N64 Month | Cubed3's Top Nintendo 64 Games: Part 4

By Jorge Ba-oh 31.03.2012 12

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It's the final day of our month long celebration looking into the life of the Nintendo 64 fifteen years after launch.

The Japanese home of Mario took its first steps into a world of 3D with the N64, and whilst the system didn't have the biggest catalogue of games out there, there were a sublime set of must-play gems. We picked out twenty of our favourite Nintendo 64 titles, reminisced with what made them so great, and tell you why they are an essential play even today.

In our final part the Cubed3 team take the lid off the Top 5 games. Do you agree?

5) Lylat Wars

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This was one of the games I had high hopes for after playing Starwing on the SNES at my cousins’ house. The VHS had been watched, Nintendo magazines clearly read and highlighted. This was going to be one of the best Christmases ever.

I was an impatient kid. I remember renting the N64 for my birthday before my brother and I got it for Christmas, playing a pre-owned version of Mario Kart 64 with untamed glee. But this was it - Lylat Wars eventually arrived alongside our version of a Nintendo 64. I can’t say our reaction was as crazy as those kids on YouTube, but it was pretty close.

Image for N64 Month | Cubed3What I love about Lylat Wars is its initial simplicity - it is quite easy to get into the game. My Uncle, who loves to play Microsoft Flight Simulator, took to it like a duck in water and I’ll never forget him almost rolling on the floor trying to do a barrel roll to dodge pursuing attackers. Corneria looked so different. Some tunes from the original would have be nice, but it looked like this was an epic all its own. It was lovely to hear the voice actors; it really helped with the immersive experience. I think I know the script by heart still (…oops!)

Once you peel off the simplistic layer, there’s the complexity that helps you to navigate through the system. Whether it’s to beat the hard boss, save Slippy, rack up a high number of hits, you find consequence has a huge hand to play in where you go and what events are unlocked. You can get so much replay value out of it, and that’s where the experience deepens even more. If you’ve completed Venom on Easy, why not change your route? You may find new friends, you’ll certainly find new enemies and your playing experience will be completely changed.

The music really adds to the depth. The poignant and spooky synth drawling of Sector X really paints a picture of a wasteland with floating space debris to the triumphant chords of Meteo and navigating the treacherous belt of asteroids. A reunion with an old friend is highlighted through the positive trumpet blasts and the epic tunes of Area 51 fill you with dread on what appears to be an impenetrable enemy force. The Starwolf theme with the sinister sounding trumpets herald an enemy force that you might find yourself well acquainted with.

How can you forget the villain behind the Lylat wars mess, Andross and his reign of terror? The Venom tune starts with a minor trill into a scary descent into the planet of seemingly no return. Can you prove General Pepper otherwise as you fight golems and countless of enemies surrounding Andross’ hideout?

Definitely a classic of the N64 series - if you haven’t played it, get it now! Scout it out!
Susan Gray

4) Goldeneye 007

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There wouldn’t be a top Nintendo 64 games list without the appearance of James Bond’s finest digital adventure to date, Goldeneye 007. The creators of Donkey Kong Country took a steep departure from their platforming days on the SNES to piece together a solid first person formula for the home console. Shooting games were foreign territory on home consoles at the time, but this 1997 gem helped set the foundations for what has become one of the biggest genres in the industry over a decade later.

Image for N64 Month | Cubed3Through the use of an unusual, but eventually natural setup, mission-based approach and sublime storytelling, Goldeneye has cemented itself as one of the most memorable and most loved titles on the Nintendo 64. Each single-player mission was crafted with intricate level designs, well paced and varied objectives and of course an arsenal of meaty weapons at your disposal. An element of stealth, NPC interaction and careful planning caused a stir amongst FPS enthusiasts. Sure, you could go in all guns blazing, but each of the levels had a unique string of objectives that created more of a cinematic experience and story, as opposed to a generic shooting game with James Bond’s charming face.

Though boasting a rich solo campaign, Goldeneye 007 also ticked all the boxes in the multiplayer department. Alongside the likes of Mario Kart 64, Perfect Dark and Mario Tennis, this game had all the necessary requirements for the perfect four player romp. Bring out the coffees, it’s going to be a long slog full of hair-pulling moments, controller slamming angst and eye-burning victory poses. Throw in an excellent musical score, some of the finest multiplayer maps in any shooting game plus a superb cast and voila, a top-notch Nintendo 64 game that’s worth your hard-earned cash.

Goldeneye 007 will be a toughie to obtain due to licensing rights, so an original cartridge is the only legal means of playing this timeless beast. It has received remake treatment recently, but the more contemporary offering is only half the man by comparison.
Jorge Ba-oh

3) Majora’s Mask

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Like Link’s Awakening before it, Majora’s Mask took a different approach to the familiar Zelda and Ganon storyline, instead bringing Link to the mysterious land of Termina, a parallel version of Hyrule, threatened by devastation from a falling moon. In one of the darkest plots in the series to date, Nintendo was able to convey a lot of emotion to the player by giving the citizens much more fleshed out personalities, each with their own independent approach to dealing with an inevitable doom.

Image for N64 Month | Cubed3A brand new gameplay mechanic revolved around only having three days to save the world. Link would use his trusty ocarina to slow down and travel back in time, giving himself the chance to explore and take part in events held at different times. This also tied into non-playable characters’ daily schedules, where everyone went about their set routines over the three days. Trying to help out with people’s problems and interfering with their days had knock-on effects with others, leading into many different outcomes and interesting dialogue.

Introduced into the game was a heavy focus on collecting masks, with every single one being put to use in some shape or form. Not only were there plenty of strange and unique varieties like the Bomb Mask to blow things up, or the Bunny Hood to run faster, there were also transformation masks, allowing Link to be a Deku, Goron and Zora, complete with their own special abilities. These accessories were a core element, with transformations required to complete temples and certain people only revealing important information or handing over items if Link wore a specific one. Side quests were an even larger focus in Majora’s Mask, with masks again needed to complete plenty of them. Unlike previous Zelda titles, which saw the player going from one dungeon to the next without too much to do in between, the sequel to Ocarina of Time had a stronger emphasis on completing quests in each of the four regions of Termina in order to gain access to the next temple. At the cost of less dungeons than its predecessor, this kept gameplay fresh and fun.

Taking the terrific playability of Ocarina of Time and throwing in a heap of innovative ideas and a twisted storyline, Majora’s Mask was absolutely one of the best games the Nintendo 64 had to offer, and is still one of the best of all Nintendo’s library to date.
Az Elias

2) Banjo-Kazooie

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Only one other company in the days of the Nintendo 64 could have even come to close to bettering Nintendo’s sublime Super Mario 64: Rare. However, they didn’t just come close; they did better it. Banjo-Kazooie was and is the pinnacle of 3D platforming perfection.

Image for N64 Month | Cubed3The concept wasn’t anything groundbreaking, coming after Nintendo’s debut 3D Mario game, but it improved on just about every aspect. The hub area of Gruntilda’s Lair, which belonged to the witch that kidnapped Banjo’s sister to steal her good looks, was a giant level in itself, with plenty of secret areas housing Jiggies and Cheato codes. Amusingly, the backing track to the lair was a darker and creepier variant of the children’s song Teddy Bear’s Picnic, appropriate given the game’s central character. Each world was massive, hoarding collectables here, there and everywhere, but not to the point that it would get overbearing to find all the musical notes needed to unlock level entrances. Each area’s sound was addictive and a pleasure to listen to. Not anywhere would you find an annoying or boring theme tune.

Acting like conjoined twins, Banjo wore a backpack that kept his pal Kazooie inside, allowing for all manner of unique abilities. Whereas in other platformers the player would leap off thin air to double-jump, Kazooie would spread her wings off Banjo’s back to get some extra distance. Trudging up slopes required Kazooie to poke her legs out, lifting Banjo onto her back, feet in the air and all. Swimming, flying and ground-pounding all used Kazooie to her best, with Banjo mostly doing the jogging and pawing a few baddies. Come to think of it, Kazooie did most of the work!

The comedy aspect of Banjo-Kazooie was one of the reasons this game was so refreshing and a joy to play, though. From Gruntilda spouting silly rhymes as you trotted about the lair, to laughing out loud at the insults cheeky Kazooie would throw poor Bottles the mole’s way, as well as a whole host of hilarious characters the bear and bird come across, Rare’s humour shone through at all times.

Charming, merry, magical, fun. These are just a few words that describe Rare’s masterpiece. It is without a doubt one of the best platform adventure games ever made, and probably the perfect example of the quality of old Rare during their time as a Nintendo second party. If you never managed to play the game during the N64 days, do your utmost to bag a copy of it or go for the Xbox Live Arcade version. If you are one of the lucky souls to still own this gem, do yourself a favour and dust off that Nintendo 64. Remind yourself why Banjo-Kazooie is one of the greatest games to have graced a console.
Az Elias

1) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

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Though this might come as the most predictable choice for a number one title in a N64 top 20 feature, one has to put things back into perspective. When The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was first released, the Nintendo 64 was seriously lacking in Adventure and RPG games, a situation that stayed with the system until the very end too. Not only that but the system was also plagued with games which didn’t seem to justify the 64-bit monicker when compared to the offerings on 32-bit consoles, other than the smoothed but, as a result, horribly blurred textures. Distance fog and very low polygon count were common place, save for a very few examples, the main one being... Banjo-Kazooie.

Image for N64 Month | Cubed3Then came Ocarina of Time. The first 3D Legend of Zelda was a masterpiece of game design and the long awaited transition from 2D to 3D for the much beloved franchise. With little to no distance fog, despite the vast open areas offered by locations such as Hylia Lake and the unforgettable Hyrule Field, the game was a ground-breaking technical achievement on pretty much every level at the time. The fantastic cutscenes with brilliant camera angles akin to those of movies complete with impressive facial expressions, lovable characters, innovative 3D dungeons, the great soundtrack and being able to travel around on horse are just a few of the things that made Ocarina such a wonderful piece of software and a revolution in the gaming industry. These conventions have echoed through generation after generation, weaving into the biggest blockbusters in the industry today.

It’s arguable whether Majora’s Mask is a better game than Ocarina of Time or not. That debate has been around for years. However, it’s unquestionable that Ocarina of Time paved the way for all subsequent modern 3D Zelda games, including Majora. It had that surprise factor to it that fans have been crying for at the announcement of every new Legend of Zelda game ever since. Add these achievements to the fact that it set a new quality standard for all Nintendo 64 games that followed, and it’s pretty obvious that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is worthy of its top rank on Cubed3's Top 20 Nintendo 64 games.
Rudy Lavaux

What do you think of the Cubed3 Top 20 Nintendo 64 games? Are there any titles you would have liked included, likewise are there any we chose that you disagree with?

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Do any readers disagree with Ocarina of Time grabbing No.1?

( Edited 14.10.2012 10:17 by Guest )

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Adam Riley said:
Do any readers disagree with Ocarina of Time grabbing No.1?
Considering Ocarina of Time was one of the first "games" I ever got into, no. I mean, sure.. I used to play Super Mario Bros. and Sonic but Ocarina of Time was something that was completely new to me and probably even got me interested in the Zelda series as a whole. Majora's Mask was great too, though!

Ocarina of Time is definitely my number one, just because I loved it so much the first time I played it and it's stuck with me for life. Ganondorf used to scare the crap out of me when I was little! Smilie

( Edited 14.10.2012 10:17 by Guest )

While I probably prefer what Majora brought to the series, I think Ocarina is thoroughly deserving of number 1. It was a phenomenal game for its time. Banjo-Kazooie I cannot even describe how much I love. I'd say I agree with the top 3 for sure.

I'd be really curious to know if there are any readers who are now highly considering looking at getting their hands on an N64 and any of the games we've rated highly and reviewed over the last month.

There were quite a few games I never managed to get hold of in the day, but since I'm not restricted to only getting games at birthdays and Christmases when I was a kid any more, I'm looking at purchasing Banjo Tooie, Conker and Jet Force Gemini. The first two I was devastated at not owning, and JFG I am really curious about since I love old Rare games.

I'd love it if there are readers here now looking at eBay to bag an N64 with some of these quality games.

( Edited 14.10.2012 10:17 by Guest )

I'm sure there will also be readers that think Perfect Dark and GoldenEye should have been swapped around. Me, I would have Banjo-Tooie above its prequel, but I can see why staff voted it higher, same as the difference between OoT and Majora.

Interesting stuff!

Any readers want to share their Top 5 or Top 10 N64 games?

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

Adam Riley said:
Do any readers disagree with Ocarina of Time grabbing No.1?

Nah. I've always had this conflict in my head of which game I think is the best ever, Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64. I think right now I'd say OoT, but this is probably the 50th time I've switched back and forth.

bornforthis43 said:
Nah. I've always had this conflict in my head of which game I think is the best ever, Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64. I think right now I'd say OoT, but this is probably the 50th time I've switched back and forth.

I don't know why I've gone off SM64 slightly...maybe it's because of the DS port/upgrade...didn't quite sit too well with me.

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

If all the team had played all the top games on the '64, the order may have looked different. I'll let you know whether I think Tooie is better than BK, which will be interesting because of how highly I rate BK. Definitely can't wait to play Conker, too.

Azuardo said:
If all the team had played all the top games on the '64, the order may have looked different. I'll let you know whether I think Tooie is better than BK, which will be interesting because of how highly I rate BK. Definitely can't wait to play Conker, too.

Wait, you've never played Tooie?!?!?!?!? That's incredibly surprising considering your love of Kazooie.

I still have to play Conker. I think it's one of the last classics on the N64 I have yet to play.

( Edited 01.04.2012 20:23 by bornforthis43 )

I know, it's an absolute crime! I sampled an emulated version of it but I don't think it was running smoothly and I didn't want to do it an injustice by using sloppy keyboard controls. I've decided to make every effort to grab certain 64 games I missed out on and cannot wait to play them.

gatorboi352 (guest) 08.04.2012#10

The Cubed3 N64 month inspired me to purchase my 3rd N64 on ebay the other day. I grew up on the NES and SNES but the N64 thru my highschool years is my favorite console of all time.

gatorboi352 (guest) said:
The Cubed3 N64 month inspired me to purchase my 3rd N64 on ebay the other day. I grew up on the NES and SNES but the N64 thru my highschool years is my favorite console of all time.

This is exactly what I was hoping for. Congratulations, mate, enjoy your N64!

? (guest) 10.04.2012#12

I really think Super Smash Bros. Should have been in there at #2. How did it miss everything?

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