20) Perfect DarkThere wouldn't be a top Nintendo 64 games list without a little dollop of Perfect Dark. As the spiritual-successor to the always-talked-about GoldenEye 007, it was initially tricky for the delectable protagonist Joanna Dark to make her mark in the shadows of James Bond's finest adventure. Set in the distant future, this breed of first-person shooter infused aliens and dodgy corporations with a solid foundation crafted by the team behind GoldenEye. Thankfully UK developer Rare opted to create something new, instead of producing a Bond sequel like Tomorrow Never Dies.
Set in what is now the not too distant future -- the year 2023 -- players go head-to-head against the vicious extra-terrestrial Skedar race in a bid to save a group of grey alien folk known as Maians, and their alliances with rival research company dataDyne. Venture into the deep snowy peaks of Scandinavia, invade an air base and roam city streets, completing a variety of objectives with a slew of alien weapons and gadgets. Whilst it sounds like a tasty recipe shaken up with a female protagonist, just how did Perfect Dark make its mark? Many fans aim towards the comprehensive multiplayer mode that was a staple feature -- as sublime as its pseudo-predecessor, with refined Artificial Intelligence, unique weapons and versatile environments. Countless hours dedicated to outwitting both human and computer foes, there hasn't been an experience that comes close to Perfect Dark's smooth blend.
If you haven't sampled the delights of one of Rare's finest works, released over a decade ago, it's certainly worth a...shot. Original copies for the Nintendo 64 are fairly bountiful, and there's also an enhanced edition for the Xbox Live Arcade. A truly memorable shooter that encompasses many of the features and gameplay conventions still found in games released many moons later.
19) Mystical Ninja Starring GoemonBefore The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was released on Nintendo 64 in 1998, and as far as 3D adventure games in open environments went, the biggest title was Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, or as it is known on its home turf of Japan, Ganbare Goemon: Neo Momoyama-Bakufu no Odori (translating literally as Fight on Goemon: The Dance of the New Peach Mountain Shogunate).
Like other games in the long-running franchise, it tells the adventures of Goemon, Ebisumaru and friends as they travel around Japan, exploring imaginary representations of real life locations in medieval Nippon, complete with anachronisms like UFOs and TV shows. What truly makes the games standout is the quirky style and humour. Take the pre-recorded audience laughter -- taken straight out of your favourite generic sitcom -- that is thrown out at every other bad pun the characters make. This occasionally fails to sound funny to Westerners due either to the weak localisation or lack of knowledge of Japanese pop culture, but this is also part of what made Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon all the more surreal when it was originally released.
Similar titles in the genre were too rare back then, especially on Nintendo 64, so it was a breath of fresh air and a pleasant surprise to see such a highly praised franchise in Japan finally getting a second chance in Europe and North America. It had been several years after the release of the first Super Nintendo episode, Legend of the Mystical Ninja, albeit in a fashion that ditched most elements that celebrated Japanese culture -- like renaming Goemon “Kid Ying” for a Western audience. Considering how incredibly good this N64 iteration was, especially the soundtrack, players were lucky to play an almost unaltered version this time -- shame on you Konami for removing the voice dub from the intro and ending, though.
18) Wave RaceI remember when I first saw that promo VHD after issues and issues had been mounting about the new N64 releases. Before the great hype machine of YouTube, this video had me watching in great anticipation of the games ahead such as Super Mario 64, Pilotwings, and, of course, Wave Race itself!
It is scary to see how amazing the graphics and gameplay engines were in those days, especially with the advanced wave calculations. I have always loved travelling on water rather than under it, and have always marvelled at the idea of cutting over the waves in a jet ski, and Wave Race 64 was the safest, most cost effective way of doing this; no insurance needed.
In the days of the N64, I was in awe over the Orangina-esque tinge of the waves in Sunset Bay, the thrills of following a dolphin on full throttle, barrel-rolling and back-flipping over strategically placed ramps (the best way to warm up before a major race, bar eating oatmeal) and most of all being able to qualify for, and win, a championship. Video gaming is all about escapism, and this simple pleasure of a game is one of the best escapades into a world I couldn't otherwise encounter.
17) Resident Evil 2A common assumption during the Nintendo 64 life was that the cartridge media belonged in the past, and that some neat things that could be accomplished on CD, like full-motion video, highly detailed 2D pre-rendered backgrounds, and fully voiced cinematic sequences, could never be achieved under the strict limitations of the cartridge format. Then came Capcom with its announcement of plans to bring what was originally a two-CD game onto the humble, cartridge-based Nintendo 64. That game was Resident Evil 2 and the development was handed over to Western developer Angel Studios. After studying for a long time what could be achieved on Nintendo 64 -- for example, how files could be uncompressed on the fly that were highly compressed to fit within a 64MB cartridge, Angel Studios finally pulled off the seemingly impossible challenge of fitting absolutely all the content of two CDs onto a single cartridge.
Sure, the FMVs looked darker and had more artifacting than their PlayStation counterparts, and the audio sounded more compressed, but it was Resident Evil, the iconic survival horror franchise, running on a Nintendo system, with improved polygon models, running at a higher resolution if the Expansion Pak was used, and with shorter load times (“uncompressing” times, rather than “loading” times). A technical tour de force. This is without even mentioning how good the game was to begin with, considering it's still a highly loved episode among the "classics." Add to this the fact that it is the only proper survival horror game on the system, and you have the reason why this is one of the best N64 games ever crafted.
Resident Evil Zero was announced to be in development as a follow-up to Resident Evil 2, however it was much too late in the Nintendo 64's life for it to make its release date, leading to a shift to the GameCube instead. The rest is history.
16) Excitebike 64Nintendo teamed up with various developers during the Nintendo 64 era, and actually purchased a stake in Left Field Productions, the US team that handled both highly acclaimed NBA Courtside: Featuring Kobe Bryant basketball titles for the system. One specific game that stands out from the crowd is the total overhaul of the old NES classic, Excitebike. Working hand-in-hand on the 3D resurrection of the ancient dirt-track racer, Left Field produced one of the finest racing experiences to date, and a game that still holds sufficient challenge and sheer class to play with the big boys of today's market, despite being over a decade old.
Packed with smooth handling of the bikes, clever track creation, a host of customisation features, a multitude of daring stunts, and extremely high production values (including the same over-the-top announcer found in Wave Race 64), Excitebike 64 sadly turned into one of those rare gems that was unfairly overlooked at retail. Left Field then got the chance to work its magic on the 1080 Snowboarding series, but ended up buying back Nintendo's holding share to become independent once more, meaning 1080 Avalanche ended up being reworked by Nintendo Software Technology, and the Excite games became a spin-off venture for Monster Games to toy with.
Working alone, Left Field did attempt to recapture the magic with the announcement of Nitro Bike on Wii in 2007, which got old school fans on the edge of their seats in anticipation. Unfortunately, by the time it released in 2008, it was apparent that without the original team at the helm, the core feel of Excitebike 64 simply was not present.
Watch this space for the remainder of Cubed3's top Nintendo 64 games.