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The 30 Best Nintendo 64 Games Of All Time Ranked

Nintendo is an undisputed juggernaut in the world of gaming, having held down the fort in the home console market for well over three decades at this point. From the early days of the firing up the Nintendo Entertainment Center in the living to the modern era of taking your Switch everywhere you go, Nintendo has made consoles that appeal to gamers' needs and hit them with warm feelings of nostalgia.

Even though it's been over 25 years since the Nintendo 64 made its debut, its not difficult at all to find hardcore fans of the revolutionary console. While certain aspects of the system might not hold up under modern scrutiny, the system's library of excellent games still manages to impress all these years later. From cozy RPGs to high-octane actioners, the Nintendo 64 had something for every 90s kid. Here's a ranking of the very best games the Nintendo 64 had to offer.

30. Pilotwings 64

"Pilotwings 64" is a sequel to"Pilotwings" from the SNES era, but it worked hard to expand on the flight simulation genre by injecting a bit of classic Nintendo humor into the formula. Unlike more grounded (so to speak) games like "Microsoft Flight Simulator," "Pilotwings 64" isn't married to realism, but it does employ a good deal of flight physics.

"Pilotwings 64" allows players to compete in a series of themed challenges, all the while honing their aerial abilities with three distinct vehicles: the Rocket Belt, the hang glider, and the Gyro Copter. In its review of "Pilotwings 64," IGN called it "by far one of the most impressive 3D games ever seen on a console, and its delivery is charming, diverse, and enjoyable." The zany cast of characters in "Pilotwings 64," along with the wide variety of gameplay modes, encourages exploration and discovery.

  • Release Date: Sept. 26, 1996
  • Genre: Simulation
  • Game modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 80

29. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon

"Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon" sounds like a cursed fever dream when gamers look at its plot. An evil dance group decides that the best way to take over the world is to kidnap all children and force them into a life of dance, making the entire world into a musical venue. The group decides that the best way to accomplish this is by turning beautiful Japanese landmarks into more Westernized ones. They also have a peach-themed UFO that helps them do this. It's up to a group of heroes with varied silly abilities to stop them. Robot fights and wacky music cues ensue.

There's an entire series of games starring Goemon, many of which were never localized for North American audiences, but the weirdness of "Mystical Ninja" stands on its own, giving gamers plenty to latch on to. NintendoLife explained in its review that while "Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon" isn't particularly subtle, its humor and surprisingly well-defined graphics make it a story to remember.

  • Release Date: March 31, 1998
  • Genre: Action RPG
  • Game modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 67

28. Yoshi's Story

A follow-up of sorts to the SNES' "Yoshi's Island," "Yoshi's Story" was meant to be a grand return to the world of everyone's favorite green dinosaur. However, according to IGN, the game pushed the boundaries of the platforming formula too much and created a saccharine 2D-3D style that would follow Yoshi for years later. While some might consider the game a low point in the Mario canon, "Yoshi's Story" was meant to be a platformer for all ages, full of collecting and maneuvering that appealed to both adult gamers and kids. It also inspired some great things to come.

As N64 Today pointed out in its retrospective, "Yoshi's story" began a stylistic trend in Yoshi games that continues to more recent games like "Yoshi's Crafted World." "Yoshi's Story" features a storybook style with objects that appear to be hobbled together from everyday household materials. For a look at the origins of this style, as well as a straightforward good time, "Yoshi's Story" is still a must-play N64 game.

  • Release Date: March 1, 1998
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Game Modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 65

27. Doom 64

"Doom" is an iconic franchise that helped lay the bedrock for the first-person shooter genre. "Doom 64" is a spin-off developed by Midway Games that attempted to bring the demon-slaying fun to home consoles. It features the stellar array of weapons seen in "DOOM II," but with visual overhauls. With their familiar arsenal, players then have to navigate and complete more than two dozen brand-new levels. The new levels of "DOOM 64" stand out from their predecessors because of how challenging and inventive they are, making them tough obstacles for even experienced "DOOM" players. 

"DOOM 64" also introduced a new upgradable super-weapon called the Unmaker, which can deliver the ultimate power fantasy for players who want to shred through hordes of demons. The game also features a fantastic soundtrack that builds up the tense atmosphere and makes it as unsettling as a journey through Hell should be. With how much of a complete package "DOOM 64" manages to be, it is no surprise that it has garnered a cult following amongst fans.

  • Release Date: March 31, 1997
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 76 (Switch Port)

26. Mario Tennis

Mario and friends have been featured in countless sports games, but tennis has remained a consistent go-to for Nintendo. Although appearing on the ill-fated Virtual Boy before this game, "Mario Tennis" for the N64 was the real beginning of the plumber's tennis career. The game features sixteen Mario characters and eight court, as well as an assortment of different modes and challenges. 

The 3D sports game makes for a terrific single-player and multiplayer experience. A number of cups can be taken on and will reward winners with unlockables. As noted by IGN, challenges like Ring Shot and Piranha Challenge are hectic bouts of skill that are fun diversions from traditional play.

That doesn't mean the basic tennis gameplay is forgettable, though. There are many variables that make the core of the game interesting. For instance, characters are grouped by their strengths: Bowser is a power character while Yoshi is a speed character, and every character is able to perform different shots. Lob shots are high, topspin shots are speedy, and slice shots have a curve to them, so players will have fun mastering the various mechanics.

  • Release Date: August 28, 2000
  • Genre: Sports
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic: 91

25. Star Wars Episode 1: Racer

The "Star Wars" prequel trilogy is divisive, but almost everyone agrees that the podracing scene from "Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace" is iconic and deserves to be expanded upon. Nintendo 64 owners got just that. "Star Wars Episode 1: Racer" is, as the title suggests, a racing game that lets players pilot the movie's iconic podracers. At first glance, "Star Wars Episode 1: Racer" is a standard racing game with a sci-fi spin, but the title is far more complex thanks to a novel boosting system that forces players to make on-the-fly decisions.

Even without this unique spin on boosting, "Star Wars Episode 1: Racer" Is a well-oiled machine. Each level provides a tangible sense of speed on par with "F-Zero" and "Wipeout" tracks, accentuated by the heart-pounding music score of John Williams. Plus, "Star Wars Episode 1: Racer" is full of unlockable aliens and purchasable podracer upgrades that makes the fictional sport feel like a developed, lived-in portion of the "Star Wars" galaxy. Anything that adds to franchises' already sprawling universe is a worthwhile piece of media.

  • Release Date: April 30, 1999
  • Genre: Racing
  • Game Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: N/A

24. Jet Force Gemini

During the Nintendo 64 era, Rareware could do no wrong. The company churned out beloved titles fondly remembered to this day, but even when one of their games didn't influence the industry for years to come, the result still outshone most of the N64's library. 

"Jet Force Gemini" was an odd beast for its time. The game is a hybrid of linear third-person shooter and collect-a-thon platformer that whisks players through multiple sci-fi locations. The narrative never gets more complicated than "blast evil space ants," but it doesn't need to. What "Jet Force Gemini" lacks in story it makes up for in sheer scope. Players essentially have three campaigns, one for each character, and every game asset is packed with as many polygons as the N64 could handle. "Jet Force Gemini" excels in level design to keep gamers interested and challenged without feeling overwhelmed. Admittedly, "Jet Force Gemini" is slightly held back by the N64's hardware, especially its controller, but underneath those minor issues lies a solid experience t.

  • Release Date: October 11, 1999
  • Genre: Action, adventure, third-person shooter
  • Game Modes: Single-player, local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic Score: 80

23. Gauntlet Legends

Before home consoles, game developers created arcade cabinets. When household platforms supplanted arcades, many studios tried to translate arcade games to this new format. One of the more enjoyable results was the "Gauntlet" series, and one of that franchise's more noteworthy ports was "Gauntlet Legends" for the Nintendo 64. Like the rest of the series, this title is a simple dungeon crawler where players control one of four archetypal fantasy classes and explore various levels. Gameplay is as easy as pressing the attack button to hit enemies and scouring levels for exits and hidden treasure. No randomized equipment, just undiluted exploration and battle.

While the premise sounds boring on paper, the result is the exact opposite as it channels the same energy of modern musou titles. "Gauntlet Legends" provides an addictive loop of slaughtering rooms full of enemies. Moreover, since the Nintendo 64 supports up to four players, "Gauntlet Legends" is at its best when a gamer and three friends team up to tackle wave after wave of treachery.

  • Release Date: August 31, 1999
  • Genre: Adventure, hack and slash
  • Game Modes: Single-player, local multiplayer
  • Metacritic Score: N/A

22. Conker's Bad Fur Day

If players wanted 3D platformers, then the Nintendo 64 was the place to be. The console housed megahits like "Mario 64" and "Banjo-Kazooie," but what if these cartoonish kid-friendly games were made with adults in mind? Well, "Conker's Bad Fur Day" answered this age-old question. 

Developed by Rare, "Conker's Bad Fur Day" was an amalgamation of the gentle 3D platforming of the "Banjo" games with a side of adult humor. The unlikely combo made for a shockingly great match! The opening of the game is immediately more adult, showing us a main character that spent too much time at the bar. Conker's eyes are bloodshot and he slurs his words when talking to NPCs in the opening level, setting a tone for the rest of the game (which can get pretty gross).

As a platformer, "Conker's" works well, boasting a fun moveset that includes a tailspin hover move. But Conker is rarely doing the same thing twice, as he also uses a slingshot and toilet paper as weapons at different points in game. "Conker's Bad Fur Day" is for the older players who want a little spice added to the typical kiddie platformers.

  • Release Date: March 4, 2001
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic: 92

21. Harvest Moon 64

"Harvest Moon" got its start on the SNES, but "Harvest Moon 64" perfected the formula in many ways. It helped inspire an amazing spinoff series, back before the franchise went through a complicated legal battle over its name. "Harvest Moon 64" brought the famous farming sim into the 3D world, adding dimension to its characters and adorable barnyard animals. Players worked hard to restore their dead grandfather's farm and put down roots in the small town of Flowerbud Village.

Along the way, players can befriend villagers, marry, and cultivate an impressive selection of vegetables and animals. In its review of "Harvest Moon 64," GameSpot noted that the gameplay loop might sound repetitive to those who haven't experienced farming simulations before, but the action of the game itself never actually gets boring. There are enough festivals, friendships, and challenges to keep gamers busy for ages – which is fortunate, since the game has no set end.

  • Release Date: Nov. 30, 1998
  • Genre: Farming simulation
  • Game Modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 78

20. Turok: Dinosaur Hunter

"Turok: Dinosaur Hunter" was a video game adaptation of a popular comic book character of the same name. Its release for the Nintendo 64 at the time was a bold move, since the console's most notable titles at the time were mostly family-friendly games, while "Turok" was a gritty and mature game filled with gory action and frightening enemies. The game follows a Native American warrior fighting through an army of dinosaurs to stop a threat to the entire world. 

"Turok" takes impressive advantage of the Nintendo 64's hardware and features an evolution of FPS controls that gives players smooth control of their aiming and movement around the environment. The controls and exciting gameplay are also supported by impressive graphics that allow for destructible trees, clear water, and bloody animations for enemies that react to the player's actions, making combat extremely visceral. 

  • Release Date: February 28, 1997
  • Genre: First-Person Shooter
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 85

19. Pokemon Stadium 2

"Pokemon" has been one of Nintendo's biggest properties for years. Its massive range of monsters and explorable dungeons have become iconic, but no other game in the series has delivered an experience quite like "Pokemon Stadium 2." Rather than allowing players to traverse a region of the "Pokemon" world to capture and train up their own roster, "Pokemon Stadium 2" was unique in that it allowed players to assemble whatever teams they wanted and battle it out with one another.

Players who didn't have friends nearby to play with were still able to battle through four leagues that challenged them with conquering smaller gyms and ultimately tackling the Gym Leader Castle. Even better, players who owned the handheld "Pokemon" titles at the time could get a transfer pack to send their favorite Pokemon into matches in "Stadium," allowing them to see their 8-bit team with vastly improved graphics. 

  • Release Date: December 14, 2000
  • Genre: Turn-based Strategy RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic Score: 78

18. Resident Evil 2

"Resident Evil" premiered on the original PlayStation and demonstrated that Capcom was onto something with its new franchise. While the PlayStation wasn't the be-all and end-all of gaming in the 90s, it was the console best suited for "Resident Evil." At least, until the company figured out how to port its sequel to the PlayStation's main competition. As noted in an Avalanche Reviews retrospective, "Resident Evil 2" is essentially "Resident Evil," only larger, scarier, and better. The game continues the survival horror gameplay of the original, then ups the ante with more story, characters, and enemies. "Resident Evil 2" was one of the best complete packages for the PlayStation, but what of its Nintendo 64 port?

The N64 version of "Resident Evil 2" is a veritable work of black magic. The developers crammed the original version's two discs of content onto one cartridge and also improved the audio, animations, models, and textures — if the Expansion Pak is inserted, that is. While the Nintendo 64 version of "Resident Evil 2" sports some odd quirks, the port is by no means inferior to the incredible original version.

  • Release Date: October 31, 1999
  • Genre: Adventure, survival horror
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 89

17. Wave Race 64

Extreme sports are no stranger to video games. Snowboarding has "1080" and "SSX," while skateboarding is represented by powerhouses like "Tony Hawk" and "Skate." But there's basically one franchise that can say it's the number one source for jet ski entertainment. "Wave Race 64" rides a fine line between realistic simulator and arcade mayhem. 

Firstly, water physics are pretty incredible for the time (per Nintendo Life), forcing players to navigate complex wave patterns. This can make or break races, so skill is needed to win. Stages themselves are diverse with a number of layouts and hidden shortcuts. There are only nine of them, but they're all are highly replayable. 

Heightening that replay value are the four different playable characters. Each have different stats affecting their speed and the way they handle. They can all be used in the game's single player modes and multiplayer modes, which include time trials, stunts, and a two-player competitive mode.

  • Release Date: November 1, 1996
  • Genre: Racing, sports
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic: 92

16. Star Fox 64

Some games needed to make the jump to 3D. "Star Fox" is one of these games. Coming from the SNES era, the 3D models and textures helped improve the experience of "Star Fox 64" immensely and made it become one of the best titles on the N64. It doesn't have a heaping amount of content, but "Star Fox" is space dogfighting at its finest — and 100%-ing it is a joy.

As Fox McCloud, players will gun down enemies in the Arwing, Blue Marine, and Landmaster. Each is utilized in the fifteen branching story missions. The game feels a bit like a Saturday morning cartoon, thanks to Fox's pals Falco or Slippy calling in during missions. Likewise, the action is exhilarating, especially with the N64 Rumble Pak accessory, which added some forceful feedback to the controller.

"Star Fox 64" also has split-screen multiplayer, allowing players to discover the best pilot in their friend group. Addition replay value is added by the presence of medals, which can be obtained during the main story by destroying all enemies in a stage. 

  • Release Date: July 1, 1997
  • Genre: Shoot 'em up
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic: 95

15. F-Zero X

"F-Zero" is an (unfortunately dead) racing series that is renowned for its blistering speeds, insane tracks, and colorful cast of characters. "F-Zero X" took the series to new heights and is often cited by fans as one of the best of the series. One of the biggest changes that it brought was the expansion of races to include thirty cars at a time. This brings a new level of chaos and scope to the races that are only exaggerated further by the intense speed and high stakes that define "F-Zero" as a series. Thankfully, the game's controls are incredibly tight, which makes the wacky speed manageable and fun. 

The races are played out on 24 finely tuned tracks that challenge players to find the best route and survive their dangerous twists and turns. Those races can be played in a few different ways, including a split-screen versus mode. One of the most innovative parts of the game at its release, however, was its hidden fourth cup that featured randomly generated tracks, making the game endlessly replayable.

  • Release Date: July 14, 1998
  • Genre: Racing
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic Score: 85

14. Mario Party

With its four built-in controller ports and extensive library of titles boasting multiplayer modes, the Nintendo 64 built up something of a reputation as a party console. One series that fully embraced this sensibility is "Mario Party." The beloved franchise made its debut on the N64 and released a trilogy of games on the console. Though each installment of the N64 "Mario Party" trilogy has its own sense of charm, the original brought something fresh to the table when it launched another long-running Nintendo series.

Four players compete on a game board, rolling dice to advance, avoiding obstacles, and buying stars. The player holding the most stars at the end of the game is the winner. Sounds simple, but between each turn, players engage in a variety of mini-games to win coins for buying stars and other perks. The original "Mario Party" is still regarded among the series' best entries and laid the foundation for a long line of party games.

Release Date: Dec. 14, 1998

Genre: Party

Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)

Metacritic Score: 79

13. Banjo-Kazooie

"Banjo Kazooie" was one of Rare's biggest titles, big enough to warrant lucrative brand deals with the likes of Keebler cookies. The game was also popular enough to inspire a sequel, "Banjo-Tooie," and – years later – "Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts." It also spawned a better-left-forgotten spiritual successor in "Yooka-Laylee," one of the worst games of 2017. Still, none of its sequels have quite captured the magic of the first game.

The plot is simple, but effective. Banjo and his feather-brained best friend Kazooie set out to save Banjo's sister Tootie from the evil witch Gruntilda, who speaks completely in rhyme. Equal parts silly and challenging, with a banger soundtrack to boot, "Banjo-Kazooie" remains an outstanding title, even years later. As Brink of Gaming noted in his retrospective on the game, "Banjo-Kazooie" captured a feeling that many platformers of the time couldn't, adding a specific goofy flavor that has allowed it to stand the test of time. Thankfully, gamers can still play the title on Nintendo Switch Online.

  • Release Date: May 31, 1998
  • Genre: Action-adventure platformer
  • Game Modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 92

12. Perfect Dark

After developing the widely acclaimed "GoldenEye 007" and redefining the first-person shooter genre for home consoles, Rare followed it up with 2000's "Perfect Dark." Set in a cyberpunk near-future, special agent Joanna Dark discovers a sinister corporation is in league with a hostile alien civilization and is targeting the President to further their agenda. Released in the late stages of the Nintendo 64's life cycle, "Perfect Dark" proved the console still had some tricks up its sleeve and provided players with one of the best console shooters ever made.

Requiring the Expansion Pak peripheral to experience the game in its full glory, "Perfect Dark" pushed the technical capabilities of the N64 as far as it could go, boasting impressive visuals and lighting effects. The multiplayer mode improved upon "GoldenEye" in every way, offering a fully customizable experience and the option to add up to eight computer-controlled bots to matches. While "GoldenEye" may hold the distinction of being the first truly great home console shooter, "Perfect Dark" built upon its foundation to create the best shooter on the N64.

Release Date: May 20, 2000

Genre: First-person shooter

Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)

Metacritic Score: 97

11. Super Smash Bros.

"Super Smash Bros." answered an immortal question: "Who would win a fight: Mario or Link?" Its tight list of twelve characters and nine stages has since expanded with each iteration, as has the number of moves, modes, and awesome music cues. But "Super Smash Bros." was a real groundbreaker, presenting one of the best local multiplayer experiences on the N64.

"King of the hill" is the name of the game, with players trying to knock each other out of the ring. Doing away with decreasing health bars, "Smash" has percentage points that climb as players become more vulnerable to knockouts. Getting the upper hand on the opponent requires use of guards, throws, normal attacks, and specials. It's a surprisingly deep game with a competitive scene that is still active to this day.

What "Super Smash Bros." did so well was combine various Nintendo franchises in a balanced way. Fox McCloud and Kirby are two totally different characters, but they somehow fit together here. It's a crossover like no other, and has set the groundwork for other collaborations like 2022's "MultiVersus."

  • Release Date: April 26, 1999
  • Genre: Fighting
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic: 79

10. Paper Mario

Rather than featuring the side-scrolling platforming that "Mario" is known for, Intelligent Systems' "Paper Mario" instead puts players in control of a party of heroes for a turn-based RPG adventure. Elements of the platforming origins of Mario were still included, such as the ability to jump on enemies in battle, but the puts a heavy emphasis on delivering an accessible and funny RPG storyline. 

This allowed "Paper Mario" to be appealing to both newcomers to the genre that weren't overwhelmed by its simpler combat mechanics as well as RPG veterans that could be charmed by its witty dialogue and storytelling. Its new approach to the mushroom kingdom is also a treat for fans that can enjoy seeing the familiar world given new depth and character as they freely explore its regions and interact with a colorful cast of characters. "Paper Mario" gives players a unique fan-favorite experience to this day that is filled with laughs, excitement, gorgeous visuals, and memorable party members. 

  • Release Date: August 11, 2000
  • Genre: RPG
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic Score: 93

9. Diddy Kong Racing

If "Mario Karty" ever had a serious challenger for supremacy among racing games on the Nintendo 64, it would be 1997's "Diddy Kong Racing." Initially intended as a standalone racing title without being tied to any existing IP, Rare decided to add Diddy Kong as the marquee character to give the game more name-brand clout (per Nintendo Life). Featuring a larger playable roster and more tracks than "Mario Kart 64," Rare crafted an ambitious racing game in "Diddy Kong Racing" that blew away expectations.

Unlike many similar racing games, "Diddy Kong Racing" features a full story mode that sees players gathering collectibles and competing against bosses to liberate Timber's Island from the villainous Wizpig. Its open-world map, multiple vehicle types, two-stage battle mode, and competitive minigames meant there was no racing title quite like "Diddy Kong Racing" on the N64. As an added bonus, the game also marked the debut of Banjo and Conker as playable characters, appearing ahead of "Banjo-Kazooie" and "Conker's Bad Fur Day," respectively.

Release Date: Nov. 21, 1997

Genre: Racing

Game Modes: Single-player, local multiplayer (up to 4)

Metacritic Score: 88

8. Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards

The "Kirby" franchise relies on the title character's power to suck up enemies and gain their abilities as his own. While more recent entries have expanded these skill sets with new attacks, the actual powers have mostly remained the same. "Kirby 64: the Crystal Shards" tried something different.

"Kirby 64" is the first 2.5D entry in the series. The game plays like most other "Kirby" titles with one notable exception: Players can mix and match enemy powers to create brand new abilities. Why use just any old sword when you can combine a slicing power with an electric enemy to produce a dual-bladed lightsaber? 

While the standard gameplay loop of "Kirby 64" is as simple as the rest of the franchise, the game stands out due to its appealing presentation — just like the rest of the franchise. Graphics are simple and colorful, and the soundtrack is full of earworm tracks that stick with players long after they finish the game. "Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards" might be a short and easy game, but it's also a fun and pleasant one, too.

  • Release Date: March 24, 2000
  • Genre: Adventure, platformer
  • Game modes: Single-player, local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic Score: 77

7. Mario Kart 64

The "Mario Kart" series' sophomore installment, "Mario Kart 64," was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1996. Expanding the variety of tracks and showcasing the graphical possibilities on the N64, "Mario Kart 64" was immediately one of the most impressive titles released on the console. Boasting up to four-player local multiplayer, several different game modes, and faster gameplay, "Mario Kart 64" is still seen as a high water mark for racing games.

Gamers can choose from eight classic playable characters and race across 16 different tracks in either championship or versus mode. In addition to racing, up to four players can engage each other in battle mode, using weapons across four unique stages until only the victor is left standing. More than two decades after its the influence of "Mario Kart 64" continues to loom large.

Release Date: Dec. 14, 1996

Genre: Racing

Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)

Metacritic Score: 83

6. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

"Majora's Mask" was released a little over one year after "Ocarina of Time" and was considered "not for everybody" (per GameSpot). As beloved as it is now, it's sort of the black sheep of the franchise. Reasons for this reception include not being set in Hyrule, not featuring Zelda or Ganondorf in the story, and not using a traditional gameplay structure. 

There are two gameplay elements that are largely unique to Majora. The first is the day and night system. Link must save the town of Termina within three days or the land will be destroyed. It's sort of a "Groundhog Day" situation that allows Link to alleviate the time limit in some ways, but the looming threat is always present. Then there's the mask system itself. Link dons different masks that allow him to transform to complete overworld challenges and dungeons.

"Majora's Mask" goes out of its way to present a distinct adventure that is unlike any before it. A darker-themed story and never-before-seen mechanics still keep the game from being overshadowed by the more popular "Ocarina of Time."

  • Release Date: October 25, 2000
  • Genre: Action-adventure
  • Game Modes: Single-player
  • Metacritic: 95

5. GoldenEye 007

While first-person shooters on consoles had certainly existed for years before the Nintendo 64's launch, hardware limitations left much to be desired in a genre more commonly associated with PCs at the time. That changed in 1997 with Rare's adaptation of the 1995 James Bond movie "GoldenEye," which catapulted the cinematic franchise into the post-Cold War era. More than standing among the best movie tie-in games of all time, "GoldenEye 007" also showcased that first-person shooters were every inch as effective and entertaining on home consoles as their PC counterparts.

Following and expanding upon the story of the 1995 film, "GoldenEye" sees Bond pursuing an old friend who has taken control of a stolen weapons satellite. Though the single-player campaign is a solid experience, the secret to the game's success lies in its multiplayer mode, which allows up to four players to battle in a variety of stages with different scenarios and weapon loadouts. A thoroughly engaging title, "GoldenEye 007" helped solidify the N64's reputation as a multiplayer-friendly console.

Release Date: Aug. 25, 1997

Genre: First-person shooter

Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)

Metacritic Score: 96

4. Pokemon Snap

Since the "Pokemon" games revolve around the loop of capturing superpowered creatures and leading them into battle, one can't help but wonder what a Pokemon's life be like without human interaction. Nintendo answered this question on the Nintendo 64. "Pokemon Snap" is, at its core, an on-rails shooter for children. But instead of trying to land as many headshots as possible, players are encouraged to snap picture-perfect photos — and therein lies the key to the game's appeal.

The challenge of "Pokemon Snap" is figuring out how to get Pokemon into the perfect photograph. The game delivers a puzzle-like feel since players have to figure out which items to use and when to draw out Pokemon, as well as and make them interact with each other and the environment. And for a reward, players can make a scrapbook out of their best pictures — or at least they could, back when Blockbuster was still around and sported "Pokemon Snap" Stations.

You'd have to have been there to fully understand and appreciate the excitement of turning your favorite "Pokemon Snap" pictures into physical stickers.

  • Release Date: March 21, 1999
  • Genre: Rail shooter, photography sim
  • Game Modes: Single-player only
  • Metacritic Score: 77

3. Donkey Kong 64

While the revolutionary "Donkey Kong Country" games were side-scrolling platformers, "Donkey Kong 64" expanded the series' perspective to feature a 3D world and new playable characters with their own fun abilities. The changes largely re-invented the "Donkey Kong" formula, and it paid off: "Donkey Kong 64" was the best-selling Nintendo 64 game during 1999's holiday season (per IGN). Developed by the legendary Rare Studios, "Donkey Kong 64" boasts well around 30 hours of gameplay filled with various environments, wacky characters, and plenty of collectibles. 

The game's journey is made all the more enjoyable by mixing Rare's signature sense of humor and tight platforming challenges. Switching between the game's cast of characters also helps to mix-up the gameplay, as their various unique abilities allow players to backtrack to previous areas and unlock new areas to complete the game's massive collect-a-thon. "Donkey Kong 64" also boasts a surprisingly fun local multiplayer component for up to four players, complete with multiple modes and maps. 

  • Release Date: November 22, 1999
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Game Modes: Single-player, Local multiplayer (up to 4)
  • Metacritic Score: 90

2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Nintendo's long-running "The Legend of Zelda" franchise arrived on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, featuring Link and Princess Zelda in their first 3D adventure in "The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time." As Link learns of his true destiny, he sets out to stop the evil wizard Ganondorf from seizing the mythical Triforce and plunging the kingdom of Hyrule into darkness. However, the path to defeat Ganondorf is far from simple, with Link traversing two different timelines while venturing into labyrinthine temples and dungeons across the realm.

With its intuitive controls, immersive world, epic story, and memorable soundtrack, "Ocarina of Time" propelled the "Zelda" franchise to new heights and revolutionized what "Zelda" games could be. Every subsequent 3D entry in the series would be compared to the 1998 game, with Nintendo revisiting and remastering the instant classic on multiple occasions for future consoles. From its warm, inviting world to its engaging dungeon-crawling and boss battles, "Ocarina of Time" still stands as one of the greatest video games of all time.

Release Date: Nov. 21, 1998

Genre: Action-adventure

Game Modes: Single-player

Metacritic Score: 99

1. Super Mario 64

No list of the best Nintendo 64 games would be complete without "Super Mario 64," the game that brought Mario into the world of 3D platforming. The game launched along with the Nintendo 64, and while it may not have aged well in some regards, it remains the best-selling N64 game of all time. In fact, the game is so beloved that it received the DS treatment as soon as that handheld launched. It has since made its way to Nintendo Switch Online and the "Super Mario 3D All-Stars" collection.

GameSpot's original review of "Super Mario 64" awarded the game a 9.4/10, commenting specifically on the overall experience of the game. The review explained that the design of "Super Mario 64" encourages exploring without being overcomplicated or confusing. It's a bit simple, but in this case, simplicity is absolutely necessary to make the experience enjoyable for a wide player base. The release of "Super Mario 64" also introduced a variety of new moves to the Mario arsenal, like punching, kicking, and the always-fun ground pound. Mario soared to new heights in "Super Mario 64," and the franchise never looked back.

  • Release Date: Sept. 26, 1996
  • Genre: Platformer
  • Game Modes: Single-Player
  • Metacritic Score: 94