What are the best N64 games to play now?

January 9, 2012

Everyone does Top 10 Games lists. The problem with those? Usually, they’re full of games that earn a place because of nostalgia or industry significance. Here at Snackbar Games, we like being a little more practical: if you’re looking to just have fun, what games should you pick up and play today? This time, we take on a console with limited replay value but a few gems: the Nintendo 64.

Graham Russell: This should go in a textbook somewhere. If you’re looking to make a game that stands the test of time, do everything Paper Mario did. Go for an interesting aesthetic rather than pushing pixels, match your top-notch visuals with great localization that holds up in subsequent playthroughs and have just enough combat variation to make things different the next time. When we started working on this list, this was the immediate unanimous selection, and it’s warranted.


Gerry Pagan: While The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask never reached the high level of acclaim that its older brother, Ocarina of Time, managed to secure, the sequel shows a never-since-seen side of the Zelda universe: one where developing and nurturing relations with the villagers of Termina is just as important as going into the next dungeon and beating the big bad boss. Backed up by the creepiest villain in the series to date, a nice twist on the time travel mechanic and one of the most interesting settings in a Zelda game, Majora’s Mask is a must play for any N64 fan.


Andrew Passafiume: There are very few games out there that are like Sin & Punishment, and thanks to the Wii’s Virtual Console, everyone was able to experience a classic N64 title that was never brought to North America. At times it’s very strange, others it’s downright stupid, but it’s mostly just a fun on-rails shooter than never overstays its welcome. Like many Treasure games before it, this is one that is difficult, but not frustratingly so, which is always welcoming.


Matthew Jay: Since the debut of fiction people have gotten into arguments over who would beat whom. Spider-Man vs. Batman, Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsene Lupin, and Mario vs. Samus Aran. Finally Nintendo provided us with a game that would settle these arguments undoubtedly. Then people started to play on Final Destination without items and the game got a lot less fun. But before then, Super Smash Bros. managed to be one of the best and most enduring party games in history. It has all the fun and competitiveness of a fighting game but puts it in a more casual, pick up-and-play context. Even though its sequels have more items and characters, the original SSB still holds up and plays differently enough from Melee or Brawl that you can still break it out once in a while for a fresh experience.


Graham Russell: Kirby 64 is one of those games that time was kind to. The initial criticisms at launch, like its meager length and adherence to the 2D standby gameplay, don’t matter that much now. But here’s why you need to try it: the power-combining mechanic, allowing you to use a fire sword or turn into a refrigerator, is one we’ve been missing ever since.


Gerry Pagan: This one of the few N64 games that, to this day, remains near-flawless in its arcade feel and pick-up-and-play nature. It’s very easy to blaze through Star Fox 64 in a day, pick it back up months later and have it remain just as fun as it was the first time. With a huge amount of levels, the ability to pick your own path through the game and the addictive gameplay, Star Fox 64 might just be one of the best games for the console.


Andrew Passafiume: While some gamers may prefer Banjo-Tooie, I’ve always consider Kazooie to be the best in the series and also among the best platformers on the N64. A large, expansive world with plenty to see and do, tons of great levels, two amusing characters, and the last game that really did collectibles right, Banjo-Kazooie is still a fantastic game. This is Rare at its best, and very few games they’ve made since Kazooie have matched this level of quality.


Matthew Jay: Pokemon Snap was one of the first games to introduce something outside of the game itself and make gaming more of a real world activity. After choosing some of your favorite photos, young gamers could go to their local Blockbuster and print them out as stickers to adorn their Trapper Keepers and Game Boy Colors. These machines no longer exist (and, for all practical purposes, neither do Blockbusters), but Pokemon Snap is still fun to pop in every once in a while. To some of us, its little nooks and crannies (like knocking Charmeleon into the volcano pit to evolve him into a Charizard) have become muscle memory, but every time I play this game I notice something new.

What do you think? Did we screw up? What do you think stands the test of time?