While the Sony PlayStation began to pick up steam since its release and the Sega Saturn held strong against the new competition, Nintendo was hard at work developing its own entry into the generation that standardized 3-dimensional games. Codenamed the Ultra 64, Nintendo’s 64-bit powerhouse utilized an updated cartridge format after previous plans with Sony fell through, a decision which proved to be a double edged sword – while games on the system had virtually no load time whatsoever, the cartridge technology used had a dramatically lower storage capacity than that of the competition’s CDs, leading to lower quality audio and visuals. Dropping the ‘Ultra’ from the official title, Nintendo released the Nintendo 64 to great anticipation in 1996.
As far as hardware sales went, Sony had a substantial edge over Nintendo. Despite this fact, however, Nintendo had the real victory in the form of software support, both from Nintendo’s own in-house development teams and third-party developers. To put it simply, the N64 was graced with a ridiculous number of great games. The system had so many, in fact, that I couldn’t bring myself to only make a top 5 list. So without further ado, here’s a look at games 10 through 6 of my top 10 of the Nintendo 64!
10. Mischief Makers
From the makers of “Gunstar Heroes” (featured in my top 5 Sega Genesis games) comes “Mischief Makers,” the story of a robotic maid named Marina who is forced to save her creator, Professor Theo, after he is kidnapped by his evil twin brother. Contrasting most of the N64’s lineup, “Mischief Makers” is a 2D side-scroller, focusing on platforming and puzzles. The game has your standard action levels where you simply go from left to right pummeling everyone in your way, but it also has more unique levels that require thought and precision to get past. Like “Gunstar Heroes,” “Mischief Makers” also features a bevy of fun, diverse and challenging boss battles. Add a tinge of humor and a bouncy soundtrack and you’ve got a plain old fun game that deserves much more recognition.
9. GoldenEye 007
In a word: classic. Yes, “GoldenEye” is the classic shooter of the N64 and also a contradiction to the idea that all licensed games are bad. Based off the “James Bond” movie of the same name, “GoldenEye” takes you through the scenarios and settings of the movie and then some as the sleek and suave James Bond. With 18 movie missions, 2 bonus missions, 3 different difficulty settings with varying objectives, a handful of different weapons to choose from and a great soundtrack that revolves entirely around the series’s main theme, “Goldeneye” would have been worth its money solely as a single-player game. This was not the case, however, as Rareware made the brilliant decision to add four-player multiplayer with a boatload of settings. Yes, “Goldeneye” was many gamers’ first foray into the world of the console first-person shooter, and no one could have asked for a better introduction.
8. Jet Force Gemini
Another Rareware game that got overshadowed by some of the other company’s classics, “Jet Force Gemini” combines Rareware’s tried-and-true collect-a-thon roots with adventure aspects all under the veil of a third-person shooter. Set in a futuristic universe, “Jet Force Gemini” puts you in the shoes of the eponymous peace-keeping team of twin brother and sister Juno and Vela along with their hover-capable dog, Lupus, who are all sent out to defeat a large bug-like tyrant named Mizar who has begun taking over planets. At the same time, the team is asked to save as many of the Tribals, a species of bear-like humanoids, as possible. Each of the three playable characters has his or her own individual route to get to Mizar’s Palace, with more planets and routes becoming accessible as you progress through the game and obtain more items. The game also features an enjoyable multiplayer mode, but it doesn’t feel very polished – the single player is where it’s at.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Proclaimed by many to this day as the greatest game ever made, “Ocarina of Time” broke historic ground in shaping 3D adventure games just as the original served as the basis for the genre’s 2D beginnings. Taking place before any Zelda games released before it, “Ocarina of Time” begins with the story of Link, a forest child who stands out from all the others. This child goes on to become the game’s hero in a quest to stop the evil Ganondorf from obtaining the Triforce, a mystical item that will grant its user one wish, in order to gain complete control over the world. The game has a beautiful score that harkens back to previous Zelda games while making great additions to the series’ collection. Brand new items, collectables, side quests and dungeons fill this game up enough to give the player a more than substantial experience with a dash of ‘epic’ added in. I still get shivers when playing through the game’s final boss battle.
6. Mario Party
Above all, people play video games in order to have fun, and “Mario Party” is the textbook definition of fun. The game that popularized the implementation of mini-games, “Mario Party’s” main mode plays out much like a board game and yet it goes further than any ordinary board game ever could. Four players navigate their way around Mario-themed playing fields by rolling a die and stepping on the amount of spaces listed, collecting coins along the way and eventually snagging stars in order to win. After each player has rolled the die, a mini-game is randomly chosen for everyone to participate in, and this is where much of the fun of “Mario Party” derives from. Some mini-games are as simple as Simon Says, while others require you to do things like riding a skateboard through a stormy jungle, jumping over rocks and logs while avoiding getting eaten by a vicious piranha plant. The game has many varied boards to play on and multiple different modes to go through, offering an almost endless amount of replayability. So go ahead – grab 3 of your friends, bust out the N64, and have a party.
You’ve already got this far, why stop now? Check back next week as we continue with this console, and count down my top five N64 games! Trust me, there should be a few surprises in store.