The Nintendo 64 represents a huge leap in graphics and processing power, moving from the 16-bit Super Nintendo to a completely new platform. The PlayStation was its main competitor along with the Sega Saturn.
The advanced technology in these systems has made games more challenging than ever before and brought the story and complexity of game mechanics to levels never seen before.
The Nintendo 64 is home to some of the best games ever made, many of which are not even known to gamers. Narrowing down the best games for the Nintendo 64 from 338 titles for the platform is no easy task, but it just goes to show how revolutionary the system was.
Here’s our pick of the best Nintendo 64 games of all time. In addition to the list below, be sure to watch the video we made on our YouTube channel where we take a look at a couple of our favorite N64 games and show you the gameplay.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Zelda series, Ocarina of Time combined the best elements of previous Zelda games into one massive adventure that spanned seven years. The story is not only the darkest, but also contains many elements and characters that will later become the hallmarks of future works in the series.
Ocarina of Time had three times as many pre-orders of any previous game in any genre and sold over 1 million copies in a week. It has received critical acclaim in nearly every review because of the new standards set for games.
Since then, Ocarina of Time has seen re-releases on the GameCube and 3DS, with many fans hoping for a modern remaster on the Nintendo Switch.
Super Mario 64
One of only three games released on the Nintendo 64, Super Mario 64 was one of the first games to feature many players, and set the stage for what to expect from the console. Super Mario 64 was the first Mario game to feature full 3D graphics and 360-degree controls.
He looked up from the maps of the outside world set by Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros 3 and chose the central world, Princess Peach’s castle, instead. The game was both an exploration and a victory over Bowser.
Super Mario 64 is the gold standard for Mario games. Since then, many other entries in the series have followed a similar pattern. Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Odyssey, and more are all huge open worlds to explore, with secrets hidden around every corner.
If you’ve never had the simple pleasure of playing Super Mario 64, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. The game is so widespread that copies can still be found, and the original is probably best played. As you know, Nintendo 64 is difficult to imitate.
Mario Kart 64
Super Mario Kart was the first of the popular line of kart racing, but while popular, it did not reach the same level of fame as Mario Kart 64. Mario Kart 64 had better graphics and allowed four players to play on a split screen.
Although it had four cards smaller than its predecessor, the cards were larger, three-dimensional, and contained many Easter eggs and tags. There was also a mirror mode that allowed players to run courses in reverse and added even more replayability.
Mario Kart 64 has made a name for itself as a popular multiplayer game for the N64. It was the perfect balance between casual and competitive and is still a great way to spend the day today.
The idea behind a 3D first person shooter was relatively unknown. There were some ship games out there and players were familiar with FPS games on PC, but there weren’t many of them on consoles prior to GoldenEye’s release. The game came out about two years after Pierce Brosnan’s movie hit theaters, but enjoyed immense popularity thanks to its large single player levels and an expansive campaign.
But the true heart of GoldenEye was not single player, but multiplayer. Split-screen matches for four players had players battling for hours for control of the Golden Gun or simply for the top score. With 20 multiplayer maps and a huge variety of game modes, GoldenEye was one of the best ways to spend a lazy summer weekend with friends.
Super Smash Bros
A worldwide phenomenon originated on the Nintendo 64. Super Smash Bros. gathered all of the favorite Nintendo characters in one place and pitted them against each other to answer once and for all the question that gamers have been debating for ages: who will win?
The sheer excitement of watching Link face-to-face with Donkey Kong didn’t bring any joy to gamers. Although Super Smash Bros games have appeared on every Nintendo console since the N64, this first game laid the groundwork for what was to come.
The original Super Smash Bros didn’t have as many levels or characters as the sequels, with eight base characters, four unlockable characters, and nine stages, but the heart of the series beats hard in the game. It also features all the favorite mini-games such as Break the Targets.
How to play N64 today
The easiest way to experience any of these games is to play them on the original hardware. There’s something about using the stupid design of the N64 controller that an emulator can’t achieve – and as stated earlier, Nintendo 64 emulators are finicky.
If you don’t have a real console, two emulators are worth trying. The first is Project64 for Windows. This is probably the easiest emulator to use on the market.
Another option is Mupen64Plus, an emulator that works for Windows, Mac and Linux. Project64 is not that easy to use, but it does provide better audio quality. When (hopefully not) the Nintendo 64 Mini comes out, it will be the easiest modern way to experience this classic again.
These five Nintendo 64 games are the best of the best, but they aren’t the only good ones. This article could go on and on, but it would be a disservice not to mention a few honorable mentions like Jet Force Gemini, Star Fox 64, and Harvest Moon 64. The N64 was a powerful console. it’s worth checking out.
What are your favorite Nintendo 64 games? What makes them different? Let us know in the comments below.