25 Best Nintendo 64 Games Of All-Time

A list of the best Nintendo 64 games is a perfect reflection for where Nintendo was at during the fifth-console generation: experimental, daring, and focused on fun above all else. Whether you wanted to play some of the first 3D adventures on the market or get competitive with some of your friends, the best N64 games had something for everyone. 

The Nintendo 64 launched in 1996, and soon found itself stuck between a rock (Sega Saturn) and a hard place (PlayStation). But that hasn’t stopped its library of games from becoming iconic. You won’t be surprised to find games like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on this ranking of the best N64 games, but this console had so much more to offer than first-party output alone. So whether you’re looking to start an N64 collection or you’re just looking to indulge in a little nostalgia, here’s our definitive ranking of the 25 best Nintendo 64 games of all-time.  

For more definitive rankings of Nintendo games throughout the years: 

| Best NES games | Best SNES games | Best GameCube games | Best Wii games | Best Wii U games | Best Switch games | Best GBA games | Best DS games | Best 3DS games |

Best Nintendo 64 games

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25. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon

Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon

(Image credit: Konami)

Developer: Konami
Released: 1997

Goemon games have a checkered history when it comes to reaching the west, so we’re glad Konami made the effort with this one. Yes, it has clunky controls and an errant camera, but it’s also filled with zany charm, wearing its Japanese goofiness proudly on its sleeve. Few games on the N64 allow you to transform into a mermaid, switch between multiple characters on the fly, use a camera to uncover hidden ghosts or trash villages as a giant rollerskating robot, but Konami’s game does all this and more. The 1998 sequel is equally bonkers, but far trickier to find.

24. Excitebike 64

Excitebike 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Left Field Productions
Released: 2000

Left Field Productions’ racer is a world away from the arcade cheerfulness of the NES original (which coincidentally, is included as an unlockable extra). It’s an extremely challenging game with a maddeningly high difficulty level, but that just makes it all the more satisfying when you do finally master its almost sim-like controls. The learning curve may be steep but the results are many thanks to a raft of extras that range from a comprehensive track editor to a challenging stunt course, 3D remake of the original game, and even a bizarre soccer mode.

23. Mario Party 2

Mario Party 2

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Hudson Soft
Released: 1999

Mario’s second board game outing remains the best on the system thanks to some glorious looks, more interesting game boards, and a number of enjoyable modes beyond the core board game traversal. It’s the many minigames that always sell a Mario Party game though and there are very few duffers among the 60-odd featured in Mario Party 2. Even the 21 games that return from the N64 original have been suitably spruced up and are far more fun to play as a result.

22. Pokemon Snap

Pokemon Snap

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: HAL Laboratory
Released: 1999

The N64 received a number of Pokemon-based spin-offs and this is one of the most charming. While there are only a piddly number of Pokemon to actually snap, the desire to constantly improve on your best photo is a powerful one. As a result, you’ll constantly return to the recognizable locations in order to coax Pikachu into the perfect pose or catch that missing behavior shot that eluded you the first time you visited. The on-rails nature of the game means there’s little chance to explore, but it’s offset by the sheer thrill of being surrounded by seemingly living and breathing Pokémon.

21. Wave Race 64

Wave Race 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1996

Nintendo EAD’s dynamic water-based racer remains one of the most satisfying experiences you can have on the system. Like many similar games of the time, it’s low on available tracks but excels because of how well-designed they are. What really elevates Wave Race 64 over its peers however is the dynamic water physics, which remain some of the best of the era and still impresses today. You not only feel every crest and bump of each wave but quickly learn how to use them to claw back every last second, which becomes critical to your success when tackling the later difficulty levels.

20. Fighters Destiny

Fighters Destiny

(Image credit: Ocean Software)

Developer: Opus Corp.
Released: 1998

Nintendo’s console had a pretty rough deal when it came to one-on-one fighters, but it did receive this rather magnificent brawler from Opus Corp. Although the combatants themselves are incredibly generic they all boast varied fighting styles and take a good amount of time to master. What really sets Fighters Destiny apart from other brawlers of the time is its clever points system that scores you on everything from ring outs to throws and knockdowns, which creates a lovely back and forth to each bout. A sequel does exist but the original offers a purer fighting experience in our opinion.

19. Diddy Kong Racing

Diddy Kong Racing

(Image credit: Rare)

Developer: Rare
Released: 1997

Few studios would attempt to outmaneuver Mario Kart 64, but Rare’s racer proved a more than worthy alternative to Mario’s slick karting shenanigans. Rather than simply stick to karting, Rare’s racer opened things up and allowed the game’s colorful characters to race across water and take to the skies as well as hard asphalt. Although the core racing and track design aren’t as strong as Mario Kart 64’s, the adventurous single-player mode and challenging opponents make it far more enjoyable when you can’t rustle up a few mates.

18. Sin & Punishment

Sin & Punishment

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Treasure
Released: 2000

Treasure’s final N64 release is a technical tour de force that pushes the console to its limits and bristles with creativity. In typical Treasure form, Sin & Punishment pushes against conventions and uses the analog stick for aiming, and requires you to move with the D-pad or C buttons. It makes Treasure’s game a tough one to master, but also makes it extremely rewarding when it finally clicks. The plot’s not much to write home about but it serves as a brilliant background for all the carnage and explosive excitement that takes place on-screen. Only Starfox 64 betters it for sheer arcade thrills.

17. 1080º Snowboarding

1080º Snowboarding

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released:
1998

Snowboarding games were big business in the nineties and the N64 had no shortage of them. 1080º left the biggest impression on us because it was so demanding to play – partly because of the aggressive AI of your rival racers and partly due to how hard rotating that analog stick was on your poor thumb. You felt every twist and rotation while playing Nintendo EAD’s game and setting high scores in its trick modes became almost as compulsive as the time trials in Mario Kart.

16. Pokemon Puzzle League

Pokemon Puzzle League

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 2000

The N64 may not have received a traditional Pokemon RPG but it did get this outrageously good puzzle gem. Nintendo Software Technology fused the popularity of the Pokemon anime with the proven mechanics of Panel De Pon and ended up mining puzzle gold. Thematically it’s a delight for Pokemon fans, but the numerous available gameplay modes, including a brand-new 3D option that uses a rotational cylinder, as well as challenging difficulty levels ensure there’s more than enough here to keep traditional puzzle fans happy, too.

15. Blast Corps

Blast Corps

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Rare
Released: 1997

If you’re one of those jaded gamers who are convinced that escort missions are tremendously tedious and exceptionally unfair try this wondrously destructive effort from Rare. Blast Corps is essentially one big escort mission that allows you to run riot in eight different demolition vehicles that range from bulldozers to mecha-sized robots and you’re required to do nothing more than trash everything that threatens to get in the way of your nuke-loaded carrier. While it’s simple in concept, Blast Corps’ cleverly constructed levels mean there’s always a good reason to return to them and attempt to best your high score.

14. Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

(Image credit: THQ)

Developer: Rare
Released: 2001

There’s a lovely kitchen sink approach to Rare’s final N64 game that makes it quite unlike anything else the studio released for the console. While some of its cruder jokes and movie references have certainly dated it, it’s hard not to be impressed by the sheer amount of creativity and variety that accompanies the potty-mouthed squirrel as he attempts to meet up with his girlfriend, Berri. Brimming with scatty (and sometimes scat-based) humor and brought to life by a terrific voice cast, Conker’s Bad Fur Day remains one of the finest adventures on Nintendo’s system.

13. Pilotwings 64

Pilotwings 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1996

Nintendo’s sequel uses the same structure as the SNES original but utilizes 3D space in a way the first Pilotwings could only dream of. Missions start off simple, but you’ll soon need to gain complete mastery of each available craft (hang-glider, gyrocopter, and rocket belt) in order to have any hope of achieving gold medals in every challenge. While the main game can be completed in very little time, that need to constantly perfect your score, along with the sheer relaxation that the Birdman bonus mode offers, will ensure that you’ll always return for one more go.

12. Perfect Dark

Perfect Dark

(Image credit: Rare)

Developer: Rare
Released: 2000

Losing the James Bond license to Activision actually did Rare a favor as it allowed the developer to be far more ambitious with its GoldenEye follow-up. Perfect Dark is effectively GoldenEye turned up to 11 and while it suffers from an overly cheesy sci-fi plot and pushes the console so much at times you can almost hear it creaking, the core gunplay is every bit as good as you’d expect from the creative masterminds behind the N64’s best first-person shooter. We’d argue that the multiplayer is even better than GoldenEye’s thanks to the inclusion of AI bots and ridiculously silly levels of customization.

11. F-Zero X

F-Zero X

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1998

The N64 is not short of arcade racers, but few of them can match the thrills offered by Nintendo’s blisteringly fast sequel. It might look simplistic, but those reduced polygons allow F-Zero X to run at a deliciously high frame rate, meaning you can simply focus on tearing around the exceptionally designed tracks. It’s not just the track design that impresses, however, as the challenging AI ensures that the pounding of your heart from each close race is just as loud as the thunderously pulsating soundtrack.

10. Doom 64

Doom 64

(Image credit: id Software)

Developer: Midway
Released: 1997

Even though Midway’s game scored highly on release, its simple mechanics and lack of multiplayer meant it was never spoken about in the same hushed tones as the likes of Goldeneye, Turok 2, and Perfect Dark. We’d argue that that simplicity actually works in its favor today as its polished mechanics, satisfying gunplay and reasonably high frame rate haven’t dated it as much as some of its more notable peers. The frenetic gunplay is bolstered by some exceptional map design and a truly eerie soundtrack by Aubrey Hodges, who worked similar dark magic on the PlayStation game two years earlier.

9. International Superstar Soccer ’98

International Superstar Soccer ‘98

(Image credit: Konami)

Developer: Konami
Released: 1998

There are few sports games on the N64 that can compete with Konami’s excellent footy game. While the goalkeepers can feel a little cheap at times, the fast pace, dynamic action, and slick controls mean Konami’s game plays as well today as it did on release. While it’s rammed with a number of excellent game modes, including a grueling World League that comprises 48 international teams, it’s the excellent multiplayer that makes this one of the finest N64 sports games you can play with friends.

8. Banjo-Kazooie

Banjo-Kazooie

(Image credit: Rare)

Developer: Rare
Released:
1998

From the moment Banjo the bear taps on your TV screen and launches into a musical showdown with Mumbo Jumbo it’s obvious that Rare’s platformer is going to be rather special. While collectibles would drown later Rare platformers, the balance here is virtually perfect as Banjo and his backpack-based partner, Kazooie, collect Jiggies, Jingos, and musical notes as they attempt to rescue Banjo’s sister from the wicked witch Gruntilda. Each level makes great use of the many new abilities the pair can unlock and also highlight Rare’s mastery of world-building on the console. It’s an excellent platformer that occasionally outdoes Super Mario 64.

7. Mario Kart 64

Mario Kart 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1996

The N64 excelled at four-player games and few were as enjoyable as this one. While some have complained about its wider racetracks, the challenging opponent AI and imaginative track design more than make up for it. Time trials were just as fun here as they were in the SNES original and the ability to race against three other friends gave it a competitive edge that few other kart games of the era could match. The N64 had no shortage of great racing games, from Beetle Adventure Racing to Ridge Racer 64, but Nintendo’s game leaves most of them on the starting line.

6. Super Smash Bros.

Super Smash Bros

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: HAL Laboratory
Released:
1999

Few companies have married their many IPs to the success that Nintendo managed with Super Smash Bros. Nintendo’s boisterously fun brawler works on several levels, allowing you to wallow in nostalgia while finally settling the many arguments you would have had about the fighting capabilities of your favourite Nintendo characters at school (or in our case, work). Granted, Hal Laboratory’s game may not be the most finely balanced of battlers, but the same can be said for its sequels, too. Balanced or not, the chaotic battles are tremendous fun and helped build the foundations of one of Nintendo’s most successful franchises.

5. Paper Mario

Paper Mario

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Intelligent Systems
Released: 2000

Nintendo’s 64-bit console is starved of good RPGs so it’s little wonder that this charming Mario adventure has become so coveted. Developed by Intelligent Systems, Paper Mario not only lays the groundwork for the later Paper Mario games – which we’d argue aren’t a patch on this one – but also features the same sharp humor and solidly crafted combat mechanics that would become so prevalent in the Mario & Luigi franchise. The series’ flat 2D look also started here and highlighted just how good 2D-styled games could look on Nintendo’s 3D-focused console.

4. Star Fox 64

Star Fox 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released:
1997

3DS remake aside, it’s rather tragic that Nintendo’s splendiferous sequel remains the best game in the series. A clear love letter to Star Wars and similar space operas, Star Fox 64 opens up the world of Fox McCloud and his anthropomorphic teammates by introducing a handy new u-turn mechanic, a large number of alternative routes – which greatly elevates its longevity – as well as regular exciting skirmishes with Star Wolf: a group of mercenaries with orders to finish off Fox and his friends. It’s easily the most exciting shooter on the system and even manages to outgun Star Wars: Rogue Squadron.

3. GoldenEye 007

Goldeneye 007

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Rare
Released: 1997

Rare’s ambitious movie license opened the eyes of N64 owners worldwide and highlighted just how good a console first-person shooter could be. While its frame rate lurches about with all the finesse of a drunken hippo, there’s no denying how satisfying the combat mechanics still feel (enhanced admittedly by the smart auto-aiming), or how exceptional the level design is. Rare’s decision to add additional tasks to complete on each difficulty level ensures plenty of longevity, while the multiplayer is the stuff of legends and is so expansive that we still regularly play it today. Just stay away from Oddjob, okay?

2. Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1996

Nintendo’s launch game set an incredible bar for platformers and 3D games in general on release, and its recent inclusion on Super Mario 3D All-Stars simply cements its reputation as a truly exceptional platformer. The beauty of Nintendo’s game isn’t just how well Mario’s core mechanics made the jump to 3D, but how much stuff there is to do in each carefully crafted world. One minute you’re racing a Koopa for a precious star, the next you’re retrieving a lost penguin or seeking out eight red coins. It’s this constant variety that keeps Nintendo’s game fresh and exciting and it’s rather telling that in the years that have followed, few non-Nintendo platformers have ever bettered it.

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Developer: Nintendo
Released: 1998

Few 3D adventure games are as important as Ocarina Of Time. It might not have been the first 3D adventure game to market, but Nintendo’s game got so much right the first time, and once again highlighted just how much mastery the Japanese developer had when it came to creating exciting believable 3D worlds. Ocarina Of Time felt huge on release thanks to its gigantic game world and an epic story that spanned Hyrule field, enchanted forests, quaint villages, and time itself. Play it today (ideally, the 3DS remaster) and it still wows. The combat remains extremely satisfying thanks to the inclusion of the innovative Z-targeting system, it still boasts some of the most exquisitely designed dungeons in the franchise’s history, while its herculean boss encounters remain immensely thrilling. Ocarina Of Time remains an absolute masterclass in game design and we’d love to see it properly remastered for the Switch.


If you’re passionate about retro gaming or just want to learn more about it, then you should check out Retro Gamer. Retro Gamer is the world’s longest-running magazine dedicated to classic games, and you can find out more about it at at Magazines Direct (opens in new tab).

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