Games

Happy Birthday Nintendo 64

Reading Time: 9 minutes

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The Nintendo 64 is now twenty-three years old! That’s right, we are going by its North American birthday as it sits in between the Japanese and European release dates quite nicely. 29th September 1996 saw Nintendos latest and greatest console hit the shelves in a time of change within the gaming market. Sony, who’s Playstation actually began life as a joint venture between Sony and Nintendo hit the shelves in 1995 and the Sega Saturn was well underway having been released in 1994, both utilised cutting edge CD Rom technology to bring gamers a new level of graphical power and sound quality.

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A puzzle then that Nintendo opted to remain with cartridge format for their new offering, but that did not detour eager gamers clambering to get their hands on the big N’s newest console, featuring four control ports to maximise multiplayer potential in a time where competition took place on the couch and often with at least one third party controller for the friend or sibling you didn’t like very much. The Nintendo 64 sold an impressive 32.93 million units worldwide and although some may argue it hasn’t aged as well as it’s counterparts, it remains one of the most fondly remembered consoles of all time due to a stunning catalogue of games and slightly bizarre controller. Thanks to the team here at TBG we’ve pulled together a list of top games from the N64 to tickle your nostalgic taste buds, let’s get started!

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SUPER MARIO 64

Of course, everybody’s favourite plumber is on the list, as Nintendo’s mascot, one of the two launch titles and the first in the series to utilise full three-dimensional graphics, gamers were able to explore the mushroom kingdom like never before. Setting off to save Princess Peach from the evil clutches of that randy dinosaur Bowser in what many argue to be the best entry in the Super Mario series, I think the movie staring Bob Hoskins is the only contender.

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Fact – The N64 launched in North America with just two games! Super Mario 64 and Pilot Wings 64.

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MARIO KART 64

That’s right, we are sticking with the portly plumber. Mario Kart may have begun life on the SNES but it really came into its own with the N64 entry. Released in 1997 this multiplayer masterpiece offered four game modes and eight playable characters including Donkey Kong and Wario, who made their Mario Kart debut.

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GOLDENEYE 007

Arguably the most fondly remembered shooter from the nineties, Goldeneye was the must-have game for any N64 owner. Released in 1997 and based off the popular 007 movie of the same name, Goldeneye marked a turning point in how shooters were perceived in the gaming market with it’s more “realistic” take on FPS action. Gamers were given a lengthy campaign as well as multiplayer for up to four players across five game modes. It’s true every character looked like they had just drunk some sharp lemonade but this was licensed gaming at it’s finest.

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THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME

It was only a matter of time before Nintendo’s beloved adventurer Link got the 3D treatment and in 1998 fans got their wish. Venturing across Hyrule to stop Ganondorf from obtaining the Triforce, fans were given the biggest adventure yet, filled with puzzles and dungeons to conquer the latest entry in Link’s story sold over seven million copies worldwide!

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THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: MAJORAS MASK

Released in 2000, the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time launched to huge acclaim, having spent just two years in development and offering enhanced graphics and darker story tones, Majoras’s Mask was set in an alternate reality. Mixing up the gameplay elements, fans were tasked with preventing the end of the world by acquiring a series of mask’s to transform their hero as well as learn tunes on the infamous Ocarina to open passages and manipulate time.

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KILLER INSTINCT GOLD

After success in both the Arcade and SNES outings, RARE gave N64 fans a dose of brutal beat ’em up action with Killer Instinct Gold. Featuring fast-paced combo fuelled duels across three modes with eleven fighters, four who were new to the series, Killer Instinct Gold was criticised for its omission of fan-favourite characters but its legacy lives on as one of Nintendo’s more mature games of the generation.

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Fact Killer Instinct Gold was originally planned to be a launch title for the N64 but missed the completion date and instead came out in November 1996.

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DONKEY KONG 64

Nintendo aren’t short of a few recognisable characters, Donkey Kong made his presence felt in 1999 and sold over 2.3 million units with his latest entry. RARE was once again on development duty and gave players a 3D rendered island full of themed levels of platforming action, mini-games and puzzles with multiplayer modes on hand also.

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DIDDY KONG RACER

Mario Kart may be the king of the kart racers but there have been a few worthy contenders, even on Nintendo’s own consoles and even as another exclusive. Diddy Kong Racer amassed a solid following, including TBG’s own, SurrealRager, for its story-based campaign, beautiful graphics and stunning sound quality selling over 4.8 million copies.

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Fact Diddy Kong racer began life as a real-time strategy title and an adventure title inspired by Disney World before becoming a kart racer.

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STAR WARS: SHADOW OF THE EMPIRE

Shadow of the empire put gamers in control of Dash Rendar, a mercenary out to help Luke rescue Princess Leia from Prince Xizor. No, this was not Star Wars does Mario, it was a solid third-person action game featuring vehicular segments and formed part of a multimedia project to provide back story between the second and third Star Wars (original) movies. Selling over one million copies, SOTE was a hit with fans and critics alike.

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STAR WARS: ROGUE SQUADRON

That’s right, the nineties were a great time for Star Wars fans. First, in what would become a popular series, players took control of Luke Skywalker as he leads his Rogue Squadron through sixteen missions against the evil empire. Players got to pilot five different spacecraft from the Star Wars universe in fast-paced arcade-style dog fights while accomplishing a series of objectives. Rogue Squadron also featured a generous amount of bonus unlockables including levels set on Beggars Canyon, Death Star Trench Run and The Battle of Hoth.

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Fact Rogue Squadron was one of the first N64 games to utilise the Nintendo Expansion Pak, increasing its resolution from 320 x 240 to a stunning (at the time) 680 x 480. The title sold over one million copies!

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PERFECT DARK

Perfect Dark marked another successful outing from RARE, as a spiritual successor to Goldeneye, this updated version of the game engine featured similar gameplay of stealth and gadgets, this time drawing inspiration from X-Files, Bladerunner and Ghost in the Shell. The campaign saw agent Joanna Dark tasked with stopping an alien threat caused by a rival corporation and featured both co-op and multiplayer modes.

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Fact Instead of Perfect Dark, RARE originally planned to follow up Goldeneye with a game of the following 007 movie “Tomorrow never dies” but were outbid for the Bond license by Electronic Arts.

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WWF NO MERCY

In the nineties, WWF and wrestling, in general, were all the rage, full of attitude and badass characters, every teenager wanted to recreate matches from their favourite spandex-clad superstars on home consoles. WWF No Mercy was a shining example of balancing arcade-style gameplay with a solid story and creation mode as well as offering hours of multiplayer fun.

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CONKERS BAD FUR DAY

Cult classic Conkers Bad Fur Day released towards the end of the N64’s life but left a lasting impression due to its mature content which was unexpected from the Nintendo audience. Developed by RARE, gamers took control of a foul-mouthed alcoholic squirrel trying to get home to his girlfriend, classic platforming action was on hand with memorable characters and levels featuring pop culture references and even a boss fight against a giant piece of poo!

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Fact Conker began life as a cuter more family-friendly title but RARE was criticised for playing it safe with too many similarities to their previous platformer Banjo-Kazooie.

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TUROK: DINOSAUR HUNTER

One of the most popular titles on the N64 belonged to Acclaims comic book adaptation of Turok. Players took control of a time-travelling warrior who was tasked with donning the title of “Turok” to protect earth from the lost land, a world where all manner of creatures exist, from Dinosaurs to Aliens. Praised for its solid FPS gameplay blended with exploration, Turok sold over 1.5 million copies and pushed the N64 to its technical limits.  Turok was remastered and released for Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in March 2019 if you fancy giving it a try today!

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WAVE RACER

Hard to believe by today’s standards that a game about jet ski racing would be a hot property but 1996’s Wave Racer was highly praised for its controls and water mechanics. Players got to compete in three modes, championship, stunt and time trial all featuring obstacles to manoeuvre and varying weather conditions or go head to head with a friend in multiplayer.

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Fact Wave Racer began life as a more sci-fi concept to feature transforming boats.

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HONOURABLE MENTIONS

  • Banjo-Kazooie – 1998
  • Star Wars Episode One: Pod Racer – 1999
  • Paper Mario – 2001
  • Blast Corps – 1997
  • Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon – 1998
  • Pokemon Snap – 1999
  • Pokemon Puzzle League – 2000
  • WCW vs nWo Revenge – 1998
  • Turok 2: Seeds of Evil – 1998

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And there you have it, a selection of some of the biggest and best games on the N64. With such a wealth of titles, we are sure we might have missed a couple so let us know your favourite memories and titles in the comments below or via social media and join us in celebrating the twenty-third anniversary of the Nintendo 64!

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