The Nintendo 64 turns 18 this year and here are the games that made it excellent
WHEN you meet an 18-year-old and ask them what their favourite Nintendo 64 game was, keep this in mind: they were born in the same year the revolutionary console was released overseas.
They were an infant when Peach kissed Mario on his bulbous 3D nose after he defeated Bowser by grabbing his tail.
And when GoldenEye 007 changed the way we think about multiplayer shooters, and slapping people to death, a person who is 18 today was barely 18 months.
But as the babies of 1996 now get drunk on pre-mixed alcohol and make bookings for balcony rooms with polyester carpet for Schoolies, the N64 deserves a nod for coming of age.
So the Herald Sun Department of internet recalls 18 games that made that glorious console excellent. Some say unbeatable.
1. SUPER MARIO 64
Developed by Nintendo, released 1996
Mario shows up at Peach’s castle to claim the cake she baked for him, only to be inconvenienced by the Princess’s abduction by Bowser.
Now Mario has to jump into the castle’s paintings, transporting him to different worlds, to capture all 120 magic stars.
The wonder of Mario’s immersive open world is matched by the character’s new 3D moves including the triple jump, wall kick, long jump an elusive side somersault.
Full of endearing quirks, such as the stairway that goes nowhere, the ice slide penguin race and the stretchable Mario face in the opening screen, the game has rightfully claimed status as a classic.
Although subsequent games such as Banjo-Kazooie outshone Mario’s graphics, this was the first N64 role playing game and holds precious memories.
2. LYLAT WARS
Developed by Nintendo, released 1997
Remember Peppy Hare, Slippy Toad and Falco Lombardi? Fox McCloud couldn’t have saved the Lylat system without them.
When scientist Andross goes mad and blows up a biological weapon, he is exiled to the far-flung planet Venom.
But five years later some weird activity is detected on Venom and Fox McCloud’s father James and his team are sent to sort it out.
James gets killed by Andross and all that. Then Fox is left to take his dad’s place and fight Andross when things get out of hand.
Watch out for asteroids!
Lylat Wars was the first game to use the revolutionary Rumble Pak accessory that might still be causing former N64 players to have sore wrists in winter months.
3. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME
Developed by Nintendo, released 1998
Daringly set around an obscure ceramic wind instrument in a medieval RPG world with an annoying fairy Navi, the Zelda epic started production around the same time as Super Mario 64.
Hero Link battles dictatorial Ganondorf to save the Hyrule kingdom.
Along the way, 12 melodies are learned and played ad nauseam through the N64 controller to solve puzzles and teleport the protagonist to new areas.
Unsurprisingly, sales of the instrument itself skyrocketed after the game’s release with one American business specialising in handmade ocarinas doubling its output as a result.
Zelda was also a massive commercial success, selling well over seven million copies globally.
4. GOLDENEYE 007
Developed by Rareware, released 1997
Be still my beating heart.
Although GoldenEye 007 is now considered one of the greatest N64 triumphs and a watershed moment in console multiplayer shooters, it wasn’t always destined for success.
At the time of its release in 1997, the film on which is was based was already two years old and the next Bond film, Tomorrow Never Dies, was close to cinematic release. The game also had a lukewarm reception at a 1997 games fair and production was plagued by bugs.
But it went on to sell more than eight million copies worldwide.
From slapping enemies to blasting through toilet doors with a Cougar Magnum, to fooling mates with proximity mines, this was the nineties and it was excellent.
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5. MARIO KART 64
Developed by Nintendo, released 1997
There are still many times when former N64 players wish throwing tortoise shells at other cars were legal while stuck in Monash traffic.
The N64 iteration of Mario Kart, a series conceived with the 1992 on Super Nintendo, allows players to face off in 50, 100 or 150cc (for those who might have been wondering for two decades, ‘cc’ refers to volume of engine displacement in cubic centimetres).
Don’t forget to invite your friends over and hack it out in battle mode, where karts are fixed with three balloons and players hurl shells and banana peels at each other in arenas that look like Ikea.
Oh — and do you know the jump cheat in Wario Stadium?
6. CRUIS’N USA
Developed by Midway Games and Williams, released 1996, 1998
Originally a coin-operated arcade game in 1994, the popularity of Cruis’n USA’s straightforward beat-the-other-guy racing gameplay made it a target for an N64 release.
From Golden Gate Park to Redwood Forest, peddle-happy players were cruis’n the continent until games with superior graphics and handling graced the market.
Although, the N64 version was a carnival of sharp, cutting-edge rendering compared to the original arcade unit that came with 512x400 pixel resolution.
Among the most endearing features of the game was the traffic that repeated itself, and scantily-clad youths who danced in sprite form at the finish line.
7. PERFECT DARK
Developed by Rareware, released 2000
In a time when strong female game protagonist Lara Croft was capturing the imaginations of teenage boys around the world on the rival PlayStation console, Joanna Dark entered the market to compete.
Perfect Dark had the look and feel of a GoldenEye 007 sequel and followed the secret operative’s efforts to stop an international conspiracy while working for the Carrington Institute spy agency.
The game was praised as having some of the best graphics of any game on the N64 console and high quality artificial intelligence in the bad guys.
An xbox 360 version of the game with further enhanced graphics was released in 2010.
8. MARIO PARTY
Developed by Hudson Soft, released 1999
The perfect addition to any Friday night gathering, provided that gathering includes no more than four people.
Take turns to strike the dice block, beat your friends at 56 mini games and collect more stars than anyone else to win the battle royale, set out like a traditional board game.
But the game has a lesser known dark side. Many of the mini games involved rapid rotating the controller’s joystick, causing almost 100 blistered or lacerated players or their parents to complain to the New York attorney general’s office.
Nintendo eventually agreed to provide each affected family with four pairs of Mario Party-safe playing gloves, and paid state legal fees of about US$75,000.
9. DIDDY KONG RACING
Developer by Rareware, released 1997
In an extraordinary turn of bad luck, an intergalactic villain pig named WizPig invades peaceful island inhabited by Diddy Kong and his mates.
But fortunately for Diddy and others including Conker the squirrel, Tiptup the turtle, Krunch the kremling and Banjo the bear, the evil pig can be defeated trough a long series of elaborate races using carts, hovercraft and aeroplanes.
And Taj the blue Indian elephant genie is there to help for one reason or another. So is T.T. the stopwatch, who records time trials.
After the runaway success of Diddy Kong Racing, Rare announced a sequel called Donkey Kong Racing in 2001, but never really got around to it and the project was later cancelled.
10. BEETLE ADVENTURE RACING
Developed by Paradigm Entertainment, released 1999
With the turn of the millennium imminent, the Volkswagon New Beetle was the epitome of forward thinking.
And N64 players lapped up the opportunity to race the compact European cars around a brave new world of crate-ridden speed circuits, designed by Paradigm Entertainment, the group who made the pioneering Pilotwings 64 game.
Curiously there was an Australian re-release of the game, rebranded as HSV Adventure Racing and featuring Holdens instead of Beetles. In the multiplayer mode of that version, players collected HSV badges instead of lady bugs.
Developed by H20 Entertainment, released 1998
The Canadian-developed Tetrisphere enjoys a branding boost on the back of the immensely popular Soviet puzzle game Tetris, previously released as an arcade unit and on Nintendo Gameboy.
Only this time it’s 3D!
Match the blocks to peel off layers on a sphere structure to release a cute robot.
The game enjoyed moderate popularity after release and was adored by a small cohort of Tetris aficionados. It was left on the video rental shelf by countless others.
Developed by Rareware, released 1998
How dare that witch Gruntilda kidnap Banjo the bear’s sister Tooty and threaten to use an evil machine to steal her beauty.
Now he has to team up with Kazooie the bird, who lives in his backpack, and collect a whole bunch of musical notes and weird Jinjo creatures to find his way to Gruntilda’s twisted carnival lair and get Tooty back.
Plenty of help from Mumbo Jumbo, a Shaman who lives in a giant skull hut and can transform Banjo into such strange alternative forms as a termite and a walrus.
The game was a commercial and critical success, and spurned a sequel, Banjo-Tooie, released in 2000.
13. MISCHIEF MAKERS
Developed by Enix and Nintendo, released 1998
Veteran 64 gamers are still unsure what Mischief Makers, released in Japan as Yuke Yuke! Troube Makers, was all about.
Interspersed with the notorious “Shake! Shake!” catchcry, the game follows protagonist Marina as she travels through a magical land, well, just sort of throwing and shaking things in a format that isn’t quite 2D, isn’t quite 3D.
There was a kidnapped professor in there somewhere.
In 2009, gamesradar.com put the game at number 35 on its list of releases with untapped potential, declaring: “Possibly the most underrated and widely ignored game on the N64, Mischief Makers was pure 2D brilliance.”
Others would consider that a very big call.
14. PILOTWINGS 64
Developed by paradigm Simulation, released 1996
A spiritual stablemate of jetskiing game Wave Race 64, Pilotwings was released with the console in 1996 alongside Super Mario.
The aviation skill tester, featuring six characters who go through a series of flying courses, was the perfect way to show off the new system’s analog joystick.
Although brilliant for its time, Pilotwings lived in the shadow of Super Mario’s enormous immersive world and did not reach the commercial success of later N64 games.
15. STAR WARS: ROGUE SQUADRON
Developed by Factor 5 and Lucasarts, released in 1998
“Good morning, Wedge. The rest of Rogue Squadron is still back at base, but I thought we could take an early morning run through Beggars Canyon.”
It is that early morning run that leads to an ambush as Mos Eisley, and the start of a galactic adventure.
And it’s an adventure made even better with the N64’s new expansion pack, which slots into the top of the console and allows gameplay with higher resolution.
Luke Skywalker leads his team of X-wing fighter pilots on a mission to destabilise the evil empire, unlocking bronze, silver and gold medals along the way.
Enter the right passwords to unlock the Millennium Falcon and TIE Interceptor.
16. SNOWBOARD KIDS
Developed by Racdym, released 1998
An argument among kids about who can snowboard the best inevitably spills over into a prolonged grudge match to prove who can shred the snow with supremacy.
Join Slash, Tommy, Linda, Nancy and Jam for some funky-haired, big-nosed snowboarding action.
Some of the more questionable courses in the game included a desert, a small Japanese town and a freeway.
The game’s colourful style drew comparisons to Mario Kart, although Snowboard Kids didn’t reach the same level of popularity.
17. SUPER SMASH BROS
Developed by HAL Laboratory, released 1999
In the spirit of Mario Party, challenge your friends to an all-in smash-athon bound to take up at least half a weekend between making nachos and watching Seinfeld.
The best bit: play as your favourite character from one of many Nintendo worlds. The proud list includes Mario, Fox, Captain Falcon, Kirby, Pikachu, Jigglypuff, Link and Samus.
Arenas include Mushroom Kingdom from Super Mario and Sector Z from Star Fox.
The game was an international success with more than five million copies sold.
18. F-ZERO X
Developed by Nintendo, released 1998
Set in the future when global leaders have no regard for driver safety, F-Zero X follows an intergalactic race at 1500km/h through metallic pipes and blingy machine décor.
Have a crack at five playing modes including Grand Prix, Battle Mode and Death Race, which involves eliminating as many of the other contestants as possible.
The game was the second in the F-Zero series and followed the success of the original Super Nintendo version.
The lead programmer and several other members of the development team were previously involved in Wave Race 64.