Ha, “childhood.” Who am I kidding — I would play these games for hours right now if you put the controller in my hand.
In keeping with the ‘90s nostalgia brought on by this Space Jam revisiting, I hearkened back to my younger years when the Nintendo 64 game system ate up hours of my developmental years like a ravaging pack of hyenas. I can’t help but feel like (read, “I know”) some of these games, which seem so simple and unpleasant to the eye compared to the video games of today, helped shape the person I am today. I am well aware of how sad that is.
This is not a list of the best Nintendo 64 games of all time. I do not consider myself enough of an authority (thankfully) to attempt a compilation of that nature.
These are the games I remember most fondly from my personal childhood. If you don’t like my choices, get your own childhood and take a crack at it yourself.
6. NFL Blitz
Today’s football video games require skill, tact and enough practice to memorize a team’s entire playbook if you want to be a competent player. The great thing about NFL Blitz was that those necessities were pretty much discouraged as a general rule. This was a game where you could pass interfere to the point of de-cleating a guy 10 yards out of bounds and then do a belly flop on the son of a bitch five seconds after the play had been blown dead. Not only would you face no repercussions from the referees — who evidently spent the whole game sleeping off a hangover on the sidelines — but you would also be lauded by your teammates who keeled over with laughter every time you did so.
This game was much less about tact and much more about reckless abandon. Aside from the 7-on-7 game play, two-minute quarters and 30-yard first downs, it was completely devoid of rules. That made this game awesome. Kids don’t want to worry about pesky things like penalties, hand-offs or clock management. They want to throw Hail Maries and light people up with horribly illegal hits. Blitz catered to those needs masterfully.
Best Player: Emmitt Smith
I’m admittedly biased here because I am a Cowboys fans (insert obligatory Tony Romo hate speech), but considering that I played with Dallas essentially all of the time, I was very familiar with Emmitt’s ability to make tacklers miss as well as relentlessly run over others. And because virtually nobody technically had a “position” on this game, I could just as easily run Emmitt on a fly route for a 60-yard touchdown pass. In all honestly, I’m pretty sure every player in this game was exactly the same.
5. WCW/nWo Revenge
You probably won’t find this pro wrestling game on any “best N64 games” lists, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t spectacular. The game featured a full lineup of real-life wrestling personalities to choose from — ranging from legends like “Rowdy” Roddy Piper and “Hollywood” Hulk Hogan to absolute pussies like Lodi and Eric Bischoff. It was a great multiplayer game, as you and your friends could sit around and beat the living shit out of each other for hours with no real-world consequences — except your possibly damaged psyche that may or may not have led you to do unspeakable harm to real people.
But come on, this game was rated “E” for “Everyone”, so how bad could it actually be? Oh yeah, except that you could extract weaponry from the bloodthirsty members of the audience to assault your presumably defenseless opponent any time you pleased. Everything from traditional wrestling fare like chairs and tables to trashcans, suitcases or a goddamn stop sign was at your disposal to help you completely maim any opponent who dared question your understanding of what is acceptable in a physical confrontation.
Best Character: Sting
If you weren’t playing with Sting on a regular basis in this game, what the hell were you thinking?The man started every single match with a baseball bat in his hands. Few things in my once-prolific video gaming life brought me as much joy as sprinting diagonally across the ring the second that first bell rang and planting some poor bastard on the canvas with a swing that would make Ken Griffey Jr. jealous. And while we’re on the subject…
4. Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
I guess this game was such a hit with my friends and me because we loved baseball so much. Aside from that, the game play wasn’t difficult, so you could dominate the CPU any time you wanted — and multiplayer was just as fun. You could play entire seasons with an actual team roster — I always chose the Mariners because they were stacked — or you could go all rogue general manager and turn off trade restrictions to assemble a world-beating team of all-stars — because if there’s anything a child loves, it’s mercilessly romping every opponent you face in a video game without the slightest semblance of competition.
The pitching in this game was so unrealistic it was comical. Pedro Martinez could throw the ball in upwards of 110 mph. Consequently, if you milked a pitch called the “Superchange” for all it was worth, it clocked in at somewhere around 40. But the knuckleball…good god, that knuckleball. That thing danced more than the A-team at King of Diamonds on Darnell Dockett visitation night. You could not hit it. Thus, Tim Wakefield was a staple of every cheap-ass pitching rotation ever compiled on that game.
Best Player: Ken Griffey Jr.
No shit. The game’s namesake had a cheat code that made him hit a home run every single time he stepped to the plate. I still know that code to this day, a.k.a. it’s pretty damn simple. It was free game against the computer, but if you used the code against another human player, you were invariably a huge dick.
3. Starfox 64
This game was great, among many reasons, because you could beat it in one sitting if you were good enough at it. Leading protagonist Fox McCloud (Why these animals had last names, I will never understand) and his band of resident fuckups through the galaxy to fight gargantuan robot machines was adventurous and fulfilling for a young lad like myself. The game was challenging, but not impossible, and it was simultaneously entertaining and frustrating at all times because everybody in your fleet besides you was a complete and utter imbecile. Sure, the premise of a fox, a frog, a rabbit and a falcon flying spaceships around some fictitious universe killing poorly conceived aliens is pretty damn ridiculous — but it was a thing of beauty to the naïve child we all were back then. Then you had the levels where your team squares off against a wolf, a pig and a lizard that just makes for a zoological clusterfuck of titanic proportions.
Best Character: Falco Lombardi
Falco was the rebel in your squadron who wasn’t exactly thrilled that you, as Fox, had taken the leadership role in this endeavor. So he took it upon himself to take alternate routes, fly into overwhelming danger, contradict anything you say and pretty much be a complete douche at the game’s every turn. With that said, Falco was a loveable asshole. With Slippy Toad having the gumption of an eight-year-old girl and Peppy Hare constantly reminiscing about what seemed to be a very strange past relationship with your character’s father, Falco was the saving grace of your team—despite his efforts to the contrary.
2. Mario Kart 64
Mario Kart has stood the test of time, and I still prefer the N64 version of this game to any remake effort Nintendo shit out for any other future console. Another game that looks ludicrous at face value, this racing game took some of the world’s most beloved video game characters and placed them in a go-kart-style circuit in which they drove around in three-lap increments for the sole purpose of harassing each other.
You could race on a beach, on a mountain, on a farm — pretty much anywhere imaginable. It was just wonderful. My friends and I still play to this day — albeit typically with adult beverages involved — and nothing in this world can make a group of grown men scream like alarmed schoolgirls like this children’s racing game. The douchebaggery involved in this game — from timing lightning strikes to plowing over unsuspecting opponents when you have star power — is immeasurable, but guess what — if you play with class, you’re going to lose. So shoot that blue shell with pride and, while you’re at it, flip off that assclown you’re stealing first place from as you pass him.
Best Character: Toad
Contrary to popular belief, the consensus best racers in this game — Toad and Yoshi— are the best not because they are the fastest, but because they have the highest acceleration. Acceleration is key in this game because you’re getting knocked on your ass about every 10 seconds during a given race. Therefore, the ability to return to top speed is more crucial than how fast your character’s top speed actually is. Toad wins out as the best character because the exclamations this sneaky little bastard lets out as he terrorizes the rest of the field make him come across like the quintessential prick.
1. GoldenEye 007
There are few times in a man’s life when he will be as consumed as when he is playing this video game. The story mode was elaborate; the multiplayer was unparalleled; it was simply the best video game ever created to that point. Inviting three friends over to play this game was like mailing in the rest of your day. It was impossible to stop playing. If you won, you wanted to keep asserting your dominance. If you lost, you wanted to knock whoever just lucked into a victory off the top spot ASAP. The weaponry was extensive, featuring everything from rocket launchers to lasers.
While everybody talks about the multiplayer mode when they discuss this game (with good reason), I was always equally fond of the campaign mode. Even though protecting Bond’s love interest, Natalya, was a thorough pain in the ass throughout the game, running roughshod through enemies as the most badass secret agent in movie history was about as good as it got as far as video games were concerned. Frankly, there is not much in this world more satisfying than jumping down into the bathroom stall at the beginning of the second level and assassinating a guard who is mid-shit.
Best Character: James Bond
There are plenty of good characters to choose from in the multiplayer mode — Oddjob, who is four feet tall at best, and Baron Samedi, who looks like he just buried his face in a bag of blow, spring to mind — but Bond is undeniably the superstar of the game’s cast. A man nonchalant enough to stop an operation intent on causing a global financial meltdown while wearing a tuxedo is pretty hard to supplant. Xenia did have an impressive rack though.