a surprise when it debuted for Nintendo 64 in 1998 as Nintendo only announced the title was in existence six months before it released. Just ask Boss Game, which had spent a good amount of time working on Twisted Edge Snowboarding only to be informed by Nintendo that 1080 was in development, and in fact would release first. 1080 Snowboarding is, obviously, a snowboarding game. It features six courses and eight playable characters, a half-pipe, trick challenges, licensed Lamar boards, a two-player cooperative mode and more. It's got all of the options and extras one would hope would be included for a game of this type, of course. It's a Nintendo game and we'd expect nothing less.
Matt Casamassina's Take: 1080 Snowboarding is still the best snowboarding game available on any console (though EA is looking to dethrone it with its PS2 SSX -- the verdict is still out). What makes it so spectacular are the same aspects that solidify so many Nintendo games as classics -- indescribably tight control and a feeling that the activity of snowboarding, the sensation of it all, has truly been captured. Everything from the way snowboarders slide out and kick up trails of icy snow as they speed along to the way the wind screams by players as they slide downhill -- it just feels right. And from a visual standpoint, 1080 has really gone the extra mile. Think great draw distance, top texture design, amazing particle effects (you'll swear the snow is real), realistic boarder animation, and even a fancy little lens flare effect -- all with a solid framerate.
Just the thought of a Dolphin sequel makes me giddy.
Synopsis: After way too long Capcom's "survival horror" series makes its Nintendo 64 debut in form of Resident Evil 2 -- a port of the PlayStation original. Raccoon City has somehow fallen victim to a zombie outbreak and it's up to you as either police officer Leon Kennedy, or Claire Redfield (sister to Chris Redfield from RE1), to find out what's going on. The adventure, which takes place in 3D using pre-rendered backgrounds, drags you through spooky crash sites, abandoned buildings, experiments gone wrong and more -- all the while battling undead monstrosities, solving puzzles and, most of all, trying to stay alive. Lots of weapons and other gadgetry allow for some truly disgusting mayhem. RE2 for N64 is exactly the PlayStation game of the same name with a few new EX files that reveal more details about the overall franchise storyline -- it's even got FMV.
Matt Casamassina's Take: While it's true that Resident Evil 2 for N64 is just a port of the PlayStation game, that doesn't make it any less spectacular. Capcom enlisted the expertise of developer Angel Studios for the translation and what a job the company did. Not only are all of the FMV cut-scenes from the 32-bit original included (and that's a lot of full motion video, the way), but so are all of the audio samples and pre-rendered backdrops -- all thanks to a hefty 512-megabit cartridge and some serious compression techniques. In fact, Angel Studios even made some improvements; RE2 N64 runs in high-resolution mode for example. This time already looked amazing for PlayStation and it's even prettier for Nintendo's console.
On the play side, RE2 is one hell of a great action-adventure -- arguably the best of the series, and that translates perfectly to N64. The analog stick is used to control the characters through loads of spooky backdrops blasting zombies to pieces and solving obscure puzzles. It's a game that delivers a light back-story and lots of slasher movie, jump-out-and-go-boo scares. And trust me when I tell you that if you play this game alone you're going to be too unnerved to walk down a dark hallway afterward.
Easily one of the best gaming experiences to be had with your N64.
Synopsis: The first "real" Madden offering from EA Sports, Madden '99 is certainly the prettiest and probably the most functional football title on the N64. It had the full NFL license, a major improvement over the unbearable Madden 64, and the exquisite Madden gameplay we've come to expect from that sacred franchise. This was the Madden game that defined NFL football on the console. Excellent graphics, tons of NFL detail and a wonderful new franchise mode made this the best console football game until NFL2K showed up. Both Madden 2000 and Madden 2001 have the same Blitz inspired player models that just don't stand up to the solid, flesh-and-bone players and well animated players from '99. The framerate in '99 was the worst of the group but nowhere near bad enough to take away from the enjoyment of the game.
Aaron Boulding's Take: Madden '99 proved to be the alpha and omega of NFL football on the N64. Nothing against the newer versions or Acclaim's Quarterback Club series, but the only thing that holds M99 back nowadays is the outdated roster, otherwise I'd still be wearing it out. No PlayStation version could stand up to the marvelous look and beautiful animations of Madden '99. You can actually see the fabric of the jerseys twist and ripple as the players move and the tackles looked very effective. Besides all of this, that game was tough. Damn tough. The running game was only for the toughest console coaches, and that only made the passing game that much tougher. The defensive AI always, and I mean always, took away the sidelines, so with no out patterns and no running up the middle you had to be pretty crafty if you wanted to put points on the board. Super difficult sports games, may not be something today's gamers can enjoy, but hardcore gamers and Madden veterans should have an appreciation for this best version on the best console.
Synopsis: Namco's classic Ridge Racer franchise hits Nintendo 64 at long last as Ridge Racer 64, a semi-port of sorts complete with new tracks and cars, a four-player mode, a brutally fast sensation of speed and an all-new gameplay mechanic to boot. Though in fact the game wasn't developed by Namco itself, newcomer NST (NOA's internal studios) has worked a little magic of its own to keep the powerslide-based formula of the series intact while offering a new style of play too. RR64 features "nine" tracks -- which, in actuality, amount for three courses with three variations of each. It also features 25 cars, many of which are not playable at first and must gradually be unlocked. This is an arcade racer to the very core.
Matt Casamassina's Take: Like Resident Evil 2, Ridge Racer to N64 has been a long, long time coming. And like RE2, though the N64 version has not been developed by the franchise's original creator, the end product does not suffer at all. NST has done a wonderful job making a super-polished, blazing fast incarnation of the Ridge Racer series. The company has also dashed in a bit of innovation with a remarkably well designed new gameplay mechanic that enables players to use full 360 degree powerslides to zip around sharp turns without losing speed. Once you've played RR this way, it's very difficult to go back to Namco's formula, and don't get me wrong -- I love the original design too. The name of the game is speed and RR64 has more than you'll be able to handle. There are times that you'll wish the action would slow down a little bit, in fact.
RR64 screams along with a solid framerate and with an impressive visual look too. Environments are colorful and detailed, and while vehicles are decidedly low in polygon-count they still come off all right. Throw in a fun multiplayer mode, three levels to race through (one original) with variations on each course, 25 cars to unlock, and even a great little music soundtrack and it's not hard to see why this game makes our Top 25.
Synopsis: It only added some WWF spices to a tried and true wrestling formula left over from previous WCW games, but WWF Wrestlemania 2000 still stands as the best wrestling game anywhere. Period. The Aki/Asmik engine, complete with its floaty limbs and horrible collision detection, has the very best animations of any wrestling game. Being able to tell the difference between a Rock Bottom and a Chokeslam is important to WWF fans and Wrestlemania came through with flying colors. The Create-a-Wrestler feature is one of the deepest and best character editing features in any game, wrestling or otherwise. You could make believable likenesses of just about anybody you know, provided they have faces like wrestlers. The WWF flair only strengthened the appeal of this game. Only Wrestlemania brought you the People's Elbow and Rock Bottom and permanent People's Eyebrow like you wanted it. The people spoke with their wallets at the end of 1999. Wrestlemania sold 1 million copies in just about two months.
Aaron Boulding's Take: Even with a new game on the horizon that promises to be better, I still get excited about Wrestlemania 2000. It's still the one game, even with all of the new N64, Dreamcast, PC etc games around the IGN offices, that I play when I don't know what I want to play. Not only do I still create update versions of my custom wrestler, but I make what I feel to be appropriate versions of all of my favorite WWF superstars. In my world The Rock goes off the top rope all the time. Wrestlemania 2000 gave me the WWF in the best possible way until I can get to some custom storylines and feuds on the next generation systems. Besides it's good for putting the IGN Wrestling guys in their place when they get too uppity.
Synposis: Super Smash Bros. literally came out of nowhere. Only three months before its scheduled Japanese release, Nintendo announced that second party developer HAL was putting the finishing touches on a fighting game starring some of its most popular franchise characters. Starring 12 Nintendo mascots, including Mario, Luigi, Fox, Legend of Zelda's Link, Metroid's Samus, Pokémon's Pikachu and Jigglypuff and even Captain Falcon from F-Zero, Super Smash Bros. proofed once and for all that Nintendo could take on any genre -- and deliver a spectacular game. Despite NOA's initial hesitations ("Nintendo mascots fighting each other?") , the game was finally release stateside three months later and became a huge hit.
Peer Schneider's Take: Talk about an underrated game! Super Smash Bros. literally came out of nowhere. Some critics blasted the game for its short single-player game, but anyone with more than one controller (and some friends) was able to look past the shallow one-player mode to discover one of the best multi-player games for the console.
All the action takes place on one screen, from a zoomed out third-person perspective more reminiscent of old-school platformers than traditional fighting games. The premise is as simple as the controls. Beat up you opponents and knock them off the fighting platform to score a point. The more damage your opponents sustain, the farther you can throw them. Apart from the quick, but explosive mayhem that ensues when more than one player has at it, the game manages to bring back many fond gaming memories by bombarding players with familiar items, power-ups and many classic tunes. Price of a Super Smash Bros. cartridge: $39. Pricetag for four Nintendo 64 controllers: about $100. Hearing the Zelda Overworld theme kick in while throwing Pikachu off Hyrule Castle: Priceless.
Synopsis: It's the non-licensed game with Carlos Valderrama on the cover and it's the very best soccer game to ever hit the N64. International Superstar Soccer '98 surpassed the several FIFA licensed game by EA Sports thanks to excellent and silky smooth gameplay and control. You had to suffer through fake superstars like "Romano" in place of Ronaldo, but this sequel to ISS64 had the same charm of the original, plus a whole lot more. You had more teams, more pitches, more options plus an improved create a player feature. There wasn't much wrong with ISS64, but little additions like head tracking and a more sophisticated AI brought soccer home in the best way. The nonstop action of real soccer (and hockey for that matter) lends itself to videogames better than most sports and ISS'98 capitalized on this by forcing the gamer to learn the intricacies of "football." Sure you could try to go one-on-one every time you got the ball, but you'll be a lot more successful if you involve your teammates in a well planned attack. If you want the best soccer experience on the N64 top to bottom, International Superstar Soccer '98 is your cartridge.
Aaron Boulding's Take: ISS98 did soccer the way it was meant to be done. I consider myself a fan of the beautiful game so it was difficult to get over all of the made up players, teams and facilities, but when you have such solid control and realistic gameplay, you realize ISS captured the real beauty of the game. I genuinely got excited and felt proud when the announcer gave an account of my goals and defensive prowess. The crowd went crazy, the players celebrated and all was right in the world of soccer videogames when ISS'98 came out. This International Superstar Soccer game fixed many of the things that were wrong with ISS64 (the player editor feature was brutal) and threw in some extras that really made the game more addictive. More than anything, ISS98 allows you to score goals in more realistic ways than any other soccer game. Whether it was a beautiful dissection of the defense by well-coordinated passes or an ugly trickler that meanders by a downfallen keeper, all of the goals in ISS'98 were believable. You just had to earn it. The side to side perspective and surprisingly effective camera movements could've been applied to many sports games on many systems.
Synopsis: Ubi Soft brings its 2D platformer franchise into the third dimension in Rayman 2: The Great Escape, one of the best titles to grace Nintendo 64, and somewhat of a surprise at that. The game pits players as the one and only Rayman, a stylized cartoony character who lacks any joints. Rayman embarks on a grand quest to free his home world from enslavement by a threatening army of robotic pirates. To do that, he must battle through more than 45 platformer-esque levels collecting power Lums and saving his friends from certain destruction. Rayman 2 is much more linear than a platformer like, say, Donkey Kong 64. The game features colorful, vividly detailed graphics and lots of easy bonus areas for those skilled enough to unlock them. Like in so many platformers, there is plethora of puzzle solving elements too.
Matt Casamassina's Take: Rayman 2 is one of my favorite games for Nintendo 64 -- hands down. Developed overseas by Ubi Soft France, the game captures the wonderful cartoon style present in the previous 2D Rayman incarnations, and draws it all to life in vividly detailed 3D worlds. Everything from the way characters animate -- smooth and silky -- to the outrageously beautiful environments the game serves up -- filled with colors, painstakingly crisp textures, transparencies, lighting effects, layering and more -- is near flawless in design. It's right up there with Banjo-Kazooie from a visual standpoint.
But thankfully Rayman 2 is not just a pretty exterior. The gameplay mechanic powering the title is deep, clever, and addictive too. The game is relatively linear in nature so there isn't really a central hub and 15 different directions for Rayman to go -- and it works all the better because of it. Players won't have to waste time figuring out where to go next or collecting tedious amounts of necessary items -- they can just run with the amazing 3D worlds. But while the game is definitely more linear than some of Rare's efforts, that doesn't mean it's not deep. Rayman can execute a number moves from a helicopter spin (in order to float across chasms) to a power blast that renders enemies useless. In addition, there is a notable puzzle element that has players figuring out ways to advance to areas, beat characters and enemies and so on. And finally, Rayman 2 features all sorts of different gameplay styles -- players will have to ride rockets through pirate ships, slide through tunnels, run from chasing monsters, helicopter spin through entire levels, outrun cannon fire, and so much more.
In the end you've got a platformer with outstanding graphics, amazing control , classic gameplay mechanics and a ton of variety. You can't ask for better than that.
Synopsis: When N64 owners found out Acitivision was bringing a version of the truly remarkable PlayStation game Tony Hawk's Pro Skater to the N64, there were intense mixed feelings. We didn't want yet another substandard port of an outstanding PSX game. We wanted and were fortunate to receive, thanks to Edge of Reality, arguably the best version of the breakthrough skateboarding game. With the exception of a few minor features (video walls etc.) everything that made Tony Hawk so fun made it to the N64 game. The biggest difference was that it looked better. No jumpy, pixelated skaters this time around. The N64 game featured smooth, crisp riders rolling and sliding around sharp environments with only the occasional dip in framerate. The c-buttons were a bit tougher on the fingers when you tried some higher level tricks and combos, but that's all part of a days job for a hardcore gamer. If you knew nothing about skateboarding coming into this game, you would know plenty about this urban activity by the time you were done. Even the outlandish music grew on IGN64 after awhile.
Aaron Boulding's Take I can sum up my opinion of Tony Hawk through my feelings of jealousy. Matt was always, and I mean always, playing the darn thing in the weeks after Tony Hawk came out. Granted, he was always playing the same character on the same level over and over and over again before playing it repeatedly some more. With that said, I enjoyed my limited time with Tony Hawk tremendously. The design, control and mechanics were so rock solid and enjoyable that there were times when I thought I was playing a Nintendo published title (1080 Snowboarding anyone?) at times. That's quite an achievement for a third party developer porting another third party developer's game onto one of the more difficult systems to develop for. Tony Hawk is flat out one of the best games on the N64 because of one thing: pure fun. The career mode challenged me with a nice steady deliberate learning curve and plenty of rewards. The free skates ate up hours of my free time in the blink of an eye. With all of the great games we have access to around the IGN offices, Tony Hawk on the N64 was the dominant title around here this past spring. But then again, Matt didn't put up much of a fight either.
Synopsis: Recipe for Banjo-Kazooie: Start with Nintendo's Mario 64. Now remove the fat Italian plumber and replace him with a bear/bird duo that cannot be separated. Sprinkle in generous portions of huge, colorful 3D worlds textured so well that there be no doubt about Rare's graphic ability. Now add loads upon loads of items that must be collected or rescued -- everything from musical notes to Jinjos, happy little guys. Marinate while stirring in clever puzzles and unique British humor. Add in great dynamic music and boil.
Matt Casamassina's Take: You have to wonder what Rare smokes before it comes up with its mascot characters. When the developer's 3D platformer Banjo-Kazooie was first unveiled many E3s ago, the gaming world was, well, surprised to say the least. A bear and bird duo and Mario 64 style control? Okay. Characters that fart out speech and a bird that poops eggs out of its arse? Sure. While there was a certain amount of doubt regarding the sanity behind the development of the title, there was none about the execution. Banjo-Kazooie looked amazing when it first debuted and it played even better.
For the purposes of this article, I popped Banjo back into my N64 and was hardly surprised to see that it has not aged a bit. Even now, years after its initial release, it's one of the most amazing platformers -- no, games the system has to offer. Imagine Mario 64 style mechanics with new additions here and there and a visible finesse that no 64-bit title has matched yet. It can be said that Banjo is unoriginal and that might very well be true, but it's still a platformer masterpiece. Impressively gigantic worlds, lush backdrops, comical characters, satisfying puzzles, top control, ingeniously clever level design and fun boss matches -- it's everything you'd want out of a platformer.
Synopsis: Two months after Super Mario 64 dazzled US gamers with its nearly flawless 3D platform gameplay, Nintendo unleashed what would become its best racing game to date. Wave Race 64. Developed by one of EAD's most talented teams, this latest masterpiece by legendary designer Shigeru Miyamoto showed that there was still plenty of room for growth in the crowded racing genre. Up to two players get behind the controls of Yamaha-licensed jet-skis and try to beat eight totally unique water courses. Add to that realistic sound effects and ground-breaking water effects and you've got an instant Nintendo water racing classic that has yet to be dethroned.
Peer Schneider's Take: There are few games that manage to define a genre -- and remain the best game in its class for many years. Wave Race 64 is a combination of ambitious 3D graphics, incredible physics, finely tuned controls and impeccable track design. Even after more than three years, I have yet to play another jet-ski game that "feels" this good. The first time you pick up Wave Race, you will most likely have a hard time getting to grips with the unusual physics. But once you learn the controls, you will be able to pull off stunts, turn on a dime, submerge your jet-ski and jump over obstacles. While I could spend a long time just plowing through the training level doing flips and barrel rolls, the game really starts to shine in the Championship Mode.
Unlike in most racers, each track doesn't only look different, it also feels completely different. Thanks to the dynamically generated waves, a ride on a calm lake plays nothing like a race through a stormy shipyard. As if the wave conditions weren't enough, many tracks also feature changing elements, such as tides and opening pathways. Though the selection of courses is a bit limited by Nintendo's standards (it should be noted here that most other racers in 1996 featured between one and four tracks by comparison) , the game easily made up for the limitations with a challenging stunt mode and some cool secrets. All in all, Wave Race 64 is an experience not to be missed. Let's hope Nintendo hasn't forgotten about this great franchise and will let us "follow the dolphin" again in the near future.
Synopsis: IGN64's pick for best racing game on Nintendo 64, and one of the best titles for the system period, is Left Field Productions' Excitebike 64. The name might sound familiar to you because Excitebike goes way back -- all the way, in fact, to the days of the original Nintendo Entertainment System. Like the classic game of the same name, Excitebike 64 is a dirtbike racer. It features 20 tracks include indoor and outdoor courses, stunt areas, uphill climb challenges, licensed bikes and riders, a four-player multiplayer mode, and outstanding graphics. It really is exactly as you'd expect -- Excitebike in 3D.
Matt Casamassina's Take: The original Excitebike debuted in 1981. It was a 2D side-scrolling racer. The game was extremely simplistic in design, but it felt great, allowing players level out their bikes in mid-air to prevent crashes, strafe through different lanes, and catch huge air. Left Field has really looked to the classic title for inspiration, and this really shines through in Excitebike 64's design. Sure, it's a 3D dirtbike racer complete with a unbelievably superb physics engine that delivers a crazy sense of realism and over-the-top arcade thrills at the same time. Sure, it all comes to life in glorious 3D with brilliantly detailed graphics constructed of top-notch texture design, beautiful 3D environments and models, fluid animation, particle effects, an impressive draw distance, and with a framerate that is generally very smooth. Sure it's got loads of eye-popping tracks, an uphill climb mode that will have you addictive, a multiplayer soccer mode, desert tracks, and even the original Excitebike included as a bonus. And trust me -- all of the above comes together to solidify Excitebike 64 as one of the deepest racers to hit any videogame system -- PC or console -- ever. But even more than the wonderful graphics and never-ending well of options, this game feels marvelous. Only after you've hit a jump just right, soared a cross a chasm and straightened your bike out before landing without a loss of speed -- all with a feeling of control so very reminiscent of the original Excitebike -- will you understand why Excitebike 64 was picked over Nintendo's own Wave Race 64 as our favorite racer on the console.
Synopsis: It's the one that changex things forever. Not only was the N64 blessed with one of the best games of all time, but videogames in general took a new direction when Rare brought GoldenEye 007 to the home console. It became the definitive first-person shooter for consoles thanks to an outstanding storyline, sound and stunning realism. The control scheme for GoldenEye still hasn't been faithfully reproduced in any other game, with one notable exception of course. The game hit nearly two years after Pierce Brosnan first took over the James Bond mantle and made many N64 owners enjoy the movie in an entirely different way. Perhaps GoldenEye's greatest impact was its introduction of multiplayer deathmatch on the console. The thought of playing a console game where your buddies sitting right next to you are controlling the enemies rather than some hopelessly inefficient artificial intelligence was an idea whose time had come and GoldenEye was the well crafted result. Its importance is undeniable. Its place in history is secure. GoldenEye was "cool" where other top N64 games to that point could only aspire to be "neat."
Aaron Boulding's Take: True Story. Late Summer 1997.
Peer: Hey have you heard about this game GoldenEye?
Aaron: Yeah, that's that shooting game right?
Peer: Yep. You should check it out. It's pretty cool.
Needless to say, Peer has a knack for the understatement. "Pretty cool" describes the way you could zoom in and examine the weapons in GoldenEye. The way bullet holes would stay in the wall for bit after shooting it is "pretty cool." Everything else about GoldenEye was damn freakin' ass-kickingly awesome! This game ate up more of my time over a period of about six weeks than any other game ever did. I remember trying to herd Natalya through the Control level for a week straight. I remember chasing after 006 on the damn cradle with my pistol at least a thousand times. At the age of 24, I remember being so addicted to the game that I took my N64 and GoldenEye cart on vacation with me, just so I could continue progressing through the game. I didn't even do that when I was a wee lad.
GoldenEye turned me back into a hardcore gamer by re-igniting that fire that burns in all of us when we get our hands on a game that exceeds our expectations and satisfies the soul. Sure, a certain Ms. Dark has come along and improved on everything I loved about 007, but there is no feature, add-on or tweak that can compete with the novelty of that first all-new refreshing experience I had with GoldenEye. You never forget your first time.
Synopsis: Only George Lucas' return visit to family friendly fun on spaceships could compete with Perfect Dark as the most anticipated release of 1999. Unfortunately for us, Perfect Dark, forfeited its '99 bragging rights, but we'd be lying if we didn't admit that this Rare masterpiece lived up to the hype and delivered exactly what it promised. With the "recommended" help of the 4MB Expansion Pak, Rare squeezed so much more out of the GoldenEye engine that PD comes across as an entirely different experience top to bottom. Every trail that GoldenEye blazed, was paved, lit and fitted with carpool lanes by Perfect Dark. The sound, control, number of options, graphics and even framerate are all noticeably improved in this game. The storyline, while unfamiliar is brought to life by outstanding cinemas and surprisingly good voice-acting. Shooting, with some snazzy new weapons we might add, is still the primary focus of the game, but with all of the tasks and puzzles to get through, you'll have to use your brain as well as your trigger finger to get by. It is in this way, that Perfect Dark, pays the ultimate respect to GoldenEye. Rare took so many steps to differentiate this game from it's three year old predecessor, but the one thing that is consistent over both games, is the extraordinary depth and rich gameplay. If you didn't play GE, you might have a hell of a time learning how a game like PD thinks and what kind of behavior is rewarded.
Going through all of the options in the multiplayer component, could be a minigame itself. Honestly, IGN64 still hasn't finished tinkering with all of the settings that are available to us, because we figured it was important to actually play the game at some point during the first three weeks of its release. Once again Rare has revolutionized console first person shooters with the various simulant personalities and difficulties. The bottom line is Perfect Dark is right up there with Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time when it comes to getting the most out of the N64.
Aaron Boulding's Take: I can't devote the amount of free time I want to Perfect Dark and that bugs me. Perfect Dark is one of those games that makes me hate my job because an hour spent playing any racer or platformer is an hour I don't get to put into PD, and that just isn't right.
If I didn't discover a single new thing in Perfect Dark, beyond all of the modes, guns, characters and options I've unlocked so far, I'd be completely satisfied with this game. I've narrowed my favorite gun down to a about eight finalists and I honestly don't think I'll ever have a clear cut favorite. I've heard that the game is not intended to be finished on Perfect Agent difficulty. I've also heard that the Dark simulants don't so much play with you as exact revenge on behalf of every Russian soldier, Datadyne operative and Skedar soldier you've ever killed. This game is so fun that I'm intent on beating Perfect Agent several times and smoking a team of eight Dark sims before I die. No other game has fostered such sadistic behavior in me before. You have to love a game that can cause you to feel so dirty, yet so fortunate at the same time.
Synopsis: Nintendo's most cherished mascot character of all time, Mario, made his 3D debut with the launch of Nintendo 64 in 1996 -- and what a debut it was. The fat Italian plumber who had previously starred in so many remarkable 2D platformers headlined Super Mario 64 -- a 3D take on the platformer genre. The fact that even four years later Super Mario 64 is so high up on our list of the Top 25 N64 games is a testament to its brilliant design. Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto and team worked their magic on the title to bring gamers more than 15 giant levels of jump-and-run action, plus all sorts of bonus missions, an intuitive control scheme, a pioneering 3D camera system and more. It was amazing when it first released and as we write this now it's still amazing.
Matt Casamassina's Take: A common question asked when referring to upcoming next-generation software is, "Will it be as big of a jump as Super Mario 64 was over everything else?" And that really speaks loads about how original and revolutionary Nintendo's 3D platformer was, and to a certain extent, still is. It's a game that you can immediately pick up and play and be wowed by. Colorful 3D worlds, a simplistic, cartoony look and clever little puzzles will remind gamers of 2D Mario games past, and so will the extremely tight control scheme, allowing for precision analog movement and a selection of moves that includes everything from triple-jumps to butt-stomping. Everything about Mario 64 has a certain polish about it -- and it's a polish that still impresses four years later.
Call it what you will -- a sign of the quality of competing software or the ultimate testament to Nintendo's unsurpassed game-making -- Super Mario 64 is still the best platformer available on any console.
Synopsis: Nintendo drags its Zelda franchise into 3D in the form of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Perhaps the most ambitious game ever embarked upon, Zelda was developed by a team of more than 200 and over a time period of three years. The game features a promised 40 hours of gameplay across vast 3D worlds interacting with different characters, unraveling a storyline, and solving traditional Zelda-esque puzzles. Players will watch the heroic Link grow from child to adulthood, learn new abilities, make new friends, learn magic, kill bosses, and travel through time -- and that's just a portion of what the title has to offer. Zelda 64 is epic -- and it's Nintendo's golden game.
Peer Schneider's Take: Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time remains one of the best console games ever produced. Though I'd still give the nod for best Zelda title to Link to the Past on the SNES, Ocarina of Time is one of the rare titles that gets better the longer you play it. Like all Zelda games, it starts off slow, giving players plenty of time to familiarize themselves with the controls and the environments. As you explore your surroundings, you gather more and more items that will help you on your quest -- and then, before you know it, the adventure really sucks you in. The moment I stepped into the Forest Temple -- which is without doubt one of the best game levels of all time -- this game had me hooked for good. The graphics, the haunting score, the intuitive camera control, the varied puzzles and wide-open environments are just as impressive as the flawless implementation of the game's many tools and items. Sleep? Who needs sleep?
This game must have been a tester's nightmare. There are so many things to do, so many places to explore, it's a true feat of game design and programming that it all gels together to form an enjoyable, continuous quest. While the story is secondary to exploration and action, beautifully composed cutscenes make sure that things never gets boring. And once you lay eyes on the final boss, you instantly know that this is the true climax of the game -- the ending just has to be a low-key denouement that wraps things up, but still makes you crave the next Zelda game even more. Luckily, Nintendo has got next installment in the series ready for release this November. I suggest you reserve a copy of Majora's Mask right now. And remember to take the next three days off.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the best Nintendo 64 game on the market and will be remembered as one of gaming's finest moments.
Here's a little information on the editors who have taken part on putting together this list of IGN64's Top 25 Games of All Time on Nintendo 64:
|Name:||Matt Casamassina||Aaron Boulding||Peer Schneider|
|Favorite Genres:||Adventure, First-person shooter, Action, Platformer||Sports, Shooters, Real-time strategy||RPGs, Racing, Adventure, Shooters|
|Quote:||"Shnow-k."||"You're an idiot!"||"Why did I hire you?"|
Miscellaneous Top Fives
|Imports (Not released in the U.S.)||Top Five Cancelled Games|
1. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
2. Custom Robo
4. Legend of the River King
5. Mario Artist: Talent Studio
1. Robotech: Crystal Dreams
3. Freak Boy
5. Carmageddon 64 [good version]
|Top Five Biggest N64 Threats||Top Five Reasons to buy a Dolphin|
5. "Kiddie" perception by gamers
1. Exclusive first-party software
2. Exclusive second-party software
3. Developer friendly environment equals more games
5. Anti-N64 design addresses all complaints with N64
|Top Five Multiplayer Games||Top Five Best Game Soundtracks|
1. Perfect Dark
2. GoldenEye 007
3. Super Smash Bros.
4. Mario Kart 64
5. Worms Armageddon
1. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
2. Jet Force Gemini
3. The New Tetris
|Most Original N64 Games||Top Five Random Filler Words|
1. Blast Corps.
2. Space Station: Silicon Valley
3. Body Harvest
4. Pokemon Snap
5. Mario Party
|Top Five Most Anticipated Games||N64 Games Least Likely to have Sequels|
1. Conker's Bad Fur Day
2. Eternal Darkness
3. Dinosaur Planet
4. San Francisco Rush 2049
5. Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask
1. Superman 64
2. Olympic Hockey: Nagano 98
3. Off-Road Challenge
4. MK Mythologies: Sub Zero
5. Dual Heroes