On August 25, just a few days from now, the Nintendo 64 classic GoldenEye 007 will celebrate its 20th anniversary. That’s 20 years of jumping off that dam, 20 years of golden guns and 20 years of chaotic multiplayer in the Archives and other levels sometimes but mostly just the Archives. Originally set to debut on the SNES as an on-rails shooter, GoldenEye 007 was rebuilt from the ground up for the N64 and missed the release of the movie by nearly two years.
The wait was worth it and for anyone who owned a Nintendo 64, it was a necessary addition to their gaming collection. Its lengthy campaign is still a blast to play through with multiple objectives to complete and then-amazing recreation of the locations from the hit film.
But what makes it still the best Nintendo 64 game today is the local competitive multiplayer. I can’t name another first person shooter that got as much play between me and my friends than GoldenEye. Even Smash Bros. and Mario Kart 64 were cast to the wayside in favor of this perfect party game. Just me, Tristan, Shawn and Lee, three guys who I don’t have contact with anymore, hopped up on orange soda and a Hawaiian Papa Murphy’s Take-and-Bake (all the premium taste, without the premium price) gunning each other down for hours on end.
20 years ago GoldenEye 007 revolutionized the genre on consoles. 50 years from now, those of us in our 70s, 80s, and 90s will still be talking about the wonderful times we had with it providing the dementia hasn’t ravaged our brains. No other game can compete. Keep that in mind when you read what is written below because for this Destructoid Discusses question of the week, I wanted to know what the staff thought was the best game for the N64. Well, second best, because you know… GoldenEye.
This was one of CJ’s toughest questions to answer yet. There’s just so many great platformers like Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie, but outside of those my mind immediately gravitated toward one game — Diddy Kong Racing.
Kart racers owe a lot to Diddy Kong. Before Mario Kart 7, 8, and Sonic Racing brought the whole “multi-vehicle” concept to the forefront, Diddy Kong did it. In fact, I continue to bring up to this day that kart racing just hasn’t been the same since Diddy Kong and Crash Team Racing. There’s nothing quite like a proper story mode to go along with all of our multiplayer shenanigans, as I still go back and finish them from time to time. Boss fights against specific enemies slot so well into a racing game, I just wish more people would do it.
Until then, I’ll keep my Nintendo 64 and original PlayStation intact.
There’s something I need to get off my chest. I haven’t been entirely honest in the past. When I said Paper Mario was my favorite Nintendo 64 game, it was a lie. I couldn’t admit my true love. I was too afraid.
But now I come clean. Iggy’s Reckin Balls is what peak 3D performance looks like. It launched in 1998 and back in the day, there was nothing quite like it. It was basically Sonic in the third dimension, but… done right. Fast movement. Tight controls. That chain thing from Knuckles’ Chaotix. And a lot of rings.
There’s just something incredibly satisfying about grabbing a lot of platforms in a row and rapidly climbing your way to the goal. And the best part? You can style on your friends in local multiplayer. I used to play it all the time as Charlie. Not only because it’s an amazing name, but also because he has the smuggest grin of all video games.
But I’m kidding, Paper Mario is still my favorite. Shade claimed it before me… I’ll get my revenge one day.
Damn right I already picked Paper Mario.
And why wouldn’t I? Paper Mario remains one of the most accessible and fun JRPGs of all time, only matched by its own sequel.
While this wasn’t the first time that Mario found himself in a JRPG, it was the first time it really left a strong impression on me. For as good as Super Mario RPG was, it was ultimately a fairly standard JRPG. Paper Mario took the genre into a direction wholly its own, and it is better for it. It has no grand overworld, only Mario and one party member (Partner) at a time, low HP and damage values, combat fully focused on Action Commands, badges that allow you to customize Mario’s special attacks and a lot of exploration outside of battles. What results is a very streamlined experience that fits Mario and the Mushroom Kingdom incredibly well.
However, the biggest standouts in Paper Mario are the characters. For the first time in the Mario franchise, we get to visit villages of friendly Goombas, Koopas, Boos and other regular Mushroom Kingdom baddies. It’s incredibly fun to get this bigger picture of what the Mushroom Kingdom is like and who its inhabitants are. Some of them will even join Mario on his quest! You’ll partner up with a Goomba with a baseball cap, a cultured lady Boo, a bumbling postman Parakoopa, a pink Bob-omb with a heart-shaped fuse, and a bunch of other colorful characters. When people complain that games like Sticker Star and Color Splash only have generic Toads in them, this game is why.
With the great characters also comes writing that will charm your pants off. There always seems to be something weird or silly going on in Paper Mario, so there’s never a dull moment playing this game. In the very first chapter you already end up beating up a fake Bowser piloted by four Koopas channeling the Ninja Turtles, and it only gets crazier from there. From Shy Guys in toy tanks to a penguin murder mystery, and from one very determined baby Koopa to shapeshifters who are less than proficient at mimicking their targets, this game has too many funny and memorable moments to name.
Paper Mario is one of my most replayed games of all time, for good reason. It’s brisk, it’s funny, it’s charming, it’s engaging, and it’s just plain fun to play. Among the N64 library, Paper Mario is the Coolest of Cool.
Since the Great Chris has already taken Diddy Kong Racing, I decided to go for one of the lesser remembered favorites from my N64 collection. And that game is Mystical Ninja starring Goemon! Gameplay-wise, this was mostly just a Mario 64 clone with weird, irreverent and sometimes obtusely Japanese jokes but it was still fun as heck but the sole reason why I remember this so fondly (and probably everyone else who enjoyed this game too) is down to one thing… IMPACT!!
Just TRY and not sing along to the theme song, I dare you!
Mystical Ninja was never a particularly popular series outside of its native Japan but what we did get was pretty damn memorable and I sunk hours into this game and Impact fights! All together now. “Ore wa GORGEOUS Aah! Impacto!!”
Occams Electric Toothbrush
In college, my friends and I divided our time between Super Smash Bros. and Halo. We spent hours, entire weekends centered around the act of playing the two games in marathon sessions. We would get shitty beer, cheap Chinese take-out and pause only for bathroom and smoke breaks. These times are fondly remembered and I’m sure many of you reading this can relate with your own friends and games.
While I think it’s looked at as a “humble beginnings” kind of game today, Super Smash Bros. is still my favorite game in the series. It’s lacking a lot of the bells and whistles and newer iterations have refined the formula to a science but nothing can beat that first game for me. I rotated between Mario, Kirby and Donkey Kong and we had tons in in-jokes. There was the donkey punch which would be announced loudly with each successful hit. A Jihadist yell echoed loudly in the apartment every time the fully charged cannon connected. A fake Italian accent would spit out a torrent of invective every time Mario won the match. Even now as I type this, I’m smiling looking back at those salad days.
Super Smash Bros. kicked off a franchise that has become a key title for every Nintendo console since. And I get it. I don’t play it anymore but when I see kids 20 years younger than me talking about it, I can’t help but smile. It is an amazing game and series and easily my favorite N64 game ever.
Growing up, man, I had it rough. After the NES, my parents bought me a Sega Genesis. Every single kid I knew had a SNES. Sonic was hella lame back in those days since I was essentially the only kid who couldn’t platform his ass off with Super Mario World, or JRPG his nuts off with Chrono Trigger. After that most kids had a Nintendo 64 – I got a PlayStation. Yet again, I missed the boat on the “it” system in my group of friends. The course was corrected with the PS2, and after that, I could buy whatever the hell I wanted, but man there were a few years there where I was at the mercy of my parents’ budget and whatever pimply Sears salesperson who convinced my parents to go against the grain.
Because of that, I know the N64 mainly from a second-hand perspective, only getting to play the console when I’d go to my friends’ houses. I remember all the fun times passing the controller in Mario 64 and Star Fox 64, and the long nights and friendships broken over battle mode in Mario Kart 64. Really, any game on this list could make it into my top spot, all for different reasons (except Diddy Kong Racing, that game was wack as hell, Chris).
But man, there’s nothing quite like the absurdity of Pokemon Snap. I mean, it’s a tough fucking sell, right?
“Hey little Wessy, do you want to play the newest Mario game where you can race giant turtles and slide down ice luges with penguins and throw a dinosaur off of a platform magically suspended above lava and fly around with your fucking magical winged hat? Or would you rather play as an eight-year-old lesbian as he slowly carts through locales, taking pictures of stupid Japanese monsters like Wet Turtle and Dick Gopher and Big Blue Mexican?”
“Fuck you, Terry! That second game sounds like shit! I can’t believe my mom sleeps with you!”
That’s the obvious response any child would give to his step-dad given the choice between the two. But man, there’s just something so magical and well-conceived and plain dumb that makes Pokemon Snap work. I’ll admit, I never even got into Pokemon. I didn’t have any cards, I didn’t have any of the handheld games, and I didn’t watch the cartoon. Just wasn’t for me. But from the first time I booted the game up and got sent out on that cart that went too slow to have any fun, but too fast to make the game easy, I was hooked. Was it the fact that the game incentivized replays with newer and newer items to use in previous levels? Maybe. Was it the hidden Pokemon and pictures that one could photograph using their cunning and keen eye? Possibly. Or was it the fact that you could pelt Snorlax repeatedly in the crotch with apples about two minutes into the game, all without waking the snoring beast from its slumber? That had a lot to do with it, for sure.
Many games today have a photo mode. And while that’s all well and good, I feel like we’re long past the days where a game could exclusively focus on taking pictures of characters we’re so used to making fight on our behalf. There’s a special kind of stupid behind this concept, and it’s that special kind of stupid that’s stuck with me all after all these years.
To be clear, there were a lot of choices I wanted to go with. But I didn’t want to step on the dibs called by other editors for games like Mischief Makers or Banjo-Tooie. But the N64 is chock full of great games, including a great series of Star Wars games. A lot of people got their start on LucasArts with titles like Star Wars: X-Wing or TIE Fighter. But for me, it was Rogue Squadron.
Rogue Squadron was my introduction to the idea that there was more story to the Star Wars lore than what you see on the films. Daring missions of aerial impossibility taking place in Rogue Squadron like liberating prisoners from a prison train, dog fighting TIE fighters over a city as an Imperial defector escapes to the Rebel Alliance and even taking down ships called World Devastators. And that’s not even including legacy missions like living out the Death Star trench run for yourself.
I still remember how unfair the escort missions were, especially the one involving the AT-PTs, which seem to be made of wet crackers. But by far one of my favorite things was piloting a Y-Wing and setting up the bombing reticule to go on exciting bombing runs. I don’t know why the Y-Wing is supposed to be considered the slow moving, heavily shielded ship, but to this day I always keep an eye out for Y-Wings in the movies because I loved doing bombing runs so much in Rogue Squadron.
How have we gotten this far on this list with no mention of the game that launched the Nintendo 64? The dang three-legged controller was built for this game. There have been better 3D platformers since Super Mario 64, but this was the one that made all of those possible.
I remember when the Nintendo 64 first launched, my local Blockbuster Video had a demo station set up with Super Mario 64 in it. As a way to provide cheap entertainment, my mother would drive me there and let me play for what seemed like hours while she sat in the car doing adult things. (Taxes? I don’t know.)
And after nothing but eight-directional digital movement for my entire life up until that point, I was blown away at the newfangled analog stick and what it meant for control. Not only could I move in any direction I wanted, but at a variable speed depending on the intensity of the stick manipulation. And to showcase it, Mario 64 gave reasons to creep, like sneaking past sleeping piranha plants. It sounds trivial because it’s so ingrained now, but it was revolutionary at the time.
What kind of Star Fox fan would I be if I didn’t go on for a while about why the best game in the series is the best game of the 64? Star Fox 64 was one of those perfect storms that result from the combination of two low-pressure systems merging into a monster storm that wreaks havoc on everyone in its path. The two elements that came together perfectly was the quickly aging on-rails space shooter and the beginning of what could be called the graphics age where graphical power came to replace writing as the forefront of what development focused on.
Prior to this most games were bland looking and the tech that was available made good action on consoles something that was hard to come by outside of fighting games, on-rails shooters, and platformers if that was your thing. With the fifth generation consoles though, more 3D rendering was able to be done and games such as Goldeneye, Mario 64 and Superman 64 were going to leave all the old games in the dust. It was a major turning point in gaming if I do say so myself and because of the fact that Star Fox 64 released right at that advent made it something special.
Sure Star Fox on SNES was fun, but the graphics were pretty bland and there wasn’t much in the way of immersion. With Star Fox 64 though it looked beautiful for the time, and for the first time that I was hearing characters actually voiced. Yes, that came to be a problem when Slippy cried out “I’m monkey food if I don’t leave” for the third time that playthrough but it allowed the characters to have a lot more personality. It also showed me for the first time that villains can be fun to watch if they are done right. Wolf O’Donnell quickly became something of a friendly rivalry in my eyes (something that would make me giddy with joy during the later Star Fox Assault). Add on top of that it was filled with space battles that made the young Star Wars fan in me so happy to play that it opened my young eyes. Also helped that at the time my mother and I weren’t the most well off family so it was the only game I had but I dearly loved it. (Another bonus as well was that the soundtrack was near perfect in my eyes but that has nothing to do with my point I’m trying to make.)
So why does this all combine into the perfect storm? Because I don’t think Star Fox would have or has worked as well at any other point in time than when 64 came out. With the SNES game, it was a little ahead of its time and therefore couldn’t fully be realized with the scope of the game and the tech available. Now when you put it in the sixth generation where the tech available made another giant leap the on-rails and short aspects of the game would have been seen as not advanced enough and therefore looked down upon for not using the available tech to its full advantage. So it really just came out at the perfect time and benefited from that greatly.
The N64 is one of my least favorite consoles of all time, in large part due to games like GoldenEye. All the things I loved about video games up until the release of GoldenEye were missing from the game, replaced by everything I didn’t like about corny, formulaic Hollywood storytelling. It really was the worst of all possible worlds for me.
That was over 20 years ago now, and I’ve since softened to both the N64 and formulaic popcorn movies, but it’s still hard for me to go back and play most N64 games today and think “Yeah, this is as good as it ever got for this series/franchise/etc.”. I love Majora’s Mask, but the 3DS remake is better. I love Star Fox 64, but again, I prefer the 3DS remake. Sin and Punishment is great, but I like the second even more, and so on.
The one exception to that is Dr. Mario 64. It is, by far, the best Dr. Mario game. It has four player multiplayer, tons of playable characters (including Vampire Wario, a dumb frog, and a giant disgusting Virus boss named Rudy), and even a story. The cut scenes star what looks like Dr. Mario, Wario, and a host of other characters painted on… rocks? I don’t know if they meant that as a commentary on how bad most polygon-based games looked back then, but regardless if it were intentional or not, it worked. These are just a few of the reasons why I love Dr. Mario 64 so much.
They ported it to the Gamecube as part of an amazing puzzle game compilation. It even had GBA link compatibility, allowing you to download NES versions of the games from the disc straight to the portable. Nothing would make me happier to see something like that on the Switch in 2018.
If I’m being perfectly honest my favorite N64 game was Paper Mario, but alas I was beaten to the punch. If I had to pick a second It would no doubt be Conker’s Bad Fur Day.
It’s less about Conker’s gameplay. That 3D platformer style was pretty generic on the N64, But I was pretty young when I experienced this game. Conker was crude, I suppose that’s the best way to say it. Playing that game made a young Rich feel like he was getting away with something.
Despite it mostly being sex jokes Conker made me feel mature and that’s worth something.
This particular question took me a long time to come up with an answer. For the amount of time I spent playing the N64 as a child, I don’t really have a desire to return to the console. Its controller is odd, most of the games are fairly simplistic and things tend to run at an atrocious framerate. It’s hard to really pick up most N64 games and not wish they would receive more modern control schemes or simply smoother performance.
Out of the entire library, the easiest games to return to are both of the Zelda releases for the system. While they clearly could be improved in a few of the areas I mentioned above (which happened with the 3DS re-releases), the amount of forward-thinking Nintendo took with developing a camera system for 3D action games is something that still gets utilized to this day. That simple reason makes navigating these games feel light-years ahead of its contemporaries.
So while Majora’s Mask might be my favorite Zelda title, it’s hard to call any other game on the platform the “best” when Ocarina of Time is one of the most important video games ever created. Not only did it solve traversal issues with 3D spaces, it also introduced the idea of day/night cycles, it gave gamers their first taste of “open-world” level design and it even expanded the scope of what a Zelda game could be.
Yeah, sure, some of the dungeons are a bit simple, the plotline doesn’t try anything special and the game can be vague as all hell, but the fact that a series like Dark Souls basically uses the same targeting system and approach to combat is just insane. Ocarina of Time represents a period of Nintendo’s history where their flagship franchises didn’t fall into formulaic holes and could be wildly different between each entry. It also set the world of gaming on fire and changed the future of development for many companies.
So, overall, I really cannot pick anything else. Zelda is a series that is near and dear to me and Ocarina of Time showed 10-year-old me that gaming could be more than just scrolling left to right or functioning on a single plane of existence. It may not be my favorite (or the “best” on the system), but it still remains an absolute masterpiece.
Whenever I look back to my childhood with the Nintendo 64, I always think about Mischief Makers. For a game that revolved around grabbing and throwing your opponents, Treasure allowed its players to pull off some ridiculous moves. Some of these examples include damaging a giant super robot with its own rocket punch, along with increasing a missile’s size through shaking it with one’s bare hands. When I got to shake something, I always enjoyed hearing the main heroine, Marina Liteyears, say “shake shake” with an adorable voice.
Because of its cute designs and grab mechanics, Mischief Makers continues to be one of my favorite 64 games. Despite its early levels not having any enemies, I saw the whole thing as a neat way to introduce players to the setting and story while they head towards the stage’s exit.
Other than that, it was the only title I rented constantly from Blockbuster and/or Hollywood Video. Unfortunately, I never got past the game’s track and field level since I kept messing up on one of the minigames. Thanks to a close friend from college, I managed to finish Mischief Makers when I borrowed it from him. In the end, this moment taught me the importance of keeping one’s older systems, and it helped me realize my love for this game. Most importantly, this memory resulted in Marina becoming my favorite robot girl.
Pixie The Fairy
Pfft. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is easily the best N64 game because it is the Groundhog Day of video games, which is the best movie ever. Both star a guy that lives the same period of time over and over until they become a rather multi-talented god. You also take on the lives of dead people and help them find peace through resolving their final wishes, so it’s kinda like you’re Sam Beckett. So it’s like Groundhog Day and a morbid Quantum Leap on top of that.
Sure, Link didn’t learn to play the piano or do ice sculptures, but he rescued Epona, became three other races and helped that poor guy that fell in the toilet with his wiping problem.
Several years before people were running about virtual Japanese towns in Persona 3 and 4, Majora’s Mask was out there having Link track/stalk NPCs though their whole 24/7 routines and solving their problems. It was insanely detailed, right down to when NPCs woke up and went to bed
It’s also the bleakest and story/lore-driven Zelda game I’ve played. When you’re not walking around wearing the faces of dead people, the citizens of Termina are losing their minds over the moon gradually descending toward their town. They have breakdowns, lose hope, get drunk and even drug their kids so they don’t have to face the terror of their world’s end.
Plus this is a game where Link proves he can be a hero without wielding a magic sword or mischevious gold triangles. It’s not a quest to kill the bad guy but to rescue him, redeem him and reunite him with his friends. It’s a story of unconditional love and friendship.
And then Link returns to the Lost Woods of Hyrule, never finds Navi, dies and becomes the Stalfos Knight that mentors you in Twilight Princess. Because that’s how nice his gods are.
I never actually owned a Nintendo 64. I did, however, borrow one from a school friend (dumb kids are much more generous with expensive hardware than jaded adults are, it seems), and I loved Mario 64 the one game my friend had. Of course, someone’s already written about it above, so there’s no need for me to tell you about it again. Instead, I’ll speak of the game I got after I had to return my friend’s N64, a game that, were it not for the quirks of fate and technology in the ’90s, might have been an N64 game itself.
I am, of course, referring to Final Fantasy VII. As covered in Matt Leone’s excellent in-depth history of the game, there was a time when Square had operated under the assumption that the next Final Fantasy game would be on the next Nintendo system. They had even produced the playable demo you see above for 1996’s Siggraph conference, using CG models of Final Fantasy VI characters. Already one can see the roots of FFVII‘s own approach to polygon characters. Ironically, the renderings of Terra, Locke, and Shadow in this demo are quite a bit more articulated and advanced than the blocky (non-battle) characters that appeared in the actual, final PS1 game.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, thanks to a combination of Sony’s outreach, the increasing popularity of CDs as a storage medium, and Square’s growing desire for lavish 3D graphics and CG cutscenes. The rest is history, and I can’t help but wonder if I would’ve ended up getting an N64 for myself had Square chosen another path. After all, Final Fantasy VI and Super Mario RPG are my top two SNES games. If there was any company that could’ve convinced me to buy a system for their next game, it would’ve been Square.
Mario Tennis is mad good how dare you.
Well, some of the best answers are already taken (I mean, the N64 is better than both NES and SNES so there’s a lot to choose from), so here’s me making a case for Banjo-Kazooie. BK remains one of the best examples of masterful sound design.
Not only is the soundtrack upbeat and energetic in the way it needs to be to deliver that atmosphere of fun, but the item collection sounds are satisfying and make you want to pick them up. The characters’ and enemies’ grunts, chirps, and cries are all hilarious and perfectly fitting.
Banjo Kazooie is the “collect-a-thon” at its best, so much so people are still trying to capture its magic. Every collectible counts towards progression in some way, and you don’t have to get all the notes or puzzle pieces to beat the game. Each level feels different from the last including the fun trivia game at the end that you’d have to be a grumpy ole cynic not to enjoy.
Yo dawgs, those are all good answers and junk except for Pokemon Snap, but the hard truth is I’m right. GoldenEye 007 is the best. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Instead, take Rick Lash’s word, on loan to us from our sister site Flixist.
I have to agree with CJ here, or rather, CJ agrees with me. As someone who’s played “Bond,” aka GoldenEye for the full 20-year duration, including to this very day [no joke, I have a Bond go-bag], there was never another possible answer. Sure, the obvious runner-up would be Mario Kart 64, but despite its comparable longevity and popularity, it wasn’t the game changer that GoldenEye was.
Surely you’ve heard of Halo, right? Not without Bond you fucking haven’t. I rest my case. Only, to do so here would not be to do GoldenEye any justice. Let’s forgo any talk of single player or missions — the only reason you needed to worry about these at all was to unlock additional, secret multiplayer characters. Blowjob anyone? Or Oddjob, the famous midget henchman who had the distinct advantage of being under the aim of all other characters, and at the perfect height for… To play with Oddjob was to play without honor.
Multiplayer. One-hit kills. Pick your weapon. Pick your place. My cadre of 4 and I will take your best, any time. Many have boasted ‘they’re pretty good’ at Bond, only to quit playing after a game, maybe two, as the slaughter was too intense. Note: even my ‘newest’ N64 controllers are starting to go, and go quick. Let’s hope this purported re-release happens soon and we can continue to enjoy the horrible graphics and the crazy laughter induced by slaughtering your friends for another 20 years.