Four Games You Have to Play: N64
Nintendo's 5th Generation console, the hardware made a dedicated leap to 3D, surpassing the limited capabilities of the SNES. However, it had to contend with a nascent Sony Playstation as well as the growth of the gaming industry as a whole.
Best Multiplayer Experience: Mario Party 2
Where most competitive multiplayer games reward those who know the game the best, it makes an ideal environment for those who play often - but when it comes to getting others to indulge in your hobby of dedicated button pushing, the gap in skill between the veterans and the newbies make the experience less fun for everyone involved.
Mario Party 2 doesn't have that problem - the virtual board game has a great mixture of skill and luck so while people used to video games can get an early lead, there's no guarantee that they'll end up the winner overall. The sudden reversals of fortune will have the whole room screaming. It's available on Wii Virtual Console, so don't miss out on it!
- Mario Kart 64: While long-since outstripped by modern variants, MK64 codified a lot of the features that have such a wonderful precedent today. Like the Blue Shell.
- Super Smash Bros: A clever departure from the standard fighting game format, the crossover of Nintendo greats beating the daylights out of each other has spawned both long-lasting fans and terrible fanfiction.
- Snowboard Kids: The most adorable snow-shredding simulator. For those who found 1080 Snowboarding too technical, Atlus (yes, THAT Atlus) took the Mario Kart format and took it to the slopes. It's a shame the sequel never reached the UK.
Obscure Gem: Sin & Punishment ================= If I was to give an example of an "Impenetrably Weird Japanese Game", this would be the first to spring to mind. The plot is impossible to describe, but it involves a pre-teen with an over-sized gun that can turn into a sword, rushing to save his friend who has been turned into a giant robot, with the assistance of another friend who happens to have telekinetic powers. Migraine-inducing.
What this means for gameplay is speedy and surprisingly technical on-rails shooting, with gigantic bosses and an Arcade-style difficulty that the developers, Treasure, are famous for. You can even play it in a bizarre co-op mode where one person moves the player and the other aims the gun. It never had an official release outside of Japan, but it's downloadable from the Wii Virtual Console.
- Mischief Makers: Another game from Treasure, you play as Marina, I cyborg superhero out to save the planet in true 90's anime fashion. Naturally, your primary mode of attack is to grab stuff and shake it violently. Firmly sticks with sprite-based 2D, despite the pressures to go polygon.
- Rakuga Kids: Bored of Street Fighter? How about a game where all of the characters are doodles by kids that have come to life? Features a basketball-playing cat, a bright yellow supervillain, and "Beartank".
Marvel of Game Design: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
We actually covered [the 3DS remake] (http://www.theyorker.co.uk/news/games/7362) of this a few months ago, back when it was released, but the N64 version of the game stands up perfectly fine on its own. It arguably set the textbook for “how to make a Zelda game”, being the first 3D entry into the series (and one of the first fully explorable 3D worlds available on a console), as well as introducing the games’ primary antagonist for the next ten years, Ganondorf.
As well as superlative gameplay, the game featured an interesting storyline and unique gameplay mechanics such as time-travel, and even rhythm-based segments played out on the titular Ocarina. Many people prefer the subsequent instalment in the series, Majora’s Mask, which featured a less linear, darker storyline. While a stand-up game in its own right, if you only get to play one N64 Zelda game, Ocarina is the one to play, simply because it best encapsulates an entire genre of adventure games.
- Conker’s Bad Fur Day - N64 cartridges were notoriously lacking in memory, which made this fully voice-acted, foul-mouthed, and genuinely funny adventure all the better. Rareware remade it for the Xbox, but it was rubbish.
- Super Mario 64 - We can’t really mention the N64 without mentioning Mario 64 - it was the game which brought gaming into 3D. Maybe not the first, but the first to do it well, and the N64’s analogue controller stick made it work all the better. Helped that it was brilliant too.
Trendsetter - Goldeneye 007
Nathan wrote his half of the article before I did, and if I’d had my way this would go in Multiplayer, but instead I’m putting it here, for codifying so much that is sacred in the modern FPS genre. Multiplayer in console games such as Modern Warfare and Battlefield is arguably the main draw in 2012, and this portion of the game owes much of its fundamentals to Goldeneye. Which seems bizarre considering it’s a movie tie-in, a genre usually known for simply being cash-ins of the big screen.
Much of its success and lasting appeal can be ascribed to developer Rareware (of Banjo-Kazooie and Conker’s Bad Fur Day fame) genuinely caring what went into it. The environments were detailed, the graphics advanced for the time, and the weapons well-balanced (even if the AK47 looked like a large black cigarette). What’s important to remember is that this game was released in 1997, only five years after Wolfenstein 3D showed the world the first-person shooter (and robot Hitler). Prior to this, FPS was the domain of the PC, but Goldeneye proved it could work on consoles, and helped balloon it into a multi-billion dollar genre.
- Perfect Dark - Another Rareware game, and another FPS which is commonly regarded as the N64’s best, but Goldeneye was really the trendsetter here.
- Superman 64 - There were bad games before. There were bad games afterwards. But few games in history have reached the levels of “bad game” seen by Superman 64. It is a level to which bad game developers everywhere aspire. Please ignore the title. Do not play this game.