The 20 Greatest Nintendo 64 Games of All-Time

Released in 1996, the N64 still has some of the most timeless games to ever be created. The following games make our list for their multiplayer gameplay, their adventure mode(s), how innovative they were, or any combination of the three.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

Once upon a time, there existed another Star Wars game named “Shadows of the Empire.” The game itself was forgettable, but everybody had the same thought after playing the first level – why can’t we have a game devoted entirely to the piloting aspect of Star Wars? Thankfully, Lucas Arts heard the fans, and Rogue Squadron was born. Playing as Luke Skywalker, Rogue Squadron was an easy game to pick up and play with friends.

Besides its varying array of ships and missions, it also rewarded players who became devoted to the game with increased rewards and challenging gameplay as you progressed. When the game was paired with the RAM upgrade on the N64, the graphics went to an entirely new level. Overall, it was an enjoyable mission based shooter, with 3D graphics that stood out from earlier N64 games. It stands as a strong basis for many games of a similar variety today.

Harvest Moon 64

A game whose entire premise was based upon the daily life of a farmer had no right being as enjoyable as it was. Alas, we have Harvest Moon 64, one of the most repetitive yet fascinating and fun games in the N64’s library. You control a nameless character that is in charge of maintaining an abandoned farm left to the protagonist by their grandfather. The excitement of new plants or animals to raise, finding a wife, settling down, attending the yearly festivals, all contributed to a game that turned minutes into hours in seemingly the blink of an eye. The game can really only be described as a combination of quirky and compulsive, with players always wanting to know what tomorrow held for their farmers.

Mario Tennis

One of the most successful and popular installments in a long series of Mario inspired sports games, Mario Tennis holds up to this day and is still a game that can be played for hours with friends. With endless game modes, creative power-ups and a plethora of familiar Mario characters to choose from, Mario Tennis stands alone as the best sports game in the series. The game will always shine being played on a couch with a group of friends, battling with or against each other on a multitude of beautiful courts. Nothing is perfect, but Mario Tennis is pretty darn close.

Bomberman 64

The Bomberman series, like many others, made the historical jump from 2D to 3D with the introduction of the N64. While the 2D Bomberman wasn’t necessarily unpopular, Bomberman 64 brought renewed life to the series. The all-time classic very quickly became a staple for any Nintendo owner’s game library. While its adventure mode was admittedly not very difficult, it still provided a solid few hours of entertainment at a time.

The game – like many others on this list – truly shined in the multiplayer mode. Battling it out with four friends (it really played the best with a full party!) was an absolute blast, devising strategies and battling for power-ups. It made for one of the better multiplayer experiences of its time, and as a standalone mode warrants a spot on this list.

Pokémon Snap

Nobody wants to admit it, but everybody loved Pokémon Snap. Stepping out of the conventional style that made the series so beloved, Snap followed a photographer’s quest of getting the best shots around the Pokeworld. Its gameplay is simple: point and click. While there were little things along the way to make pointing and clicking easier, the game was through and through point and click. The premise was that Todd (from the original series) was tasked with gathering photos of Pokémon from the various parts of the island (the levels) for “research purposes.”

It was a good enough reason to travel through detailed levels full of secrets and hidden Pokémon. For parts of the game, one couldn’t progress until they had either taken pictures of enough Pokémon (to be quality rated by Professor Oak at the end of each level) or had found the secret routes that lead to the next level. While the gameplay was simple, the aesthetics made it a worthwhile break from the other Pokémon games that followed the same format.

WWF No Mercy

While it was tempting to include Wrestlemania 2000 on this list, WWF No Mercy feels more deserving of the spot. Basically the improved version of an already great game, WWF No Mercy offered players a choice of 60 wrestlers to choose from with several types of matches to use them in. A thorough story mode included branching story lines that would be determined based upon match results. WWF No Mercy is also well known for their introduction of the “Smackdown Mall,” which allowed users to spend in-game currency on various unlockable moves, items and characters. It also expanded on the Create-A-Wrestler mode, allowing players to create and customize a unique wrestler with countless options to pick from. Arguably the greatest wrestling video game of all-time, WWF No Mercy serves as the pinnacle installment in the genre.

Donkey Kong 64

A game that was both enjoyable as a single-player experience or played with friends, Donkey Kong 64 set the bar for the well-known series. The game’s high quality gameplay boasts an adventure mode played by Donkey Kong and his compatriots, each with their own varying abilities needed to progress throughout the game. Old faces of the series also made frequent appearances in the game, often with a new item or ability for Donkey Kong to use to continue progressing through the game. With an obscene amount of collectibles on top of the 200 bananas needed to beat the game, the game offered a massive amount of play time in just the single player alone.

Many games – especially modern ones – have fallen into the trap of trying to include too many different things in one game and have failed spectacularly at doing so. Donkey Kong 64 not only had a wide variety of modes, it did a fantastic job of making sure each of those modes were fun and enjoyable separately, making it an all-time classic.

Perfect Dark

A game that drew direct inspiration from Golden Eye, Perfect Dark was the unofficial follow up to an already legendary game. Set within a sci-fi universe but with the same engine as its spiritual predecessor, players were treated to one of the best first person shooters of the Nintendo 64. With unique levels and fan inspired weaponry, (pinball grenades and computer turrets only scratching the surface) Perfect Dark was one of the original great shooters of any console. Though not as culturally popular as Golden Eye, the game remains a staple in multiplayer shooters and goes to show how great a game can be when the creators listen to their fan base.

Banjo Kazooie

The company “Rare” was no doubt one of the most dominant video game companies during the N64 period – with Perfect Dark and Donkey Kong 64 already appearing on this list. Through all of these games, Banjo Kazooie could easily be argued as the gold standard. Like the aforementioned Donkey Kong 64, this game’s primary objective was also a game of collecting an object (Musical Notes in this case). This game packed together perfect gameplay, amazing designs for each of their levels, and replay-ability aplenty. It’s impossible to mention this game without nostalgia kicking in, serving as a reminder of how transcendent Banjo Kazooie truly was.

Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

Kirby 64 takes the familiar formula of a platform adventure and pairs it with vibrant landscapes for each level, quality 3D graphics (though you could still really only move left and right), and of course its power combo series that made it a hit with all age groups. Though savvy players understood that different powers were better for different challenges, that didn’t stop everyone from having their personal favorite powers that Kirby could use (double lightsaber!).

Kirby also took its vivid graphics and paired it with a unique and wonderful soundtrack, making it an overall aesthetically pleasant game to play through the whole way each time. Though there was a Mario Party-like multiplayer and the ability to collect cards, those were merely add-ons to the game. Realistically, it didn’t compare to Kirby’s adventure mode and the quest to defeat Dark Matter/retrieve the broken crystal shards.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Many were able to trick their parents into buying this rated “M” title for them, probably by uttering the same phrase that I myself used to get the game: “Mom, it’s just Teddy Bears and Squirrels! It’s not a big deal!” Sure, we often forget to include that the bears are evil and based off Nazis, or that the squirrels are foul mouthed soldiers based off WWII Americans and Allies, (like really foul mouthed), but that’s unimportant. We also neglected to mention that the main characters’ adventures consist entirely of a combination of toilet humor, foul language, gratuitous violence, alcohol and drug usage, and overly sexual themes.

If young players weren’t corrupted about the world at this point, this was the game that did it for them. With all of this content backed up by a truly morbid sense of humor apparent throughout the game, it almost seems like a bonus that the gameplay was genuinely a wonderful platformer as well. Multiplayer put you in the heart of the really violent and grotesque war between the Teddy’s and the Squirrels, and you are lying through your teeth if you say you didn’t enjoy coming at your friends with a chain saw. Truly one of the first games that pushed the limits (Mortal Kombat’s finishers might still take the cake), Conker’s Bad Fur Day was truly one of a kind.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater

Though originally released on the Playstation, Pro Skater was such a huge success that it was an easy and logical next step to convert the game to other systems. The 64 version held up just as well, and quickly became a trade mark game for any Nintendo fan. Set within a two minute window, gamers had to complete five separate objectives using one of ten real life professional skaters – including Bucky Lasek, Bob Burnquist, and Tony Hawk himself. Like many other games on this list, the game also contained a multiplayer mode that hadn’t truly been seen in other games yet. This included the Color Mode, where the map changed colors and players had to outdo each other’s tricks to change the map back to their own colors. Another game that was perfect to play with friends, Tony Hawk Pro Skater immediately evokes a sense of nostalgia.

Pokémon Stadium

Finally fulfilling every Pokémon fan’s dream, Pokémon Stadium took everybody’s favorite handheld series and converted it to the world of 3D gaming on the TV screen. Featuring the same turn-based format the series is known for, players were able to experience their favorite Pokémon brought to life and watch them perform the signature moves they’d only gotten to see in the show or on a Game Boy. Multiplayer battles could range from two to four players, while party style mini-games featured famous characters from the series. Like any good Pokémon game, the main point was for your hand-picked team to make its way through the eight gyms that preceded the Elite Four, and eventually the Champion. Its inclusion of an additional game pack which allowed players to import their favorite Pokémon from their original Game Boy game was revolutionary at the time. Overall, it was everything fans could have wanted in the series’ leap to the third-dimension, and the graphics of the time spoke volumes for the future of the franchise.

Star Fox 64

Where Rogue Squadron was the promise of what flight on the N64 could be, Star Fox 64 was the game that perfected it. Smooth controls, memorable levels, multiple power-ups and a story mode that delivers make Star Fox 64 a truly outstanding game. Furthermore, every ship – enemy or otherwise – was rendered to perfection, and there was a genuine sense of anxiety when it came time to face the final boss, Andross. Getting consumed by a giant monkey head was a dangerous turning point for players who would have tried to keep their power ups for the battle.

The game also featured a few other vehicles – including a playable tank. After spending a healthy chunk of time playing through the campaign, its multiplayer was a pleasant change of pace that challenged up to four people in a cut throat battle for air supremacy. Overall, we can confidently say that this was one of Nintendo’s best releases, easily holding up against the remaining games on the list.

Mario Kart 64

The second installment in the Mario Kart series, the Nintendo 64’s version of Mario Kart, built upon its predecessor and laid a definitive groundwork for the game that would come after it. A racing game featuring some of the most iconic characters in the Mario franchise, Mario Kart 64 stands the test of time with its intuitive controls and exciting multiplayer modes. Even today, an evening can easily be spent playing through all of the levels, battling it out against friends or computers. Bonus for our 21 and over audience: look up the drinking game “Don’t drink and drive” for Mario Kart and you are giving yourself a whole new way to play the game.

Golden Eye 007

Arguably one of the best first person shooters of all-time, the James Bond game challenged gamers to compete with each other with an arsenal of unique weapons on memorable stages. Sniper rifles, watch lasers and even the iconic Golden Gun made the game feel fresh every time you popped it in. On top of that, it had a single player gameplay with enough depth to hold the user over until they could rally up a few friends. It had phenomenal graphics for its time, and each character really did look like the actors who had played them in the movies. Each level felt the same as one would expect from the movie, full of tense, action-packed battleground and contained a beautiful soundtrack based upon the series. This game served as the blueprint for shooters moving forward, and also spawned the highly successful and previously mentioned Perfect Dark.

Mario Party 3

The third in a now fifteen game series (it’s still going), Mario Party 3 was the go-to party game. The series today still serves this purpose, much to the credit of the original three games. A game that was friendly and easy to pick up by anyone, the wide variety of fun mini-games and modes offered countless hours of entertainment. With the perfect combination of skill and seemingly random luck, players could be dominating one moment and find themselves in last place the next, keeping the game balanced and fair. Paired with visually pleasing graphics and new and improved mini-games of varying difficulty, this board game brought to life still remains as one of Nintendo’s greatest games.

Super Smash Bros.

A game that spawned its own professional scene – and simultaneously set the stage for one of Nintendo’s most popular games with Super Smash Bros. Melee – the original Super Smash Bros. contained a dynamite roster of legendary Nintendo characters to choose from in one of the best fighting games ever created. Though the game doesn’t hold up as well as its successor does, the original still holds a place in history, and maintains a small following to this day. The arcade mode was addicting, and the battles between friends could go on for hours and hours. It’s no surprise this game cracks the top 3 of our list.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The only game series in Nintendo that can compete with the Mario games, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was most definitely one of the best games ever released on N64 – and possibly ever. Ocarina of Time is full of action, adventure, puzzles, side quests, and levels that challenged one’s patience and ability to reason. Its gameplay was simple and easy to pick up, and the story was compelling and ahead of its time. The world was open for exploration, though generally you followed linear patterns to progress through the game. We also can’t forget to mention how many games have been born from the Zelda series, and this isn’t close to one of the first ones released. In a series of very poignant and awesome games, this one still remains as one of the greats.

Super Mario 64

The Nintendo 64 launched with this game at its helm, trusting that it would be the one to lead the charge in a new generation of console games. Super Mario 64 did not disappoint. Continuously challenging puzzles to solve, countless enemies to defeat, giant worlds ripe for exploring and full of “Stars” ready to be collected, Super Mario 64 remains the pinnacle of Mario’s achievements as a series. This game provided fun for fans of all ages, and those with a curious mind and a willingness to dive into each of the levels were rewarded with more and more content. Its replay-ability is unprecedented, challenging players to complete levels in unique ways with each play through. Simply put, this game is flawless in every department.