Ever since the success and eventual discontinuation of the Virtual Console service on the Wii, Nintendo fans were always asking the same question – would Nintendo launch a similar kind of service for the Switch? With the Virtual Console covering games from the NES/SNES/N64/Sega Master System/Mega Drive/Neo GEO AES/Commodore 64, it was a shoe-in that something similar would be launched for the Switch, right?
Well… the Nintendo Switch Online service that launched September 19th 2018 had 20 NES games from the start, 20 SNES titles following suit a year later. Although games have been drip-fed onto the system since then, it would be over two years before N64 titles were released under the guise of an “Expansion Pack”. A grand total of 20 (10 titles currently at the time of writing – January 2022) are able to be played at time of writing – brilliant.
Anyway, on the off-chance you have upgraded the membership at your expense, what titles are worthy of your time and attention? Will fear ye not, for below are all 10 titles ranked for your pleasure – enjoy!
10. WinBack: Covert operations
A third-person shooter that on the face of it does look interesting. However, with the amount of first-party titles that were released on the console as well as other classic titles such as GoldenEye and Perfect Dark, this was a game easily overlooked back when it was first released in 2000 and could easily be overlooked now.
A shooter game with elements of stealth, a healthy smattering of covert shooting and clever level design, definitely worth a dip into should you want to play something slightly different away from the bigger titles on the service.
9. Mario Tennis
Would you believe it, Mario Tennis is exactly what it says on the tin – a tennis title, featuring Mario characters. Who would have thought? Noted for the inclusion of Waluigi in a Mario game for the first time, also the reappearance of both Princess Daisy and Birdo, a fun tennis title that has various modes including tournaments, ring modes, a Bowser stage, piranha challenge, and of course just regular tennis. With Mario characters.
If you’re not into tennis or video games this one is easily overlooked hence it’s lowly ranking on the list but a fun title in it’s own right well worth a try, who knows, you might even have a ball playing it…
8. Dr Mario 64
Let’s make no mistake here, Dr Mario 64 is an enhancement of the original game – y’know linking up coloured pills to eliminate the viruses on screen until none remain. With added goodness too, of up to four players competing in multiplayer mode as well as in single player mode having a “story mode”, playing against the CPU amongst others.
If you know Dr Mario, then the gameplay itself is nothing new, but then again that isn’t always the worst thing in the world, to know what you’re getting yourself into is as comforting as dozing under a warm woolly blanket. Sometimes. Nowadays there are better puzzle games out there in terms of building up chains, and levels of excitement but for that nostalgic hit of listening to fever and chill whilst eliminating viruses, you can’t go wrong with Dr Mario 64 which looks visually appealing and plays like past titles.
7. Sin and Punishment
Never released in PAL territories in its original form, the game was available on the Wii-U Virtual Console before its inclusion in the N64 NSO list. An on-rails shooter that takes place in the year 2007 (who remembers how futuristic that year was?) where the idea is to save Earth from destruction. Sin & Punishment is an intense and also visually-appealing game that curiously utilises both the d-pad as well as the control stick to move as well as aim which is a nice feature.
With a training mode to get your laughing gear round before tackling the main game, an absolute riot of a game that although as mentioned was never released in the West, definitely worth an evening dedicated to it. Plus, the box art? Chef’s kiss.
6. Yoshi’s Story
Following on from the beautiful Yoshi’s Island on the SNES (Also available on the SNES Online service), Yoshi’s Story follows on in the franchise with a cute colourful storybook approach and has the same amount of charm and warmth that the series has come to represent.
Although not as strong as Yoshi’s Island in terms of difficulty or in terms of engagement, it does offer a Practice mode and Trial mode which not all platformers have and although not the key incentive as to why you’d want to play the game, it still is a game to dive into if you never have done before.
5. Mario Kart 64
How do you take a classic like Super Mario Kart and improve on it? 3D Computer graphics for the track design? Check. Four player multiplayer? Check. Wario? TRIPLE CHECK! However the game is not without its flaws, ranging from the opinion that the tracks are uninspired, simple, monotonous and also that success within the race is too-dependant on getting the right power ups.
Personally, the biggest bug bear is the “rubber-band” effect that the cam is notorious for, which can make for frustrating racing. On the whole, grab four friends and it is an absolute hoot. As long as one of you is Wario.
4. Star Fox 64
Also known as Lylat Wars in the PAL Region, the game is an on-rails 3D shooter and a sequel to Star Fox on the SNES. Within the box of the game, it also included the Rumble Pak, with which the game was the first to utilise this in terms of force feedback and a more immersive experience.
Still the best-selling game in the Star Fox series, the game has voice acting which for 1997 and on a cartridge rather than CD-based is unique in itself, with an added bonus of multiplayer as well and in the main game differing branches to change up the experience, it all adds replay value to the game making it one of the must-plays on the N64 Virtual Console.
3. Paper Mario
It can be argued over the course of the franchise, the quality may not be as it once was so it is good to look back and remember how the series started. The original here in Paper Mario eases Mario fans into a style of adventure never experienced before, and simultaneously catering for casual RPG gamers that you might not expect or at least – the only other game comparable would be Super Mario RPG on the SNES.
Oh but with a little bit of puzzle-solving thrown into the mix as well. With memorable characters and a whole lot of Nintendo charm, the original is up there with the best of them hence its high placing on the N64 Virtual Console list.
2. Super Mario 64
Second? SECOND? Yes indeed, Super Mario 64 which really needs no introduction aside from being the first Mario game in full 3D and arguably one of the best video games of all time, yes is second on the list due to the fact you can already play the game on Switch.
For those not in the know, Super Mario 3D All-Stars which despite being only available for a limited period of time but suspiciously can be easily picked up new even now, included Super Mario 64 (alongside Mario Galaxy and Mario Sunshine), therefore not as in-demand to play as the number one title on this list. Nevertheless, a must-play on the service. For the more technically-minded amongst you, the version in the NSO service is NOT the Shindo version that is on the 3D All-Stars collection, in case that sways your decision which version to play…
1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
For many, this would be the title that would be the primary reason to pay for the N64 Virtual Console service. Although a port of the game was released on the 3DS, the chance to play this masterpiece game in its original glory is too good an opportunity to miss. If by some chance you have never heard of Ocarina of Time, firstly where have you been since 1998? But second of all, just like Super Mario 64 changed the landscape for the franchise, so did Ocarina of Time for the Zelda franchise.
Returning back to the game after all these years may seem a bit of an experience, what with a less-than-perfect frame rate and clunky menus but don’t let that diminish what is considered one of the finest games of all time. The premise of course is to save Hyrule and the Triforce from Ganondorf which sounds simple enough however the game is an absolute classic with great gameplay, a touching story and one you’ll be glad you have played even if it is the first time you’ve played it.
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