It’s all about that polygon life.
I got a Nintendo 64 for my eighth birthday and never looked back. The N64 is the father of modern 3D video game design, and it holds up miraculously well today. While the original Playstation bragged about its deep roster of games and data disc-based format, we N64 users kept blowing on our cartridges when they didn’t work and playing Mario Kart until we passed out.
The N64 is a part of my childhood, but it’s also the console you should play for the rest of your life. I bought a used system from a guy at work a couple of months ago and haven’t touched an Xbox since. It represents a simpler time, when the graphics were cool, but we all accepted they wouldn’t look like real life. The controls were more basic, and the controller actually fit in your damn hand because there weren’t 456 buttons to learn.
Wireless controllers, online multiplayer, getting beat by a 6-year-old kid in North Dakota, that’s all weak. Playing the N64 is the video game equivalent of getting back to your roots by ditching all technology and taking up a residence in a cabin in the woods. It restores you. It reminds you of the one of the best times for video game design, and one that won’t be surpassed.
It’s time for you to go to that cabin yourself. N64 consoles are still available all over the Internet, but so are some of the terrible games that came along with it. Don’t trust any best of lists currently out there, because they’ll tell you “Banjo-Kazooie” is top 10 material, and that’s ludicrous. These are the top 11 Nintendo 64 games of all time, and if you get these, and only these, you’ll never need to play any other video games again.
11. Mario Tennis
Because nobody on the planet thought a game about tennis could be entertaining until they smashed a hot serve right in Waluigi’s smug face.
10. Ken Griffey Jr.’s Slugfest
Because a game as simple and classic as baseball deserves the same treatment in a video game. And because the agony of defeat that accompanies an avoidable error in a real life game is recreated all too well here.
9. Pokemon Snap
Because it came out during the height of the Pokemon craze, so it was given all the care in the world, and because this is as close to an African safari as most of us will ever get.
8. Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Because it contains a roster of fighters we’ve actually heard of before, and those Fatalities are the real Final Destination.
7. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Because this is the Zelda game of record on any platform, and nothing teaches you ingenuity like spending a month trying to beat it on your own before finally giving up and downloading a walkththrough online, only to find out that even with something telling you exactly what to do, it still takes a month to complete.
6. Mario Party
Because you can’t call yourself tough until you’ve experienced the burning pain associated with vigorously rotating your controller’s joystick to win a minigame. And because it lives up to its name and is an appropriate game for actual parties.
5. NFL Blitz 2000
Because it embraces the mindless violence of football with gleeful abandon, and because even with the game’s pre-programmed strategy to try and keep most games close, sometimes you’ll still lose 67-3.
4. Goldeneye 007
Because no first-person shooter would exist without it, and because everybody should understand what “Facility, proximity mines, no Oddjob” means.
3. WWF No Mercy
Because it remains the only game to actually “get” wrestling, all the way down to the terribly cliché chest-puffing arguments. (Triple H once told me “This was an ‘A-B’ conversation, why don’t you ‘C’ your way out of it?”)
2. Super Mario 64
Because the 3D polygon rendering suited the legendary plumber well, and the N64 controller is the best possible option for Nintendo’s classic franchise.
1. Mario Kart 64
Because it’s 8 characters and 16 tracks, but the replay value is endless. And because whether or not you realize it, it gives a great argument for why racing (a sport you may think is worthless) is phenomenal.
Others receiving votes: the first “Madden” for 64 where they didn’t get an NFL license and the matchups would be like Charlotte vs. Foxboro; “Diddy Kong Racing” because Bumper the Badger’s manic road rage was a modern man’s highway hustle; “Pilotwings 64″ because it sucked; “Rampage World Tour” because it was the best thing ever for two minutes and then you realized that every cityscape level was identical; “Bassmasters 2000″ (see: “Pilotwings 64″); “Donald Duck: Goin’ Quackers” (you rented it and lost interest after 10 minutes and spent the rest of the afternoon politicking a same day return); “Mission: Impossible” (from the people that made “Goldeneye,” but way too hard for children); “Star Fox 64,” because the script was compelling and emotive and dammit Slippy, I’m so tired of bailing you out of jams.