Our favorite games on the Nintendo 64

Resident NerdSeptember 6, 2012 

With Nintendo expected to unveil its new Wii U home console this winter, the Manifesto's contributors are offering their picks for the greatest games on each of the company's U.S. consoles.

By the time the Nintendo 64 came along in 1996, The Big N had made itself the top name in video game consoles with the Nintendo Entertainment System and Super Nintendo. But it soon would find itself a distant second as the N64 and its cartridges would falter compared to Sony's first PlayStation, which used CDs.

But that doesn't mean the N64 didn't boast plenty of accomplishments. It ushered in solid 3D gaming with some of the following titles, which became more legendary than the system that ran them.

Many of these are available on Wii's Virtual Console if you want to see the ancestors of today's top games.

Goldeneye 007: Everyone talks of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time as the revolutionary game on the Nintendo 64. It no doubt was revolutionary, but it wasn't alone. For everyone who loves playing Call of Duty or Halo, they owe a thank-you to Goldeneye 007.

It was the first game to truly show that first- person shooters could work on consoles in addition to PCs. It introduced local multi-player death matches, which would become the staple of first-person shooters of the future.

It also had a great story and stellar graphics for its time. It's just a shame that the Bond games since haven't risen to the standard Goldeneye 007 created.

Most underrated N64 game: WWF War Zone

SCOTT SLOAN

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time: Most of my friends were into Zelda pretty big in the 1980s, and I never understood why. Aside from the gold cartridge, I always thought the game, which moved up and down and left and right on a pathetic grid, was pretty lame.

But I finally got into the series when Nintendo released Ocarina of Time. There was a lot of hype surrounding the game, and it was justified.

Ocarina of Time told the story of Link in such a different way. It was 3-D and, at that time, truly a thing of beauty. A target-lock system was introduced and has since become a staple.

The story line also was displayed with far more grace than any other game at that point. It was cinematic, and it drew you in. You actually wanted to help Link.

This exciting action-adventure game set the tone for what gaming would become.

Most underrated N64 game: Diddy Kong Racing

DELANO R. MASSEY, dmassey@herald-leader.com

Paper Mario: Paper Mario completely surprised me. After all, who would have thought a kiddie-themed Mario role-playing game with turn-based battles could be a stellar offering?

So I passed and didn't actually play it until years later while I was in college. Once I got into it, though, it blew me away.

What I thought was a child's RPG was in fact a deep game with memorable moments and an art style that was not even geared toward kids. The turn-based battles and associated action system were welcome changes and still stand up well today. The puzzles, while not terribly difficult, were challenging enough to keep the pace of gameplay going.

If you passed on this game because it wasn't in your comfort zone, give it a chance today. It'll surprise you.

Most underrated N64 game: Diddy Kong Racing

WILLIAM WOOD JR.

Perfect Dark: I've played video games since I was old enough to grip an Atari joystick, but before Perfect Dark, I almost always played by myself.

Perfect Dark taught me gaming could be a social affair. Sure, the single-player game had awesome graphics, tons of weapons and a cool story, but all of that was secondary to the best, most customizable multiplayer experience of the Nintendo 64 generation.

When I was 16, after working long night shifts at KFC in Eaton, Ohio, a few co-workers and I would walk to my manager's house nearby, plug in Perfect Dark and play for hours, setting up fights against one another other or huge armies of computer- controlled players. Our favorite game type? "One-shot, one-kill," in which a single bullet kills you. Pistols only.

Unlike many classic games, Perfect Dark does not withstand the test of time. First-person shooters have evolved leaps and bounds since 2000, making the N64 classic seem frustratingly dated now. But if you're willing to wade through the frustration for a tidbit of nostalgia, a high- definition remake of Perfect Dark is available on Xbox Live Arcade.

Most underrated N64 game: Beetle Adventure Racing

JOSH KEGLEY, jkegley@herald-leader.com

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz.

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