Still recognised by gamers worldwide as one of the most revolutionary consoles of the era, the 90s were transformed by the 3D graphics and immersive gameplay of Nintendo‘s ‘N64′ console, in 1996. One of the few 5th generation products to have stood the test of time to this day, retro gamers are still very much in love with the classic three-pronged grey-controller, with the N64 playing a huge role in the overall future of gaming, thanks to multiplayer titles like ‘Goldeneye 007′ and ‘Mario Kart 64′ which later made the successful switch over to the Wii. But for thud of Donkey Kong‘s limbs, competition for the title of ‘Best N64 Game‘ was always a hugely competitive field, which is still hotly debated to this day. Here’s our rundown of the Top 10 N64 cartridges of all time….
10. STAR WARS: SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE
Long before Disney completed their takeover of the franchise, Star Wars fans – at the time of this game’s release – were content with just the original trilogy of movies, which were soon to be re-released in cinemas. ‘Shadows’ was soaked in such a sinister tone throughout that you could’ve been forgiven for comparing the title to similar ‘horror‘ shooters of the time, like ‘Doom’. Graphics were a little blocky (though this was somewhat standard of the time), but the gameplay certainly carried this one through as one of the N64‘s strongest productions.
9. EXTREME G
A hyperactive acid-trip of a racing simulator, set in a weird dystopian yet futuristic world, all set to the heart-pounding energy of a weird electro-techno amalgamation. They don’t come much more ‘original’ than Extreme G, which was seemingly created by a madcap developer in the midst of an intense MDMA trip. Certainly one of the console’s most underrated titles, Extreme G was a hidden-gem which can certainly boast a rather unique and refreshing take on the original ‘racer’ format.
8. POKEMON STADIUM
When Ash Ketchum set out to ‘Catch ‘Em All’, most of us marvelled in amazement at our Gameboy screens, tasked with the impossible decision of our very own Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur. As the Pokemon juggernaut started to grow, fans of the series watched as their hero did battle in giant arenas during the animated TV series. Along came this title the Summer of 2000 to transform our dreams into reality, as players were invited to throw their strongest Pokeballs into battle, via the Gladiator-esque setting of Pokemon Stadium.
7. INTERNATIONAL SUPERSTAR SOCCER 64
Back before FIFA really ruled the roost, Konami were Kings of the football simulator. The Japanese company, who later birthed the tremendously popular ‘Pro Evolution Soccer’ series started with humble beginnings via ‘ISS‘, where players could take control of all their favourite elite footballing power nations in one of the sport’s first ever 3D portrayals. Though FIFA rallied back hard via the equally impressive World Cup 98 title, ISS is still to this day considered the finest N64 venture into ‘the beautiful game’.
6. WAVE RACE 64
Bringing a slice of those classic arcades into your living room, Wave Race felt like one of the first moments in video game history to really ‘break the fourth wall’ as players were transported into the type of experience usually saved for amusements centres at fun-fairs etc. Superbly simple yet equally fun, and surprisingly addictive, Wave Race also allowed competitors to battle against up to 3 other friends via multiplayer mode, as each jet-ski torpedoed across the choppy waters and navigated those fast and furious twisting turns.
5. BANJO KAZOOIE
Whilst the likes of Donkey Kong and so on were already becoming firm family favourites on the N64, the arrival of Banjo Kazooie marked a new chapter in the legacy of platform games. This brightly coloured fun-for-all-ages romp was paired with a hugely personable main character and equally impressive FX when it came to sound, and musical selections. If this was Nintendo‘s answer to the incredibly successful ‘Crash Bandicoot’ over on PlayStation, then SONY knew they suddenly had a fight on their hands.
4. MARIO KART 64
The one which started it all! Okay… That’s not strictly true, the ‘Mario Kart’ brand was already flying high after the success of the SNES version a few years previous, but now seeing our hero(es) in 3D suddenly gave a fantastically brilliant edge to proceedings. Every banana-skin slip would now witness a highly dramatic and comical 360 degree spin, whilst the epileptic community were given a ferocious fright by the mind-bending vortex of the new – and visually impairing – rainbow road track. Many-a-Saturday afternoon were lost to this game.
3. GOLDENEYE 007
When I say ‘multi-player’, you think ‘Goldeneye‘. It really is as simple as that. Arriving during a golden (no pun intended) era for shoot-em-ups, this ‘007′ title not only included brilliant storyline missions, and the inclusion of brilliant earned (or cheat code accessed) ‘extras’ like the ‘Golden Gun’ long before DLC was introduced, but was also home to the most euphorically joyful multi-player mode in gaming history. As the screen split into four quarters, friendships went out of the window faster than you could scream “No, Natalya, no!”
2. ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME
Another game which stemmed from an already super-successful predecessor on the Super Nintendo, ‘The Legend of Zelda‘ continued in a gloriously (semi) open world, where every swish of Link‘s dagger could be felt with swash-buckling effect at home. The title was later given a sequel thanks to ‘Majora’s Mask’, but it was here via the ‘Ocarina of Time‘ that Zelda truly cemented a reputation as an all-time great, not just in the N64 world, but in gaming history, full stop.
1. SUPER MARIO 64
“Eeets-a meee!” – Who else but Mr. Nintendo himself to take the gold spot in our countdown? The poster boy of the N64 brand elevated his status in what proved to be not only Nintendo‘s biggest selling game of all time, but the best selling game of all 5th generation consoles. A truly stellar achievement when up against his PlayStation and SEGA counterparts. With a dynamic camera-system, and 360-degree analog control, it’s no surprise that this one shifted over 12 million copies worldwide. All together now… “‘Ere we gooo!”
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