Which Nintendo Console Has the Best Lineup of First-Party Games?

Gavin Lane, Editor – N64

Nintendo 64
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

“Ugh, N64? Weird controller, bad games, Nintendo headed for cliff after 16-bit generation. Sad.”

Bad shot, Made Contratrian! I’ll admit that commercially the N64 signaled a decline in Nintendo’s cultural dominance with Sony on the rise in the mid-90s, but you can’t dismiss a genre-defining library as “ugly”!

Look. Mario 64 is obviously the ace in the hole here, but you can’t hang an entire console on a great game, whether it pioneered an entire genre or not. So, let’s throw in a little something else like, oh i don’t know Ocarina of Time. An epic Zelda adventure not enough for you? Here, you also have a Majora’s Mask. This is the best though.

Phew, boring! Each The Nintendo console has good Marios and Zeldas. What else is there? So, how about the best Star Fox, the best F-Zero, and the best Mario Party (not my bag, but that’s what you say)? The N64 was the birthplace of Paper Mario, Smash Bros., Pokémon Snap, and the first four-player Mario Kart. Wave Race 64 is an all-time piece of software that holds up great today (not the PAL version, never the PAL version), and then there’s the greatness of games like 1080 Snowboarding and Pilotwings 64, just a few lower-tier versions that put it to shame the AAA on other consoles. There was even a Kirby game if you’re into that sort of thing.

I purposely did not mention the Rare games published by Nintendo above in an attempt to emphasize how the Ultra 64 it was not just a Rareware machine. But throw just a few of them into the mix – say, GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie – and the quality, scope and sheer originality of the N64’s first-party output is unmatched by any other system.

(Shout out to the handles, though — I love you too!)

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