Nintendo's classics usually come to mind when people think of retro games. After almost single-handedly saving the entire video games industry following the massive crash in the early 1980s, Nintendo soon became a household name with their home consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System and handheld consoles like the GameBoy family.
Fans of Nintendo are continuously looking to play the games they grew up with as adults for that good ol' nostalgia. But with advancing technology and degrading physical hardware like corroded cartridge pins, playing old favorites with friends keeps getting more difficult. Nintendo's miniature Classic plug-and-play systems provided a cheap way to play the best games on the NES and SNES, but after four years, the lack of a Nintendo 64 Classic is starting to hurt.
So, what would a hypothetical Nintendo 64 Classic look like?
NES and SNES Classic overview
Starting with the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo offered classic games from the NES to the Nintendo 64, with a few other non-Nintendo consoles on offer as well. They called this the Virtual Console, and it provided many people who started gaming on the Wii, like me, a way to play older games. In fact, it's what led me to first play great games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and cemented my love for video games that were more traditional than what was on offer on the Wii.
Classic games were released again and again on consoles like the Nintendo DSi, Nintendo 3DS, and Nintendo Wii U. In 2016, Nintendo released the NES Classic with 30 pre-installed titles, which gave every NES fan the chance to hold a tiny piece of history in their hands. Unfortunately, Nintendo seemingly underestimated just how popular this little console would be, as they had to do a reprint to keep up with demand, and fans even had to search for ways to find alternatives to the NES Classic after production ceased.
Less than a year later, the SNES Classic made its debut on the market, with several versions to reflect the console's appearance in North American, European and Japanese markets. It cost more and featured fewer games than the NES Classic, with only 21 to choose from. Still, it also came with two controllers and the opportunity to play StarFox 2, a previously unreleased SNES game made available to the public for the first time.
With original hardware and a great form factor, both of these consoles were a hit, with people even looking to add games to the consoles and make their own versions using a Raspberry Pi. Fans patiently waited on news of these series continuing, perhaps even a GameBoy Color Classic, but none came. It seemed as though Nintendo wasn't planning to revamp their Virtual Console distribution, much to players' disappointment.
The state of Virtual Console
So what does the Virtual Console look like now? Well, it's more or less been confined to paid subscriptions to Nintendo Switch Online. Subscriptions to the service cost $20 a year and offer features like cloud saves and online play on the Nintendo Switch. The service initially included access to a growing library of NES games, with SNES games being added in an update.
Additions to the NES and SNES libraries happened every month, much to the delight of fans. There was even online play functionality and multiplayer, a feature absent on the miniature retro consoles. There was even promise in the "SP" versions of games released on the system that had extra features akin to those obtained with cheats, such as being to start the game with everything unlocked. Unfortunately, the steady stream of new releases eventually slowed to a trickle every month, resulting in games being released on an irregular schedule.
Then there was a game that raised our hopes. Super Mario 3D All-Stars. Released to celebrate Mario's 35th anniversary, it featured Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy in a neat package. A bare-bones collection, to be sure when compared to the collection sold during the 25th anniversary, but fans were excited nevertheless.
Unfortunately, like most good things, the game's availability ended on March 31, 2021. Some people dubbed that fateful day "Mario's death," and everyone was disappointed that the game would cease both physical production as well as digital distribution. Others theorized that Nintendo would split the game in three and sell each game separately, with the addition of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Perhaps that might open the door for N64, GameCube, and Wii Virtual Console!
But it led to nothing. There were no more announcements, and while the physical copy can still be found on some store shelves, scalpers quickly got a hold of the last stock in some areas and hiked up prices online. The silver lining is that Super Mario 3D All-Stars could be preserved, but the online Battle Royale service was Super Mario Bros. 35 had its servers shut down, with no means of preserving the game.
What games would work well on the N64 mini
Well, a gamer can dream, so let's dream of what we'd like to see on a theoretical Nintendo 64 Classic console! Of course, many developers and publishers who worked on games in the past, like Rare, are no longer affiliated with Nintendo. As such, this list is only comprised of 15 games that I think can realistically make it to such a console without running into rights issues, plush a wishful bonus game. If your favorite game isn't here, don't worry — I'll be talking about games that would have made it onto the imaginary console if the world were ideal and pigs flew.
- Super Mario 64 + Remaster — We'd love to see the game that started it all at the forefront of this collection. And because we're dreaming gamers, I thought it would be nice to switch between the original game and the upgraded version of this 3D platformer that was offered in Super Mario 3D All-Stars.
- Mario Kart 64 — Nintendo would make a killing on controllers and accessories for the N64 Classic if this game and four-player support were included. Be prepared to give your little sibling an unplugged controller as you race in HD with friends.
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time — The Nintendo 64 wouldn't be what it is without Zelda. In a perfect world, I'd like for both titles on this list to include their Nintendo 3DS remaster versions, but I'd be satisfied with increased resolution and an improved framerate.
- The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask — The dark and edgy sibling to Ocarina of Time, the addition of this amazing game would show just how much Nintendo's developers can achieve in a short space of time.
- Wave Race 64 — Return to Dolphin Park with this gorgeous coastline adventure! Fun multiplayer experiences were a big focus on the N64, and this game offers it in droves.
- Mario Party 3 — Speaking of multiplayer experiences, why not ruin some friendships? I thought it best only to include one Mario Party game in this list, so if you think this isn't the best one, feel free to yell at me in the comments!
- Super Smash Bros. — This game is a great indicator of just how far Super Smash Bros. has come as a franchise. I can imagine friends laughing at just how absurd controls were back then, and it's perfect for drinking games.
- Star Fox 64 — Some Star Fox fans maintain that this remains the best game in the series. Since Nintendo doesn't seem to be releasing a new one anytime soon, I thought they should be able to enjoy this classic on the N64 Classic.
- Pokémon Snap — With its sequel being so well received, it would be a crime not to include this game on the list. Players can solve puzzles and figure out how to unlock every Pokémon while practicing their photography skills.
- Yoshi's Story — This game is simply on the list because I love all things Yoshi. Also, the music is adorable.
- Pokémon Stadium 2 — I'm a bit unsure whether Nintendo would include this game, but if I'd have to choose one, I'd choose the sequel. Every Pokémon from Kanto and Johto makes an appearance here, in all their blocky wonder.
- Donkey Kong 64 — Rare developed this game, but Nintendo owns the rights to Donkey Kong, so I'm confident that this can make an appearance. Releasing later in the N64's life, this 3D platformer is gorgeous and brimming with collectibles.
- 1080° Snowboarding — If you're tired of the beach in Wave 64, take a snowboarding trip! Learning tricks and getting combos are oodles of fun in this game.
- Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards — Just like the other Classic consoles, the great Poyo should definitely make an appearance. While it's not everyone's favorite Kirby, kids are sure to enjoy playing as the pink puffball.
- Diddy Kong Racing — Change is always good, and Diddy Kong Racing offers a ton of content for anyone who's looking to take a break from Mario Kart 64. Plus, there are planes!
- Animal Forest — This is my Star Fox 2, my wishful plus one. Animal Crossing has become an increasingly popular franchise, but not all fans know that it saw its beginnings on the N64. A localized version of Animal Forest, including the NES games available within the game, would introduce the West to this iteration for the first time.
Games we wish would make an appearance
Since the SNES Classic debuted with 21 games, I thought I'd stick to the same number. So, with the following games, our iMore Nintendo 64 Classic wishlist adds up to 21. While these games were some of the best-selling titles on the original Nintendo 64, due to changes in developer relationships, intellectual property rights, or just the genre of some games affecting the age rating, they'll go in a separate list. But trust me, I'd love to experience the chaos of split-screen GoldenEye on a large flatscreen television just as much as you do.
- GoldenEye 007
- Perfect Dark
- Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2
This list was super fun to make. Of course, the best game on the system — namely, Castlevania 64 — somehow didn't make it onto the console's best-selling list, so, unfortunately, I couldn't sneak it onto the list. Hey, what's with the pitchforks? Put those down!
What games would you include on this list? I'd love to hear your opinion in the comments!
Three cheers for Mario
Super Mario 3D All-Stars
Three of the best 3D platformers you'll come across.
Super Mario 3D All-Stars feature Nintendo's greatest games — Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy, all in stunning HD. With updated controls and additional soundtracks, this is the definitive way to experience 3D Mario games.
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