The Nintendo 64 is a console which tends to divide gamers. Launching back in 1996 (or 1997 in PAL regions) as the gaming industry's bread-and-butter switched from sprites to polygons, the console represents — from a certain perspective — the first time Nintendo really dropped the ball. Tired of the platform holder's licencing terms, many developers jumped ship to Sony's PlayStation, attracted by fairer deals and cheaper disc-based media. In the meantime, Nintendo doubled down on an esoteric piece of hardware with confusing, kiddy-coloured controllers that were arguably out of step with gaming's maturing audience.
On the other hand, for many gamers the N64 evokes some of our very warmest, strongest gaming memories. It was while brandishing this console's three-pronged pad that many of us took our first steps into a three-dimensional Mushroom Kingdom or Hyrule, and the unrivalled excitement of 4-player split-screen Mario Kart or GoldenEye sticks in our mind like few other multiplayer experiences.
We've previously assembled rankings for the top 50 3DS games, Game Boy games, Nintendo DS games and GameCube games, and thanks again to the User Ratings submitted by readers, we can now reveal the top 50 N64 games ever. There's no doubt that we've got a fine selection of 64-bit lovelies below, but remember, this list is not set in stone. The ranking will continue to evolve automatically according to user scores submitted to the Nintendo Life game database, so don't worry if you missed out on 'voting' — you can still do so by simply scrolling down and rating them now!
So, plug in your Rumble / Controller / Transfer / Expansion Paks and get ready for the best N64 games of all time...
Most people who played Beetle Adventure Racing! back in the day probably went in with low expectations, but coming from Paradigm Entertainment — a studio that worked with Nintendo on Pilotwings 64 and also made the excellent F-1 World Grand Prix games on the system — it's a fun, beautifully constructed little racer that's well worth revisiting.
Blast Corps involves clearing a path for a slow-moving truck carrying a malfunctioning nuclear missile to a safe detonation zone - a zone which is blocked by buildings and other structures ripe for destruction. As with many 64-bit titles, its early polygonal visuals are arguably looking a little dogged these days, but don't let its looks put you off. This incredibly silly concept makes for one of most fun games on the N64.
An underrated entry in the Rareware library, Jet Force Gemini coupled cute design with chunky, gungy third-person blasting in a world-hopping quest to defeat insectoid overlord Mizar. Juno, Vela and trusty good boy Lupus' adventure is not without flaws, but JFG is a surprising deep and satisfying one that's worth investigating if you're a Rare fan looking for gems that passed you by around the turn of the millennium.
The New Tetris is somewhat like the Old Tetris, although the addition of a new square block-based mechanic, an EDM soundtrack, a four-player mode gives it a very particular (and addictive) flavour. It came from H20 Entertainment, the same team behind the similarly interesting Tetrisphere and is worth investigating if you can't get enough variations on the king of block-fallers.
Though this couldn't rival F-Zero X in pure performance terms, it was still a very impressive racer which had a progression system with purchasable pod enhancements. Based on the best bit of The Phantom Menace (apart from the Darth Maul bits and all the soundtrack), it had a special two-pad mode similar to GoldenEye which enabled some twin-stick precision that more-closely mirrored the controls of the onscreen pods. Watto’s banter and post-race rendition of the Cantina theme is also excellent. It's now available on Switch, too.
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil was a technical showcase for the system which took the baton from the immensely popular first game and upped the ante in every possible way. Highlights include the Expansion Pak-powered 640x480 resolution visuals and the iconic Cerebral Bore, a gun that fired a brain-drilling bullet once you locked on to an enemy's melon. Acclaim's game is now available on Switch in remastered form courtesy of Night Dive Studios, although that version doesn't come on a kickass black cartridge.
There are some who blame the collapse of the collectathon 3D platforming craze on Donkey Kong 64, and while it's hard to argue that Rare perhaps went a little too far with the huge number of inconsequential collectable doohickeys, it's a game which turns everything up to eleven and there's something admirable about its unapologetic 'more is more' approach. With five playable Kongs (you know them well), huge worlds and an abundance of mini-games (including emulated versions of the original arcade Donkey Kong and Rare's Jetpac), DK64 was one hell of a value proposition back in 1999 and we think it probably deserves re-evaluation after 20 years of bashing. C'mon Cranky, take it to the fridge.
43. ISS 64 (N64)
A brilliant rendition of the most popular team sport in the world, ISS 64 had depth, beauty, accessibility and gloriously entertaining commentary to boot. Not 'good' commentary, per se, but entertaining nonetheless. The FIFA games might be maintaining possession these days, but back in the '90s it was Konami who was really on the ball.
Midway's console port of Atari Games' San Francisco Rush 2049 was the third game in the Rush series and gave N64 owners a dose of quality futuristic racing without exchanging four wheels for pods or hover engines. With huge boost-friendly jumps, intricately constructed circuits with secret routes and some brilliantly fun physics, N64 racing doesn't get more arcade-y than this.
The first game released following THQ's takeover of licence holder duties from Acclaim, WCW's loss was very much WWF's gain. WWF Wrestlemania 2000 expanded on AKI's WCW/nWo Revenge from the previous year while bringing in the signature stable of World Wrestling Federation stars and setting the stage for the brilliant No Mercy.