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Which Nintendo Console Has The Best First-Party Games Lineup?

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Gavin Lane, Editor – N64

Nintendo 64
Image: Zion Grassl / Nintendo Life

“Oof, N64? Weird controller, ugly games, Nintendo heading off a cliff after the 16-bit generation. Sad.”

Poor take, Made-Up Contratrian Person! I’ll concede that commercially the N64 signalled a decline in Nintendo’s cultural dominance with Sony in the ascent in the mid-’90s, but you don’t get to dismiss a library of genre-definers as “ugly”!

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

Pff, boring! Every Nintendo console’s got good Marios and Zeldas. What else is there? Well, how about the best Star Fox, the best F-Zero, and the best Mario Party (not my bag, but that’s what you folks 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 beautifully today (not the PAL version, never the PAL version), and then there’s the majesty of games like 1080 Snowboarding and Pilotwings 64, just a couple of lower-tier releases that put AAAs on other consoles to shame. There was even a Kirby game, if you like that sort of thing.

I’ve intentionally not mentioned the Nintendo-published Rare games above in an effort to highlight how the Ultra 64 wasn’t just a Rareware machine. But throw just a couple of those in the mix — say, GoldenEye and Banjo-Kazooie — and the quality, breadth, and sheer originality of N64’s first-party output is unmatched by any other system.

(Shoutout to the handhelds, though — I love you, too!)

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