In part one of this article, Power Up Gaming’s Owen Atkinson recalled some of his favourite Nintendo 64 memories and the games that brought them into being. Today, it’s the turn of senior reporter Austin Flynn to take over the reigns.
Austin: It’s quite possible that the Nintendo 64 is the most nostalgia-filled console I’ve ever owned. After all, it was the first system I could actually call my own as the Super Nintendo I put so much time into actually belonged to my brother. It’s where I set up a firm base that would hold my love of all game genres including, but not limited to, adventure, shooter, fighter, flight simulator, sports, puzzle, RPG and even “first-person rail simulation”… whatever that means. Regardless of all the games I played and the genres they belonged to, these are my top five most memorable games of the Nintendo 64.
Warning: The games on this list will most likely conflict with the childhood memories you have come to know and love. Despite not liking the same games as you remember, I do not hate your childhood. We’re all on the same team here and can collectively agree that the N64 was an amazing system. Reader discretion is advised.
Bomberman 64 (1997)
This action-adventure title was one of the first I ever played in my life, and although it pains me to say it, it barely edged out the likes of Super Mario 64, a title many people have come to cherish. This game really had everything: kick-ass boss fights, player customization, multiplayer battles, replayability, interesting level design and a mysterious antihero who would keep you guessing as to whether he was friend or foe to the end. As a seven-year-old I was blown away. I had never even played Bomberman’s original game and only knew as much about it as my brother could tell me, but I didn’t care. From start to finish this game had me smiling.
I remember walking around stages and looking for secrets for hours. I also recall the more frustrating times when the calming sense of exploration turned into a stressful test of skill to quickly bounce from one well-placed bomb to the next in order to obtain those little secrets, grumbling to myself how stupidly impossible the task was. But hey, what’s a good game without a little challenge? In the end, Bomberman 64 taught me how to enjoy the pain of working hard in order to to obtain a few collectibles. Not to mention the sigh of relief and feeling of accomplishment when it was all over. The aspect I remember most, though, was the boss fights lurking at the end of each stage. Some bosses were massive monsters in the same vein as those in Zelda, but the ones I really loved were the colored humanoids sent as hired guns to defeat Bomberman. Each of them had their own cheesy remark with matching personality, complete with their own fighting style. Let me tell you, as a kid who grew up watching Dragonball Z and the likes, I found this incredible. I can even remember to this day beating the first form of the final boss, knocking him off the stage only to have him rise back up, say “Play time is over,” and merge with his helpful robot into his final form. If I was to tell you I wasn’t comparing him to Frieza, it would be a damnable lie.
Pokémon Snap (1999)
One of the most memorable games of my life and the first I can say I was wholeheartedly addicted to was Pokémon Red on the Game Boy. After spending so much time watching the show after school and beating the game, I was a fan for life. So much, in fact, that I would go so far as to play a game centered around photography of all things to satisfy my love of everything pocket monsters.
I know what a lot of you are thinking right now. “B-but Austin, why didn’t you just play Pokémon Stadium?” Well random internet commenter, I did. The game was indeed amazing. I mean, 3D renderings and more ways to collect Pokémon? I would be crazy to turn that down! But there was just something special I can’t quite put my finger on when it comes to Pokémon Snap. It could be the imaginative environments, the solemn soundtrack, the playful animations or just the fact that I got to chuck fruit at wild Pokémon, but there was something unique about that photography simulator that I really haven’t felt since.
In the end, I think it was simply the way Snap created this very tangible world out of nothing more than a TV show and grossly-popular 2D Game Boy game. Sure, Stadium had me back in the ring battling with my favorite team on a bigger screen, but Pokémon Snap truly put me in the world of Pokémon. It was an experience I would forever hold with me as I played future titles in the series, and one that enriched the overall feel of those games. However, I would like to pose one question. When did Professor Oak get the right to critique photography? I mean, did he minor in it at university? It seemed a little fishy to me, but I guess I’ll let it slide for all the times I pelted Mew with apples – a guilty pleasure of mine.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
I know, I know… “Big surprise!” Zelda fan or not, the majority of people who have played this game most likely found it enjoyable. I mean, OoT has been called one of the best games of all time and rightfully so. Music, gameplay, enemy design, fluid controls (remarkable considering the controller being used), storyline, puzzles… I can go on and on and on, but for the sake of you all and the fact that we’ve heard it a million times before, I won’t.
For me, OoT is all about the timing in my life that made it special. My brother religiously played the original Zelda and A Link to the Past from the time I could watch a game and understand what I was seeing. I loved seeing him battle bosses, unlock weapons and ultimately save Hyrule. But when I finally got my hands on OoT for a console that was my own, it was both an incredibly exciting, but nerve-racking moment for me. Link was this legendary hero who had already done so much in his time, and my brother had been there every step of the way. But I was still new to actually playing the game. Sure, I had played the other games when my brother was watching – to make sure I didn’t get him killed – but this time I was on my own. I had my own save file and played all by myself. Not exactly the peak of responsibility in a young boy’s life, but a pretty big deal to eight-year-old me!
But when Navi flew into Link’s house and desperately tried to wake him up, let me tell you how happy I was when I found out he was only a kid; just like me! It got me all the more excited to pick up the controller and start the adventure. Even if OoT wasn’t considered by many to be the strongest Zelda instalment, it would still be my most memorable experience with Link and a truly great introduction to the universe.
Jet Force Gemini (1999)
I want to preface this entry by letting you know that I was not introduced to Star Fox 64 until the Gamecube days. For that reason alone, I put Jet Force Gemini here instead.
After going back and watching some gameplay videos on this, I’m not sure I would like this as much today as I once did, but back in the day this game was an absolute blast. It was my first real introduction to a sci-fi game and put me onto this strange planet, getting into firefights with ant-like humanoids and saving friendly koala bear natives that could have been long lost relatives of Ewoks. Not only that, but it had me collecting strange guns that would assist me in my travels.
Each gun came with its own sense of bad-assery and players could shoot off their enemies’ heads to collect. And here I was thinking that collecting gold skulltulas was awesome. In hindsight, I’m not exactly sure how this game was able to get away with a “Teen” rating, but I’m glad it did. The multiplayer had my friends and I talking trash to each other daily and gave me something to do when I completed the storyline. Jet Force Gemini was the first third-person shooter I ever played, and even though I had just as much fun with Duke Nukem and Goldeneye, this game has stuck the closest to my heart. However, if I had to choose one aspect about it that stands out the most, I would have to say it was the soundtrack. In a world filled with giant ants and furry little Ewok wannabes, an eerie OST is a must and Jet Force Gemini delivered on that in spades.
Super Smash Bros. (1999)
If I was talking trash to my friends with Jet Force Gemini, this game took that to a whole new level. Ever since the first time I laid eyes on the unforgettable Super Smash Bros. commercial, which had Nintendo’s most iconic characters beating each other up to the whimsical tune of So Happy Together by The Turtles, I was hooked.
At that point in my life I had played Super Mario World and had been introduced to Yoshi, was acquainted with Donkey Kong through Donkey Kong Country and had seen more than my fair share of Pikachu. The only thing I hadn’t really seen was all of them being brought together to make one of the most thrilling fighting/platformers this side of the Sun. The funny part was that I never even owned the game. Every time my family took a Blockbuster trip I’d rent this bad boy, pop it in the second I got home and forget about the outer world for the rest of the week. Between fighting level nine competitors, eating breakfast, taking on the infamous Master Hand, going to school, challenging friends to stock matches, eating dinner and perfecting my break-the-targets times, I didn’t have time for much of anything else and I didn’t care.
As much as I love the series as a whole, the original Super Smash Bros. has always stuck with me for the upbeat soundtrack, over-the-top smashes, rich stages and creative characters. It created my love for multiplayer and fighting games, but more than anything it cemented the already present admiration I had for Nintendo. It even got me curious about other Nintendo titles I didn’t know much about *cough cough* Earthbound and Kirby *cough cough*. I have lost and regained interest in many of the other games and their iterations on this list, but I have always had a love for the Super Smash Bros. series, and I would venture to say it’s because of the incredibly memorable time I spent with the original.
It turns out there are few experiences in gaming that are more enjoyable than beating up a big, goofy ape with a small, electric rodent. At least, in my opinion.
Super Mario 64 (1996): “So long, me Bowsie!”
Duke Nukem 64 (1997): Because kickin’ ass and chewin’ bubble gum is fun for all ages. My mum didn’t know any better when she bought this one for me.
Goldeneye 007 (1997): If you played Oddjob in multiplayer, you were known as “that guy” among your friends. On a side note, this game did not age well at all.
Pokémon Stadium (2000): Is it bad that the mini games are just as memorable to me as the battling?