The Nintendo 64 is often considered one of Nintendo’s better consoles, but fans almost always list off the same half a dozen or so games: Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, Banjo-Kazooie, GoldenEye, and Super Smash Bros. Basically, any first party Nintendo title. Which does make sense, but the Nintendo 64 released at a time where Nintendo wasn’t just known for their first party exclusives.
They were home to some great third party exclusives as well. In the NES and SNES era. For the Nintendo 64, it was as if the industry had abandoned Nintendo. But that’s not quite the case either. The Nintendo 64 did have great third party games— it’s just that there were so few of them that no one looking for the best value would choose the N64 over the PS1.
10 Bomberman 64 (2001)
This is an interesting game to recommend as it isn’t actually the same Bomberman 64 that most people who grew up with the Nintendo 64 will recognize. It’s a different game also titled Bomberman 64 that released exclusively in Japan— ridiculously close to the GameCube’s launch date. It’s also just a great party game.
Of the Nintendo 64 Bomberman games, this one has the best multiplayer by far. It even has mini-games and rather polished mechanics. As Bomberman’s core gameplay is fairly simple, there’s really no reason not to import this game. It’s more than playable without any Japanese knowledge.
9 Deadly Arts
Deadly Arts was utterly lambasted by critics, but it’s not a bad game by any means. Too simple? Perhaps on a surface level, but Deadly Arts offers something very few fighting games do: real customization. Players can create their own fighters and customize their move set entirely to their liking. It’s one of the most sophisticated character creation systems from its generation.
It’s also not the most polished game on the system, but it’s perfectly playable and it carried far by its concepts alone. With a friend, Deadly Arts becomes one of the best multiplayer experiences on the Nintendo 64, right up there with GoldenEye and Super Smash Bros.
8 Excitebike 64
Although it doesn’t have quite the same appeal as Mario Kart 64 or Diddy Kong Racing, Excitebike 64 is still one of the better racing games on the Nintendo 64, if only for its amazing inclusion of a track creator. Players can full on make their own courses and share them with friends— a novelty for the era.
It also helps that Excitebike 64 is just a well designed racing game, one that actually would have been fine without the track creator. The mechanics at play are far more in-depth than those in Mario Kart 64, being akin almost to a fighting game.
7 Goemon’s Great Adventure
As far as 2D platformers go (or “sidescrollers” since the game technically uses 3D models,) Goemon’s Great Adventure is the best the Nintendo 64 has to offer. Only Kirby 64 really compares and the difference in quality between the two games is staggering. Goemon’s Great Adventure is a tightly designed platformer with truly inspired moments.
It’s also one of the rare Goemon games to release in the west. The Super Nintendo had sequels upon sequels, but only the first game was ever localized. The United States would see Goemon’s N64 predecessor get a release, but Europe skipped every game between the first on the SNES and this one.
6 Hybrid Heaven
Hybrid Heaven is not just one of the weirdest games in the Nintendo 64’s roster, it’s one of the most creative fighting games of all time. A nice compliment to Deadly Arts, Hybrid Heaven is half action RPG and half fighting game, much like the PlayStation’s Ehrgeiz: God Bless the Ring, but with a bit more emphasis on the RPG mechanics.
Which is good since Deadly Arts covers the actual nuances of fighting way better than Hybrid Heaven ever could. Together, the two games offer Nintendo 64 fans wildly creative fighting game experiences. Hybrid Heaven isn’t particularly polished, but it’s the kind of game that’s hard to put down.
5 Indiana Jones And The Infernal Machine
Yes, a Nintendo 64 port of an Indiana Jones game is one of the better hidden gems on the console. While its control will take some getting used to, the game has a fantastic story that’s well written, well-directed, and ends up weaving into some incredible level design. It’s a marvel that the game is as good as it is.
Of course, those controls really are problematic, but an open mind will allow anyone to appreciate Indiana Jones and The Infernal Machine. In many respects, it’s the real fourth movie fans should have gotten— not Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
4 Mega Man 64
Mega Man Legends is considered one of the PlayStation’s more underrated games. It didn’t sell particularly well, but it’s considered a cult classic. Even rarer than fans who still yearn for Legends these days are the fans who were introduced to the sub-series through the game’s out of nowhere Nintendo 64 port.
Although its controls are more awkward than the PS1’s, the game itself does fix a lot of the original’s technical issues. It’s a more polished port and, with a Brawler 64, it’s more than playable. Unfortunately, it doesn’t even seem like Capcom humored the ideas of Mega Man 64 2 to wrap up the duology.
3 Ridge Racer 64
Ridge Racer is an IP intimately associated with the Sony PlayStation and for good reason— almost every single game in the franchise has released on a PlayStation console. Bizarrely, though, Ridge Racer isn’t a true exclusive and actually saw a Nintendo 64 release at the height of Nintendo and Sony’s rivalry.
And it’s actually a pretty great installment in the series. It isn’t quite the same as the classic PSOne entries, but Ridge Racer 64 is a fantastic alternative to Mario Kart 64 while also keeping in line with the rest of the Ridge Racer series. It was even later remade for the Nintendo DS.
2 Sin & Punishment
What happens when Neon Genesis Evangeleon’s aesthetic violently clashes with Star Fox 64’s rail shooting? One of the best games on the Nintendo 64. Sin & Punishment is an insanely weird game, but it’s also incredibly fun and tells a genuinely interesting story. It even featured English voice acting, making it the console’s signature import.
It became enough of a cult classic where Nintendo ended up releasing it on the Wii and Wii U’s eShops. It even had a sequel game on the Wii that, while not as good, was still a nice revival of the franchise. The original will always be the best rail shooter on the Nintendo 64, though.
At first glance, WinBack just looks like the poor man’s Metal Gear Solid. And in many respects, it is. It’s a game that’s very much attempting to be a Metal Gear Solid equivalent for anyone who might not own a PlayStation. While it’s derivative in that sense, it’s also the grandfather of modern cover aiming as the medium knows it.
WinBack is an obscure game, but it’s a wildly influential one all the same. Metal Gear Solid 2 even uses its cover system as a core part of its gameplay. WinBack’s also just a fun game with a decent story that has multiple endings. It actually is a decent alternative to MGS.