Hit Replay: The Top Five Nintendo 64 Games for Virtual Console
Now that I've covered the NES and Super Nintendo, it's time to move on to the last Nintendo system that held my true love, the Nintendo 64. Like the SNES, I received the N64 for Christmas, along with a copy of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This was my first 3d system and it blew me away. While others were bragging about their Playstations and Dreamcasts, I was in love with my new Nintendo system.
At the time, the Nintendo 64 had some of the best and influential games around, changing the way platformers were perceived and how a party could be thrown. Unfortunately, it's also a system that has aged poorly. From muddy graphics to slow controls, games that were the gold standard have fallen from grace. This list was the hardest to put together, especially since there are only twenty-something games available on Nintendo's Virtual Console. But, I wanted to find the games that, if played today, would hold up. So, load your Nintendo Wii and get ready to download some of the best games the N64 has to offer the gamer of today!
F-Zero on the SNES was fun enough; it had a cool soundtrack and decent graphics, but it always struck me as a slow racer. When F-Zero X came out, it changed the game completely. I remember playing this game for the first time and freaking out because it was going too fast. Speed is the star of this game and the series has yet to top this level of cool, even as graphics improved.
The race courses are no longer flat sheets of paper but all kinds of chaos. There are courses that send you upside down, tubes that you cling against to stay alive, tunnels so tight you can't help but crash into opponents and all kinds of hazards. The added speed of the game becomes the challenge as being faster may keep you ahead, but it means you'll hit walls a lot harder. The soundtrack from the first game remains intact and better than ever and this game is still a racer's dream today. While others were talking about Mario and his kart racing, I was in high speed heaven with F-Zero. Not even the Gamecube's decent entry could live up to this go around.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
The Nintendo 64 had plenty of games, but one thing it was short of was good RPGs. You could play the dated Quest 64 or the charming Paper Mario, but your options were limited. That is, until Ogre Battles 64 was released and gave the N64 one amazing RPG that would keep any fan of the genre happy.
The story is well told, even without Squaresoft-level cinematics. You follow the adventure of Magnus as he attempts to maintain peace from a rebellion, but things get complicated when he realizes the rebellion may be the good guys. The graphics are fun, the music has some great moments, but the gameplay will keep you coming back for more. Fully customizable armies and intense battles, all to claim the next stronghold, will keep you playing until the wee hours of the morning. Easily recommended but not for those with morning shifts.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards
Look, not every game needs to be an epic adventure through time and space. Not every game needs to be the graphical evolution of the medium or the next page in video game history. Some games are simply fun, an enjoyable way to pass the time. Some games just make you smile. That's why Kirby 64 makes the list.
Featuring colorful graphics, an addicting power combo mechanic and fun levels, this game is simple enough for a quick play-through but enjoyably satisfying that you might start it up for a second game. The music is happy, the controls responsive, and the story stays as charming as the main character. Plus, add lightning with a sword and you get to see Kirby's impression of Darth Maul. Fun to the core.
Jet Force Gemini
I'm cheating here; this game isn't available on the Virtual Console. If you want to play it, you're going to need to get a N64 and cartridge. But, I'm putting Jet Force Gemini on this list because it's unique, fun, and worth playing, even today. This was part of Rare's amazing library of Nintendo games and a great action game for a console lacking a Metroid option.
Jet Force Gemini is a science-fiction action/shooter game with a boy, a girl and a dog all out for alien bug guts. The game has a dark sense of humor but it's action is no joke. Co-op mode will make the fight even better and the bosses will leave you doubting your chances of success. The one downside is the obnoxious need to collect all the Tribals, a common gameplay tactic of Rare that was never a good idea to begin with. Still, despite that flaw, this game is an extremely satisfying third person shooter and will have you playing for days. If you can find it, of course.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
With any list of top N64 games, it's not a question of if The Legend of Zelda will make it, but which one? I know people who prefer Majora's Mask and I can understand their choice; I played the game and loved every minute of it. But nothing beats Ocarina of Time for Zelda-style adventure at it's truest nature.
With a massive world that feels completely connected, this game is alive. The characters are the kind that stay with you long after you beat the game. The dungeons are brilliantly designed with bosses that you'll learn to love as you kill them. The soundtrack is one of the best the series has to offer, with memorable tunes as the Gerudo Valley and The Forest Temple, along with each song you learn on your ocarina. This game may no longer be the best in the series but, if you're downloading games with the Virtual Console, this isn't an adventure to pass on.
When I had my Nintendo 64, few games were played as often as GoldenEye. That game was the end-all-be-all in first person shooters for me and I demolished the story mode. I was so good at the game, my friends would play three against one and I'd leave them all in tears. I loved GoldenEye.
But, it has not aged well. It's slow, it's graphics are murky and the gameplay isn't as fresh as it once was. I'm not saying it wasn't amazing and pure perfection back in the day, but it no longer stands as a great game. There's always or Goldeneye: ReloadedGoldenEye: Source, but the original game has earned it's peaceful sleep.
Now Go Play!
There you have it; five amazing games and one disclaimer to keep me from being hated by N64 fans! Sure, some of these games might not seem like must-owns, but as choices for Virtual Console, these games are guaranteed winners. Fun, entertaining and full of Nintendo's classic charm, you'll be glad you took the time to play these games!
Others almost made the list; Pokémon Snap for it's simple fun, Mario Tennis for it's frantic gameplay and I almost thought of including The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask along with Ocarina of Time. Mario Kart 64 never had a shot, as I thought the series has been in neutral since the SNES. Star Fox 64 hasn't aged well at all, looking dated even back when it was released. Super Smash Bros. was amazing when it came out, but in a world where Melee exists, it's not even worth mentioning. As for the beloved Super Mario 64, I have to admit I never liked the game. Mario is a series I like when it's 2d and nothing has changed my mind yet. I'm sure I'll hear complaints about that fact, but I think my list does a good job of showing off the fun of the Nintendo 64!