N64Good, but not good enough: Mario Kart 64, Goldeneye, Pilotwings 64, The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness, Pokemon Stadium, Banjo Tooie

Castlevania8. Castlevania
I know, I know. No one likes this game, 3-D Castlevania doesn’t work, etc… I’ve heard all of these arguments, but never agreed with them. For its time (the N64 and it’s peer systems have aged worse than any other generation, in my opinion), I found this game to be designed extremely well. The levels are varied as you progress from forest to a mansion and through caverns, finally arriving at Castlevania where Dracula awaits. Along with the varied levels, multiple enemy types befitting their location attack at every opportunity. The Garden Maze chase is easily one of the most tense sections of any game I’ve played, but is actually outdone by the the trek through part of the castle carrying a chemical that will explode if you are hit by an enemy or if you jump.  It is a nerve-wracking experience with interesting characters and levels that gets much more hate than I think it deserves.

Jet Force Gemini7. Jet Force Gemini
Of the games Rare made for Nintendo, this is the one that seems the least well known, even though it was well reviewed. It’s a shame that many people missed out on a true gem, and probably the best sci-fi game on the N64. You take on the roles of Vela and Juno, twins (hence the Gemini title) and their dog Lupus through varying missions over an array of planets on a quest to defeat the evil Mizar. Each character has their own levels, but play very similarly, except for Lupus who can hover…and is a dog. You can also revisit worlds with each of the characters (a requirement to actually finish the game). Partway through the game, you receive a floating gun turret robot that can be controlled by a second player or by the AI to assist you in tracking down and defeating Mizar. Of all the games on this list, this is the one I would most like to see a remake of, or a sequel to as I feel it would benefit greatly from improved hardware. The ambition was there, but I think that Rare’s ultimate vision couldn’t be achieved on the hardware available when this was released.

Banjo6. Banjo Kazooie
This is simply one of the best platforming games you’ll ever play. I actually believe it to be on par with Super Mario 64, which begs the question of why it is only 6. The one big handicap I give it is that you must collect all of the notes in a world before exiting to get the Puzzle Piece. This annoyed me quite a bit because they were extremely well hidden, the worlds were fairly big, and there were times I needed to cut the game off but hadn’t accomplished this goal. Aside from that, this is an amazing game which, in addition to great platforming, features some of the funniest writing in any game I’ve played.

DK645. Donkey Kong 64
Most would put this game below Banjo Kazooie, but I enjoyed it more. I thought the inclusion of multiple characters, each with their own unique talents and collectables was very inspired. I realize that this game is often ridiculed as being an overbearing collectathon, but that aspect appealed to me. Throw in some very good platforming, creative boss fights, including an hysterical final throwdown with King K. Rool, and tons of exploration and you have a pretty amazing game for the Nintendo 64.

Mario 644. Super Mario 64
The Nintendo’s flagship game, and the game that truly set the standard for 3-D platforming. Moving Mario in a 3-D world was simply amazing the first time you experience it. The world felt huge and seemed gorgeous for it’s time. The level design was awe inspiring and it seemed like you had new experiences waiting for you around each corner. My favorite moment from this game was unlocking the wing cap and taking to the sky. It represented total freedom and I would often play the game just to do fly for a bit. Back during the Nintendo 64 era, it really was that impressive. Actually, to this day, that is still an experience that stays with me and fills me with joy when I revisit it.

F-Zero X3. F-Zero X
Following up F-Zero for the Super NES, F-Zero X made its predecessor look as if it were standing still. F-Zero X brought 30 total cars to race with and 24 new tracks to race on, as well as a cup that randomly generated new tracks, guaranteeing that you’d always find something new in the game. Aside from that, this game simply feels fast and, on higher difficulty levels, will laugh at you if you aren’t prepared. There are no blue shells to help you in this game. Your success is completely on you and how well you learn the game and master the controls. Once you do though, few things are as satisfying as earning the first place trophy.

Starfox 642. Starfox 64
I was never a fan of Starfox on the Super NES. I thought it was dull and ugly. I didn’t have high hopes for the 64 release until the day I played it in-store at a Wal-Mart. Five minutes in and I knew I had to have this game. Whereas I feel many games of this generation haven’t aged well, this one still holds up today. You spend most of your time in the Arwing, but both the Landmaster and Aquamarine are fun to use, but are smartly limited in their use, being confined to three total levels. Like the original, this game features branching paths you can take and also tracks your enemies killed, both of which create excellent replay value. Also included was a four player versus mode that was incredibly fun when you had four friends together. Bonus points for bringing us the rumble pack, which would become standard in virtually every controller that followed.

Ocarina of Time1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
If Super Mario 64 felt big, then Ocarina of Time was an entirely new world. Shifting Zelda into 3-D was a bit risky, but Nintendo pulled it off and created what many consider to be the definitive Zelda experience, and one of the best games ever made. The game design is very nearly perfect with varied temples, creative puzzles, and entertaining boss battles. The combat also seemed very revolutionary thanks to a targeting system that ensured you were always facing your foe, solving many of the issues with cameras in 3-D games (a problem that still plagues some games today). It must also be pointed out that, for it’s time, this was a very graphically striking game. Like most 64 games, age hasn’t been kind to its visuals, but when looked at in the context of its release date, few games could rival it. Regardless of visuals, this game still plays just as well today as it did when it was launched, very much surviving the test of time where it counts, with its gameplay.

  1. brandonmc87 says:

    I share your feeling on the original Star Fox. The game didn’t feel smooth and everything looked liek it was wrapped in tin foil. To be fair, I only played it a few times with my cousin, but Star Fox 64 improved upon it where it counted most: playability and re-playability.

  2. brandonmc87 says:

    While we’re on the subject of N64 games, I want to mention that I booted up Banjo-Tooie over the summer and simply couldn’t enjoy it the same way I enjoy the original. BT did a lot of things that every sequel should do, such as introducing brand new moves from the start instead of making the player re-discover everything.from the previous game (take note, Metroid). Yet at the same time the levels were too grand to be enjoyable. What was special about the original BK was how you crawled all over the level, got familiar with the territory, and solved the mystery of the Jiggies. In BT it takes forever to just get a feel for the scope of Terrydactyl Land or Jolly Roger Bay.

    • javgbadmin says:

      I spent very little time with Banjo Tooie, so I don’t know if I would have that feeling or not. It’s one I’ve always meant to go back and revisit though. I have played sequels where the scope of the game took something away like that though, so I understand where you’re coming from.

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