History Behind Nintendo 64 Purchase
No system will ever be as near or dear to my heart as the N64. Let's face it, when it's all said and done, I will have spent over five (5) years of my life covering the system on the Internet and in magazines. And you can bet that during those years I spent tons of time writing about it, talking about it, and playing it. Hours and hours used to be spent each day searching for information about it. Weeks and weeks were spent writing about it for magazines and books. Months and months of time was lost with friends. And an incomprehensible amount of time that should have been spent on schoolwork was spent on the system and its corresponding sites (N64 HQ and Guide 64) instead. Do I regret it? Not at all. Everything I learned while covering the N64 and maintaining the sites gave me invaluable life lessons.
Another item of significance that makes the N64 special is that it was my first foray into importing. I had never purchased anything directly from Japan until I got a Japanese N64 a few months before it hit the U.S. My N64 with Super Mario 64 arrived via special Saturday delivery on June 29, 1996 from Vizon Play. This is one of the receipts I actually lost, but I think I did that so I won't remember how much I foolishly paid for the package. (I estimate that the system, Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, and special shipping ended up costing me around $700 or $800.) I have since evenly traded my first three Japanese games (Super Mario 64, Pilotwings 64, and Wave Race 64) for their English counterparts. And although I will never import a whole video game system again, I wouldn't mind occasionally importing a few games. Well, that is, games that are easy enough for me to figure out, games that won't make it to the U.S., or games that have unnecessary delays. The first American game I bought, by the way, was Killer Instinct Gold. I got it for $69.99 at Toys "R" Us.
Like with the NES and the early era of side-scrolling 2D games, the Nintendo 64 and the first generation of fully 3D games are not something that one would say has aged well. But, man, back in its heyday, the N64 had some great games that set the standard for future generations to come. Mario and Zelda were brought into the 3D world with spectacular results. Nintendo released many other big hits and spinoffs, from Super Smash Bros. to Wave Race to Star Fox 64 and from Mario Party to Mario Golf to Mario Tennis. First-person shooters "cut their teeth" on the system, e.g., Turok and GoldenEye 007, showing that they could be done outside PCs. Multi-player and couch co-op gaming became a key component of console gaming starting in the N64 era. Rare reached its own pinnacle of game design, with Blast Corps, GoldenEye, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kaooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day, and more.
Ultimately, the biggest issue when revisiting the N64 (and even the original PlayStation) is that these early 3D games—with their low resolutions, simple polygons, and blurry textures—have not been done any favors with the move to widescreen HDTVs. Even I must admit that N64 suffers from a rosy retrospection.
All-Time Favorite Nintendo 64 Games
Nintendo 64 Collection (61 games)
What lies below is a listing of my Nintendo 64 collection along with some history behind the system's purchase. One thing to keep in mind is that these are all the games I currently own. I've actually had other games throughout the years. But I got rid of some of them for whatever reason. Please also note that all of the games listed below are actual cartridges. I am neither into getting emulators for the classics nor am I into pirating the latest games.
Overall, I found it most difficult to choose my favorite game for N64. In the end, though, I chose GoldenEye 007 as my all-time favorite. Several reasons why include (the original) stealth-based gameplay, great use of the Bond license, and a four-player mode. Between the one-player missions and the four-player deathmatch, I spent many more hours playing this game than anything else on N64.
A close second to GoldenEye 007 is Super Mario 64. Just like Super Mario Bros. brought gaming to a whole new level back in 1985, Super Mario 64 ushered us into a new era—the third dimension. Furthermore, because the Nintendo 64 controller was designed around this game, it has some of the best and most responsive play control ever found. A ton of fun and still one of the best games of all-time.
A masterpiece in its very definition. In total, one could argue that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest games ever designed, with innovative control, a near-perfect camera, fantastic graphics, movie-like sound, unbelievable immersion, and a wonderful story. Remember, this was the late 1990s. You truly felt like a part of the game. It remains one of the best Zelda adventures.
From the team that brought you GoldenEye 007 comes a semi-sequel in the same vein—but with new everything. On many levels, Perfect Dark supersedes its predecessor, especially with the most customizable multi-player mode ever put into a retro console. I played tons of the Combat Simulator in college. Yet it's hard to top an original…
Maybe the best N64 game you never played—that is, if you play three- and four-player matches regularly. Snowboard Kids is molded more like the original Super Mario Kart in that the game isn't as cheap as Mario Kart 64 and features tighter, better level design and subtle strategic touches (e.g., the lift). Every race is fast, frantic, and unsuspecting. Tremendous fun!
I never played Madden NFL 2001 or 2002 on N64, but I can tell you that Madden NFL 2000 is far better than Madden Football 64 or Madden NFL 99. Compared to the predecessors, Madden NFL 2000 features better sound and improved graphics that run at a solid, fast frame rate. The running and passing games and the defense had the best balance of all games at this point, too.
Is Mario Kart 64 as good as the original? No, because the slide technique changed, the game is too cheap, and the levels are too wide. Does that mean it's bad? Absolutely not. My friends and I played a ton of this. Like the original, the two-player Grand Prix mode is my favorite here. But four-player Mario Kart in Versus and Battle Mode races are quite good, too.
Hexen has been reserved a special place on my list, just because I had a ton of fun with it and played it so much. My friend and I played through the entire game in a split-screen, cooperative mode. You know how I love cooperative games. Then I also played a ton of deathmatch with my brother and brother-in-law, because it was simple, fast, and frantic. The N64's infamous "fog" works in this game, too.
NHL 99 is one of those rare games that I played more and more over time rather than less and less. It was the only NHL game EA Sports released on the N64. Thankfully, it's an incredible port from the PlayStation, with even better graphics, surprisingly good sound, all of the same great gameplay and control, and a bonus multi-player mode!
I never got a chance to play Mario Party 2 or Mario Party 3, so I'm not sure how they compare to the original. But I do know that the first game was a very unique, downright fun game. During my college years, it was the perfect game to play leisurely while everyone socialized and drank, uh, soda. I'm not sure, but I think I have many fond memories of this game…
What a concept! It's mind-boggling to think that all of Nintendo's most popular characters are fighting each other in one awesome game! In all honesty, if I had the opportunity to play this game more with other people, then it probably would rate higher on my list. As such, I mostly played this with my older brother and brother-in-law on certain occasions.
I absolutely love the gameplay in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater. I think it's one of the most addictive video games released in the 32/64-bit generation. The control is simple to learn yet complex to master. The camera follows the action perfectly. And having the ability to skate and grind wherever you want is a dream come true. Fantastic port from CD-based consoles. Two-player rocks!
On a system where multi-player reigns king, it's still nice to have a long, challenging, and rewarding one-player game. Blast Corps can be considered one of the N64's best, because it has original and technique-filled gameplay, control that needs to be mastered, and very good audio and video—all of which make you realize this is an N64 game. Still unique to this day. Awesome.
I immensely enjoyed Banjo-Kazooie. In a way, it seems like an evolution of Super Mario 64, as Rare came up with a witty story, clever characters, great level design, a ton of moves to master, and impressive graphics and sound. History will show, however, that Rare's fascination with having players collect items might go a little overboard here. Nevertheless, if you enjoy 3D action/adventure games, then this is one of the best of the 32/64-bit generation.
- 1080° Snowboarding (Wii U)
- Blast Corps
- Bomberman 64
- Chameleon Twist
- Cruis'n USA
- Cruis'n World
- Diddy Kong Racing
- "Electric Irritating Stick" (Japanese)
- F-Zero X (U.S.) (Wii U)
- F-Zero X (Japanese)
- Fighters Destiny
- GoldenEye 007 W
- Iggy's Reckin' Balls
- International Superstar Soccer 64
- Killer Instinct Gold
- LastLegion UX (Japanese)
- Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (gold) (Wii U)
- Madden NFL 2000
- Mario Golf
- Mario Kart 64
- Mario Party (Superstars on NS)
- Mario Tennis
- Mischief Makers
- Mission: Impossible W
- MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
- Multi-Racing Championship (Japanese)
- NBA Showtime: NBA on NBC
- NHL 99
- Perfect Dark W
- Pilotwings 64
- Pokémon Snap (New on NS)
- Pokémon Stadium
- Pro Baseball King (Japanese)
- Quest 64
- San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing (GCN)
- Snowboard Kids
- South Park
- South Park: Chef's Luv Shack
- Star Fox 64 (Wii U)
- Star Soldier: Vanishing Earth (Japanese)
- Star Wars: Episode I Racer
- Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
- Super Mario 64 (Wii U) and (NS)
- Super Smash Bros.
- The New Tetris
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater (NS)
- Top Gear Overdrive
- Toukon Road: Brave Spirits (Japanese)
- Turok: Dinosaur Hunter
- Vigilante 8
- Wave Race 64 (Wii U)
- WCW/NWO Revenge
- Wheel of Fortune
- Yoshi's Story (Wii U)
Note: The games listed above are physical cartridges. Nintendo's Virtual Console service on Wii and Wii U allowed me to augment my collection digitally by purchasing 4 more N64 games individually:
plus Doom 64, Duke Nukem 3D, and Quake (w/ 64 add-on) on Switch and Kirby 64 on Kirby's Dream Collection for Wii
- Donkey Kong 64 (Wii U VC)
- Excitebike 64 (Wii U VC)
- Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Wii U VC)
- Sin & Punishment (Wii VC)
The following bulleted points are some random notes and thoughts about the Nintendo 64. In the list, you will find information about the system and games that I could not place anywhere else.
Last Updated: March 27, 2023
- I am considering purchasing this game for my permanent physical collection: Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness.
- If you liked non-realistic racing games, then no other system could touch N64 back in the day. Here is a sampling of the classics: Wave Race 64, Mario Kart 64, San Francisco Rush, Diddy Kong Racing, 1080° Snowboarding, Top Gear Overdrive, Snowboard Kids, F-Zero X, and Vigilante 8.
- Although these early 3D games may have been revoluntionary for the era, I never imagined how they could look on larger, higher definition TVs...thank goodness for the Framemeister.
- Just think: The N64 is the last cartridge-based home console you will ever play.
Copyright © Scott McCall. All Rights Reserved. ™ and © for all products, characters, and indicia related thereto which are contained herein are owned by the companies who market or license those products.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
13. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Let's make this clear: The New Tetris was, without question, the best offline and multiplayer version of Tetris for nearly two decades (until Tetris Effect: Connected). It added a few things to the Tetris formula without ruining it. For instance, special blocks could be created for bonus lines. Or you could save a piece for later use. What initially set the game apart, though, was the incredible music and having a competitive four-player mode that included "garbage."
Honorable Mention: Wave Race 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Star Fox 64, San Francisco Rush: Extreme Racing, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness
Regardless, for me, the N64 will always be about my video journalism days. Oh yeah, it actually was a great system, too. In fact, I would argue that it is Nintendo's most "hard-core" gaming system. It's not quite so easy to pick up and play, the games were developed before Nintendo's casual mantra, and many of them are maddingly challenging like the good ol' NES days.