The Nintendo 64 was not known for its RPGs. In fact, the entire system produced fewer than a dozen true RPGs throughout its lifespan. At least, that’s the case if you don’t include the Japanese releases.
That is why this list had to be cobbled together from true RPGs and those that blurred the lines of the genre. To be honest, there are not too many stellar names on this list.
Still, every system has some RPGs that are better than others, and we’re going to take a look at the best N64 RPGs that came to market on this magnificent beast of a system.
9. Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage
Aidyn Chronicles was a game that seemed like it had some potential at the start. The story is interesting enough to get you through the first half-hour of the game.
You play as an adopted prince that finds himself whisked away into adventure and runs afoul of some very mean goblins. Long story short, you want to know who you are and your true name. This coincides with the idea of true names having magical power, something that was unique to be at the time.
Aside from the story and the game’s ability to set the atmosphere, there isn’t a lot else to like. To call the combat sluggish is an insult to slugs. The camera angles were troubling, the music was bad, and the graphics were below-average, to say the least.
That is not to say the game didn’t have potential as far as the story is concerned, though!
8. Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers
If you squint really hard, this game might look like one of the N64 RPGs, but you can just as easily call it an adventure game.
If anyone played older RPGs, then this title might seem familiar since it is a sequel to the original Shadowgate game on Macintosh.
Shadowgate 64 features a lot more puzzles and exploring than fighting, so you have to put some time and thought into your actions to advance. The best parts of the game are the atmosphere and creative puzzles. The story is somewhat engrossing but more so for those that played the original.
The game involves a lot of reading and rereading dialogue. The slow pace of the game combined with the fact that you die from just about everything means this game is not one that many people replay.
All in all, it’s an interesting “RPG” but I wouldn’t play it again even with 5x speed.
7. Quest 64
Are you a beginner in the world of RPGs looking for something short, sweet, and addictive to play? The Quest 64 is the game for you.
In this game, you play as an apprentice sorcerer named Brian, and that tells you everything you need to know about how seriously to take the game. You’re from Celtland and you’re fulfilling that JRPG trope of trying to find your daddy.
The game is very easy to play and understand. You encounter enemies on the world map, a boundary is established, and you fight them off using various elements at your disposal along with your magic staff.
You gain experience for your skills by finding spirits or alternatively using the skills in battle. When you get hit repeatedly, your defense goes up. You can pour all your stat raises into an element or two (I prefer Earth) and just run through the rest of the game.
The music is cute, the combat theme is painfully reminiscent of the Final Fantasy series, and the game is bright and colorful. This was a perfect introductory RPG for young people learning about the genre.
6. Gauntlet Legends
Gauntlet Legends is a port of an arcade game that has some light RPG elements to it in the form of stat increases from levels. Does it belong on the list? Who cares, it’s staying.
The long and short of this game is that it rocked. You could play with three other friends on a single screen (remember that) and fight your way through four desecrated realms and beyond with sword, ax, bow, and magic. It was almost like a fellowship seeking a Mcguffin. Hmm.
In this version of the game, you get various items to keep in your satchel along with special abilities to help you fight off the hordes. That was a huge improvement over the arcade version.
Were the graphics great? Not by a long shot. The 3D environment was clunkier than anything but it still worked. The game was a ton of fun, and it was even better when you had friends to play with.
5. Hybrid Heaven
Konami came to the rescue with the interesting Hybrid Heaven. The game integrates some RPG aspects, but as the name says, this title tried to do a little bit of everything.
Let’s start off with the best parts. I really think the game shined in the areas of music, story, and graphics. I mean it— this game was nice to look at, the music was decent but created a great atmosphere, and the story was just bonkers.
The combat is a lot of fun in my opinion. Fights start when you encounter a monster while exploring. You can see the monsters beforehand, but they often run straight at you.
You’re taken to a battle screen where you can wait for your power bar to fill up to attack. In the meantime, you’re trying to get in the right position to launch an effective attack against your enemy.
Based on your enemy’s location, you can launch a punch or kick to the top, middle, or lower parts of their body.
By doing so, you train every individual part of your body and gain experience. You need to grind a bit to get strong, too.
All in all, this game was pretty neat and I think it’s one that most people will agree belongs on the list of the best N64 RPGs.
4. Pokémon Stadium
Many people don’t count this as an RPG since you basically used this to battle the characters from your Pokémon file from your Game Boy.
However, you still take part in turn-based battles, have to rely on items and limited techniques, and progress through several challenge modes when you take on the gym leaders or Mewtwo.
Also, you can use this game to import your characters and see them in all their 3D glory (or play the original games crazy fast).
The graphics were nice, the music was of higher quality than we were used to from the original games, and it had so many fun minigames that you could always find something to do. In short, Pokémon Stadium rocked.
3. Mega Man 64 (Legends)
Mega Man 64, a port of Mega Man Legends, was a nice action-adventure-RPG-ish game that surprised the heck out of everyone.
You were taken into a 3D world where you play as Mega Man. Along with Barrel, Roll, and Data, you scour the flooded world’s islands for resources. You crash land on an island and things go a little crazy from there. Actually, the story isn’t bad if you pay attention to it.
You have a fully 3D world to explore as Mega Man, and it’s awesome. The graphics are okay but the bright and fun world was a nice break from all the RPGs that were so bleak and dull (as far as colors) at the time.
The main claim to an RPG in this game is that you can find, buy, and install new upgrades on Mega Man after obtaining them from boss fights and others. I loved the freedom to explore the island and the fact that some of the battles were downright unfriendly and difficult.
The game wasn’t grindy by nature, but if you really wanted to stomp enemies later in the story, you could focus on making your weapons super powerful. All in all, this was a very good game that
2. Paper Mario
I was wary of Mario characters in an RPG, but by the time this game came out, I had already played Super Mario RPG and absolutely adored it.
The graphics were somewhat surprising to me since we had seen better from the Mario franchise already, but you have to give it points for originality and the dedication to the theme. Overlaying 2D characters on a 3D world sounds goofy, but it turned out great.
As far as the overall art and music, the game delivered high-quality stuff. The story was less than what I had hoped for, but you can’t expect anything too crazy from this series.
I enjoyed the familiar leveling system with Star Points and the turn-based combat as well as the fact that you could get initiative on an enemy by jumping on them outside of combat.
All in all, this is a very good RPG that you can still go back and enjoy today either on N64 or through one of its ports.
1. Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
The worst part about this game is the name, seriously. It’s the best N64 RPG that I could remember playing, and the biggest flaw is right there in the title. Since I was a huge fan of Ogre Battle on the SNES, picking up this game was a no-brainer.
The game was released after N64’s prime, and it came to America in 2000, a time when nobody cared about the system anymore or the games because the next-gen consoles were starting to arrive.
Ogre Battle 64 is a very fun game that puts you in the role of Magnus, a fresh graduate from a military school. You find yourself thrust into a major conflict, and it’s your job to command your army to stop the enemy.
The gameplay is remarkable as you move your character across maps both inside and outside of battle. Combat is incredible for anyone that enjoys tactical RPGs. You have to position yourself and coordinate with your party to launch attacks. You can even combine your efforts to devastate the enemy.
I enjoyed the class system that was in place, too. You could create a party with diverse powers or go all-out offense to wreck the enemy. It’s always a good sign when you get so many choices with your combat.
The game’s graphics weren’t perfect, but they were good enough. The overworld design, character attacks, and backgrounds were all very good. The music was subtle enough that it didn’t annoy you during the longer battles, too.
Ogre Battle 64 was a very fun game, and it belongs right here at the top of the list of the best N64 RPGs.
The Best N64 RPGs We Missed Out On
The N64 was not a great system for RPGs. The system lacked the ability to fit the expansive games that people wanted on the cartridges. The N64 could have had some serious contenders for the top spot if it wasn’t limited in this way.
After all, Final Fantasy VII could have been made on the N64, but Square saw the promise of the PlayStation and decided it was their best bet. They weren’t wrong.
Another possibility that emerged was Earthbound 3, but that never materialized, either. The cartridges were nice for loading times and not being as easily scratched, but they lacked the storage needed to attract big-time RPG developers.
The N64 was a great system, but it was one better suited to action games like the PS1 was better for RPGs. The strengths of the N64 gave us some wonderful, collectible titles that we retro lovers continue to enjoy and buy today.