Of all the systems I plan to cover during this series, the N64 is probably the system I loved the most. I received the system as a gift in the late 90s. With nothing but an ailing SNES at the time, it was the greatest gift I could have received. Through the N64 I experienced a gaming renaissance; and with a Blockbuster nearby that offered game rentals, well…let’s just say I was a very happy camper. As satiated with games as I was back then, on this here island, I can only have up to five games. That was a dumb rule make. Dumb rules!
The Nintendo 64 was that company’s answer to the Sony Playstation, which had been released a couple years prior. Named for it’s 64-bit CPU, the N64 almost seemed destined to be a relic. Almost. In an era when CDs began to strip 3.5-inch floppy disks of their data storage dominance, Nintendo took a step sideways and created another cartridge-based console. When I got the N64, I also had access to a Playstation, and there was no denying the abilities of that wonderful CD-based system. Regardless, the N64 had ALL the games that I wanted to play. I bought Super Mario 64, and that was that. Open mouth, insert hook.
As much as I love Super Mario 64, I’ve beaten it a dozen times over. Yes, it was a fantastic game that still holds its ground today, but I have way more happy memories associated with Paper Mario. It’s definitely among my top Mario games, and I especially enjoy the graphics. Okay, maybe Paper Mario’s not all that dimensional or particularly emotive (not that he ever was), but he, and all the denizens of the game were really cute. I loved the comic/coloring book look to everything, with characters rendered in super saturated colors that are bound by thick, black outlines. I loved the odd juxtaposition between flatness and dimensionality; and I adored the colorful “3D” environments and their brief interactive moments. And there’s lots in the game that I never got to discover! I got all 120 stars in SM64, which is why I chose Paper Mario instead.
This incredibly popular N64 title is one of my favorites. Banjo-Kazooie told the simple story of Banjo, a bear, and his perilous adventures to save his sister from an evil witch. During his travels, Banjo was accompanied by his friend, a bird named Kazooie. Together, Banjo and Kazooie made a wonderful team through a host different levels, solving puzzles, collecting items, beating up bad guys, and navigating the terrain. Being a Rare game, the 3D-ish graphics were bright, colorful, and fairly detailed. Collecting puzzle pieces opened up new levels. There were special items to collect that did special things; and other characters occasionally appeared to help the duo. Everything, from the controls to the music, was perfect in this wonderfully entertaining game.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
While I struggled with the choice to include Paper Mario over Super Mario 64, choosing between The Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask was even worse. I eventually went with the latter because I didn’t get along too well with the game initially, and a deserted island would be the perfect place for me to try to repair that relationship. Darker and more sinister in tone thanThe Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask wasn’t the most successful in the Zelda series, but it might have been the most necessary. By side-stepping some of the classic Zelda tropes and inserting a captivating and heartbreaking story around some unusual characters, Nintendo did themselves a favor. Majora’s Mask isn’t quite like any Zelda game before or since.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Say what you will, but there are few games I find as hilarious as Conker’s Bad Fur Day. This 3D-style action platformer from Rare presented enough silly jokes and potty humor to make Adam Sandler proud. It’s driven by a classic “damsel in distress” story centered on Conker’s quest to save his girlfriend Berri. And as fun as it was to guide Conker through various levels, that was no match for the insane cast of characters that awaited in each. From a pint-sized grim reaper named Gregg to mischievous fire imps to well-endowed flowers to a foul-mouthed paint bucket and brush to stuffed evil bears. Seriously, my island just couldn’t be complete without this wacky game.
Killer Instinct Gold
While I love me some Street Fighter and Marvel vs. Capcom, Killer Instinct Gold was my fighting game. Another Rare gem, KI Gold was one of the few fighting games at which I became legitimately good. I really liked the control scheme, and I loved watching the characters move in Rare’s trademark “3D” graphics and environments. And oh those characters! It was great that they ranged from human to animal to supernatural. While some folks cooed (and cringed) over the anatomically impossible female fighters such as Maya and B. Orchid, others joined the cybernetic ranks with Fulgore, and still others preferred the beasts such as Riptor and Sabrewulf. But my guy was, and always will be, Spinal. Till the end of time, Spinal! Till the end of time.
And I thought the last list was hard to make. Hooboy! That was nothing compared to this. I think things’ll will get a little easier from here on out. But the Nintendo love is far from over as next up is the Gamecube. Now that was a system that came and went quickly. But during it’s short lifespan, the console saw plenty of notable and influential games. Which five will I choose to keep for eternity? Tune in next week to find out!