The NES and SNES Classic Edition have come and gone, sweeping everyone over with a large wave of nostalgia, so it’s only inevitable that an N64 variant would arrive in the near future. Recent trademark applications point to a potential release this year.
I like the idea of the NES and SNES Classic Editions, they’re cool novelties, but the ease of emulation and the fact that there’s only so many times you can play a variant of Super Mario Bros. meant I didn’t really feel a massive need to buy one.
But, if like me, you’ve ignored picking up the NES and SNES versions, you might be eagerly awaiting the Nintendo 64 Classic, and perhaps you’re also eager to find out how Nintendo could possibly make the N64 controller smaller without a huge redesign. But the other question you have is, what games should be included with it? Here’s a shortlist of 20 titles that I think deserve a place on its highlight reel.
Before you bring up things like rights holders, intellectual properties, etc. This list isn’t about the “likely” software to be featured with a Nintendo 64 Classic Mini, rather, it’s a list of personal choices that I would like to see included, regardless of the likelihood of them appearing is. 3D platformer collect-a-thons were all the rage during the N64 era, and Banjo-Kazooie was the cream of the crop from developers that weren’t Nintendo themselves. Tremendous level design, charming characters, and a wonderful soundtrack composed by the legendary Grant Kirkhope. Banjo-Kazooie should be a staple among any collection of Nintendo 64 games. I loved its world design and the way all the characters talk in rhyme.
First of all, I know what you’re thinking, the collectables. Donkey Kong 64 is excruciatingly longer than it needs to be because of those damn collectables. Nevertheless, the N64 is famous for its pantheon of 3D platformers, and while this isn’t the best one of the console, it’s certainly famous enough to warrant a place on the list. Once again, Grant Kirkhope elevates the game with his fantastic soundtrack, and the swapping between the Kongs for access to different abilities is unique if a little tedious.
A third Rare game? Shocking news – Rare was in top form during the N64 generation. Setting aside any potential legal issues, Goldeneye 007 was the quintessential multiplayer title on the N64, and any collection worth its salt has to include the title that defined not only multiplayer for a generation but first person shooters too. An insane amount of levels, cheat codes, characters, and weapons made this one of the largest time-sinks on my N64 back in the day.
Listen, I know this is an odd choice, but I’ve never been that good at football games. However, ISS 98 holds a weird place in my memory where I remember playing it and remember enjoying it. The controls were great, the interface was easy for me to understand, and it made me feel like I hadn’t fully failed my brothers with my complete lack of skill with an actual football.
Look at that adorable pink ball. Are you going to tell him that he isn’t invited to the party? That he isn’t good enough to be included on a list of Nintendo 64 classics? I didn’t think so. It’s a little short and a bit easy, but the copy combo ability is neat and it’s good fun after the harder levels of Banjo-Kazooie or Donkey Kong 64.
The vinegar to the salt. The cocktail to the prawn. The onion to the cheese. The other various crisp flavour metaphors I could write here. Majora’s Mask is Ocarina of Time‘s cool cousin that deserves a seat at the dinner table as much as the favourite son. There’s not been a Zelda title like it since, and its unique setting, story, and mechanics are definitely worth a visit. You can run through this game ten different times and still not encounter and complete every quest.
It’s a toss-up between this and Diddy Kong Racing, and one could easily replace the other depending on the day. However, when you find yourself in doubt, always stay with the original. Classic multiplayer racing action. Truthfully, Mario Kart: Double Dash holds a closer place in my heart, but this is as close as it gets on the N64.
Much like Mario Kart, you could swap Mario Party 2 here for the original or Mario Party 3, I was just trying to avoid an obvious “third-party support” joke. Anyway, look at the headwear on display here, Mario’s cowboy hat, Donkey Kong’s wizard hat, Yoshi’s pirate hat. A stone cold classic. And Toad looks like a shepherd. Are you going to argue against Shepard Toad?
Just like most other new Mario spinoffs of the time, Mario Tennis was revered for its gameplay and multiplayer. If you’re sensing a theme here, it’s because while the NES and SNES are known for the difficult games and RPGs, the N64 is known for its multiplayer games. Which begs the question, how many controllers should this classic edition come with? I can only hope there’s an option to buy one with four controllers.
Is there anything else to be said about Ocarina of Time at this point? We could argue whether it is indeed the best Zelda game. We could argue whether it is indeed the best video game ever made. What no-one can argue, however, is that Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64 defined the Nintendo 64. The transition from 2D to 3D isn’t as revolutionary now as it was back in the ’90s, but don’t let that fool you into thinking Ocarina of Time isn’t an insanely well-put together title.
I’m not the best at RPGs, and for the longest time I was never a fan, but I remember Paper Mario turning me into a lover without even realising it. After spending hours upon hours with Skyrim, Xenoblade Chronicles, its sequels, and a number of other RPGs, I find myself replaying Paper Mario at least once a year and it never feels like a chore. If there’s one game that could solely be described as “charming”, it’s this.
Building upon the foundation of the original, Pokémon Stadium 2 had a good variety of modes, and in all honesty, the novelty of seeing your Pokémon battle it out in 3D was worth the price of admission. But there’s also the mini-games. The minigames that took up a huge chunk of my childhood. Are they any good? My nostalgia-blinded memory says yes. However, a big part of the novelty of the game would be lost on new hardware if it doesn’t include the ability to transfer Pokémon from your Game Boy games.
There was a time before Nintendo made Pikachu skinny, and in Pokémon Snap, you can live out your wildest dreaming of taking a photograph of a fat Pikachu using a surfboard. Almost two decades later, Snap still remains one of the best Pokémon spinoffs ever made, and many like myself are dumbfounded that it has never been revisited. There are branching paths with hidden Pokémon, and trying to take the best photograph possible with the highest score is surprisingly addictive.
Superiorly named “Lylat Wars” in Europe, this gem of a title could arguably be considered the last great game in the Star Fox series. Branching paths, superb gameplay mechanics, and a memorable soundtrack all swell together to create an amazing gem of a game. I have a tremendous amount of love for this game, trying to destroy as many enemies as possible on each stage makes each playthrough a challenge.
I think it’s a testament to Super Mario 64 that there are still 3D platformers that are released over 15 years later that don’t even come close to matching the mechanics and most importantly, fun, of the first 3D Mario title. Twirling Bowser around and around doesn’t get old, long jumping across large gaps in the stage, speedrunning your way through all the levels. The Nintendo 64 isn’t what it is today without Super Mario 64. It took me over a decade to get all 120 stars, and now I can do it within a day. Superbly tight controls and mechanics make this one of the greatest games ever made.
The start of something beautiful. There’s still no so thing as a bad Super Smash Bros. game included the one that began it all. If you’re looking for classic, intense, N64 multiplayer action, this is the game for you.
Now this is what it’s like when worlds collide! Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 features a variety of modes, from a career mode to multiplayer, free play, and even a level editor. Hours upon hours can be wasted making your own courses, tricks, and gaps. And who can forget the awesome punk soundtrack? Many hours were spent playing HORSE with my brothers here, trying to pull off the longest combo possible before completely bailing.
Just like 1080 Snowboarding, Wave Race 64 is one of Nintendo’s lesser known franchises that, while being relatively successful, haven’t seen much daylight since the GameCube era. Despite that, the series is a lot of fun and surprisingly deep, and if Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing isn’t your scene, then perhaps Wave Race will fill the hole for you and a friend.
This game famously had a fault where the player’s saves would never store correctly and get deleted. Despite that, myself and my brothers spent hours playing this game, engaging in hour-long Royal Rumbles, customising characters to the nth degree, and slowly making our way through the story mode. For me, there’s not been a wrestling game since that has topped it. That’s likely due to a large dose of nostalgia, but nothing will ever compare to beating up The Rock with your custom dwarf character using a sledgehammer. Rest in peace AKI.
Look at this cute guy, are you going to tell him no? I didn’t think so.
Honourable Mentions: Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie, Bomberman 64, F-Zero X, Harvest Moon 64, Killer Instinct Gold, Paper Mario, Sin and Punishment, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, Mario Party, Mario Party 3.
I’d love to hear what games you’d like to see on the inevitable retro throwback console. What games did you spend hours on back in the day? What arguments and fights were started as a result of an unfair win (or loss!) in a hectic multiplayer title? Leave a comment down below!