Nintendo’s 64. A 5th-gen console sneakily marketed to perfection, that didn’t disappoint on the graphics and gameplay demands of that era. Never got close to toppling the PlayStation on outright sales, but it comfortably beat the Sega Saturn and everything else behind it.
The N64 ended up with maybe the fewest games out of any Nintendo console. On the upside, that makes it easier to pick the ones we liked – still like – best. See how many of these games you remember playing.
Customised colour and transparency settings
Before we get into the game list, you’re gonna need a pre-owned N64 console to play them on. Our top tip’s to search Japanese websites and auctions with ‘Nintendo’ in katakana, rather than kanji or English. You might find a whole set going for a few thousand yen.
Some console colours and accessories were Japan-exclusive releases:
- Pikachu (light blue)
- Pikachu (orange)
- Clear red/white
- Daiei store edition
- JUSCO store edition
- ANA flight edition
- Lawson Station edition
- Mario Kart controller
- Hello Mac store controller
- Toys ‘R’ Us Geoffrey controller
(Credit to consolevariations.com for listing them all.)
We may or may not have seen ways to get around the region-locking on N64s to play imported games (say, from Japan) by Googling it… That, or you can stick with Japanese games to match a Japan-bought console.
Didn’t take this racing game seriously at the time? You weren’t meant to – just look at their noses. Snowboard Kids did well enough to get a sequel game, though, and it’s just as good as the first. A solid downhill racer, one that made us want to do better at winter sports.
A ski lift as the ‘loop’ back to the start after you’d made it all the way down the hill was a nice touch. The other thing we love about Snowboard Kids is the soundtrack. Peppy, winter-y (listen out for those jingle bells), and with frosty cool track titles.
THE FPS all others are measured by. Timesplitters: Future Perfect comes close for us – very close. But GoldenEye is the classic the rest tries to copy. No wonder it’s in the top 3 best-selling N64 games, beaten only by the obvious pair: Super Mario and Mario Kart.
GoldenEye made us feel like super secret agents on classified missions. For single player, it was always 00-Agent difficulty. And for multiplayer, it was always Golden Gun mode. The only thing missing was an arcade-style gun controller, which would’ve rocked.
A bear and a bird named after musical instruments walk into the woods. Nope, surprisingly not the start of an animal joke. (And then the bartender said, ‘hey dude, how come your bear sister’s so hot?’) This game loves wordplay, down to making you collect ‘jiggies’.
Banjo-Kazooie’s levels were designed with the biggest textures the N64 had power to render, making full use of the console’s capability. It became easily the most graphically advanced game available on launch. In your blocky, pixellated face, Spyro.
The original Mario Party introduced us to some important concepts. Teamwork and rivalry, accuracy, hand-to-eye co-ordination, and stamina. Remember winding the stick like crazy until your hand ached? We do. So do the players who managed to burn their palms…
The N64 version also set many of Mario Party’s lasting gameplay benchmarks. Moving around the board hasn’t changed much, if at all, and some minigames still pop up in newer editions. If you played the first game, you’ve got a headstart.
Bust-A-Move 3 (Puzzle Bobble 3)
Some games get renamed in different regions. But you’ll know Puzzle Bobble from the kawaii ‘Taito!’ intro yell. A sound burned into our brains. To us, the gameplay’s a form of stress relief. Shooting coloured balls around ’til they explode always felt therapeutic.
As an arcade port to consoles, Puzzle Bobble 3 kept that ‘game centre cabinet’ look. And the countdown timers that rushed us through select screens. One thing that did make the N64 edition unique was a 4-player mode, along with 4-player fights to pick a character in time.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
The game that made a generation want to learn the ocarina. Oh yeah, and maybe the best videogame from any genre ever made, for any console, ever. Famitsu mag hadn’t given out a perfect 40/40 review score until Link’s N64 debut came along.
We can’t talk about this game without saying 2 words that drove gamers mad: Water Temple! Nintendo made that whole section way easier for the 3DS port of Ocarina of Time. A thoughtful addition, but too little too late for already traumatised fans shivering in their Iron Boots.
Destruction Derby what now? Goodbye Gran Turismo, and F the F-1 World Grand Prix. We’d even take this over Mario Kart, before opening the box. One look at that flaming school bus with a machine gun mounted on top, and we were hooked on Vigilante 8 instead.
It got a PlayStation release at the same time, yeah – but not an exclusive level! That special ‘Super Dreamland 64’ stage nudges the Nintendo port ahead a literal level, adding some ‘innocent’ fun to what’s clearly a ‘destroy everyone else’s vehicle’ kinda game.
If your first Mario tennis experience was with the 3DS or Wii, you missed out on the N64’s tougher training. See, you’ve gotta time your button presses to hit the ball in the N64 version – a swing by itself isn’t enough. Same with Mario Power Tennis on the Gamecube.
Did you know this was the first Mario game with Waluigi in it? Makes sense, to us anyway. We’ve seen rounds of Mario Tennis get more competitive than Super Smash Brothers bouts. Adding more evil to the player roster can only improve things.
Unlock all of Japan’s secret bonuses
There’s massive demand for retro gaming in Japan, as the mini NES and SNES releases proved in 2018. The appeal of the N64 kept it on sale for over 15 years, so it’s not hard finding a working model and games to relive the experience.
With DEJAPAN, you’ve got wider access to second-hand game consoles, replacement controllers, and pre-owned games. Think of using a Japanese proxy shopping service like… glitching through a wall. It’s a sandbox out there, waiting for you to explore.