On September 29, 1996, Americans experienced a rush of joy like no other: The release of the Nintendo 64, the video game giant’s hotly-anticipated follow-up to their acclaimed Super Nintendo Entertainment System. Remember that viral clip of the kid excitedly opening up an N64 under the Christmas tree and absolutely losing his mind? He’s right. In fact, he might be underreacting.
The Nintendo 64 boasted an unprecedented level of increase in graphical fidelity, from SNES’s 16 bits to 64 — quadrupling in power, two times as big as the rival Sony PlayStation. But what is good is technical sound and fury if it signifies nothing? As Nintendo of America pioneer Peter Main phrased it, “The name of the game is the game.” And the N64 games were, in a word, incredible. Coinciding perfectly with the general culture’s mainstream acceptance of video games as more than a niche culture, developers worked with Nintendo to expand the medium’s boundaries and push the limits of technical craftsmanship and creativity. The Nintendo 64 encapsulates so many disparate feelings at the same time. Their games are accessible but deep, laser-focusing Nintendo’s typically pristine focus on the gamer’s joyful experience with an eye on expanding the definitions of “joyful experiences”. And ultimately, they focus on friendships — couch-centered multiplayer experiences and rich single-player campaigns that are fun to participate in actively and passively.
Whether you were an N64-head looking for a trip down memory lane, a Sony stan looking to fill in their blind spots, or a voracious retro gamer looking for some opinions to fight with, enjoy the 20 best Nintendo 64 games of all time (with corresponding honorable mentions, too).