There are nine N64 games and 14 Sega Genesis games launching with the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack, but which ones should you play first? Some of them not only define the peak of their era, but also shaped gaming as we know it today. It's these popular hits that we recommend most. To improve the experience, you really ought to consider grabbing an N64 controller or a Sega Genesis controller (if you can find them, of course).
6. Mario Kart 64 N64 (1996)
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In the late 90s, no slumber party was complete without Mario Kart 64. Up to four players could race at a time while controlling Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, D.K., Wario, or Bowser. This was technically the second game in the series, but it was the first to introduce 3D characters and courses.
Have fun grabbing items and hurling shells at each other to maintain your lead. There's guaranteed to be plenty of hoots and laughter. The Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack even lets you play online against other players, so you'll always have someone to race against as long as you have access to the internet.
5. Star Fox 64 N64 (1997)
Most younger players these days probably only recognize Fox, Falco, Wolf, Slippy, and Peppy from Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, if at all. However, these animals starred in one of the best flight games ever made. Star Fox 64 brought the series into 3D and built upon the foundation of the original for something truly extraordinary. Sadly, the Star Fox series hasn't done so well since then. In fact, no original Star Fox games have even released on Switch yet. Hopefully, that changes in the future, but for now, enjoy when the series was in its heyday and "do a barrel roll" to pay respects.
The evil scientist, Andross, killed Fox's father years ago, and he's back to wreak havoc in the Lylat system. It's up to Fox McCloud and his team to take on this monkey's baddies and defeat him. Being able to fly around in that space while engaging in epic fights is not only satisfying but fun to watch. Plus, there's a multiplayer component to share with others that can support up to four players.
4. Streets of Rage 2 Sega Genesis (1992)
When the Sega Genesis released, the marketing campaign did all it could to make the system seem cool and edgy to U.S. audiences. Streets of Rage 2 was an important factor in this representation since it allowed you to beat up thugs and anybody else that got in your way while dressed like a cool dude wearing peak 90s fashions.
The story takes place after the events of the first game where three men — Adam Hunter, Axel Stone, and Blaze Fielding — all defeated the Syndicate Crime Organization. However, Adam gets kidnapped by the organization's leader, Mr. X, and it's up to Axel and Blaze to save him. Take on this endeavor on your own or pass a controller to a friend and pummel bad guys together after a long day.
3. Paper Mario N64 (2000)
The original 2D adventure is one of the very best Paper Mario games to ever release. In a time when developers were experimenting with brand new 3D visuals, the paper aesthetic stood out and gave Paper Mario a unique style that has delighted gamers and developers ever since.
Mario and Luigi are invited to come to Princess Peach's castle. However, upon arriving, Bowser kidnaps the entire building and sends Mario flying. Now our favorite plumbed needs to travel around the Mushroom Kingdom befriending new companions, solving puzzles, and fighting baddies to save the day. Princess Peach isn't just waiting around, though. You also get to snoop around and gather intel on the Koopa King while being held prisoner. This game is bursting with charm and is definitely an RPG you don't want to miss.
2. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Sega Genesis (1992)
This sequel released hot off the heels of the first game's major success and introduced two-player capabilities to Sonic's original formula. Sonic was Sega's flagship character during a time when Nintendo had a stronghold on the gaming market. He was created to be a far cooler and much faster competitor to Mario.
Instead of moving at a steady pace and making the same predictable route, Sonic has multiple paths he could take at fast speeds. You can make him go even faster with the help of springs or by tucking into a ball first. But there are plenty of dangers along the way, so you have to react quickly and find the best items in this platformer.
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time N64 (1998)
Were you expecting anything else? Ocarina of Time has long been a standard by which other video games built their foundation and measured themselves against. In fact, for more than a decade after the game's release it maintained the position of greatest game of all time among many prestigious lists.
Ocarina of Time was one of the first games to truly take advantage of 3D space in an action RPG setting. Instead of just having you do the same things over and over, the gameplay is also incredibly varied. You travel to distant lands, sneak around a castle, use a large library of equipment, and even steal a horse at one point. It also perfected the lock-on mechanic and provided a strong story, with a game that lasted a staggering 25 and a half hours on an average playthrough, which was pretty long for back then. If these things don't sound impressive, it's because they've become the norm today, but it was Ocarina of Time that we have to thank for that.
So what's the story about anyway? Link is a young child who lives in the forest with the other Kokiri children. However, he has troubling dreams and is the only kid without a fairy. Soon, a fairy comes to his side and he embarks outside of the forest in an adventure that spans time and space to defeat the evil Ganondorf. To do this, he dives into several dungeons, takes on a number of bosses, meets a cast of quirky characters, and travels around a relatively large map. Whether you've played this game in your youth or you've never given it a try, it's the perfect way to summarize the heights of glorious 90s gaming. For all these reasons and more, it's the best game to play on the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack.
Bonus: Super Mario 64 N64 (1996)
Mario's first true 3D adventure was by far the best-selling N64 game in its time and served as a huge experiment for Nintendo developers as they tried to see just what limitations the newest console could break. Considering that many people already purchased this game with the Super Mario 3D All-Stars collection, it didn't seem right to rank it among the other Expansion Pack entries. However, if you haven't bought that collection or if you have never played the game before, you ought to check it out.
The game starts with Mario receiving an invitation from Princess Peach. However, upon arriving at her castle, he discovers that Bowser has kidnapped her and taken over her abode. To save his royal friend, our favorite plumber must jump into magical paintings and then platform his way through several levels in order to collect Stars. The more he collects, the further he can traverse into the castle before taking Bowser down.
All games in the Expansion Pack
Anything marked with a (*) will not be available at launch but is coming in the future.
- Super Mario 64
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Mario Kart 64
- Star Fox 64
- Sin and Punishment
- Dr. Mario 64
- Mario Tennis 64
- Yoshi's Story
- Pokémon Snap*
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask*
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards*
- Mario Golf*
- Paper Mario*
- F-Zero X*
Sega Genesis games
- Sonic the Hedgehog 2
- Streets of Rage 2
- Ecco the Dolphin
- Castlevania: Bloodlines
- Contra: Hard Corps
- Dr. Robotnik's Mean Bean Machine
- Golden Axe
- Gunstar Heroes
- Phantasy Star IV
- Shining Force
- Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master
There are so many N64 and Sega Genesis titles to choose from when you activate your Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack membership. While we definitely suggest playing through all of them, you should check out The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 first. They're both classics that hold up pretty well and were monumental in shaping the gaming industry.
Huge hits like Banjo-Kazooie, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, and other classics are coming to the Expansion Pack in the near future. So, don't miss out on those when they release.
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Gaming aficionado Rebecca Spear is iMore's dedicated gaming editor with a focus on Nintendo Switch and iOS gaming. You’ll never catch her without her Switch or her iPad Air handy. If you’ve got a question about Pokémon, The Legend of Zelda, or just about any other Nintendo series check out her guides to help you out. Rebecca has written thousands of articles in the last six years including hundreds of extensive gaming guides, previews, and reviews for both Switch and Apple Arcade. She also loves checking out new gaming accessories like iPhone controllers and has her ear to the ground when it comes to covering the next big trend.