Nintendo 64 hosts a bunch of absolute, all-time classic games — archetypal entries in classic series which set the template for their respective genres from that point onwards, not to mention 3D gaming in general. Sony might have stolen mindshare in the gaming space in the mid-'90s, but the seminal games released on Nintendo's 64-bit console cartridges had an enormous and lasting effect on the industry.
Our ranked list of the Best N64 Games Ever covers absolutely everything on the system, but in this selection we're looking specifically at Nintendo's first-party N64 games released in the West. All of the games below were developed (or co-developed) by Nintendo and therefore represent the company's own in-house output on the system. Other developers are trusted with Nintendo IP — Kirby and Fire Emblem, to name just a couple — and on the N64 in particular, the lineup looks very different without the golden second-party contributions from the Rare team. HOWEVER, here we're looking purely at N64 games developed personally by the folks at Nintendo.
This is a reader-ranked list based on the User Ratings of each game in our database. As such, it's subject to real-time change at any time. If you haven't personally rated any of the games below, you can assign them a score out of 10 right now and exert your influence on the ranking. You can also use the search bar below to quickly find any Nintendo-developed N64 games and rate them as you wish:
So, let's take a look at every first-party Nintendo 64 game, as ranked by you. We start at the bottom...
This puzzler is essentially a 64-bit remake of the original Dr. Mario and was never released in Europe or Japan (although it did appear in the Japan-only Nintendo Puzzle Collection on GameCube alongside Panel de Pon and Yoshi's Cookie). Dr. Mario 64 is just Dr. Mario, but prettier than it had ever been; a solid puzzler with little to get too angry or excited about.
Coming after the incredible (and incredibly beautiful) Yoshi's Island on SNES, it's no surprise that Yoshi's Story rubbed some people the wrong way with its accessible, storybook approach and cutesiness. It's certainly not the strongest or most complex 2D platformer you'll ever play, but it's brimming with the Yoshi series' trademark charm and we'd say it's worthy of reassessment if you've dismissed it in the past.
The N64 wasn't blessed with an abundance of side-on platformers, but armed with the knowledge that this isn't a 64-bit Yoshi's Island, this is a great little game starring everyone's favourite fruit-munching dino.
A game which teaches the rewards of dedication and perseverance. Winning the race might look like the point of the game, but the real goal is there in the title — pulling a 1080°. It took some of us years, but we kept at it and — boom! — finally, we nailed it. The speed and precision were matched with beautiful visuals, with sunlight glistening off the piste and snow spraying up behind your board. 1080° Snowboarding's frame rate suffered accordingly, but its subtle controls enabled you to sharpen up shallow turns and gracefully arc across the course, and coupled with the visuals it conveyed a taste of the feeling you get from the real-life sport.
When you’re not falling on your arse, that is.
As opposed to Tetris, here the blocks slowly rise up from the bottom of the screen as you try to line up rows or columns of three identical blocks. On top of the addictive Panel de Pon puzzling, the game is based on the Pokemon anime, and aside from the obvious use of characters like Ash, Brock, and Misty, this also means that, yes, Pokémon Puzzle League has a ton of voice acting and music from the series and movies.
Pokémon Stadium was a home console companion piece that used the Transfer Pak to bring your Pocket Monsters over to your television, showcasing all 151 monsters from the original Game Boy titles in full-fledged 3D. Bringing a host of minigames to the party should you get bored of battling — hey, it can get a bit repetitive and lengthy — the awesome visuals, animations, and commentary here keep things lively. A previous iteration launched in 1998 in Japan which had only 40 Pokémon available to battle, but this version (released as Pocket Monsters' Stadium 2 in Japan) launched internationally and featured the lot.
Pokémon Stadium is far tougher to recommend to anyone who doesn't have a collection of critters on a Game Boy cart, but there's plenty to love here if you're an OG fan.
As a quintessential PlayStation franchise, seeing Ridge Racer on N64 gave us a similar sensation as playing WipeOut on Nintendo's console — it was very welcome, but it still felt weird. While Ridge Racer 64 features tracks from previous games in Namco's racer series, it was actually developed by the Redmond-based Nintendo Software Entertainment and later ported to DS as — wait for it — Ridge Racer DS. You're better off sticking with the 64-bit original, though.
Pilotwings 64 was a brilliant launch title for the system which showcased its features and provided players with a lovely flight sim adventure — something worthy of playing alongside the mighty Super Mario 64. It proved to be a diverting companion piece for early adopters which built on the Super NES original with gameplay equal parts tense and relaxing. Cracking game.
The original Pokémon Stadium was fine, but Pokémon Stadium 2 expanded the concept of a 3D companion cartridge to play alongside the mainline Game Boy games. It included Pokémon from both the Johto and Kanto regions and offered some juicy extras if you owned the Game Boy entries (we pity whoever had a Pokémon Stadium game without owning Blue, Red, Yellow, Gold, or Silver!). Only in the soundtrack department did it arguably not live up to its predecessor, but otherwise this felt like the 'proper' execution of the concept.
Whatever you do, don't go back and play Wave Race 64. Its incredible water physics, tight controls, chunky visuals and titanic brilliance will immediately have you degenerate into a forum-lingering whinger and you won't be able to stop yourself complaining about the absence of this series (and F-Zero, and 1080° Snowboarding) from Nintendo consoles since the GameCube, and how Nintendo hates its fans and doesn't want their money, and how the success of the Switch means there's space for these 'lesser-known' franchises to make a return, and how we can't have nice things, and...
While the racers themselves might not have been truly 3D (rather they were detailed Donkey Kong Country-style sprites created from 3D character renders), Mario Kart 64's huge, undulating circuits still showed off the benefits of 64-bit hardware. It added inclines, items, obstacles, and a four-player multiplayer mode to the winning formula Nintendo cooked up on Super NES. This is also the game which gave us Toad's Turnpike.
Each iteration of the Mario Kart series adds a little something new, but following on from the flat circuits of Super Mario Kart, there's arguably been nothing quite like this first jump to 3D-except-for-the-racers. Like any Mario Kart game, add three friends and you'll have an epic time in no time.
Forum wars continue to wage over whether F-Zero X or its successor on GameCube is the superior white-knuckle futuristic racer. Both are essential, of course. The 64-bit entry is metal: pure, simple, guitar-screeching, all-out metal. EAD stripped back extraneous detail to achieve the smoothest, most blistering and nail-bitingly precise racing experience. At this speed, on these dizzying tracks, even the tiniest prod on the spindly analogue stick matters, and the original N64 pad offers peak precision for micro adjustments which make the difference between gracefully sweeping through a corner with nary a pixel to spare… or catching said corner and ricocheting between barriers to an explosive, humiliating retirement.
How much more metal could this get? None. None more metal. Flaming skulls and chromed motorcycles would actually reduce the metal content of this game.
Known as Lylat Wars in Europe, Star Fox 64 originally came in a whopping great box containing a Rumble Pak and was many a gamer's introduction to force feedback on console. It paired beautifully with the cinematic battles and derring-do of Fox McCloud and his team's cinematic dogfighting in this on-rails shooter. It's still an excellent game all these years later, with thrilling action, delicate and precise controls, stirring music, humour, spectacle, and edge-of-your-seat excitement. Sure, it's got a surplus of Slippy Toad, but you can't have everything.
Whether you're enjoying it on original hardware or playing via the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pak, a quick blast through this and it's clear to see why so many people think the Star Fox series peaked with its first sequel. It's not just the nostalgia talking — it really holds up beautifully two-and-a-half decades on.
The 3D platformer that defined what that label meant, it's remarkable just how much Shigeru Miyamoto and his team got right with its first foray into 3D platforming. It feels effortless, as if these mechanics were somehow self-evident or arrived at through natural evolution. Nintendo absolutely nailed the formula from the very beginning – so much so that the basic 3D template hasn't really changed much even today. We still control Mario much as we first did with that wonderfully odd-looking N64 controller.
Super Mario 64 is available on Switch if you nabbed a time-limited copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars or as part of a Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack subscription, and we could go on endlessly about its genre-birthing mechanics, how it set the stage for 3D gaming as we know it, and blather on about the infinity of tiny details that make this a joy to fire up all these years later.
But you know about all that. Do yourself a favour and blast through a couple of dozen stars next time you're pondering what to play. It still feels almost as good as it did the very first time.
Known colloquially around these parts as Majora's Marmite, the three-day cycle added a constant pressure that turned off many players. However, that cycle is also key to the unique way Majora's Mask focuses on its cast of uncanny characters and soaks the adventure in melancholy and madness.
In fact, 'adventure' isn't quite the right word for this Zelda game. It's more of a Lynchian dreamscape in cartridge form, and one which isn't for everyone. The excellent 3DS remake is probably the best way to play these days thanks to some welcome additions for managing your limited time, although the original is conveniently available to play via Nintendo Switch Online. Wherever you play, the clockwork land of Termina offers something truly unique in the Zelda series.
Oh, and we don't really call it Majora's Marmite.
What is there that hasn't already been said about this one? A seminal video game, Ocarina of Time brought The Legend of Zelda into the third dimension as successfully as the plumber made the leap in Super Mario 64. Yet where Nintendo could throw any playground-style idea into Mario's launch game, Ocarina had to tell a story and evoke a consistent mood throughout.
Going back these days, the frame rate and cumbersome menus may surprise you, and Hyrule Field feels decidedly smaller (more like a field, in fact) compared to the vast kingdom of Hyrule presented in Breath of the Wild, but the pure magic of the game still shines through any ageing systems. This set the template for not only every subsequent Zelda title, but also the majority of action-adventure games from the past two-and-a-half decades; no wonder it's so revered.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on 3DS is the more streamlined version, but there are things that Grezzo's excellent remake couldn't quite recapture. Whether it's the Rumble Pak-powered Stone of Agony or the 64-bit mist hanging over Lake Hylia in the early hours, the N64 original still has that special something.
And there you have it. Feel free to let us know your personal favourites below.