Star Wars Rogue Squadron. That’s the list. You can all go home. I’m just kidding, of course. The N64 had a lot of unforgettable titles throughout its run. You could probably think of about five N64 games that defined their respective genre in less than a minute.
Unfortunately, just because a game is good doesn’t mean that it has aged well. I mean, look at GoldenEye 007, a game with the worst follow mission in the history of video games! That might be going too far, but a great game doesn’t ensure a spot on this list.
What makes a game age well, then? I’ve given this some thought and I think it’s a mix of:
- An overall fair difficulty
- Ageless gameplay
- Art (musical, aesthetics, etc)
Basically, a game ages well when you want to pick it up and play it because the controls are decent, the graphics are good, or at least not off-putting, the age of the game doesn’t make it a needless chore, and the game has some artistic merit.
I’ve come up with 15 of these titles, but I am not presenting them in any order; they’re just the N64 games that held up over time. Alright, let’s get into it!
1. Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
We didn’t have a lot of options for N64 RPGs, but Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber was the best in my opinion. This Real-Time Strategy RPG came out very late in the N64’s lifecycle, and it didn’t get as much attention as a result.
The gameplay and story were excellent, thrusting the recently graduated main character into a bloody civil war where the player would have to use battle and diplomacy to resolve the conflict.
This game probably has the best music on the entire N64 and the graphics, while not great, manage to avoid the pitfalls of the horrible blockiness that plagued many other titles.
This is a great game, but it was so both undersupplied and overlooked that a lot of people didn’t get the chance to play it. You can pick up a copy on eBay.
2. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Have you ever wanted to see Anakin’s old stomping grounds at Beggar’s Canyon? Want to take down some TIE fighters? This is the game for you.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron lets you fly around in a 3D environment as you do recon, blast targets, rescue others, and go on protection missions. The game is a ton of fun for people that have always wanted to be in the cockpit taking on various targets from the greater Star Wars lore.
The game’s graphics might be its weakest element, and they’re not that bad. I think most people will enjoy the gameplay, the different vehicles you can pilot, and the various stages that take you to far-flung regions of space.
The game is challenging enough to require you to stay engaged, but you can push the limits of your skills by performing special feats on each level, too. Doing so will unlock hidden features.
This game holds up with decent graphics, great controls and sound effects, and tons of replay value.
Get Rogue Squadron on eBay.
3. Harvest Moon 64
Let’s get the obvious thing out of the way: the graphics aren’t spectacular but they’re not completely atrocious. They don’t hinder the gameplay with their cartoonish effects; in fact, I feel like the game would not have been as well-received if it tried for realistic graphics.
Either way, Harvest Moon 64 is a fantastic farming simulator game that built on the success of the first Harvest Moon title, offering many quality-of-life improvements over the predecessor. You can expect pleasant music that won’t get irritating while you’re working on the farm.
Simply put, this game is addictive, and it’s the reason why so many farming sims emerged in the years following its release. Personally, I liked the PS1 Harvest Moon better, but this one is still very good.
The gameplay is great, the controls are simple to learn, and you’ll want to invest just as much time on your grandpa’s farm in this older title as you would a new one.
4. Paper Mario
This title sounds like a mess on paper. Pun intended. Paper Mario is an RPG that uses 2D cutouts in a 3D world filled with Mario characters and challenges the player with character-based puzzle-solving.
Sounds atrocious, right?
It’s not, though. The “paper” style of the characters makes the game charming, the environments are well-designed, the combat is a blast, and the music is simply pleasant.
The weakest part of the game might just be its replay value, and that’s certainly not any worse than any other RPG where you already know the story. Some parts of the game can be a little frustrating, but the difficulty is not overwhelming by any means.
All in all, Paper Mario is a great example of one of the N64 games that aged well.
Get Paper Mario on eBay.
5. F-Zero X
The original F-Zero was one of the games that held up well on the SNES, so it should come as no surprise that the sequel was just as timeless.
F-Zero X is a very fast-paced racing game that leaves titles like Mario Kart in the dust in terms of the perception of speed. The only problem is that the game couldn’t add a lot of detail to the game or it would create framerate issues, so the game doesn’t look great.
Graphics are nice, but they aren’t the only thing that matters in a video game. F-Zero X had fun gameplay, competitiveness, multiplayer, tons of vehicles from which to choose, and many courses to zoom through.
Each of the tracks is unique and has certain areas of difficulty with tunnels, obstacles, and the need to hit the pit areas to regain power. If you told me I could only play this or Mario Kart 64, I’d pick F-Zero X every time.
Oh, yeah. The game features a metal soundtrack that rocked back then and still rocks now.
Get F-Zero X on eBay.
6. Star Wars Episode I: Racer
I rarely like saying that one of a video game’s high points is its music, but it’s hard not to enjoy Duel of the Fates when you turn on your N64 along with all the voiceovers and sound effects.
Personally, I think this game is better than the movie upon which it’s based. Your task is to choose a pod racer and go through many courses at crazy speeds. Don’t worry, though; you won’t need Jedi reflexes to get through these races.
The gameplay can be challenging because every level has snares and difficult opponents, but it’s possible to counter some of these hardships by upgrading your pod racer by winning! You also have to watch out for damage to your pod racer throughout the race.
The game has great replay value, too. Especially when you consider the fact that you can play split-screen with your friends and race against each other! All in all, it’s not a perfect game, but it certainly holds up today.
Get Racer on eBay.
7. Wave Race 64
The concept of a Jet Ski racing game sounds absolutely goofy at first, but it actually worked. Wave Race 64 could not have made it without the wonderful controls in the game.
The acceleration, deceleration, and movement in the water were a departure from most other racing games. The controls could be frustrating since there was no such thing as starting and stopping on a dime, but the uniqueness of steering a Jet Ski was simply unbeatable once you got the hang of it.
The graphics were great for the time, it was possible to play against others, and the weather’s impact on the water conditions on each level provided enough challenge that most people would gladly come back for another race.
Although it didn’t have the high speeds from F-Zero X, this title was still highly entertaining.
Get Wave Race 64 on eBay.
8. Pokémon Stadium
When I saw Pokémon Stadium for the first time, my jaw dropped. It was the first time that you could play with Pokémon in a 3D environment. Interestingly enough, the game allowed you to import your Pokémon from Pokémon Red, Blue, and Yellow to use in various tournaments.
Pokémon Stadium could be a little slow during the attacking phases, but the graphical improvements between the Game Boy titles and the N64 were something special to behold. You’d want to play as all 151 original Pokémon just to see their models and attacks.
The graphics, music, and gameplay are all strong features in this game, and the replayability is off the charts. Best of all, you could use the Transfer Pak and built-in emulator to play the original games at up to 4x speed.
So, if you wanted to start a new game and level your Pokémon to fight against the challenging trainers in Pokémon Stadium, you could do it in a few hours. This might be the best example of all the N64 games that aged well.
9. Mario Party 3
Mario Party is a competitive game that would ruin friendships and broken controllers. Passions run high when you get four people together to compete against each other in a wide variety of different minigames while competing in a larger board game, after all.
The gameplay was fun, engaging, and enraging if you landed on a bad spot or got screwed over by one of your fellow competitors. The graphics were decent for the time and the music was successful at keeping the mood light and airy to cut down on sibling violence.
The replayability of this game was seriously high, and it was always fun to put on when you were having a party with friends.
The biggest drawback was that the game was A LOT LESS FUN to play with just the computers. Nevertheless, the game was a lot of fun and holds up today as long as you can cobble together 3 friends to play with.
10. Super Smash Bros.
What happens when you get a bunch of characters from Nintendo’s most famous franchises and make them duke it out on various stages? It sounds like the idea was choked out through a cloud of bong smoke.
Nevertheless, this game is simply iconic. You could plug this game in and play it right now with no problem. Sure, the character selection is not even close to what you can get in the latest iteration of the game, but the gameplay is relatively unchanged.
You know what that means, right? The gameplay is timeless, fun, and engaging. The graphics and music are wonderful, and the controls are very good. You could still enjoy this game today.
Get Smash Bros on eBay.
11. Yoshi’s Story
Are you filled with boundless rage whenever you see Mario sacrifice Yoshi? Well, Yoshi got his own game. With blackjack and…never mind.
This side-scrolling platformer puts you in the shoes of Yoshi, whose island has recently come under attack by Baby Bowser. Now, your world is a pop-up storybook and it’s up to you to set things right and bring joy back.
The gameplay is a ton of fun. In fact, it’s similar to Mario, but you get a different set of skills as Yoshi. The graphics aren’t anything to write home about, but they don’t distract from the gameplay.
The controls certainly hold up and the game is very replayable. If I still had this game, I’d pop it in and give it a go, and so would most fans, I think.
12. Starfox 64
At first glance, this game might not belong on the list because the graphics left a lot to be desired. Although the graphics didn’t age too well, the rest of the game did. The flight controls were very fun no matter if you were doing a space mission or fighting in that sweet tank on that one level.
The sounds and music were good, but the characters talking can get annoying if you repeatedly die. The game did give us the “do a barrel roll” meme. So, you have this game to thank for that or something.
The gameplay was fun and the game did have enough difficulty to keep you engaged, even though you were on a rail instead of flying around freely like in Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. The game holds up today, but it’s not the prettiest game ever made.
Get Star Fox 64 on eBay.
13. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Conker’s Bad Fur Day holds up in many ways, especially with its frickin’ humor. The titular character is an ill-mannered squirrel that gets caught up in a crazy quest, and he’s not too happy about it.
You’ll encounter lots of dirty jokes, curse words, and violence that led to the game being rated Mature by the ESRB.
Although you might expect the gameplay to be somewhat crappy and shallow, it’s actually a good platformer. The controls take a little getting used to, but they’re still just as good today as they were 20 years ago.
The graphics, level design, and hilarity of Conker’s Bad Fur Day make this title an absolute shoo-in for this list.
14. Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart 64 is basically the definition of timeless. You could break this game out at a party today and people would still clamor to get the next turn on the controller.
For those unfamiliar with the game, the basic idea is that you select one of your favorite characters from the Mario franchise, each with its benefits and drawbacks, and race against each other on various levels.
The game’s high points include the multiplayer, character selection, various game modes (Time Trial, Grand Prix, Versus, and Battle Mode), decent graphics (for the time), and music that doesn’t get annoying after a few races.
The game is a little challenging thanks to the integration of rubber banding AI, but it can get annoying that so much of your success is based on good luck, and, well, I’m like William H. Macy’s character in The Cooler.
15. Pokémon Snap
Pokémon Snap is a tremendously interesting game that has aged well for many reasons. In this title, you get to see various Pokémon in a 3D environment and take pictures of them. The pictures are then rated on their quality, and that determines your success in the game.
The graphics are a little rough around the edges, but so much of the game stands out. The gameplay will keep you coming back for you more as you try to get the best shot possible.
The game does lack Pokémon being that it has fewer than 70 of the monsters. The only thing that could have made the game cooler would have been a mode to run around on foot instead of being on rails the whole time.
Overall, this is a great game that has stood the test of time. In case you missed it, this game has a sequel out there now!
Get Pokemon Snap on eBay.
What About YOUR Favorite Game?
I know you’re looking for The Legends of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, GoldenEye 007, and a whole host of other great games. You’re not going to find them here. Why?
Go play them for yourself. Tell me that Ocarina of Time held up well with those hideous controls and annoying gameplay elements. Does “Hey! Listen!” ring a bell? Some great games simply don’t hold up well over time. Still, we have gotten tons of remakes as companies try to make up for the fact that the games failed to hold up.
Still, I want you to tell me what games you believe truly belong on this list. Don’t just say “the game was good, though.” Gimme some reasons why!