The Nintendo 64 was a phenomenally successful home console, and the best Nintendo 64 games ever created present a rather provocative case study in high-quality production, passionate development involvement, extraordinary replay value, and an overall marvelous indentation on the history of electronic gaming.
Nintendo has been among the foremost entities in the video game industry, ever since their 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System almost single-handedly resurrected the market for video gaming following the crash caused by Atari and their failure to prevent third-party publishers from pushing sub-par cartridges onto consumers. Among their most spectacular claims to fame and shining moments was the legacy left by the Nintendo 64, a beloved system that spawned some truly exemplary titles.
Super Mario 64
Just as Super Mario World took risks on a new generation of home console systems, so too did Super Mario 64 boldly attempt to reforge the legend of Super Mario with remarkable success. Marking the first appearance of the world's favorite plumber in glorious 3-d polygon rendering, Super Mario 64 is one of the best Nintendo 64 games ever created because it succeeded in preserving Mario's place atop the gaming pantheon while, even as a launch title, providing a gameplay experience that would define three-dimensional adventures for years.
Licensed video games, those titles that arrive as contractual obligations towards an existing movie, comic book, or other franchise, are rarely made into great experiences. Typically, they are rushed onto the market in order to capitalize on the popularity of the canon they represent. But in the case of GoldenEye, based on the James Bond movie, the video game actually likely surpasses the quality of the film. In a gaming environment where people thought first-person shooters were the sole domain of PC gaming, GoldenEye came along and shattered all expectations by becoming not only the greatest first-person shooter experience of its generation, but ranked among some of the all-time greatest video games ever created.
Super Smash Bros
It was every Nintendo fan's dream: An intuitive yet tournament-worthy fighting game that starred a cast of Nintendo's most famed characters. Super Smash Bros delivered in a big way, by not only proving to be a wildly successful multiplayer party game as a legitimate fighting cartridge, but mixing very different characters in a workable formula. All-stars like Mario, Link, Pikachu, Donkey Kong, and others all showed up to provide gamers a battle that finally made their dreams reality.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Debate still rages over where this beyond-legendary title belongs in the history books of best games ever, but Ocarina represents perhaps the flagship entry of the greatest Nintendo 64 games ever created. For providing human beings with a rich story that could match any piece of classical literature, a sweeping range of emotional provocations, an intuitive-yet-innovative new way to play three-dimensional adventure gaming, the complete renovation of an already-treasured franchise, a fulfilling avenue of escapism, and even just making a game that is flat-out fun, Ocarina of Time hits the mark on so many levels that even if many people believe that some games are better, the fact that it is so consistently in those discussions, and so fondly remembered in general, is a compelling testament to its grand mythos.
Many honorable mentions could enter the picture, and discussion will continue over what title belongs where, but one factor is certain: This is a fine selection to represent the best Nintendo 64 games ever created. For a popular system that entertained millions, these were the choices that provided hours of escapist entertainment for Nintendo fans worldwide.