Last week brought the first half of my top 10 N64 games; in case you need a reminder, the list started off with “Mischief Makers,” then “GoldenEye 007,” “Jet Force Gemini,” and “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time,” ending with “Mario Party” at number 6. Now, let’s go ahead and jump right into the second half of my top picks for the N64!
5. Star Fox 64
Do a barrel roll! “Star Fox 64” holds a special place as the first N64 game I ever owned, and it still manages to maintain itself as one of the most memorable in so many aspects. A remake of the SNES original, “Star Fox 64” is the story of Fox McCloud, an ace fighter pilot and leader of team Star Fox that’s enlisted to defeat the evil scientist Andross, who has launched an attack on the entire planetary system of Lylat. The game consists of 15 action-packed levels that put you behind the sticks of a futuristic space fighter called the Arwing, a highly maneuverable tank known as the Landmaster and a battle-ready submarine that goes by the Blue Marine. The memorable story, the perfectly designed levels, the high level of replayability, the competitive multiplayer, the hilarious and yet fitting voice acting – there are just so many great things about “Star Fox 64” that I can’t even mention them all. Go play it and see for yourself.
When his younger sister is captured by the evil witch Gruntilda, a lazy bear named Banjo and his best friend, the loud-mouthed bird Kazooie, must make their way through Gruntilda’s Lair in order to get her back. “Banjo-Kazooie” is a 3D platformer much akin to “Super Mario 64” in that you traverse multiple worlds spanning different themes and complete various tasks in order to collect items that unlock more worlds and bring you closer to the game’s end. However, it’s the personal touches added by the game’s developers, Rare, that make “Banjo-Kazooie” stand apart from other platformers. Curious worlds, quirky yet catchy songs, tight controls, enjoyable gameplay and ridiculously humorous dialogue all make this one a great pick.
3. Paper Mario
I’ll just go ahead and admit it: I’ve never really had the patience to enjoy many RPGs. The generic plot stereotypes (protagonist with a mysterious/tragic past, anyone?), the turn-based battles that never made me feel like I was doing much of anything, the time wasted grinding on enemies just to get strong enough to move on – none of it ever appealed to me. That’s what makes games like “Paper Mario”, along with its SNES predecessor “Super Mario RPG”, a godsend. “Paper Mario” is an offbeat RPG depicting the story of Mario, who must once again save Princess Peach from the clutches of Bowser. Other than its clever 2D-characters-in-a-3D-world design, familiar characters and funny exchanges, “Paper Mario’s” greatest asset is its battle system, which manages to keep things fun and interactive. Instead of just picking an attack and an enemy to use it on, “Paper Mario” gives you the option of timing your attacks correctly for more damage. On the flip side, you can also try to time your defenses in order to take less damage, allowing you to take a much more active role in your survival throughout the game. Because of this, “Paper Mario” is enjoyable from start to finish.
2. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Yet another platformer developed by Rare, “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” stands apart from other platformers on a level that even “Banjo-Kazooie” can’t touch. A little back story is necessary for this one – in the early stages of development, Rare feared that this game, starring a cheery squirrel named Conker, would be forgotten or blended in with the other platformers that starred cute animals. That’s when Rare rehauled the entire game, and the result was a platformer like no other – raunchy, vulgar, offensive and downright brilliant. Yes, “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” is quite possibly the most mature game you’ll ever play on the N64 with its nudity, mature situations and beyond-excessive swearing. After a long night of drinking, Conker gets lost while trying to return home, and finding his way back turns into a long-winded adventure that parodies multiple genres and movies. This game has more variation in gameplay than any other platformer I’ve played, and you can’t help but love the situations that Conker manages to stumble into. This variation spills into the game’s multiplayer as well, making “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” an amazing game for a lazy day at home or a party with friends.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
A sequel of sorts to “Ocarina of Time,” “Majora’s Mask” tells the story of a young Link searching through the forest to find an old friend before his ocarina is stolen and he is transformed into a deku scrub. Link makes it out of the forest and winds up in a land called Termina, where a wandering salesman helps him transform back in exchange for Link helping to retrieve a mysterious mask stolen from the salesman – Majora’s Mask. As this is going on, the antagonist of the game, possessed by Majora’s Mask, forces the moon to rush towards Termina, eventually colliding into the land after 3 days. The first odd feature of “Majora’s Mask” is the in-game clock, which displays 72 hours of time until the moon collides with Termina and the game ends. After retrieving the Ocarina, however, you can play a song that returns you to the first day at the expense of losing some of your items and any money you haven’t deposited, and all your progress reverts back. This proves to be a nuisance at first, but isn’t a problem once you get used to the rhythm of things. The time system sets the stage for the game’s amazing character development, as all of the game’s secondary characters are living their own lives, doing different things at different places based on the time and day. Apart from the main quest, all of these characters have problems that Link can help to rectify. This emphasis on side quests provides an interesting in-game parallel to the idea that “Majora’s Mask” really is kind of just a side quest to “Ocarina of Time,” a fact proven further by the game’s working title – “Zelda Gaiden”, with ‘gaiden’ being Japanese for ‘side story.’ The game is also filled with 20+ masks that aid Link, either transforming him or giving him new abilities and traits. These two game mechanics drive “Majora’s Mask” at its core and mold it into what it is: a truly brilliant game with a dark atmosphere that explores the concepts of time, life and death in its narration of a land fated towards doom.
Well, there it is – my top 10. Of course, there were so many games that didn’t make the list that it would be a crime to not call them out as honorable mentions: “Mario Kart 64,” “Super Smash Brothers,” “Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards,” “Perfect Dark,” “1080 Snowboarding,” “Super Mario 64,” “Diddy Kong Racing” and “Pokemon Snap”. Sorry guys, better luck next time.
This chapter has closed, and so another one must open. Keep reading next week as we take a look at Sega’s final foray into the console business, the Dreamcast!