This week’s list is the second console specific top 10. I have previously covered my top 10 favorite games on the Gamecube, and this week I am going to count down my 10 favorite games on my favorite console of all time, the Nintendo 64. The N64 may not have been as popular as the Playstation in the mid to late ’90s, but that sure didn’t stop some of the best games of all time from releasing exclusively for the N64. While the PS1 excelled at JRPGs, specifically ones with a lot CD quality music and pre-rendered cinematics, the N64 dominated the action/adventure and 3D platformer genres, and also blew the PS1 away in terms of pure graphical fidelity. Also, for any of our younger readers who only know Rare for Viva Pinata and Kinect Sports, by the end of this list I hope it becomes clear why they were once considered one of the best developers ever.
10. Banjo Kazooie (Rare, 1998)
Let’s get the Rare train rolling early with Banjo Kazooie. After Nintendo basically wrote the blueprint on how to make a 3D platformer with Super Mario 64, many other developers tried to emulate it, with varying to degrees of success. Rare was by far the most successful of the N64 era, and there first attempt, Banjo Kazooie, is still one of the best examples of the genre. They really did take most of the elements from Mario 64; the large worlds, the move set, and even the concept of stars was simply re-branded as “jiggies”. Despite the similarities, the game could stand on its own because of solid controls, cleverly designed levels, and an element of humor that set it apart from the gameplay focused nature of other platformers.
9. Diddy Kong Racing (Rare, 1997)
Another Rare game, and another game that “borrowed” from a popular Nintendo franchise. With games like Banjo Kazooie, Star Fox Adventures on Gamecube, and now Diddy Kong Racing, Rare certainly wasn’t afraid of taking a lot inspiration from Nintendo when making games, but they got away with it because there games were generally really good. Diddy Kong Racing obviously borrowed heavily from Mario Kart, but there were a few key differences that actually set it a notch above Mario Kart 64, at least in my opinion. The biggest thing that really makes Diddy Kong Racing awesome is the single player component. It had an adventure mode very similar to a platformer in that you would travel to different worlds, moving on as you won races. There were even boss races and coin challenges that made the game more than just a few cup races. The other element of Diddy Kong Racing that I think makes it better than Mario Kart is the way it handles power-ups. Instead of the extreme rubber banding of the Mario Kart series, the power-ups were dealt much more fairly. You could see what the power-up was before you picked it up, adding a layer of strategy to multiplayer matches.
8. Goldeneye 007 (Rare, 1997)
Rare is now three for three on this list, with number 8 going to the split screen classic Goldeneye. Goldeneye makes this list not simply out of the quality of the game, but for the impact it made at the time. If I were to judge Goldeneye simply by how it plays today, it doesn’t hold up nearly as well as most of the games on this list. First Person Shooters, console shooters in particular, have really come a long way in the time since Goldeneye first came out, but at the time it was amazing. What made Goldeneye doubly impressive was that it did two things most people never though possible, it was both a good first person shooter on a console, and an outstanding movie licensed game that not only played well compared to other game, but did justice to the film it was based on. It may not not have aged very well, but at the time Goldeneye was the best choice, and really only, choice for multiplayer first person shooting on a console.
7. Conker’s Bad Fur Day (Rare, 2001)
I swear, not every spot on this list will be a Rare game, but number 7 has to go to Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Conker’s Bad Fur Day really succeeds in two key respects. First, it is the culmination of several years of Rare making 3D platformers on the N64, and is without a doubt the best 3D platformer they have every made from a design and gameplay standpoint. Secondly, it is one of the funniest games ever made. Conker’s Bad Fur Day is such an odd creation; it is 100% a Rare platformer in the style of Banjo Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64 in terms of gameplay and level design, but on the other hand it is crude, crass, and full of foul language and poop jokes. Rare’s other platformers certainly had some innuendo and winks and nods to the older audience playing the games, but Conker’s Bad Fur Day is made specifically for that older audience. It also somehow manages to be both very immature, and very mature at the same time. Some of the jokes are obviously immature toilet humor, but it does have a lot very clever writing in it as well.
6. Star Fox 64 (Nintendo, 1997)
As promised, not ever game on this list is a Rare game, and number 6 is the Nintendo developed Star Fox 64. Back in the late ’90s, I played Star Fox 64 so much I don’t think I could even hazard a guess as to how many times I completed it. While it was mostly on an on-rails space shooter, it is one of the best, if not the best, examples of the genre. It took everything that made the SNES original interesting and simply improved upon it. Even though it was released quite early in the N64′s life cycle, it is still one of the best looking games on the system, and one of the few to have full voice acting. The game had a fun and movie reference filled story and a many different possible paths through the game, making it highly re-playable.