Welcome back to another installment of my Favorite Games series, where I have been highlighting some of my all-time favorite games, console by console. We last left off on a three-part installment of my favorite games from the original PlayStation. So now let's return to the world of Nintendo with their foray into the 3D-era...
The N64 was the go-to system for me and my friends to play in middle school. Despite the Super Nintendo having adapters for 4-player gaming, the N64 was where we all first really got into it. I have so many fond memories of my group of friends all hanging out at one of our houses and spending hours in front of our TVs, the sometimes already small screens feeling even smaller split four-ways. My system was hooked up to our big screen in the game room so it was an ideal place to play but I also remember hanging out at the houses of my friends Luke, Bryan, and Ethan regularly. Up to six or seven of us were nearly inseparable during those years so we'd all hang out (bringing extra controllers when we needed to so we were never the guy stuck with the MadCatz controller) and have our own little tournaments. It's really the only system I ever got real heavy into multiplayer games. But I couldn't spend every waking moment with them so I still had plenty of great single-player experiences as well.
Super Mario 64 - The iconic first 3D Mario game. This was first game I ever played with any kind of analog stick. Sure I had played Atari games and even Flight Simulator on PC with a joystick, but having such fine-tuned control of Mario felt so smooth and responsive, not heavy and sluggish like those previous sticks.
Super Mario 64 also came around the time my family was connecting online so instead of needing to buy a strategy guide, I was able to find them online. This is probably around the time I found GameFAQS and a fledgling website n64.com, which would become ign64.com and, of course, eventually IGN. Suddenly, my gaming world exploded in a million different directions and I could find all of the hidden secrets in the game because seemingly the whole world was helping me. And then I was the cool kid who would tell my friends where the secret levels in Super Mario 64 were at lunch or on the playground.
When my sister and I moved out of the house for college, she ended up taking the N64 to occasionally play so I didn't have easy access to it. My ex-girlfriend Robin happened to have hers though so during the Spring of 2008, I fell back into Super Mario 64 and played through it for a full 120-star run. It's amazing how much of that castle and game I still have memorized. The console my sister and I shared is back in my possession now so if I ever feel the urge, I can always plug it back in and get that classic "It's-a-me, Mario!" introduction.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - While I still fall firmly in the camp that believes A Link to the Past to be the best Zelda game, there's no denying that Link's first 3D adventure was an iconic moment in time. Just as I recognize Final Fantasy VII's as a more important game than my personal favorites FFVI or FFIV, so too would I argue that Ocarina of Time is probably the most important entry in the franchise, for bringing it into the 3D space. And the first time riding Epona across Hyrule Field is one of those moments that defined the Nintendo 64 for those of us who grew up with it (with the reveal of Sheik's identity as a possible runner up).
One of the things I have also felt like an outsider on though is the seemingly universal hatred for the Water Temple. I just don't get it. Even without a guide, I never felt like I had any noticeable difficulties with it. But then I've always been the kind of gamer who really enjoyed puzzles and Zelda dungeons are some of the best and most rewarding in the medium.
GoldenEye 007 - Rounding out part one of my favorite N64 games is none other than the game that would become the template for console shooters: GoldenEye 007. Despite never owning the game myself (not entirely sure why I never begged my parents to buy it for me. Maybe because all of my other friends had it so I could just borrow it whenever I wanted to play through the campaign?), GoldenEye 007 is very possibly the N64 game I played the most because it was the go-to game for all of those friendly get togethers. We would spend hours upon hours playing through the Complex/Library/Facility/etc. with Rocket Launchers/Golden Guns/Slaps Only/Proximity Mines/etc.
The magic of being in the same room with those guys at that moment and time is just something online multiplayer will never be able to recapture for me. And when we all started going our separate ways in high school and then college and beyond, it became harder and harder for me to invest in those multiplayer experiences.
Hell, even now I know through Facebook that a couple of those friends are still avid gamers and play stuff like Halo, Madden, and Call of Duty regularly. Bryan, who I mentioned above, even manages the GameStop down the street from my house! I've seen him when I go to the PetSmart right next store to pick up something for Elphie. But I haven't actually talked to the guy in nearly ten years so whenever I see him I just turn away and hide my face to avoid the awkwardness of being recognized and then going into, "Hey, how've you been? What have you been up to? Oh yeah, I think I saw something about that on Facebook? Well, great seeing you. Let's hang out sometime." And we probably never would because I'm busy with work and he's getting married sometime soon and so it's just easier to avoid the whole facade...
Wow. That took a turn I wasn't expecting.
Soooooooo anyway, those are a few of my favorite (and probably most iconic) Nintendo 64 games. Stay tuned for the rest.