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More than 20 years after it cut a different kind of RPG path on the Nintendo 64, Paper Mario is headed to the Nintendo Switch. Announced as this month’s new addition to Nintendo’s Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription service, our plucky plumber’s 2D heroics are set to enlighten a whole new generation of fans who might’ve missed out on the game that launched a whole Nintendo mini-genre of puzzle-centric RPGs.
The Thousand Year Door, Paper Mario’s GameCube sequel, remains one of our favorites to this very day, in fact. So it’s only natural that bringing back Mario for a return to his skinny adventures got us to thinking: What other Nintendo 64 games are conspicuously missing from the Switch’s present-day library? After all, Nintendo’s so committed to rolling out bits of its old-school library that it has even begun selling an updated N64 controller to complete the retro gaming experience for Switch Online members.
Nintendo’s classic console yielded up so many must-play games over the course of its 7-year run that narrowing down a short list feels almost impossible. But like any dedicated gamer, we’re determined to see this thing through to the finish — so here, in no particular order, is our five-title lineup of the N64 games we think are most deserving of a spot in Nintendo’s current rotation.
Before being scooped up by Microsoft, British developer Rare made some of the coolest, most creative games to ever grace a console — regardless of which decade we’re talking about. The first (but not the only) Rare game to make our Switch wish list is Banjo-Tooie, the scaled-up sequel to 1998’s sublimely silly platformer Banjo-Kazooie. Rare dug deep to mine the N64’s available power for the goofy twosome’s encore, creating bigger environments, more ridiculous bosses, and mind-warping puzzle challenges — all tied together with a cast of side characters and a musical score as wacky and memorable as its predecessor. Nintendo’s already announced Banjo-Kazooie as a future Switch Online title, so it only makes sense that Banjo-Tooie should get the same treatment. After all, we’ve got Jinjos to save.
It couldn’t be more different from Banjo-Kazooie, but GoldenEye 007 was also developed by Rare — an accomplishment that’s still amazing for anyone who’s played both games. Nintendo’s official James Bond tie-in hit every 007 highlight a Bond fan could hope for, flitting from one environmental set piece to the next — from Russia’s snowbound peaks to the lush Caribbean jungles of Cuba. The solo campaign was a blast, but the lasting fun was tucked away in the game’s split-screen multiplayer mode, where up to four people could stalk each other in deadly takedowns that gobbled up endless hours of couch time (and wore out more than a few N64 controllers). If there’s any way Nintendo can make it happen, we’re beyond ready for a little Pierce Brosnan-era Bond on the Big N’s current console.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Some of us think that The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask is sill the most complete, fun-to-play Zelda game that Nintendo’s ever made — a bold claim, considering it arrived on the N64 in the epic wake of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. But while Nintendo made OoT available for the Switch as part of the Switch Online + Expansion Pack’s rollout earlier this year, Majora’s Mask is still lurking out there somewhere in Termina Field, just waiting for its chance to shine again. Bring back Skull Kid, Nintendo!
We know, we know: This is turning into a Rare love-fest, and for good reason: As a spiritual successor to GoldenEye 007, Rare’s Perfect Dark served up a nicely refined version of the same stealth-infused, first-person shooter action (plus the awesome multiplayer mode) as its predecessor. It also introduced agent Joanna Dark as an espionage expert on the hunt for answers, amid a war between alien species for control of the planet. Perfect Dark was bigger, moodier, and much more epic in sci-fi scope than GoldenEye 007, but it somehow packed all that new stuff into the same-sized N64 game cartridge. After staying relatively silent for years, the franchise is being rebooted for the Xbox Series X/S — though we haven’t heard much since the upcoming game’s announcement trailer surprised fans a year ago.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Like the games in Rare’s Banjo series, a spruced-up version of Conker’s Bad Fur Day is available to play right now if you’re part of the Xbox ecosystem. But there’s nothing like grasping that weird, wavy N64 controller in your hands to compel our antihero squirrel to flee from murderous teddy bears and smack stuff around with a frying pan. Wholly deserving of its infamous Mature rating and jammed with some of the funniest characters, music, and insane situations we’ve ever seen in a game, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was equally as fun to play as it was to laugh at. Coming in 2001 near the very end of the Nintendo 64’s life cycle, it also incorporated every innovative adventure-game trick that Rare had perfected in its previous N64 games. It’s crude, it’s crass, and it’s loaded with cute animals that live fast and swear like sailors. And we’re still bummed that it’s not on the near horizon for the Nintendo Switch.