Favorite Games List – Nintendo 64

The Favorite Games List was a recurring feature originally published on Trevor Trove. This installment originally debuted on January 23-25, 2016

Welcome back to another installment of my Favorite Games series, where I have been highlighting some of my all-time favorite games, console by console. We last left off on a three-part installment of my favorite games from the original PlayStation. So now let’s return to the world of Nintendo with their foray into the 3D-era…

Nintendo 64

Part One

The N64 was the go-to system for me and my friends to play in middle school. Despite the Super Nintendo having adapters for 4-player gaming, the N64 was where we all first really got into it. I have so many fond memories of my group of friends all hanging out at one of our houses and spending hours in front of our TVs, the sometimes already small screens feeling even smaller split four-ways. My system was hooked up to our big screen in the game room so it was an ideal place to play but I also remember hanging out at the houses of my friends Luke, Bryan, and Ethan regularly. Up to six or seven of us were nearly inseparable during those years so we’d all hang out (bringing extra controllers when we needed to so we were never the guy stuck with the MadCatz controller) and have our own little tournaments. It’s really the only system I ever got real heavy into multiplayer games. But I couldn’t spend every waking moment with them so I still had plenty of great single-player experiences as well.

Super Mario 64 – The iconic first 3D Mario game. This was first game I ever played with any kind of analog stick. Sure I had played Atari games and even Flight Simulator on PC with a joystick, but having such fine-tuned control of Mario felt so smooth and responsive, not heavy and sluggish like those previous sticks.

Super Mario 64 also came around the time my family was connecting online so instead of needing to buy a strategy guide, I was able to find them online. This is probably around the time I found GameFAQS and a fledgling website n64.com, which would become ign64.com and, of course, eventually IGN. Suddenly, my gaming world exploded in a million different directions and I could find all of the hidden secrets in the game because seemingly the whole world was helping me. And then I was the cool kid who would tell my friends where the secret levels in Super Mario 64 were at lunch or on the playground.

When my sister and I moved out of the house for college, she ended up taking the N64 to occasionally play so I didn’t have easy access to it. My ex-girlfriend Robin happened to have hers though so during the Spring of 2008, I fell back into Super Mario 64 and played through it for a full 120-star run. It’s amazing how much of that castle and game I still have memorized. The console my sister and I shared is back in my possession now so if I ever feel the urge, I can always plug it back in and get that classic “It’s-a-me, Mario!” introduction.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – While I still fall firmly in the camp that believes A Link to the Past to be the best Zelda game, there’s no denying that Link’s first 3D adventure was an iconic moment in time. Just as I recognize Final Fantasy VII‘s as a more important game than my personal favorites FFVI or FFIV, so too would I argue that Ocarina of Time is probably the most important entry in the franchise, for bringing it into the 3D space. And the first time riding Epona across Hyrule Field is one of those moments that defined the Nintendo 64 for those of us who grew up with it (with the reveal of Sheik’s identity as a possible runner up).

One of the things I have also felt like an outsider on though is the seemingly universal hatred for the Water Temple. I just don’t get it. Even without a guide, I never felt like I had any noticeable difficulties with it. But then I’ve always been the kind of gamer who really enjoyed puzzles and Zelda dungeons are some of the best and most rewarding in the medium.

GoldenEye 007 – Rounding out part one of my favorite N64 games is none other than the game that would become the template for console shooters: GoldenEye 007. Despite never owning the game myself (not entirely sure why I never begged my parents to buy it for me. Maybe because all of my other friends had it so I could just borrow it whenever I wanted to play through the campaign?), GoldenEye 007 is very possibly the N64 game I played the most because it was the go-to game  for all of those friendly get togethers. We would spend hours upon hours playing through the Complex/Library/Facility/etc. with Rocket Launchers/Golden Guns/Slaps Only/Proximity Mines/etc.

The magic of being in the same room with those guys at that moment and time is just something online multiplayer will never be able to recapture for me. And when we all started going our separate ways in high school and then college and beyond, it became harder and harder for me to invest in those multiplayer experiences.

Hell, even now I know through Facebook that a couple of those friends are still avid gamers and play stuff like HaloMadden, and Call of Duty regularly. Bryan, who I mentioned above, even manages the GameStop down the street from my house! I’ve seen him when I go to the PetSmart right next store to pick up something for Elphie. But I haven’t actually talked to the guy in nearly ten years so whenever I see him I just turn away and hide my face to avoid the awkwardness of being recognized and then going into, “Hey, how’ve you been? What have you been up to? Oh yeah, I think I saw something about that on Facebook? Well, great seeing you. Let’s hang out sometime.” And we probably never would because I’m busy with work and he’s getting married sometime soon and so it’s just easier to avoid the whole facade…

Wow. That took a turn I wasn’t expecting.

Soooooooo anyway, those are a few of my favorite (and probably most iconic) Nintendo 64 games. Stay tuned for the rest.

Part Two

Welcome to Part Two of my favorite games for the Nintendo 64. Part One covered the iconic Super Mario 64The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and GoldenEye 007 yesterday. So let’s take a look at a few more.

Pokemon Stadium – As I covered in my Game Boy entry, the Pokemon games were an integral part of my early years playing with my sister. So getting to take our teams off of our little handhelds and into the 3D-space was awesome! I typically dominated with my (largely cliché) team of Venusaur, Blastoise, Charizard, Alakazam, Gengar, and Zapdos.

Pokemon Stadium also was one of the earliest games to get people imagining how amazing a full-blown console Pokemon game would be. An idea that Gamefreak and Nintendo have inexplicably still never capitalized on. Perhaps the Wii U’s disappointing sales will translate to a Nintendo eager enough to finally deliver on this idea with the NX.

Or maybe the Pokemon mobile game is all we’ll get. Speaking of Pokemon missed opportunities…

Pokemon Snap – Effectively little more than an on-rails “shooter” of sorts, Pokemon Snap was another great break from the standard Pokemon formula, putting players in the shoes of a Pokemon photographer helping Professor Oak document and research the Pokemon inhabitants of a wildlife preserve.

Again, I can’t fathom why Gamefreak and Nintendo never delivered a reboot of Pokemon Snap on the Wii U since it seems like an ideal use of the irksome Gamepad. I’m not a fan of using the gyroscopic controls (it drove me away from Splatoon just having to play with it through the tutorial). But the idea of using it as a second-screen camera would have been just strong enough of a gimmick to get me to dive in, even if I have no idea what 500 of those Pokemon are these days.

Star Wars Rogue Squadron – I missed all of the Super Star Wars games on the Super Nintendo so Rogue Squadron was probably my first console Star Wars game. I played plenty of PC games growing up like X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter but Rogue Squadron also happened to come out when Star Wars excitement was in full swing in the lead-up to The Phantom Menace.

Flying around atmospheric battles in the Star Wars universe felt so good in these games, in large part due to being able to easily manage the N64 controller’s thumbstick compared to a joystick or overly sensitive PC mouse. I recently wrote a piece for KnerdsOnline identifying the Rogue Squadron as a franchise I would love to see return in the wake of The Force Awakens. It seems like a no-brainer to follow Poe Dameron in the lead-up to the events of the film. The ball is in your court, EA. Do something with that license other than Battlefront.

Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final installment of my favorite games on the N64.

Part Three

And now for the third and final entry into my Favorite Games of the Nintendo 64. If you’re just jumping in, feel free to visit Parts One and Two, as well.

Super Smash Bros. – As I wrote about in Part One, the N64 was the go-to system for me and my friends at the time. There were typically seven of us so we’d sit down with a four-player game like GoldenEye 007 or Super Smash Brosand compete. Four of us would play while the other three would sit around watching and at the end of a match, the winner would get to stay on and the other three would switch out with the spectators. If you were really good at something, you could wrack up the streaks and just keep going. My best shots at these kinds of winning streaks were typically games like Wrestlemania 2000 or that horrible South Park game.

But even if I wasn’t the dominant player, Super Smash Broslands on this list because it provided endless hours of fun and was the only game that ever really properly dethroned GoldenEye 007 as our go-to sleepover game. The idea of pitting iconic Nintendo characters against each other was insanely enjoyable, even back then with the limited 12-character roster (back when even Luigi was one of the characters you had to unlock). Pikachu or Kirby were my mains and to this day, I have never been able to successfully PK Thunder myself a double jump with Ness in any version of the game.

NFL Blitz – When we didn’t have the full cohort of friends, NFL Blitz was a great one-on-one option. Now I’ve never followed football all too closely (growing up in the 90s with the Cardinals as your home team will do that to you, even if they’ve been relatively good in recent years), but I enjoyed playing it, especially with the super-arcadey Blitz series. You’ll probably never find me getting into Madden but if a new version of NFL Blitz game out and I could just go crazy with big head and turbo cheats again, I’d consider it.

Snowboard Kids – So if you haven’t realized by now, I would classify myself as having very “mainstream” tastes for the most part. Between the “popular” games and the “super niche” games on a given platform, I probably played more of the former. But occasionally random niche games will completely win me over and looking through my collection, Snowboard Kids fits that bill nicely. Someone simplistic compared to other games in the genre like 1080° Snowboarding or the SSX games, Snowboard Kids (and Snowboard Kids 2) had a place in the Starkey household because of its cast of colorful, cartoony characters. I could sit down with my father or my sister and race down the slopes, down weird little tricks the whole way down, even though I’ve never once been skiing or snowboarding in real life. Yay video games!

Paper Mario – As I finished up this list, I started comparing my collection with the wider list of other N64 games and came to the realization that this system, probably more than any other, was the one where my family really saved money renting games from places like Blockbuster or Hollywood Video. Paper Mario was one such game. I don’t actually own a copy of it but I have many memories of playing it thanks to the Blockbuster down the street from my parents’ house.

The spiritual successor of one of my favorite Super Nintendo games, Paper Mario took some the RPG elements of Super Mario RPG, even as it went in a wildly different direction with the art-style. And that decision does a great job giving it an almost timeless look. Much like my favorite games of the SNES/2D-era, the Paper Mario games all feel like they age far better than their 3D contemporaries.

Honorable Mentions:

  • Diddy Kong Racing: Because I played that, but never any of the Banjo Kazooie or Conker games.
  • Beetle Adventure Racing: Because it was a game specifically designed around racing VW Bugs.
  • Perfect Dark: Because I know critically it is a better designed game than GoldenEye 007 but I didn’t have enough distinct memories of the game to warrant it getting it’s own entry.

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