10. F-Zero X (N64)
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 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.
While the characters might not have been truly 3D (rather they were Donkey Kong Country-style sprites created from 3D renders), Mario Kart 64's huge, undulating circuits showed off the hardware and added inclines, items and obstacles — this is the game which gave us Toad's Turnpike — plus a four-player multiplayer mode. 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 that first jump to 3D. Like any entry in the series, add three friends and you'll have an epic time in no time.
Two decades on, Paper Mario might not look as sharp as it once did, but it holds up very well where it matters. The N64 original does very well to ease Mario fans into a new style of adventure while providing a depth for RPG gamers that you might not expect from the paper-thin premise. With a great supporting cast and buckets of trademark Nintendo charm, the original is almost the best.
An incredible follow-up to GoldenEye which threw in every idea the developers at Rare could muster (plus a kitchen sink or two), Perfect Dark really stretched the Nintendo 64 hardware and was arguably the most ambitious game on the console. James Bond was never going to be an easy act to follow, but Joanna Dark's noir-ish sci-fi was as good a spiritual sequel as you could hope to have — close to perfect, in fact — and two decades on, it still stands as a remarkable achievement.
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 a console. It paired beautifully with the cinematic battles and derring-do of Fox McCloud and the gang's dogfighting in this on-rails shooter.
It's still an excellent game, and some might be tempted to say the series peaked on Nintendo 64. There's a discussion to be had there, for sure, and Star Fox 64 presents a very strong case for itself.
It's the 3D platformer that defined what that label meant, and it's remarkable just how much Shigeru Miyamoto and his team got right with the first swing of the bat. It's available on Switch if you nabbed a time-limited copy of Super Mario 3D All-Stars and we could go on endlessly about its genre-birthing mechanics and the infinity of tiny details that make Super Mario 64 a joy to fire up all these years later. But you know about all that. Just play it, already.
Rareware put out several platformers on Nintendo 64, each with their own pros and cons, but the Twycross team arguably never topped the debut of the bear and bird. There's something in the precise platforming and fairytale formula of Banjo-Kazooie that resulted in the quintessential 3D collectathon. It's big, but not sprawling; sweet, but not sickly; challenging, but never unfair (okay, a couple of those Rusty Bucket Bay jiggys walk a fine line). From the roaming grublins to Mumbo Jumbo's hilarious transformations, its colourful characters and varied worlds are shot through with humour, adorable animation, tight controls and an 'oom-pah' musical box soundtrack that nails the spirit of a cheeky storybook adventure perfectly.
Mario 64 might have the edge when it comes to prestige, invention and influence — that's the 3D platformer you vote for with your head — but Banjo steals hearts. An absolutely brilliant game.
The best movie tie-in ever made? Not only was Rare's game hugely influential on the console FPS genre, but it also gave N64 owners a proper 'adult' experience to sink their teeth into. At a time when PlayStation was too cool for school, GoldenEye 007 provided some real ammo in the console wars, and its 4-player deathmatches — remarkably, a last-minute addition before the game went gold — led to some of the best multiplayer memories we have, for any system. You Only Live Twice>Bunker>Power Weapons? How about Licence to Kill>Facility>Pistols? We're easy, but whatever you do, make sure you've got 'Sight ON Auto-Aim OFF'.
And no Odd Job.
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 world 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 convenient additions for managing your limited time, but the clockwork land of Termina offers something truly unique in the Zelda series wherever you play.
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 decades; no wonder it's so revered.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D on 3DS is arguably the best way to play today, but there are things that Grezzo's excellent remake couldn't quite recapture. Whether its 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.
So there we are: the top 50 Nintendo 64 games of all time, as ranked by you lovely people. What a system, eh?
Remember, you can still rate any games you like even after publication, and there's every chance they could show up in the rankings above — this is an ever-changing list that reflects the User Ratings assigned each game in the Nintendo Life game database.
Done that already? Feel free to let us know your absolute 64-bit favourites, and the ones bubbling under, in the comments.