25 years later, here are the top games on the Nintendo 64

by Robin Mosley

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Nintendo 64, a system that ushered in so many incredible games that’s made it one of the best consoles ever. What the Nintendo 64 did cannot be understated as it created a new generation of gamers across the world.

There were many iconic games on the console from platformers and RPGs, to multiplayer and sports games. The Nintendo 64 gave people memories that lasted a lifetime, and it deserves all of the praise that many other consoles get when people talk about innovative gaming. Although this list won’t explore every game, there are several that are worth mentioning that made this console magical and have had a lasting impact.

So, let’s take a stroll down memory lane to appreciate the Nintendo 64 and nine iconic games.

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Super Mario 64

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The 1996 platformer was the very first Mario game with 3D graphics and successfully laid the foundation for subsequent 3D games we all love like Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Odyssey. With a tale as old as time, Mario went on a warp-pipe adventure to save Princess Peach (again), by collecting stars to restore the castle’s power. Completing the full-120 star run back in the day wasn’t all that easy for some, but it was definitely fun. Do you remember when you first played Bob-omb battlefield? The music and graphics were different from anything people heard at the time, making this game quite memorable.

GoldenEye 007

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Everyone’s favorite (potentially frustrating) multiplayer game GoldenEye 007 came out in ‘97 and surely created some arguments and laughs between players. Obviously, you could play this game for its story, but it was incredibly fun coming up with weapon challenges like “hand chop only” when competing against others. In single player, playing as a 00 agent, you would use an arsenal of weapons and traverse each level to take down enemies while trying to spare innocent lives. It’s still a fun game to play from beginning to end.

Donkey Kong 64

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Coming off the Donkey Kong’s trilogy on Super Nintendo, this 1999 release still had all the charm of the previous games, just in 3D. There’s no denying how innovative and great the platforming was and critics agreed because it won a Game Critic Award for best platformer after its release. Starting as Donkey Kong, players would save their kidnapped friends who in turn would become playable characters who helped take down King K. Rool. From the puzzles to the fun mini games, there was a lot this game had to offer players.

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Banjo-Kazooie

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Banjo-Kazooie feels like Donkey Kong 64, and that’s because some of the people on Rare were recruited to work on this game. But make no mistake, it is an iconic title all on its own. Banjo-Kazooie really had everything going for it that made this platforming adventure game leave a mark on all who played. It was a new title with a simple plot -- save your sister before Gruntilda steals her beauty. So away Banjo went alongside Kazooie and took you on an adventure that still conjures up great memories.

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Pokemon Stadium

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Does anyone remember turning on the Nintendo 64 being excited to battle gym leaders? Well this game brings back a lot of memories of the battles that could take place with or without your Pokemon. But the best part of the game were the mini games that rivaled (and sometimes bested) some other N64 mini games. Pokemon Stadium had nothing but pure innovation from the commentary to the 3D “lifelike” Pokemon. FYI, the Clefairy mini game was the best hands down, with the Lickitung mini game coming in second.

The Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time

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You have to put at least one of the Legend of Zelda games on here, and the choice is clear. Some will say Majora’s Mask was better. No need to argue, because they’re both great, but Ocarina of Time is on this list because it’s the perfect representation of the series. It’s fun, has great mechanics and isn't too difficult for a first-time player, but it also has a great story (and music) to help you get fully immersed in the gameplay. Ocarina of Time was just right as an introduction to the series on the Nintendo 64.

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Mario Tennis

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Mario and tennis? Not sure why this game is on the list? You must have never played this in all of its glory. The competitive nature of any player would come out when playing this game against the NPC and especially when playing against other players. The game had everything you could think of -- in addition to simple gameplay and fun music, each court really reacted differently to your movements just like a real tennis court would. It felt like even for a tiny bit that you were a tennis player, and it made sports games fun.

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Pokemon Snap

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It’s the game that started it all! The player goes around and takes pictures of cute Pokemon. That’s it. Of course, in order to make sure to get 100% you have to have “catch them all” on camera, but you aren’t capturing all 150 of the original Pokemon, just about 60. Although it might seem simple, there was a bit of strategy to it. You had to know how and when to get the right shot. As you sat on top of a mine cart you would take these pictures and try to get Pokemon in frame or while the Pokemon were doing some kind of action. Then you would take it back to Professor Oak for review. Surely most of us spent all of our time choosing the best picture right? Just me?

Mario Party

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A game full of mini games, what could go wrong right? Good old Nintendo decided to release this game into our homes just to watch everyone fight. Players could choose a number of characters and travel across a board picking up coins and stars while trying to thrash your competitors in some of the most infuriating mini games ever. But what made this game so innovative was the sheer amount of mini games that existed and could be played with friends so easily. It was the king of accessibility by making mini games difficult, but doable with enough practice.

Lead photo credit: Edd Souaid

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