The Top 25 N64 Games of All Time: #6-10
IGN64 picks what we think are the greatest 25 games to ever grace Nintendo's 64-bit console.
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.
Today we bring you games (#6-10). We'll be listing five titles per day for the rest of the week until this Friday when we unveil the Top Five.
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.
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 Nickname: Slacky I'm Smart! Germinator Position: Editor-in-Chief Editor Dictator Age: 24 27 29 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
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