Jared Feldman: Good day and thanks for reading the Entertainment Bureau’s latest chat wrap installment. I’m here with Jay Sage and we’re going to have a furious debate about video games. Specifically we will be arguing about the best video games produced for the Nintendo 64. A now antiquated console, it was the the first premiere video gaming system, in my humble opinion.
Jay Sage: To quote a particularly well spoken couple of siblings, “NINTENDO SIXTY FOOOOOOUUUURRRR”. No, it really was an enormous development in video game technology. It’s such a rapidly developing field that kids today probably aren’t capable of understanding the sheer impact of playing your first 3D game. My sister and I didn’t get the console until a couple years after it was released, so we were stuck with SNES for a long time. But I’ll never forget that first game of Mario Kart.
Feldman: Mario was the flagship franchise for the N64 with Mario 64, the aforementioned Kart, and Mario Party. While I’ve always liked those games, they always seems more arcade game than video game. The N64 really gave gamers the chance to enter a whole new, and somewhat believable world. For me, that was The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. A magnificent game that really expanded the minds of gamers without any sort of controlled substances.
Sage: It’s not a matter of principle or anything, more of circumstance, but somehow I’ve made it to the age of 23 without ever indulging in a Zelda game. I’m not sure what exactly I’m waiting for, because most enthusiasts rank them incredibly high. One game that I always loved was “Rocket: Robot on Wheels”. Mario 64 was more famous for allowing the gamer to explore a vast world, but Rocket took that to new levels with even more side missions and divergent plots.
Feldman: It was also one of the first games to use a real physics engine to derive how motions and reactions would be mapped into the game. I don’t think it made it into the mainstream as much as it deserved to as it was a bit ahead of its time. I think there’s one game that everyone has played on N64, Goldeneye. It was a game changing first person shooter and one that every current shooter is based on.
Sage: One of those rare instances where the game is indelibly better than the film it’s based on (still, Goldeneye might be the best Pierce Brosnan Bond, but that’s not saying much). It’s another example of a game whose style would seem hokey to users who weren’t raised on it, but it was so significant. Shooters are the biggest sellers these days and it’s not even close. Call of Duty, Halo et al owe their legacies.
Feldman: I actually can’t think of a more influential game than Goldeneye. I suppose Grand Theft Auto III ushered in an entirely new genre, but Golden is really up there as well. I’ll need to find my old N64 and dusty copy of the game to give a whirl sooner than later.
Sage: And its influential nature came by surprise. The highlight aspect of Goldeneye was supposed to be the one-player mode, but kids really fell in love with the party aspect of the game. If anybody our age doesn’t have memories of spending hours in a basement with Goldeneye at a sleepover or some such, they have my pity.
Feldman: We don’t have basements in my area. Sad. Okay a fun game that I still enjoy despite its utter mindlessness is Harvest Moon 64. The entire game is to grow crops, raise livestock and get married. It should be the dullest game ever, but its incredibly amazing regardless.
Sage: I call it the “Dancing with the Stars” effect. Something that nobody should logically enjoy but that’s strangely addictive. I mean, we ended up living through Farmville, didn’t we? HM64 is another one to dust off as well. Getting back to the Mario arena, the original Super Smash Brothers was a title that introduced a revolutionary new style of fighting games. It was so innovative, in fact, that no other company has even dared tried to copy it. But for SSB and its two descendants, the percentage based platform style has been a major boon to Nintendo.
Feldman: It was the first “cartoon” fighting game that was actually more fun than the blood and gore games like Mortal Kombat. The ability to mash together so many different video game characters, and have them fight was absolutely genius. I can’t tell you how much enjoyment I took from throwing a pokeball at Luigi on the deck of the Great Fox to see a Charizard come out and knock him into oblivion.
Sage: Good analysis, it was a perfect mix between a novelty and just a plain old quality game. Aside from the lack of gore, it also differed from Mortal Kombat/Tekken in that 1) It wasn’t just one on one fighting and 2) the goal wasn’t to deplete the enemy’s energy, rather deal enough damage to raise their chances of falling off the screen. It introduced a lot of different scenarios that were previously impossible in a fighting game. And who didn’t love using Kirby to walk off the edge on a kamikaze mission?
Feldman: Are there any other significant games that come to mind? We did see a revolution of 3D sports games but those seemed to be pretty evenly spread across all platforms and not just for the N64.
Sage: Sporting games are indeed not unique to N64 in those days, but I’d say Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was unique enough to bear mentioning. Just like the skating culture it emulated, it allowed for a free form experimental style of play, alongside the competitive elements.
Feldman: Glad you mentioned it. I don’t know how much time I spent trying to pull of the 900 with Tony Hawk or the backflip with Bucky Lasek. I stumbled across the X games a few days back and some of those guys from the first game were actually still trying to compete. Those were the days. I guess one last game that I need to mention is Star Fox. It was a very weird concept that originated in earlier Nintendo generations but that really hit its stride on the N64. A bunch of unrelated animals flying spaceships fighting some sort of robot isn’t the best story, but it was fun nonetheless.
Sage: Do a barrel roll! Use the boost to get through! Hey Einstein I’m on your side! Well, I think that exhausts our conversation of the best N64 games right there. Leave a comment below if one of your favorite games went unmentioned, and keep visiting for more from your home for All Things Entertaining.