If you had asked me a year or two ago if, in 2020, I would be buying numerous Nintendo 64 games for my personal collection while writing reviews for a forthcoming book by a well-known video game YouTuber/podcaster/author, I would have given you some side-eye. I never owned the N64 during its lifespan, which means it is the only Nintendo console (not counting the Virtual Boy) that I can say that about. Nevertheless, here I am, having added 18 (!!!) games to my collection since August, more than doubling my previously meager N64 library.
What is even more surprising is that I actually enjoy the games I’ve been purchasing, playing, and reviewing. The Nintendo 64 was not a console I cared about when released in the mid to late ‘90s. I picked up a used one shortly after becoming the previous-gen upon the Gamecube release, but it was mostly a purchase designed to fill a hole in my collection. Not necessarily to go crazy collecting for like I had for the NES.
So what games have I been adding in the past few months? Indeed, I purchased games with the intent to play on native hardware to review for the book. Games that weren’t on my radar, but once assigned to me to review, I quickly became familiar with. Games such as Tarzan, Extreme-G, Extreme-G XG2, Hot Wheels Turbo Racer, Mario Tennis, Top Gear Hyper-Bike, and NBA In the Zone ‘98 were all added with the intent of playing and reviewing. Thankfully, none of these are total duds. Even my least favorite game from this list, In the Zone ‘98, isn’t horrible. I guess I got lucky with my assignments.
Tarzan is a competent 2-D side-scrolling action game. The two Extreme-G titles are high speed, futuristic racers that are a lot of fun, albeit reasonably difficult. Hot Wheels is a nostalgic stunt racing game with a lot of personality, and Top Gear Hyper-Bike is another fun racing game that combines high-speed racing elements and gnarly tricks. Mario Tennis is an extremely competent and whimsical tennis title. I also added Gauntlet Legends, Rainbow Six, and The World Is Not Enough to my collection for further book reviews.
What else have I been adding to my collection? Oh, you know, most of the A-list titles that the console has to offer. Before this year, my N64 library consisted of the Zelda games (Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask), a few Mario titles (Mario 64, Paper Mario, Mario Kart 64), and some random hits (Conker, Goldeneye), among others. What I set out to add to my collection were well-reviewed games and considered some of the system’s best titles 20+ years later.
- Banjo Kazooie – iconic 3D platformer, a must-own
- Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness – as a huge Castlevania fan, this was a must
- Donkey Kong 64 – another icon moving into the 3D realm
- Mario Golf – Nintendo’s sports games are always a blast.
- Mario Party – a well-reviewed party game
- Perfect Dark – another well-reviewed action shooter
- Pilotwings 64 – not your typical flight simulator
- Super Smash Bros. – the first of the well-known series
All of these titles are considered some of the best for the Nintendo 64. Some of them are the first in popular long-running series that has continued for decades. The question remains, when will I have time to play them? Besides the games I have listed as the titles I need to play for the book review, I still need to play two more games in the NBA In the Zone franchise, ‘99 and 2000. I also will need to play and review several others, including a PAL exclusive, Taz Express, and three Japanese exclusives (Goemon Mononoke Sugoroku, Kira tto Kaiketsu! 64 Tanteidan, and Nintama Rantaro 64 Game Gallery). That’s not going to leave any more time for frivolous gaming, unfortunately.
What’s left to explore on this at times groundbreaking (3D platformers, 64-bit graphics), at times anachronistic (the use of cartridges in the late 90s!) Nintendo console? There are several classic franchises leftover from the 8 and 16-bit eras that I would like to explore how they attempted to modernize them for the 64-bit era. Games such as Excitebike 64, Dr. Mario 64, F-Zero X, Ridge Racer 64, and Wave Race 64 are all candidates for inclusion at some point. However, I finally feel like I have an N64 collection representing a large percentage of the best available for the console and reflects my gaming style and interests.