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As IGN celebrates its 25th anniversary, we’re updating our previous Top N64 Games list, originally written more than 21 years ago, to celebrate the N64 games that have left the biggest mark not just on our lives, but on the industry as a whole.
As always with any kind of list like this, it’s important to establish our criteria to explain as best as we can why some games made the list and others didn’t. First, while we didn’t have a hard rule on only including games that were exclusive to the Nintendo 64, we also didn’t want to include games that are just simply better on other platforms of that era, like Resident Evil 2 and Rayman 2.
Second, we tried to consider a number of factors, including historical significance, how good it looked and played at the time, in addition to how well it holds up today, y’know, just in case you’re still able to dig your old N64 out of the closet. The games toward the top of this list are the ones that we feel have the best combination of those three criteria, while the ones towards the bottom, or the ones that didn’t make the cut, might be strong in one of those aspects, but lacking in the others.
Finally, one last note, because our staff is mostly made up of people who played Nintendo 64 games released only in North America, we decided to keep this list import free.
Have you played Banjo-Kazooie?
The Top 10 N64 Games of All Time
The followup to Banjo-Kazooie expanded on what made the first great, adding 8 more gorgeous (if stuttery on the Nintendo 64) levels to keep the collecta-a-thon going while not shaking things up too much. In addition to picking up right where Kazooie left off, Tooie was also a continuation of Kazooie in another creative way: While the original plans to link the cartridges by physically swapping them back and forth in the N64 was nixed by Nintendo, unexplained mysteries from the first game including very well-hidden, literal Easter eggs and the bafflingly inaccessible Ice Key did make appearances in Tooie, and helped the pair of games feel like one adventure.
Banjo-Tooie was up against some beloved platformers in our selection process including Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Donkey Kong 64, both from Tooie’s developer, Rare. But Tooie’s platforming, augmented by goofy transformations and endless new moves, was refined compared to DK64, and its explorable areas dwarfed Conker, giving it the edge. – Samuel Claiborn
Like the original Pokemon Stadium, Pokemon Stadium 2 did not have a story of its own, but provided an awesome expansion of sorts to Pokemon Trainers with Pokemon Gold, Silver, or Crystal on the GameBoy Color. The transfer pak for the Nintendo 64 controller allowed you to battle with your own Pokemon from the GameBoy Color games in the Gym Leader Castle and most of the tournaments in the Stadium, see 3D Pokemon models at the Lab, play the Pokemon GameBoy games at double or triple speed once you unlocked the Doduo or Dodrio modes, and more.
The 12 new mini-games and quiz mode provided hours of entertainment with friends, and new to Pokemon Stadium 2, the Pokemon Academy was like a built-in strategy guide that taught useful tactics with tests in the form of actual Pokemon battles. Overall, Pokemon Stadium 2 was just an incredibly welcome addition for Pokemon fans on the Nintendo 64. – Casey DeFreitas
Rare’s inventive Blast Corps, about clearing a path for a runaway nuclear missile carrier, is one of those glorious games from the period that looks like one thing, but is actually another. While the assortment of destructive hardware like giant bulldozers, dump trucks, and mechs with evocative names like ‘Thunderfist’ or ‘J-Bomb’ seem purely focused on cruising around and blowing stuff up, Blast Corps is as much a puzzle game as anything else.
At the time, we praised its disaster movie vibes, imaginative bonus games, and sharp graphics, while only criticizing its brevity, which at 11 hours for the story and side missions according to How Long to Beat, really isn’t that bad by today’s standards. As with many games on this list, Blast Corps still holds up remarkably well today and begs the question of why there haven’t been more games since that borrow from it outside of the occasional giant monster game. – John Davison
Although Nintendo 64’s library is defined by its strong first- and second-party efforts, you’ll find some genuine third-party gems from some of the best developers of the day (and also today) if you dig a bit deeper. We greatly enjoyed Sucker Punch’s strong debut with Rocket: Robot on Wheels or Paradigm/EA’s Beetle Adventure Racing, but we want to highlight an oft-forgotten little treasure called Space Station Silicon Valley. DMA Design’s 1998 puzzle game casts players as the remains of a damaged robot — a walking microchip — who could take over a variety of robotic animals to solve smart and often hilarious puzzles.
Each animal, from super-speedy mice on wheels to missile-firing hyena hot rods, brought unique controls and abilities to take down enemies and overcome tricky levels. Space Station: Silicon Valley’s designers and its lead programmer, Leslie Benzies, stumbled on an interesting formula: a sandbox filled with “vehicles” that all felt differently and were just fun to mess around with. Ultimately, its low sales ensured that we never saw a sequel. The team, however, wasn’t discouraged and started work on Grand Theft Auto III. We shall forgive them for never returning to Silicon Valley. – Peer Schneider
It would be easy to dismiss 1999’s Beetle Adventure racing as a cynically-motivated licensed game created only to showcase Volkswagen’s New Beetle, released the previous year. To do so would be to overlook a key moment in the evolution of racing games that has led us to where we are today with the more playful Need for Speed or Forza Horizon games.
What it lacked in car variety, it more than made up for in its level design. Thanks to EA Canada’s collaboration with Pilotwings 64 developer Paradigm Entertainment, it was able to focus on six huge tracks that featured so many shortcuts and sideroads that exploration was an important element of successfully winning races. – John Davison
Pre-dating the seminal SSX by two years, 1080 was a rare example of Nintendo taking a swing at a more serious sports game and delivering something special. While its graphics were utterly gorgeous, its focus on realism made it truly stand out. Much like Wave Race 64 managed to convey the feeling of water, this captured the feel of moving over (and sometimes through) snow in ways that hadn’t been seen before.
Enthusiastic reviews at the time lauded how satisfying it felt, but many players found it punitively challenging at first due to its demanding control scheme that had you absorbing impacts with a squeeze of the Z-trigger. – John Davison
It’s telling that one of the main selling points of the upcoming AEW video game is that it will be largely inspired by WWF No Mercy, even going as far as bringing its director, Hideyuki Iwashita, on board for its development. Why? No Mercy represented the pinnacle of an era of wrestling video games. Its simple fighting mechanics made it super easy for even casual wrestling fans to jump in, select their favorite wrestler, and have a great time with minimal onboarding.
It was one of the rare four player games that didn’t require split screen, making it an excellent party game, but in addition to that, it also had one of the better single player story modes of any wrestling game, even to this day. One where your choices and performance in a match actually made a difference in the direction of the story. Wrestling games have since become better at simulating the experience of professional wrestling, but No Mercy represents the peak of how fun a wrestling game can be, even at its most basic level. – Mitchell Saltzman
Mario Kart 64 built upon the pixelated Mode 7 gameplay of its SNES predecessor and introduced fully 3D courses for the first time, ingeniously blending polygons and 2D sprites for a fantastic array of huge, sprawling raceways packed with tunnels, giant ramps, and iconic Nintendo characters and locations. By the end of a few laps around a stage of this chaotic kart racer, the roads are usually littered with discarded banana peels, ricocheting turtle shells, and eight intensely competitive players all vying for the #1 spot. The result is equal parts challenging and hilarious; landing a perfect blue shell projectile on an unsuspecting player and nabbing a narrow victory at the least second is a feeling like no other in video games.
With various difficulty speeds, loads of hidden shortcuts and a time trial mode, racing is always a blast in Mario Kart 64, but that’s only half the story here. The game’s endlessly fun battle mode is home to a small but damn near perfect set of multiplayer stages that have gone on to become some of the most memorable in the history of the kart racing genre. Later games like Mario Kart: Double Dash and Mario Kart 8 brought the series to bold new places but Mario Kart 64 is a classic kart racer that still holds up today. – Brain Altano
To this day, there exists the heated discussion of which mascot racing game was Nintendo 64’s best. And honestly, it’s a tough question, mainly because they’re all so different. But there’s no doubt in our minds that Diddy Kong Racing deserves a spot in our top 25. On the surface, it almost looks like a Mario Kart 64 clone, with Nintendo’s characters replaced by those from the Rare universe, but you’ll quickly discover there’s so much more.
Diddy Kong Racing was home to a lot of things not seen in the kart racing genre at the time. For starters, there are more vehicles than just karts! Racers can soar through the air in a propeller airplane, and skim the water on a hovercraft. The cherry on top is that almost every course is tuned to suit any of these vehicles, so while you’re ground level racing on a normal kart, you could be playing split screen with someone in the air. Pair that with a full on story mode, complete with boss races, secret characters to unlock, and even a mini-open world to cruise around in, and Diddy Kong Racing proved it deserves to be remembered as one of the best racers the Nintendo 64 had to offer. Also, almost every track in the soundtrack is a bop, just trust us. – Mark Medina
At a time when racing games began to focus on detail and realism, Nintendo’s EAD team went into a completely different direction: up, and down, inside and outside of twisting tubes and halfpipes. Unshackled from the flat Mode-7 plains of its SNES predecessor, F-Zero X dazzled with the most complex and twisted roller coaster tracks ever seen in a racer. F-Zero X didn’t just have 30 rides to choose from, it was able to display ALL of them on screen at once. The fact that it created such a unique pack racing experience at high speeds and pulled all that off at an unrelenting 60 frames per second makes it one of the most notable technical achievements for Nintendo 64. F-Zero X is a great game — but Nintendo didn’t stop there.
In Japan, owners (both of them) of the Nintendo 64DD add-on drive were able to not just get more tracks and cars, the expansion (link: https://www.ign.com/games/f-zero-x-expansion-kit) unlocked the very track editor Nintendo’s designers used to make tracks. – Peer Schneider
GoldenEye 007’s first person single player campaign not only recreated (and expanded on) some of the best and most action-packed scenes from the film of the same name, but it also brought in a suite of Bond inspired gadgetry, breaking from the typical “run and gun” style shooters that had saturated the genre at the time. Sure, there were certainly plenty of things to shoot at, but the campaign managed to also chuck in stealth sequences, amusing unlockable cheats, and increasingly challenging objectives for players willing to replay the game on higher difficulties. To this day, GoldenEye 007 is regarded as one of the best video game adaptations of a feature film and raised the bar for FPS single player modes.
However, it’s in multiplayer mode where GoldenEye 007 really found a life of its own, bringing up to four players together in the same room for hours of contemporary (and classic) James Bond themed deathmatches. The combination of excellent, varied multiplayer levels, customizable weapon and gizmo sets, and a roster of iconic James Bond heroes and villains lead to infinitely replayable multiplayer mayhem for any group of friends eager to gather around a television together. For England, James. – Brain Altano
What was Mario Party’s best moment on the Nintendo 64? Here at IGN it boils down to two great games: Mario Party 2 or 3. It’s a tough choice, unlike the very easy choice of choosing Waluigi, who made his Mario Party debut in Mario Party 3, along with Daisy. In addition to adding characters, Mario Party 3 just had more stuff, including 70 new minigames (MP2 had only 64, some of which were recycled from the first game), and five new boards, several of which remain fan favorites, including the trap-filled, ultra-wacky Waluigi board — a rare window into the twisted mind of Waluigi. There were also additional boards included in the new Duel Mode, a unique mode to Mario Party 3 that focused on two opponents facing off, in case a few friends couldn’t make the party.
While the Mario party series thrived for a bit on GameCube as well, the love these games receive on the Nintendo 64 makes sense: You and three friends could probably source four controllers for Goldeneye, Smash, and Kart already, but those games took various skill levels, whereas basically anybody could play Mario Party, so many casual players were able to join in on the split-screen couch chaos, resulting in fond memories — and lasting rivalries. – Samuel Claiborn
In addition to a sundry of platformers and racers, Nintendo 64 was home to some really interesting experiments in genres more commonly found on PCs… or nowhere at all. Remember, Animal Crossing started on N64 – albeit only in Japan. But it was the real-time strategy genre that saw some very unique and memorable experiences on N64. We’d be remiss to not give an honorable mention to the excellent controls of StarCraft 64 — but our console RTS heart of course firmly belongs to Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber.
Closely modeled after The March of the Black Queen on SNES, Ogre Battle serves up map-based real-time strategy gameplay with an RPG-like battle system. On the surface, it’s an odd mix of 2D and 3D, RTS and RPG, story and exploration, and gameplay that puts more weight on the planning phase than the actual battle itself. Yet somehow, it all comes together and works beautifully. While games like Fire Emblem (and the Tactics series) have carried the torch since Ogre Battle’s last hurrah on NeoGeo Pocket, we still cling together in hopes Quest’s strategy RPG series makes an unexpected return. – Peer Schneider
Developer Camelot had already proven it could make an addictive golf game with Hot Shots Golf on the PlayStation, and nsurprisingly, injecting that same formula with beloved Nintendo characters sweetened the deal even further. Mario Golf is an uncomplicated take on the sport with easy-to-learn controls that lead to great satisfaction when your shot goes just as planned. Mario, Yoshi, Donkey Kong, and the rest of the crew all have different stats, special powers, and multiple costumes to unlock. Mushroom Kingdom-themed courses wouldn’t appear until later entries in the series, but there is still variety on the green.
Today, Mario has a long and celebrated history of jumping out of the platforming genre into various sports activities. But Mario Golf was the first time Nintendo gave its star his own sports game on a console. (Mario’s Tennis had faulted on the Virtual Boy a few years earlier.) Of course, the Mario Golf series is still going strong today, with Mario Golf Super Rush released on the Nintendo Switch in 2021. But the series came out swinging and landed a hole-in-one with this N64 round. – Daemon Hatfield
Pokemon Puzzle League wasn’t the first time the legendary tile matching puzzle game Panel de Pon was reskinned and rebranded for a release on a new platform, but it’s always a good time no matter whichever form it takes, and Pokemon Puzzle League is no different.
There are some truly excellent covers of the nostalgic themes found in the US version of the Pokemon anime, a ton of playable characters with their own voice quips, and a challenging story mode that has you going through the titular Pokemon Puzzle League, fighting gym leaders, collecting badges, and ultimately becoming the greatest Pokemon Puzzle Master of them all. – Mitchell Saltzman
While GameCube’s Star Wars: Rogue Leader: Rogue Squadron 2 is a fan favorite, the original game for N64 is no sleeping Wookie. This galaxy far, far away dream come true followed the adventures of Luke Skywalker as he piloted his way through 15 missions in familiar and new locations like Tatooine, Corellia, Mon Calamari, and the Hoth-like Fest that was filled with AT-AT walkers to topple with your Snowspeeder’s tow cable. Wait a minute… no Hoth? Don’t worry, the iconic battle from The Empire Strikes back, alongside Beggar’s Canyon and The Death Star Trench Run, were unlockable secrets that made the game that much more exciting, pushing you to achieve all those tricky medals.
Fun fact: Rogue Squadron was released shortly before Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, and Lucasfilm gave the team the design for the Naboo Starfighter to use in game, but it had to stay secret for six months after launch to coincide with the movie’s release. – Adam Bankhurst
Nintendo’s third game for the Nintendo 64 after Super Mario 64 and Pilotwings 64 so perfectly nailed an underrepresented racing genre, it’s honestly tough to play a more recent PWC/jet-ski racer and not feel that something’s missing. That “something” is the way the watercraft control, the way the everchanging waves and ocean currents impact the handling, and, of course, how each level changes with the tides.
The dynamic weather and water conditions range from subtle, such as fog obscuring your vision and eventually burning off, to dramatic, where entire portions of a track are altered. Unlike the aforementioned Mario 64 and Pilotwings, Wave Race 64 does not ease players into their fight against the elements. But the high difficulty curve eventually gives way to being one with the controls and pulling off the most impressive stunts and even diving nose-first into the waves to bypass obstacles. Also, you get to ride a dolphin. That’s as good as it gets right there. – Peer Schneider
No one knew what to make of Super Smash Bros. when it was first released in 1999. In typical Nintendo fashion, Smash Bros. was unlike any fighter that had come before it. Instead of a life bar, characters would have their damage go up until they were knocked off the screen. There were all kinds of wild items like beam swords and invincibility stars. It was no wonder that so much of the contemporary coverage seemed bemused by it.
What people didn’t realize was that Smash Bros. was laying down a formula that would endure for more than 20 years, making it one of Nintendo’s most popular series. While comparatively simpler than its successors, the original Super Smash Bros. still stands as one of the N64’s most entertaining party games, replete with ridiculous moments and numerous nods to Nintendo history. Even today, Pikachu’s plaintive “Pika Pikaaaaaaaaa” while flying into the distance draws a laugh. Dated as it is in some ways, the original Super Smash Bros. is still a delight. – Kat Bailey
In a post-Super Mario 64 world, it was a bold move of Nintendo to change up Mario’s art style and gameplay so drastically, yet it’s hard to overstate just how adorable it was (and still is!) seeing all of Mushroom Kingdom’s residents in paper form. It also built upon the excellent turn-based RPG foundation that originated in SNES’ Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars and continued to allow us to team up with charming and interesting characters.
In another twist to the formula, N64’s Paper Mario also allowed us to play as Princess Peach at multiple points in the game and let us learn more about Bowser’s evil plan and even bake a delicious-looking Strawberry Cake to bribe a Shy Guy. To this day, Paper Mario is an incredibly unique and special experience. – Adam Bankhurst
Star Fox 64 is one of the N64’s defining games. It’s not just the pinnacle of the series; it’s also arguably one of the best shoot ’em ups ever made. Star Fox has tried ever since to capture just what made Star Fox 64 so special, but it’s doubtful that it will ever be able to recreate the raw spectacle that was Star Fox 64 in 1997.
A showcase game for the N64, Star Fox 64 was a technological pioneer for Nintendo, being among the first console games to feature fully-voiced dialogue and rumble feedback.
But what makes Star Fox 64 truly timeless is its design. The Lylat System is a playground, which invites you to undertake multiple rapid-fire playthroughs in order to plumb all of its secrets. Easy to pick up, Star Fox 64 can become brutally challenging on Expert, which makes earning Fox’s iconic shades all the more satisfying. Today it’s mostly remembered as a meme generator thanks to quotes like “Do a barrel roll,” but Star Fox 64 might hold up better than any game in the N64’s library. It’s a true classic. – Kat Bailey
As great as Goldeneye 007 was, Rare managed to top it in every way with Perfect Dark three years later. When Perfect Dark arrived on N64 in 2000, it was the best first-person shooter a console had ever seen — as close to perfect as was probably possible on Nintendo’s aging 64-bit system. Dozens of exciting weapons were at players’ disposal, including several inventive guns like the FarSight XR-20, an x-ray railgun. The highly tweakable Combat Simulator provided the pinnacle of split-screen gaming at the turn of the century. Get four friends together, throw in a few of the various bots that each had their own playstyles, and that was many, many nights of gaming sorted.
Perfect Dark is a slower-paced shooter than most modern entries in the genre, but it remains fun and very playable today. A clever approach to difficulty in the single-player campaign ADDED mission objectives when you played on higher levels — a much more thoughtful way to manage difficulty than simply increasing enemy health and damage. Because of its popular movie tie-in, Goldeneye raked in much more gold. But Perfect Dark nearly perfected what Goldeneye started. – Daemon Hatfield
To truly understand the importance of Banjo-Kazooie, all you have to do is look at the thrilled reception to the addition of the weird yet charming bear/bird combo to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate’s hallowed roster, over 20 years after its initial release. Why? Banjo-Kazooie has withstood the test of time as both a character duo and a game. Following the game-changing release of Super Mario 64, Rare took what was so special about that game and built upon it to create a timeless and hilarious adventure with an unlikely crew.
From meeting and fighting memorable characters like Gruntilda and Mumbo Jumbo to searching far and wide for the iconic golden puzzle pieces called Jiggies to discovering and saving hidden Jinjos that were placed around each level, there was always a reason to smile while playing Banjo and Kazooie. Actually, there was always a reason to smile, period, as who can forget the adorable animations that were Banjo-Kazooie’s save files, where the duo would sleep, cook, and even play a Game Boy. – Adam Bankhurst
Though built in the same engine as The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask introduced a whole new realm of notable set pieces, quirky characters, and unforgettable gameplay mechanics in the form of the famous three-day time-loop and two-dozen transformative masks. Mature themes abounded in every heart-wrenching side-story, which may have overshadowed the core storyline of the upcoming end of the world if not for the massive, threatening moon overhead. The looming sense of doom instilled a sense of urgency and importance to every task, and since only so much could be accomplished in three days, it left players with a dilemma of who to help – even if it would all be for naught if the falling moon could not be stopped before the timer ran out.
It all sounds quite gloomy, but the grand sense of adventure and clever puzzles expected in a Zelda game are in-tact, and Majora’s adds the thrill of finding new masks with new abilities, making Majora’s Mask perfectly fun and rewarding. Where Ocarina of Time is undeniably a classic masterpiece, Majora’s Mask adds a little spooky spice that makes it unique, memorable, and something truly special in its own right. – Casey DeFreitas
Prior to 1996, the thought of Mario as anything but a side scrolling platformer was out of the question. After all, it was an established formula that had worked for Nintendo since the inception of their first console. But as hardware evolved, the games needed to as well, and the jump from 2D to 3D was never more sleek than with Mario. A launch game for the system, Super Mario 64 is still regarded as one of the greats for 3D world design and character movement, which is insane to think about when the game actually had a lot going against it!
Not only was Mario already cemented as one of the greats of the 2D side scrolling genre, Super Mario 64 also had a slew of tweaks and changes that seem completely normal now, but were impossibly huge risks back in those days. For starters, it was Nintendo’s first Mario game that was only single-player, perfect for people who didn’t like to share.Power ups were completely revamped, made into various caps, and even the power star, which once made Mario invincible for a short time, was altered to become the very thing you collected instead. Yeah, this was a much different game.
Despite everything, Super Mario 64 would go on to be one of Nintendo 64’s greatest games of all times, and still stands as a prime example of 3D platforming and world design done right. Even today, most people remember where all 120 stars are located and know exactly what you get for completing the task. They remember the three iconic Bowser boss stages, and you can still recall the feeling of being shot from a cannon with a wing cap on your head. It’s familiar enough to feel like a Mario game, but different enough that it really felt like an evolution of the series. When it comes to 3D platformers on the Nintendo 64, it simply doesn’t get better than Super Mario 64. – Mark Medina
When it first came out in 1998, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time seemed like a messenger from the future. Somehow, Nintendo’s prestigious EAD team led by Shigeru Miyamoto had not just created an engaging 3D evolution of the classic Link to the Past — with its dual time zones and clever puzzle dungeons — it effectively wrote the book on 3D adventure and exploration games.
Ocarina of Time stunned players with an organic, fully-explorable world. A mountain in the distance wasn’t just a background texture (well, technically, it was). Players quickly learned that everything on the horizon was a place to discover and explore. You just had to figure out the means to get there.
From the innovative camera lock-on system, the timeless 3D sword combat system, using rumble feedback to discover secrets, horseback riding, 3D traversal and puzzle solving with iron boots, hookshots, boomerangs, slingshots, and bows, to using the Lens of Truth to see through illusions, Ocarina of Time constantly challenged us, surprised us, and added layer upon layer of a world we thought we had already explored. The trails it blazed are still seen in open-world games today — everytime you shoot at a ladder to make it fall or whistle for your horse — but twenty years later, it’s also still as playable and enjoyable as ever. And that is why Ocarina of Time remains our top pick for best Nintendo 64 game of all time. – Peer Schneider
Those are our 10 picks for the best N64 games of all time. What are yours? What are your favorite N64 memories? Leave it all in the comments below. For more top 10s, check out our top 10 co-op games, and the top 10 Star Wars games of all time.
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