The Nintendo 64 Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever!

This entry is part 7 of 19 in the series Console Lists

The mid nineties were heady days indeed. Sega and Sony were on that new 32 bit console scene but Nintendo president Hiroshi Yamauchi had different ideas. Ideas which were…twice as big.

Enter “Project Reality”. Nintendo’s development initiative to create the 64 bit follow up to the Super Nintendo which eventually made its way into the world as the Nintendo 64. Even though Nintendo didn’t have a lot of experience with 3D rendered games, they could see the writing on the wall and knew that they had to expand their horizons. They had done everything one could do with a traditional 2D platformer and the world was looking for the next big thing. Nintendo didn’t give them that, exactly, but they provided them with the last great system of the fifth generation of consoles. Behold and marvel at it!

Get N, or Get Out

Was the console as revolutionary as the NES or the SNES? No. Was it good? Yeah. It was pretty good. And what about the games? Well, If you liked more adult themed games developed by third parties, you were out of luck.

But oh…The games that Nintendo made? They were on some next level shit with their own titles. So let’s get into it.

Nintendo 64
Released: 1996
Generation of Home Consoles: Fifth
Graphics: 64 Bit
Rating: Suffers from hubris, but still pretty amazing.

Before we begin, I would like to note that the top ten is comprised of only two developers. Nintendo and Rare (which at the time was 50% partners with Nintendo). This is not a coincidence. The Nintendo corporation had been pissing of the third party developers since they first hit the shelves. When the NES was the only game in town, they could get away with it. However, because this was no longer the case, the third party developers abandoned them in droves. EA, Square, Konami, Capcom? They were all very much sick of Nintendo’s shit, didn’t like the limitations of cartridges, and wanted more freedom to explore what a game could be. Sony and Sega gave them those options and the developers abandoned the big N to an astounding degree.

Although the follow up to the NES, the Super Nintendo, was beloved and sold a respectable 50 million units over its lifespan, some cracks began to appear in the Nintendo armor. Sega and Sony were beginning to cut into their profits and the industry was beginning to attract a slightly older market. This older market was the generation who grew up with video games. As they got older they began seeing video games as a legitimate form of media. And like film or literature, consumers were beginning to demand a range of options in storytelling and game play for both a mature audience as well as the traditional youth market. Sony and Sega both realized this, but Nintendo clung to the past. They made games which both adults and children could love, but which often lacked the depth of story or emotion that one might find in…I dunno…A Handmaiden’s Tale. There was a burgeoning facet to the industry that Nintendo opted out of.

When the system initially launched it sold fairly well despite only offering two games, Super Mario 64 and Pilot Wings 64. Despite this lack of depth, the console received a lot of praise from reviewers and fans alike. Unfortunately for Nintendo, the choice to remain a cartridge based system doomed them to a short life. You could only fit so much data on a cartridge at the time. This limited music, game size, and graphics to enough of a degree that the N64 sales diminished quickly after the first year. It lived a somewhat celebrated life as an incredibly successful toy, but as with all toys, people eventually put them away. The dawn of a new era was upon the world and while Nintendo wasn’t going anywhere, the sixth generation would belong to the interlopers.

That said, it’s still Nintendo. Although the N64 itself had a limited shelf life, a lot of the games are still considered to be the some of the greatest and most influential of all time. Nintendo strove for perfection and innovation with their titles and were incredibly successful in their endeavors on the N64. Even today the effects of what Nintendo was able to accomplish on a limited system can still be felt in a number of ways. Nintendo, as always, endures because of the games. So without further ado, I present to you The Totes Mathematical Top Ten list of games for the N64. Enjoy.

10. Pokemon Stadium. 2000. (Nintendo)
The Pokemon franchise is the third bestselling video game franchise of all time, across all systems. Only the Mario franchise and however you want to define Tetris beat it. Pokemon Red and Blue revitalized the Game Boy and launched the Game Boy Color to heights that even Nintendo didn’t think were possible. So when it was announced that you could take your hard earned Pokemon from the game boy games and have them battle in full 64 bit graphics on your TV, people were stoked to say the least. Despite a limited monster set and limitations on the music and gameplay, the game sold a TON of copies. Almost twice as many as the number 11 entry on the list, Wave Race 64, and those numbers just let it edge its way into the top ten.

9. Star Fox 64. 1997. (Nintendo)
Star Fox 64 is a remake of the popular Star Fox game released for the SNES. You play as Fox McCloud, a member of a group of animal soldiers of fortune who are hired by the government to destroy a maniacal flying ape head robot guy. The game was a mix of traditional rail shooting found in the original game and a free fly mode which allowed for a very popular and fun PVP mode. Additionally, Nintendo added two types of vehicles, a tank and a submarine, to complement the traditional Arwing and mix up the gameplay a bit. It was the second best selling game of 1997 and critics and players alike, embraced the hell out of it.

8. Perfect Dark. 2000. (Rare)
Taking what they learned from GoldenEye 007 and using an updated version of the same engine, Rare began work on a sequel, Tomorrow Never Dies. Unfortunately, EA wound up with exclusive licensing rights to the movie for video game purposes. Undeterred and not wanting to scrap what they had already accomplished, Rare retooled the game into what we now know and love as Perfect Dark. It turned out that Rare didn’t need the 007 character to make an incredibly successful game. In this first person shooter, you play as Joanna Dark, a special agent who, because of being awesome, is chosen to be the main weapon of the Carrington Institute against various alien groups , corrupt government officials, and a rival corporation. It is one of the highest rated games for the system and rightfully so. The game was a blast. (It was also 1,000 times better than the Tomorrow Never Dies game released by EA)

7. Banjo-Kazooie. 1998. (Rare)
As the N64 aged, the system’s popularity waned. Rare and Nintendo, however continued to develop the game play which made Mario 64 a huge success and subsequently affected the game play of 3D platformers during the era. Banjo Kazooie was a culmination of these developments and was a god damned delight to both play and watch. Rare had a way of utilizing every single bit of a console’s hardware to produce graphics which ended up looking as good as, if not better than, the console’s from the subsequent generation, and this game was no exception. You play a bear with a bird friend who is tracking down an evil witch. It was a wonderful spiritual successor to Mario 64 and really pushed the limits of what the 64 and the platform genre could do.

6. Donkey Kong 64. 1999. (Rare)
The follow up to the trilogy released on the SNES, Rare amped it up for the N64 release and created a 3D world which rivaled anything on the N64 to that date. Although the game suffers from concentrating a bit too much on item collection, it was nevertheless a very popular outing in the series and a nice continuation of the style made popular in Mario 64 and Banjo-Kazooie. While it wasn’t as revolutionary as the SNES games, it was nevertheless a strong platformer with a lot of things to do and see. You play the titular ape and his pals and explore an island while fighting the evil King K. Rool and his various minions. Unfortunately by this point, some of the magic of the genre was wearing off but not enough to prevent almost 4 million people from buying the game. It’s big and silly and fun.

5. Super Smash Bros. 1999. (Nintendo)
Damn if I don’t love this game. Nintendo got a bit silly when they took their iconic characters and had them duke it out. Did they just slap their people into an existing fighting game template? They did not! Instead, Nintendo developed an entirely new system. They simplified certain aspects of fighting games, added a bunch of silly yet fun powerups and weapons to utilize and started a franchise which has endured to this day. Although the single player version of the game left a bit to be desired, Nintendo did well by their fans. The game series wouldn’t see its full potential until the sequel came out, but Nintendo put down an extremely strong foundation for this first installment in the series.

4. Mario Kart 64. 1997. (Nintendo)
MK64 was the follow up to the incredibly popular Super Mario Kart for the SNES. Nintendo had done well on the SNES with their Mode 7 graphics and sprites, but to truly take a step forward Nintendo rendered the tracks for this game in 3D. Importantly, this allowed for race tracks which could feature elevation changes and thus hills, mountains, and pits. It also allowed for a much more diverse color palette. As with most of the classic N64 games it had a four person multiplayer mode which was heralded across the land as “Very fun”. The characters themselves were drawn with sprites due to the limits to the processing power of the system but everything meshed together beautifully. Great game and a worthy number 4 on the list.

3. GoldenEye 007. 1997. (Rare)
Starting off the top three, we have GoldenEye 007! Developed by Rare and based on the movie of the same name, you play as James Bond. A sexy British spy who would very much like to save the world, get his drank on, and make time with various ladies. Though this game focuses on the save the world part. This game was one of the first FPS to move away from the Doom model and take a more real world approach to the genre. It was also one of the first FPS games to actually work pretty well on a console. The game play included stealth elements, frenetic shoot outs, and one of the best multiplayer modes for the genre to exist at the time. It’s often cited as one of the most influential shooters of all time and certainly deserves it’s spot in the top three.

2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. 1998. (Nintendo)
Zelda games generally follow a simple template. You are Link. You wake up in a bed somewhere, go on an epic action adventure type journey with some role playing elements, solve puzzles using weapons, find an epic magical sword and use it to kill a pig demon intent on kidnapping a princess and destroying the world using a shimmering gem called the Tri-Force. For this, the fifth entry in the series, Nintendo rendered a huge 3D world for Link to play around in and the results were well received to say the least. This game held the highest score on Game Rankings for ten years. The levels were diverse and gorgeous and the story fleshed out the lore and history of the Zelda universe in ways which would carry on to this day. Often lauded as one of the greatest games of all time and certainly the best game of 1998. Personally? It would have my vote for best game of the N64. That said, if anything was going to beat out Ocarina of Time for the top spot, it would be the following.

Since we haven’t talked about it yet, you can probably guess that the number one spot goes to one of the most significant games of all time with one of the most iconic characters of all time.

1. Super Mario 64. 1996 (Nintendo)

It’s Super Mario 64! (Of course.)

This was by far the best selling game on the system and one of the best reviewed games of all time. It was a key factor in the success of the launch of the console and set numerous precedents for 3D platforming games across all systems. It also set the precedent for the core game play functions of almost every main Mario game which came after this. It’s often lauded as one of the most influential games of all time by numerous publications. Even Ocarina of Time owes a huge debt to what Nintendo did with Mario in this outing. It was the first game to have a free camera controlled by the user in a 3D setting and while similar camera systems have been markedly improved over the years, the basic design concepts were born here.

The use of the analog stick was another revolution and while Sega had a similar controller for Nights, Mario 64 was the first game to truly push the limits of what an analog stick could do in a 3D setting and prove how invaluable it was to game play mechanics. While Ocarina of Time arguably perfected a number of features, the game would not have existed had Mario 64 not explored the mechanics first. From reception, to legacy, to the amount of people who owned and played the hell out of this game, Super Mario 64 is the king of the hill and remains the number one game for the Nintendo 64.

So there we have it! Don’t like the order of the top 3? Upset that Paper Mario only took the 18th spot? Disturbed that no Star Wars games are to be found? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @whentheicebreak. Then find a way to play some of these classic games!

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About Philippe L.

When not out exploring the stars with his good friend Hotblack Desiato, he makes his living here on Earth keeping other people's money safe from the hands of thieves and spinning the occasional yarn. He enjoys beer and coffee very much, but unfortunately he can't eat shellfish or tomatoes.

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