The N64 helped define many of the key Nintendo characters still around today.
It retains cult status thanks to the many well-loved titles that were released for the console. This includes one of the best Zelda games, and our pick for the best N64 game, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Whether you’re a newcomer to this console or a longtime N64 gamer looking for new games, you’re in the right place.
The N64 was released by Nintendo in 1996. In terms of the company’s video game development cycle, this console came after the SNES and before the Dreamcast. Around the same time, competitor Sony was marketing the PlayStation, and Sega the Sega Saturn. This console was responsible for elevating numerous much-loved 2D franchises to the realms of 3D gaming. But it only featured a relatively small pool of less than 300 games, despite the SNES having more than double that number.
Though all games cost roughly the same on release, some of the rarer titles now fetch much higher prices. So if you’re picking up a secondhand console, you’ll want to make sure you’re only buying the best titles. Here’s where we come in, providing you with a ranking of the best games you can get for this console. To help you decide which games to choose, we’ve scoured the internet for professional opinions and customer reviews alike. This gave us a shortlist of the 27 best games that were ever made for this classic console. Any of these titles will give you a look into one of the early consoles that helped to shape modern gaming.
The N64 console was a considerable hardware upgrade compared to the previous Nintendo consoles. Though memory management wasn’t yet at its best, the peripherals were improving on all consoles of this generation. This was reflected in the large N64 controller, which introduced an analogue stick into the design. Games for the console came on cartridges, with the N64 being one of the last systems to use this design. Problems associated with this hardware included easily damaged connectors, interference from dirt and dust, and limited storage space. This is why modern consoles rapidly moved onto adopting CDs and then Blu-Ray discs for future games.
Though the game save technology improved towards the end of the life cycle, it was too little, too late. Changes to memory chips meant that you wouldn’t lose your saved games due to batteries depleting. But most games had already been released by the time this technology came down in price.
Looking after your N64 games
The inner workings of N64 cartridges make them susceptible to attracting dirt and dust that can sit on connectors. A dirty cartridge may not start up at all once loaded into your ‘new’ console. If you’ve picked up an old cartridge and it’s not working, there are some things you can try.
The first thing to try is the simplest, which is blowing into the cartridge opening to dislodge any dust. Your games will warn you not to do this, but it generally won’t cause any problems. Just be careful not to spit directly into the opening when you’re doing so. Secondly, you can attempt to swab clean the copper connectors that lie inside the opening. You can use cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol to wipe the pins down. Be sure to let them fully air-dry before inserting the cartridge into your N64.
If this doesn’t work, then you can attempt to perform minor surgery on your game cartridge. There are small screws on the rear that can be removed for direct access. You’ll need a 3.8mm screwdriver to remove them.
Be wary that this is a risky process if done incorrectly. If you decide to go ahead, make sure you take pictures of the assembly before diving in. This’ll give you the best chance of putting it back together again.
How much you should expect to pay
When it comes to picking up used game cartridges for the N64, we’ve got some bad news for you. Whereas the SNES had just a few big-ticket items, the N64 often sees many popular titles go for crazy money. So if you want to start a collection, you could be forking out some serious dollars.
Take Super Mario 64 as an example, a game that sold an enormous 11 million copies. You can pick up a cartridge for less than $35-40 as of January 2019. This is likely due to the sheer volume of units that were shifted in the ‘90s.
But if you want to own Banjo Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, or Donkey Kong 64, it’s a different story. Each of these titles was successful back in the day, but they will cost you big bucks if you want to buy new copies now. At the time of writing, each of these games can set you back upwards of $300. Clearly, starting a collection could get pricey, with some games costing the same as a modern console system. This is why you should shop smart and do your research on the secondhand games market. It’s often possible to grab a bargain from somewhere like a flea market or pawn store.
The best thing that you can do to keep costs low is to buy secondhand games exclusively. New cartridges can be found directly from Nintendo, but they are very expensive. A used cartridge can easily save you hundreds of dollars.
Picking the top games for any game console isn’t a straightforward task. You have a large pool of genres and differing tastes among gamers, to name but a few of the complicating factors. So to gather a list of the best N64 games, we’ve looked at a broad selection of the top game genres.
Our ranking of the best N64 games ever made boils down to a final selection of 27 titles. To determine the finalists, we’ve scoured game authority websites, where each of these titles have been reviewed. We’ve also considered real feedback from everyday gamers through a range of sources to obtain a broad set of opinions.
We’ve also compared these games based on a range of our own criteria. This criteria, outlined below, has helped us to further refine our list. Take a look:
- The hours of gameplay you can expect to get for your money;
- The storyline of the single player game and how well it draws you in as a gamer;
- The uniqueness of the concept — whether it refreshes the genre or feels like more of the same;
- Whether there is a multiplayer mode and whether it’s as solid as the single-player story;
- The replayability of the game — whether you can easily enjoy it time and time again;
- The game packaging, in terms of design, plus any optional accessories and extras that are included.
Best N64 Action-Adventure RPG Games
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
You’ll rarely run across a ‘Best of’ Nintendo games list without a Zelda title skirting the top spots. So it’s no surprise that Zelda has swooped into first place on our list of best N64 games. It’s hard to find a game that so perfectly combines innovative graphics, audio, and gameplay elements.
Like every title in this series, the game follows the hero Link as he attempts to save Princess Zelda. The gameplay is where this title really shines, with complex mini-games, puzzle-stuffed dungeons, and a time-traveling storyline. There’s no wonder that many fans revere Ocarina of Time as one of the best iterations of the series to date.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Majora’s Mask was the direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, standing as the last Zelda title published on the N64. The game was proof that a title doesn’t have to revolutionize with its graphics to be successful. Though the game uses the same engine from Ocarina, it utilizes an entirely new game world, new dungeons, and more.
This title offers a storyline that isn’t designed just for kids, but will be suited to adult gamers as well. Your gameplay isn’t bogged down by constant tutorials, with the game leaving you to figure things out yourself. All this makes for a title that can be picked up by modern-day gamers and enjoyed as if it’s the year 2000 again.
Paper Mario is a mashup of the older 2D Mario games that came before, plus the SNES Super Mario RPG. Designed to play like a storybook, the characters are all cut out of paper, hence the name. Not only does this create beautiful, nostalgic graphics, but also cool effects such as Mario flipping over when turning around.
The plot isn’t too dissimilar to previous games, revolving around Bowser and his usual malicious antics. But the new elements introduced keep the gameplay from feeling stagnant, especially as players tour all realms of the Mushroom Kingdom. It’s altogether a refreshing take on the much-loved series that gives existing fans something different to enjoy.
Best N64 Action Games
Every now and again, a game comes along that doesn’t just break the mold, it stomps all over it. Blast Corps was such a game, with an absurd storyline that affords players heaps of action-filled fun. Your task? Prevent a nuclear catastrophe by demolishing anything that lies between a runaway nuclear missile and its pre-programmed destination.
There is a range of tools at your disposal to eliminate the varied obstacles that lie in the missile’s path. Constant micro-management and swapping between the appropriate tools keeps the action fast-paced and fresh. Though lacking a multiplayer mode, the unique gameplay elements were enough to pique the interest of gamers everywhere.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Shadow of the Empire was the first Star Wars game on N64. Next up was Rogue Squadron, a considerable improvement all around thanks to the focus shifting solely to ship-based combat. This is precisely what gamers who played the first title had been clamoring for all along.
Like Shadow of the Empire, Rogue Squadron bridges the gap between 2 of the films from the series and showcases the franchise’s recognizable spacecraft. Gameplay is split across 16 stages, with ship controls being notoriously difficult to master, but replay value high. This game’s not for somebody looking for an easy ride, but will provide modern fans with a refreshing gameplay experience.
Star Wars: Shadow of the Empire
The first Star Wars title to come to the N64, this game was released relatively early on in the console’s life cycle. Thanks to both of these factors, the game sold more than 1 million copies during its release. And for good reason, too — the gameplay combined explosive vehicular and ground battles.
Even in its day, this game wasn’t best-known for its controls. The campaign is fairly short too, but thankfully, depth is added by extra challenges that can be achieved through replay sessions. Though future Star Wars titles improved on the genre, this initial outing is a classic you should play first.
Best N64 Party Games
WWF No Mercy
To this day, there have been countless wrestling games across numerous platforms, but none quite the same as No Mercy. Despite questionable graphics and a lack of support for online multiplayer, No Mercy remains one of the most popular wrestling titles. This can be partly attributed to the straightforward approach that the game takes — more doesn’t always mean better.
Despite an extensive roster of recognizable wrestling names, the game tries to keep things simple, and succeeds. Missing are the complex button-mashing combos of the later games to come in the series, keeping things approachable for new gamers. There’s also a thorough “Create a Wrestler” feature that offers mind-blowing personalization for your character.
Super Smash Bros.
Super Smash Bros. is a staple party title that doesn’t quite fit into the typical fighting genre. Gone is the gratuitous violence associated with other beat-’em-up games like Tekken or Mortal Kombat. Instead, Nintendo’s most famous roster of colorful characters take to the arena in a cutesy last-man-standing battle.
Other differences from your traditional fighting games include the lack of memorizing button-mashing combos to come out on top. This means you can focus on the core gameplay, doing damage to opponents’ characters and trying to knock them out of the ring. The result is a laid-back party game that doesn’t take itself too seriously and focuses on the pure entertainment factor.
There have been 16 sequels since the original Mario Party launched in 1999. How well does the original hold up? Very well, it would seem. The original featured a long-lasting gameplay experience and heaps of depth. Up to 4 players can take part in a game, making this the perfect party title.
Gameplay takes place on virtual game boards, much like a classic family board game. The aim of the game is to gather the greatest number of stars before the other players can do so. Achieving this target through nearly 50 mini-games across 8 different boards is enough variety to keep you playing for a long time.
When Pokémon Stadium landed on the N64, it was the first time that the series had left handheld consoles. The biggest innovation was the ability to see the digital creatures battle it out in full-color 3D environments. But you could still link your GameBoy cartridges to the console to play the original Pokémon games.
Aside from the direct sequel, there’s little else on the market that quite captures what Pokémon Stadium did so well in 1999. The turn-based battle system can become a cumbersome wait when realized on a television and games console. But the innovative approach to playing Pokémon and incredible set pieces make this a classic worth picking up.
Best N64 Platform Games
Super Mario 64
With Super Mario 64, Nintendo took one of the biggest 2D franchises around and brought it into the 3D world. It was a venture that placed them under the scrutiny of Mario fans around the world. But it’s a risk that paid off, with many sources considering this title to be the best video game ever made.
Though it didn’t win our best N64 game title, it did advance open-world design, taking it to a new level. The variety and scale within each world is incredible, with a breathtaking level of detail. The result was a game with content and depth that can easily rival some of the biggest open-world titles offered on modern platforms.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a little like Banjo Kazooie, if that game were drunk and 17-rated. It’s not your average platformer, doing away with often-tedious collectibles, and instead focusing on the platforming action alone. However, it’s the adult gameplay that makes this game stand out from cutesy games like Super Mario 64.
A lewd storyline runs throughout the game, filled with expletives and over-the-top casting. Numerous game worlds are based on spoofs of popular Hollywood movies from the time, like Aliens, The Matrix, and Terminator. Any adult gamers will feel a sense of nostalgia when they reconnect with this game.
Banjo Kazooie released to mixed opinions, with some gamers loving the new IP, while others called it a Super Mario clone. There’s no denying that there are an astounding number of similarities between the 2 games, though this is no bad thing. In fact, Banjo Kazooie improves on Super Mario 64 in several areas, offering greater depth and gameplay variety.
Players who are familiar with Mario are treated to a myriad of game worlds that won’t be recognizable. Each world is well-defined, and bursting with character and immersive audio, while the hoards of collectibles create long-lasting gameplay value. This is less a case of one game copying another, and more a case of a game uniquely reusing successful ideas.
Banjo-Tooie was widely heralded as one of the best-looking games created for the N64 console. Not only were the environments stunningly textured, but they were also absolutely huge, making it easy to get lost. And the draw distance was impressive, too, something that even modern games get wrong from time to time.
Back in the ’90s, gamers found that Banjo-Tooie was the kind of game to keep you constantly returning for more. The storyline flowed well from the original, while there were large improvements to the gameplay, sound, and multiplayer. Check out this classic platformer and see whether it still holds the same appeal as it did when it was first released.
Donkey Kong 64
Much like the Mario series of games, the N64 brought Donkey Kong into full-color 3D after 2.5 years in development. The storyline is enjoyable, the controls intuitive, and the graphics highly immersive. But what sets this game apart is the sheer size: It’s one of the longest games available on the N64.
Game developer Rare was known for adding heaps of replayability into their games, which is most certainly the case here. The number of mini-games, character-specific items, and different playthrough techniques is astounding. To unlock and achieve everything will take gamers young and old a great deal of time, adding real replay value.
Best N64 Racing Games
Wave Race 64: Kawasaki Jet Ski
Water physics have always been one of the most challenging areas of game development, with only modern AAA titles getting it spot-on. Yet for a game released in the late ’90s, Wave Race 64 was leaps and bounds ahead of anything else. This title is known for featuring stunning set pieces and action-packed gameplay.
Wave Race 64 wasn’t the only water-based racer to hit the N64, but it was the only critical and financial success. In fact, to this day, there are very few games to challenge it for the crown in this niche genre. This game is certainly worth revisiting for any gamer picking up an N64.
F-Zero was born on Nintendo’s earlier SNES console and this sequel arrived nearly a decade later. The game was a considerable achievement at the time, with up to 30 cars on screen simultaneously. The focus is purely on racing, unlike the WipeOut series of racing games that introduced weaponry to blast apart opponents.
Straight out of the box, the obvious trump card that makes this title a winner is the sheer depth offered. With 24 tracks and 30 vehicles to unlock, this is a title that completely destroyed its competition in the genre. Aside from modern WipeOut remasters, it’s a genre that’s still relatively unchallenged, so this title is definitely worth a try.
Diddy Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing was released on the N64 in the same year that Nintendo launched Mario Kart 64. Though the titles became lifelong rivals, there was never any question of one game copying the other’s ideas. They share similarities as kart racers, but there are also broad differences that make them very unique experiences.
Mario Kart 64 focuses primarily on the racing aspect, whereas Diddy Kong Racing has a storyline. Though basic, the story is coupled with multiple collectibles and boss fights that add new depth. There’s a seemingly endless stream of additional content, just when you think you’ve finally beaten the game.
Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 is the sequel to the classic Super Mario Kart game that revolutionized racing on the SNES. In this outing, tracks have been given a new lease on life compared to the predecessor, with hills, tunnels, and through-building shortcuts. And there are other gameplay tweaks here and there, including changes to the weapons available to racers.
Though some gamers have complained of scaled-down difficulty compared to the original, this is only true to an extent. The addition of kart classes is a unique twist that scales difficulty up rapidly throughout the game. So for seasoned gamers who are looking to reconnect with a classic N64 title, a challenge is never far away with Mario Kart 64.
Best N64 Shoot-em-up Games
Not many people realize that Perfect Dark is in fact a sequel to the Goldeneye game released 3 years prior. But this is perhaps because the sequel is lacking an official Bond license from the franchise’s producers. Still, this is widely regarded as the shooter that dethroned Goldeneye.
As far as content and replayability go, Perfect Dark is packed to the hilt with game modes and customization. There’s enough content in single-player that a lesser developer would’ve released this as multiple different games. And the classic, memorable multiplayer experience from Goldeneye returns again, albeit with plenty of improvements and new customization options.
One of the first great Bond games, Goldeneye was based on the 17th installment from the movie franchise. Characters — even in terms of their appearance — are well translated into their in-game counterparts, with genuine likenesses. Along with immersive and detailed environments, this is quite the technical achievement for a game of this age.
The single-player story will be instantly recognizable to any die-hard Bond fans from beginning to end. Starting with the epic bungee jump scene, the plot follows right through to that explosive final showdown from the film. But it’s the multiplayer that still draws many fond memories from grown-up gamers of the ‘90s.
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 is widely seen as a considerable improvement over the original title that came years before. Time and again, it’s successful in making you feel like you’ve been sucked straight into a horror movie. Packed with moments when you’ll expect a jump scare, the game is excellent at surprising you when your guard is down.
This game was ported directly from the PlayStation at a time when the sequel was only weeks from release. But it doesn’t feel dated — in fact, the game manages to cram 2 discs into a single cartridge. And the N64 Expansion Pak ups the graphics into hi-res mode, and the original score was ported, too.
Star Fox 64
Combat in Star Fox 64 takes place across 16 missions, though only 7 occur in a playthrough, and paths can change when secrets are uncovered. As a result, you can easily play through the game multiple times without it becoming stale. What’s more, the story is told through in-game cutscenes and voiceovers, something not always seen in games of this era.
If there’s one complaint we have, it’s that you can’t save progress and must complete the game in one sitting — which just means that you’re going to have to immerse yourself in the world of Star Fox. But with great replayability, we have no problem with the notion of some lengthy playthroughs of this classic title.
We’ve called this a shoot-em-up, though it’s not quite the same as the other shooters on our list: Pokémon Snap has you shooting those familiar creatures with a camera rather than a gun. It’s an odd concept, but it’s one that resonated with fans of the series everywhere.
Progression is on-rails, and you can obtain items to lure Pokémon into more appealing locations to shoot. It’s a refreshing change from battling Pokémon against each other in an arena, though the campaign is relatively short. Still, if you’re a fan of everything Pokémon, then it makes sense to revisit this original gameplay experience.
Best N64 Sports Games
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
The Tony Hawk series in general is seen as the game(s) that defined the skateboarding genre. In fact, you’ll struggle to find many other attempts at creating a successful skateboarding video game franchise. However, despite there being numerous games in the series, not all of them hit the mark in terms of player satisfaction.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is one of the titles that attained legendary status among fans of the series. It was a direct port of the PlayStation classic that inspired athletic and sedentary gamers alike. And it wasn’t for several additional entries into the series that the developers managed to come close to the original.
Most people have played Wii Sports at some point, but before the Wii, there were games like Mario Tennis. And it’s not just Mario taking to the court, as you can also play as more than a dozen others. The single-player game is strong, but it’s the multiplayer experience that wins this game a place on our list.
If you’re a fan of tennis games, you’ll find all the familiar game modes and techniques that you’re used to. But if you’re a fan of Mario, you’ll note the fantasy elements that make this game uniquely Nintendo. With multiple gameplay twists introduced into a range of game modes, you and your friends will be playing for hours.
Few snowboarding games have ever been made for home consoles, with the other most-recognizable being the SSX series. But 1080° Snowboarding comes in strong with much to offer despite the other well-known series being so dominant. This game is much harder, with difficult-to-master controls and a steep learning curve.
The game had a very short development cycle: It was completed in around a year, which is the blink of an eye for the industry. We would’ve liked to have seen extra tracks and other gameplay tweaks, like the removal of invisible boundary walls on courses. But with a plethora of unique tracks, tricks, and impressive graphics for its time, there’s plenty of fun on offer.
How many games does the N64 have?
In total, there were 388 games released for the N64 between the years 1996 and 2002. By comparison, the PlayStation had around 1,100 and the Sega Saturn around 600 during the same development cycle. Nintendo’s previous console, the NES and SNES, released 768 and 725 games respectively in North America.
In addition, there were several games that were specific to Japan. Game consoles such as the N64 and SNES, both developed by Nintendo, often had region-locked games. This means that Nintendo would release certain titles in Japan, but nowhere else in the world. Though some of the most popular games ended up being ported into English, this wasn’t the case for every region-locked title.
Despite the relatively small library of games released on the N64, there was no shortage of quality titles. In fact, 3 of the 5 best-selling titles during Christmas 1996 were N64 games. The platform produced numerous critically acclaimed games, as well as the best-selling game of the generation, Super Mario 64.
Does the N64 have internal memory?
Early memory storage on the N64 wasn’t very efficient, working in a similar way to computer RAM. Each cartridge had a button cell battery to power the memory chip, which could last over a decade. But if the battery died, or if you had to replace it, you’d lose your hard-earned game saves.
Also, the N64 utilized multiple methods of saving game states, which made things feel a little confusing at times. The “Expansion Pak” was mandatory for certain games, including 2 of our top picks, Perfect Dark and Donkey Kong 64. And there were also memory cards that could be purchased — again, certain games required this by default.
Finally, game saves were often stored on the game cartridges themselves, meaning you’d have to hold onto those. Because when you saved your games would vary from one game title to another, you had to be well-prepared. So as you can see, most storage mechanisms on the N64 were volatile and risked loss of game save data.
Though there was a non-volatile type of memory available, it was rarely used for N64 games. This type of memory, known as EEPROM, did not require a power source, meaning less risk of loss. However, it was considerably more expensive to manufacture at the time, only dropping in price towards the end of the console’s life cycle.
Why are N64 games so expensive?
Supply and demand plays heavily into the cost of individual N64 cartridges, as does the popularity of a title. For example, Super Mario 64 was the best-selling title of the generation, making it highly desirable for collectors. On the flip side, a less successful game not featured on our list might go for far cheaper.
Since these cartridges ceased being manufactured when the console was discontinued, it could be hard to get hold of them today. What’s more, it’s not necessarily always going to be the popular games that are harder to find. If a title sold very few copies, then this means that less will be in circulation for secondhand purchase.
It’s worth keeping an eye on prices if there’s a particular title you’re after, as they do fluctuate. When the SNES Mini Classic was released recently, it affected the price of old SNES cartridges negatively. If the same is done for the N64 at some point, then it’s likely N64 game prices will take a hit.
When is the N64 Classic coming out?
The NES Mini was first released around the 2016 holiday season, while the SNES Classic was released in October 2017. But at the time of writing, it doesn’t look like we’ll get an N64 Classic for Christmas 2019.
In fact, unless Nintendo changes their mind in the future, it doesn’t look like we’ll be seeing this hardware at all. But the reason for this isn’t due to a lack of demand from fans.
The existing NES and SNES Mini consoles use emulation software, which is popular — if not completely legal — among PC gamers. Yet the N64 emulators have never been quite as robust or successful as these other software programs. Replicating the N64 hardware in the same way, particularly the controller, could prove costly and difficult for Nintendo.
What are the best N64 games?
Whereas the SNES console had over 1,000 games, the N64 saw just 296 titles released in North America. Despite this, it’s still tricky to pick a shortlist of winners among such a huge number of titles.
We’ve based our pick of the top N64 games not only on extensive professional and consumer feedback, but on other criteria of our own, too. While we started with an aggregated list pulled from other sources, we’ve still used our own expertise as gamers to ensure there are no dud titles among the winners.
Our best N64 game is The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. This title scores highly on storyline, replayability, and uniqueness, ticking all the right boxes for us. You’ll struggle to find a compilation of the best Nintendo games that doesn’t feature a minimum of one Zelda title.
But in case action-adventures aren’t your thing, we’ve got other recommendations for you that are equally worthy of your time. Platformers Super Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie featured in every source we used, as did shoot-’em-ups Goldeneye and Perfect Dark. So if you’re looking for a broad spread of N64 games, these are your top picks.
That wraps up our list of the best N64 games. But we’ve got a bunch of other recommendations for you that will up your game. Check out this list of related and useful items that are perfect for your game room:
- 6ft Replacement Extension Cable for N64 Controller: Nothing’s more uncomfortable than cramping up against the TV when your controller requires a cable. Extend your reach using this 6-foot replacement cable.
- Collector Craft Black Game Organizer: Video game cartridges were replaced by CDs for numerous reasons, not least their propensity to pick up dirt. Keep your games clean with this organizer, compatible with N64 cartridges.
- 2-Pack Classic N64 Controllers: What good is a multiplayer game without multiple controllers? If you’re picking up party games, then you’ll also want to make sure you’re well-equipped to battle it out with friends.
- N64 Console Cleaner: When your ancient N64 console is running sluggishly, it might be time for a clean. This cartridge is custom-made specifically for cleaning the internal connectors without the need for console surgery.
- Devoko Ergonomic Gaming Chair Racing Style: Bad posture while gaming can completely ruin your neck and spine. Keep yourself comfortable and properly aligned with a gaming chair.