The Retro Corner: Top Ten Influential Games of the N64

Most of us hardcore gamers knew Nintendo well growing up. For the majority of us Nintendo started our gaming lives with either a Super Nintendo or an N64, depending on the age group you talk to. I won’t even try to talk down the greatness of the Super Nintendo, everyone knows that’s when Nintendo ruled as emperor of the gaming industry, but the N64 is the one not as quickly defended. So if you’re one of the unbelievers out there, let me tell you what the N64 did for us through these ten amazing games.

 

  1. Diddy Kong Racing

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Sure Rare’s take on the kart racing genre wasn’t as popular as the Mario Kart games, but what they lacked in social acceptance, they made up for in flair. Unlike Mario Kart, Diddy Kong Racing let you use hovercrafts and planes along with the standard go-kart, and there’s a full story, not just racing around random tracks. If that’s not enough to compel you to play Diddy Kong over Mario Kart, then you should know that there are five worlds with distinctively different tracks, time trials, mini games, and even boss races for countless hours of fun by yourself, or with a group of friends.

 

  1. Pokémon Stadium

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Every 90’s kid played Pokémon. It was just a fact of life. It’s also a fact that Pokémon Stadium is the only game that could compete with the love that we felt for Pokémon Red and Blue.  Not only did this game allowed you to plug your copy of Red or Blue into the game to play it on a bigger screen, instead of craning your neck over your Game Boy, but it also let your port your Pokémon in to fight against random trainers, Gym Leaders, or even your friends. In short; the ultimate Pokémon experience.

 

  1. Mario Party 2

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Yes, yes, the original Mario Party was something very special. However, everything the original did, Mario Party 2 did better. There were more mini games, bigger maps and more options to play. Besides, who didn’t love the fact that they’re favorite Mario characters dressed up in accordance to each world you visited? If that’s not proof enough that the sequel beat out the original in all aspects, try finding a copy of Mario Party 2 nowadays for any less than $80.

 

  1. Star Fox 64

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Little known fact: Star Fox 64 is the very first game that allowed rumble capability on the N64. That alone propelled Star Fox 64 up in influentially. There was also a distinctive replay value the N64 version had over the SNES in the medal challenges. These made you perfect each level, awarding you medals along the way so you could then boast about your prowess to the weaker. Besides all that, Star Fox 64 took us on a grander adventure than the Super Nintendo version could have ever hoped for. Star Fox 64 was all about higher stakes, bigger space battles and more Falco Lombardi smart talking than ever before.

  1. Paper Mario

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Paper Mario is such an interesting take on the old school platform genre; it’s really hard to even start talking about it. In every sense, it’s the spiritual sequel to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, and even follows in the same steps story wise. The real fun about Paper Mario though is the lack of seriousness about it. There are plenty of times that the fourth wall is blatantly broken, reminding you that even the characters are aware of how silly everything is. To be fair though, Paper Mario is more than that even. It was a complete reimaging of the Mario world with a refreshing new breath of life.

  1. Super Smash Bros.

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Super Smash Bros.; what else do you really need to say? There was no way that this game couldn’t be in the solid top 5 of any N64 game list. Even non gamers know and love the Smash Bros. series, for good reason. Where else can you find all of Nintendo’s hardest hitters in one place beating the ever living crap out of each other Mortal Kombat style with all the random props that Nintendo could offer along the way? Now you can have your very own Mr. Saturn to pelt at others!

  1. Goldeneye 007

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It’s hard to believe, but without this Rare gem, console FPS’s wouldn’t be what they are now. Goldeneye basically invented the free for all, multiplayer death matches that games like Halo and Call of Duty popularized. There wasn’t really a time before Goldeneye where you could invite three friends over, and shoot each other in the face again and again; on a video game of course. With FPS’s so prevalent in the gaming community nowadays, you really need a second to wrap your brain around the real reason that Goldeneye is so important. Also don’t forget how challenging and awesome solo play was.

  1. Banjo Kazooie/ Tooie

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It was impossible for me to put just one of these games on the list; they work together so well unlike so many games that have sequels. Banjo-Tooie literally starts off right where the first one ended and gives the games so much more depth than it had before, implanting new mechanics and worlds, while keeping the same tongue in cheek humor and even most of the previous characters that remind you of your last adventure. Not to mention it added replay for all mini games and multiplayer modes. However, that being said Tooie would be nothing if it didn’t have the shoulders of Banjo-Kazooie to stand on. Kazooie was such a big game that it was the first N64 game to almost fill up the entire cartridge. In the end it had double the amount of space that Super Mario 64 used. Speaking of which . . .

  1. Super Mario 64

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This game had to show up somewhere on this list. As launch titles go, it’s still the best one to date. Most of us remember 3D gaming on consoles from this game; because this was the first time it had ever been done. The vastness of Super Mario 64, especially in comparison to most Mario games now, is astounding. So many different worlds, secrets and power ups to be had. There was a new surprise literally waiting around every corner as you traversed your way through Peach’s castle. It should also be said that Bowser was never scary until Super Mario 64 had him towering feet above your tiny protagonist.

  1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

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Was there ever any doubt that there was a game on the N64 more influential than Ocarina of Time? Now before anyone calls foul, saying that I let my own childish nostalgia get the best of me, let me explain. Remember how I said that Banjo-Kazooie had used double the information that Super Mario 64 had? Well Ocarina of Time is the only N64 game that filled the cartridge to the brim and you didn’t even need an expansion pack to play it, like some of the later games had to add. On top of that, there were very few games that had the emotional roller coaster that Ocarina of Time offered. The mystery of your existence and everything around you, the feeling of helplessness as you tried as hard as you could to bring peace back to Hyrule and the despair of watching everyone that was once close to you fall to the might of Ganondorf. There are always going to be little annoyances about any game and I know that when Ocarina of Time is brought there’s always a mention of linear game play and the annoyance of Navi. The question has to be asked though; can’t it be enough that the first time Legend of Zelda made a true 3D game it was done so well that it held such a high bar for every other game in the series and perhaps even the rest of the N64 library? That’s pretty influential in my book.

Well that’s the list. These are the games that have affected a generation and hopefully, many generations to come. If you disagree and believe I left out something important and influential from the N64 library, be sure to let me know in the comments below.

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