Join Screen Critics Chase as he explores the 10 Nintendo 64 games he feels need to be on the inevitable Classic console (when it releases).
Having just braved a chilly morning outside a local retailer for the SNES Classic, it’s difficult not to think about Nintendo’s next move. The stock for SNES Classics are slim but larger than the NES Classic’s release from last year — Nintendo knows they have another hit in their pocket. Nintendo has assured fans that not only will they continue stocking stores with SNES Classics into 2018, they will also be re-releasing the NES Classic again next summer. The Classic series of consoles are a hit among fans, even if they are unreasonably difficult to come by (I did just have to sit for an hour in the cold to secure mine, after all). All logical thought, and a trademark point to a Nintendo 64 Classic next year. My assumption is that each console will come packed with two controllers, and will have four controller ports like the original machine; four-player split screen is imperative to capturing what made the Nintendo 64 so captivating as a kid.
Without further adieu, let’s dive into my favorite catalog of games and see which 10 make the cut for a potential N64 Classic.
10. Mario Party
I wouldn’t say I’m necessarily reluctant to add this to the list, but Mario Party definitely has a bad reputation. The series infamous for taking some of the most beloved video game characters of all time and making them face off in mostly insufferable mini-games never fails to find new releases with each console cycle. As a kid, I actually had a pretty good time with the first Mario Party and embarrassingly even played it by myself.
Capitalizing on the Nintendo 64’s ability to have four concurrent players assisted in the games’ success, and with three Mario Party games released for the Nintendo 64 alone, there is no way Nintendo won’t add at least one. Sharing misery with your friends through a match of Mario Party is possibly the greatest bonding experience a group can share; it’s nearly spiritual.
9. GoldenEye 007
There was a time in which this was my favorite first person shooter of all time, and a time where this was one of the greatest first-person shooters of all time — unfortunately, that time was nearly 20 years ago. Putting this game so low on a list of (basically) the best N64 games of all time may seem like sacrilege, but out of all of these titles, this one holds up the worst.
The N64 controller’s awkward design with only a single joystick makes aiming nearly impossible if an enemy (or player) is above or below you. Despite the cracks inflicted over time, as a child GoldenEye had some of the best multiplayer around, packed with countless guns, explosives, and karate chops. I played countless death matches against friends, and I’m sure Nintendo will try and recapture all of that screen-peeking nostalgia.
8. Pokémon Snap
This entire list is obviously subjective, but I think Pokemon Snap is an objectively badass game. Perhaps the fact that I’m a photographer, but I feel Pokémon Snap is the best Pokémon off-shoot — It does so many great things with the premise. Players take control of Todd Snap, a wild Pokémon photographer, and engage in an on-rails shooter in which they you try to take the best photographs of Pokémon possible.
The idea is simple, but the complexity in how you find Pokémon, unlock new paths and levels, and interact with the world has launched Pokémon Snap into a cult hit that Nintendo has never gone back to; this would be a great opportunity for fans to get another shot at playing.
7. Star Fox 64
Star Fox 64 has a special place in my heart as being the first Star Fox game I ever played, and my favorite entry in the series to date. Falling in love with the colorful cast of characters is easy, but it’s the incredible gameplay that kept me coming back. Dodging and barreling rolling through storms of enemy fire has never been captured as well in the series since.
The game could be beaten in just a few hours, but with multiple paths to reach the end and hidden objectives that need to be completed to reach certain planets, the game is full of replay-ability. There is also a lackluster multiplayer mode that pits up to 4 players in Arwings against one another. The multiplayer wasn’t the best, but the campaign is unforgettable.
6. Super Smash Bros.
The first entry in one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises made its debut on the Nintendo 64, and there aren’t many stronger no-brainer additions to the N64 Classic’s roster. Players control some of Nintendo’s most iconic characters and duke it in Nintendo’s unique take on the fighting genre. While not nearly as polished as later entries and boasting a minuscule roster by comparison, the gameplay is still deep and there is plenty of content to sift through.
I’ve easily poured thousands of hours into the series, with hundreds invested in this first entry. Four player Super Smash Bros. matches never fail to be frenzied and sometimes unintelligible, but always a ton of fun.
I hold the firm belief that Banjo-Kazooie may be one of the most underrated games of all time, and often find myself getting scoffed at for the notion. Rare’s Super Mario 64-like platformer is full of personality and unique design, with one of my favorite soundtracks. Although the levels follow platfomer tropes in their themes (jungle, ocean, desert, ice, etc.) they are all packed full of weird characters to interact with and help, and interesting design.
The protagonists, a bear and bird known as Banjo and Kazooie, learn an enormous catalog of moves throughout the journey further adding depth to the gameplay and constantly allowing players to explore new areas. I could gush on and on about Banjo-Kazooie, and how it never got its due, and even how I think it might be better than Super Mario 64, but this isn’t the place. Nintendo just put the damn game on the N64 Classic — for me.
4. Mario Kart 64
It is rare that a sequel is looked upon as having capitalized on everything its processor did while also refining itself enough to be largely considered better than the original, and Mario Kart 64 is one of those few instances.
Perhaps the ultimate four-player game of the generation, Mario Kart 64 allowed up to four friends to race against one another with Mario’s all-star cast at the wheel. These tracks are some of the most timeless Mario Kart courses of all time, and everyone with ears and a decent memory remembers the wonderful Rainbow Road theme (even if they forget how punishing the course itself is). Mario Kart 64 immortalized the Nintendo 64 as the console friends play games together on, and Nintendo will certainly capitalize on players’ fondness for this classic.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The Zelda franchise stands as my favorite series of all time, and I first found my love for the series on the Nintendo 64. Majora’s Mask isn’t necessarily a polarizing entry for fans — it’s an incredible game.
It just so happens to also be a very weird game with an infamous three-day countdown that plagues Link throughout the adventure, bizarre characters, and creepy dungeons that combine to create an oppressive and often claustrophobic tone. Link’s also undergone disturbing form changes when putting on various masks and the game can be downright frightening.
Majora’s Mask reflects daring game design of the time, and finds success in it; the time manipulation puzzles are some of the series best, and utilizing the excellent combat system implemented in Ocarina of Time, the gameplay is rock solid. Majora’s Mask is a game every player should experience, even if it may not be to everyone’s taste.
2. Super Mario 64
This is the premier Nintendo 64 game. Released at launch alongside the N64, Super Mario 64 completely changed video games forever. Nintendo proved they understood how to create a truly open, 3D game before anyone else, and Super Mario 64 stands the test of time.
The level and puzzle design is in lines with previous games in the series, with entirely new mechanics added to assist with the non-linearity of the game, including a health system and new power-ups. Confronting Bowser remains one of the most iconic moments in games, and the soundtrack, front to back, is timeless. Nintendo’s precision with pivoting the Mario series from 2D is only rivaled by how well Zelda entered the 3D space. Super Mario 64 was the successful shot in the dark that started it all. Super Mario 64 is one of the greatest games of all time, and will likely serve as the crown jewel of the N64 Classic.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Super Mario 64 may be the most popular game on the Nintendo 64, but The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the best, and doubles as my favorite game of all time. Playing through Ocarina of Time for the first time fundamentally changed how I understood video games and what games were capable of, in both gameplay and immersion. Ocarina of Time’s meticulously crafted world, characters, dungeons, score, and gameplay culminate into one of the most complete video game packages ever created.
Maintaining the enormous world and dungeon formula from the 2D games, Ocarina of Time introduced Link, Zelda, and Ganon effortlessly into the 3D realm of video games and enshrined it as arguably the greatest video game ever made. Ocarina of Time is a true masterpiece of the medium, and without it, there may never have been the opportunity to even ponder a Nintendo 64 Classic.