Thursday, November 19, 2015

Crazy Videogame budgets kills good games

#5. We Put People Who Don’t Know Gaming in Charge
Not to stereotype here, but the type of person who knows how to make an awesome video game about fighting dragons with a giant chainsaw tends not to be the same type of person who is an expert in business and finance. So if you look at the CEOs and executives of game studios today, you won’t find many that actually have professional experience working as game designers. And that would be fine, except for the fact that, due to the way games are made, these guys wind up making the creative decisions. It’s similar to the problem with big movie studios, only much worse.
The result is that the gaming industry is driven by aphorisms. For example, it’s an entrenched belief that the only truly successful games are branded titles, sequels, and reboots — that’s what the reports tell them. So what I found was that there was kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy at work. I was once told point-blank by a non-gamer CEO that “there’s no market for sci-fi games” in a certain genre — at the time, fantasy games dominated that market. And who’s to say he was wrong? When has switching from fantasy to sci-fi ever worked out?
It’s not that they know nothing about games; it’s that they know just enough to be wrong. Ever go to a game forum and notice how every player thinks he’s better than the designers? That combat would be perfectly balanced if the developers would just change that +2 to a +3 for his class? Now imagine that those people are running the business, and you have a pretty good idea of what the problem is — creating a perfect game looks easy from the outside, in the same way that from the outside it seems like it’d be really easy to make a snake. And those outsiders are in charge.
So why not just have the money folks focus on the business end of game design and let the actual designers do the designing? Well, it turns out “the business end” includes deciding how many hours of content are in the game, whether you have linear progression with lots of levels, how the DLC is going to work, whether powerful items get sold in the cash shop, whether the game is a first-person gritty realistic shooter with RPG elements or an action RPG with gritty realism and lots of guns … basically, everything that matters. The people who have the most experience and actually know what they’re doing are basically just polishing the ideas that the execs come up with.
We don’t like it any more than you do. I can tell you that professional game developers are some of the most hardcore gamers you’ll find, but for the most part, they’re just not allowed to work on the kind of games that interest them (I consider myself lucky to have dodged the bullet and gotten to work on a licensed property that I deeply loved). And while a professional developer will instinctively know — and I’m just pulling stuff out of my ass here — that it’s awful to require an online connection to play a single-player game or it’s asinine to have pre-order DLC before the game’s console is even out, the execs will think those are great for the bottom line, and they make the rules.
“Historically, the best thing about SimCity games is the Internet.”
And it’s only getting worse, because …
#4. Budgets Have Gone Insane, and That’s Making Innovation Almost Impossible
Nobody feels sorry for corporations, so when you hear EA or Activision groaning about how games cost too much to make, it feels like the consumers won. “That’s right, now put it on a gold-plated disc and do a little dance while you’re handing it to us, Mr. Blizzard!” But these budgets are, unquestionably, making games worse.
Let’s say you’ve been put in charge of planning a child’s birthday party, for some reason — maybe you lost a bet or something. You’ve got one day to plan, a $50 budget, and five people to help you. Not a big deal, right? Put some balloons in the yard and hire a clown. Done. But what if that party was for a rich kid and your budget was $50 million? Do you think that makes it easier or harder? Let’s put it this way: Instead of five friends helping you, it’s 500 strangers, and all of them have different ideas about what a party should look like. How long until you see your first fistfight break out? How far into the party before you hear yourself scream, “OK, who hired the stripper?!?”
Well, in the world of game development, this change from small-scale projects to massive productions happened overnight — the average game costs freaking 30 times as much as it did in the days of the original Sony PlayStation. Back then, the average game could be made for $800,000 on the low end, but by the PlayStation 3 era, the number had ballooned to $28 million. With the new consoles, that’s going to go up again. At this point, it’d be cheaper to just create real zombies to chase people around.
In the older, simpler days (way back in the 1990s), you probably had a core team of a dozen developers and one or two vision holders who could keep the entire design in their heads. The producer had about nine months of planning until launch. Fast forward to today: Star Wars: The Old Republic cost upward of $500 million. Games require massive teams (some of them in another country) and years of development, and that’s not including the umpteen false starts during preproduction. And this change happened too fast for studios to adapt — they’ve refused to change with the times and are still operating with the same basic structure.
Not that it’s any easier on their end. Remember, it not just the development that’s changing so fast, it’s distribution as well — today, studios are competing in a market that’s permanently saturated by $3 indie games on Steam and the nostalgia-driven Time-honored marketing strategies don’t work anymore, and the industry is struggling to find a replacement. Even though it feels like prices have gone up, if you take inflation into account, right now games are the cheapest they’ve ever been. Add it all up, and most studios are one failed game away from bankruptcy.
So from the gamers’ end, it’s easy to complain that the market is saturated with first-person shooters (the new consoles are picking up that banner with Killzone: Shadow Fall, Titanfall, and Destiny, in addition to the uninterrupted stream of Call of Duty and Battlefield games), but the fact is that the market is utterly reliant on those games’ sales. The consistent success of go-to franchises like Madden NFL is probably the only thing separating the current industry from a 1983-style crash right now. It’s not that they’re playing it safe by going back to the same well again and again — they’re doing the only thing that will let them survive.
#3. Publishers Are Gaming the Review System
Raise your hand if you’ve paid $60 for a heavily promoted game that got near-perfect review scores, only to find it to be a frustrating, cookie-cutter mess that had you doing a mental inventory of all of the things you could have bought with the cash instead (“three remote control flying sharks!). Do the critics, like, get a different version or something?
This is a huge problem from the consumer end — games are a much bigger time and money investment than movies, books, or any other media, so having honest reviewers you can rely on is crucial. You’re trying to get an opinion on what might be the only game you buy for the next couple of months, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that critic scores and user scores just don’t sync up. Call of Duty: Ghosts currently has a score of 74 on Metacritic — not a fantastic score for a AAA game with that kind of budget, but check out the average user score: 2.3.*
Is that just a bunch of young gamers throwing a tantrum because they thought the game would have actual ghosts in it? Well, read the reviews — the critics’ write-ups boil down to “It’s a recycled version of the old games, but still good,” while the users’ consensus is “$60 is a lot to pay for recycled material, guys.” You can see that same divide with lots of games — Total War: Rome II had a respectable 83.5 score at launch (currently down to 76), but the user reviews? 3.9/10. Mass Effect 3 is at 89 for critics vs. 5.0 for users, the latter group being way less forgiving of an ending that rendered every previous choice in the franchise meaningless.
So why do the critic scores skew so much higher? Well, behind the scenes, studios are doing everything they can to obtain the highest Metacritic score possible at launch — some teams even get bonuses for hitting Metacritic targets. From the publication’s standpoint, those reviews exist to bring website traffic. That traffic turns into revenue from advertisements … that were purchased by the studios whose games are getting reviewed.
If you give the game an award or especially high praise, the publication could appear on that game’s box — the reviewers aren’t paid, but they get valuable exposure. Basically, the publishing companies are paying the review site’s bills by buying ads and handing out free publicity, so from the struggling writer’s perspective, it’s bad business to give bad reviews.
Journalists are invited to the studio or a rented room at a convention. They play the most polished level and/or segment of the game for a couple hours, maybe over the course of a few days. Drinks and meals are on the house. Keep in mind that they’re getting dropped into the middle of the game somewhere, because complicated gameplay that builds on lessons learned in previous levels would be extremely frustrating, whereas you want the journalists to experience fun and excitement. So we’re talking graphics, simple combat, flashy cinematics, and controlled linear environments that look really good — as long as the journalists never stray from the path, which is why there are marketing execs looking right over their shoulders and telling them where to go. And it’s amazing how intuitive level design becomes when the guy who designed the level is there to explain it.
But that disparity between user scores and critic scores is going to catch up with us, and it won’t just be the critics who get bitten in the ass. If the gamers don’t have any critics to trust, they’re going to stop buying games the day they come out. And since the industry puts so much emphasis on launch day box sales, that’s going to look an awful lot like a crash to the people in charge.
Every gamer has had the experience of seeing some amazing preview trailer for a game set to come out a year or so later, only to have the game arrive and look nothing like that preview (although some are worse than others):
Well, think about your hypothetical child’s birthday party earlier. Imagine going through that hectic process, only to find that the guest list changes about once an hour. Suddenly you have to accommodate more kids. The backyard you planned to use isn’t big enough. The one clown you hired won’t be enough to terrify all of them. So you rethink your plans, some of which means re-doing work you’ve already done. Then, an hour later, it changes again — this time it’s not just more kids, but different kids. Some of them have peanut allergies. Each little change means you have to completely re-think what you’re doing.
Well, in the world of video games, it’s the hardware that’s changing under our feet — beyond having new consoles every few years, new video cards for PCs are arriving constantly. To use each feature on a given video card, you write render code, and sometimes you’re writing render code for hardware that isn’t even out yet. Remember, it can take several years to make a game, and in that time the available hardware is going to change multiple times. You can be pretty far along in the process and still be unsure of how the graphics are going to look … in an industry where the main selling point is graphics.
So, once the coders figure out how to implement the features, the artists have to make assets, and then designers are given all of those beautiful set pieces and told to “add gameplay.” Put it all together, and 80 percent of the work on a game generally gets done in the last 20 percent of the schedule. Up until then, it’s all promises: hardware developers promising that their shit will be able to do what they say, level designers promising they’ll be able to use it, programmers promising they won’t have too much stuff to fix, and the whole time the company is releasing promotional material that they totally promise is what the final game will look like.
Right now we’re in the middle of a new console launch — these periods are the worst of all. Remember, all of the games available at launch started development long before Sony, Microsoft, or Nintendo even knew what their consoles were going to look like. It takes so long for developers to catch up and figure out the hardware that by the time the true power of a console is discovered, it’s time to start all over — an unfortunate reality that is apparently deliberate.
I’m not exaggerating when I say that, for the vast majority of studios in the game industry, working conditions are awful, and the burnout rate is pandemic. The frantic period before a game releases is called crunch time, and it’s marked by 60- to 80-hour weeks. And “crunch time” can last up to a year. No, it’s not as bad a job as that guy who has to crawl up the constipated elephant’s butt at the zoo, but it’s bad enough that it’s hurting the games. The best and brightest veterans get driven away.
It’s easy to see why. Around your late 20s and early 30s, most people are looking to settle down and start a family. This means a stable, secure job that doesn’t demand 12-hour days plus weekends, with no overtime and the looming threat of layoffs after the project ships. Producers and programmers can easily work on commercial software for banks or oil companies, and designers can easily transition into anything related to front-end user experience — and in both cases, they’ll be making way more money for way less work.
So the game industry is exporting experienced game developers while importing businessmen with no game industry experience to oversee the starry-eyed inexperienced juniors who remain. The only ones who tend to stay behind are the artists, because they’re stuck with highly specialized skills (like animating boobs), which skews the industry’s expertise in that direction.
The result of all of this isn’t that games are going away — it’s just that the industry may look very different a few years from now. That might not be a bad thing.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Free Play on Linux Wine frontend

I have found a free alternative to Crossover Linux frontend called PlayonLinux.  I installed the deb on Linux Mint 17.2 and it installed all the dependencies for me.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

the new American dream

American dream has changed. It used to be a college education, a steady job, a nice house (and a family to fill it), and a better financial picture than your parents. There is a new American Dream that is still about “doing better than your parents” but not in a financial sense. This dream is about fulfillment.

Boston-based artist, Ariel Freiberg, just got engaged, and she and her fiancĂ© are gearing up for this new dream. “We were brought up to think it’s important to own a piece of property. It’s how you build your life in this country. But buying a house is not a major goal for us. It is not what will make our lives secure and it will not help us define ourselves.”

“The idea of the American dream is taken out from under us,” explains Anya Kamenetz, blogger and author of the book Generation Debt. “There used to be a contract with employers — healthcare, pensions, predicable employment,” but today there are none of those guarantees.

Additionally, the cost of a college education is far outpacing inflation, making it more difficult to make this first steps toward the American Dream, according to Tamara Draut, author of Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-somethings Can’t Get Ahead. The average student loans come to around $20,000, which means $200 a month out of an entry-level paycheck. On top of that between 1995 and 2002 median rents in almost all major cities have increased more than 50%.

Hillary Clinton recently gave a speech about how “a lot of kids don’t know what work is” and young people “think work is a four-letter word.” These were not renegade words, but rather an expression of the prevailing attitude among her fellow baby boomers.

The boomers mistake a rejection of their American Dream as a rejection of reality. But here’s some news: Young people know that work is a reality for everyone. It’s just that everyone needs to work toward something; so young people have a new American Dream.

“The new American Dream is much more entrepreneurial,” says Kamenetz. “And it’s about shaping ones own destiny: mobility, flexibility to do your own work and the ability to have a career as an expression of who you are as a person.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you craft your own version of the new American Dream:

1. Cushion an entry-level salary with a move back home.
The first step in restructuring the American Dream is to save money to ensure flexibility. Moving back with your parents is smart if you can do it. Most jobs are in big cities, and starting salaries simply cannot pay the rent in those cities. People who are not able to get subsidized housing from parents are much more limited in terms of their early career choices.

2. Get comfortable with risk taking.
The new American Dream is for risk takers. This is actually not groundbreaking in terms of the American Dream. For immigrants, the American Dream has always meant risk-taking. But today young people are taking risks that parents would have never dreamed of, like playing contact sports without any health insurance and signing up for a mortgage with a freelance career.

3. Protect your time.
The American Dream of Baby Boomers came at the expense of personal time and family time. Success is not having more things than your parents. It’s having more time. More time for hobbies, for travel, for kids. “It’s not about how much money you have, it’s about living your life on your own terms,” says Barbara Stanny, financial coach and author of Overcoming Underearning.

4. Don’t assume personal fulfillment requires a small career.
Sure, the new American Dream has nothing to do with financial studliness. But don’t sell yourself short in the name of personal time. “Higher earners with balanced lives don’t work more hours, they are just more focused,” says Stanny. “To make more money you don’t have to work more hours. There is a difference between settling for a low income and taking a job to feed your soul.”

5. Buy as small a home as you can.
You preserve the most options for your future if you can buy a home on one income. “The advice used to be: always buy the most expensive house you can afford because it’s an investment. Today it’s different. Buy only the amount of house that you need so it doesn’t become an albatross around your neck.” says Phyllis Moen, author of Career Mystique: Cracks in the American Dream.

6. Make decisions by looking inside yourself.
Be aware of the tradeoffs you’re making. For example, big cities are exciting and filled with career opportunity, but you pay a high premium for living there.

When talking about her decision to stay in Boston, Freiberg says, “There’s a certain vibration living in the city that feeds me and my fiancĂ© — this inspiration is something that we can’t get in the suburbs.”

Choices are difficult today because the new American Dream is not as measurable as the old one. You cannot look at your bank statement or count your bedrooms to assess your success. The new American dream is about fulfillment, which is a murky, slippery goal, but young people like Freiberg know it when they feel it, and you will, too.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Early adult life is best if you are lost .

It used to be that the smart kids went to graduate school. But today, the workplace is different, and it might be that only the desperate kids go to graduate school. Today there are new rules, and new standards for success. And for most people, graduate school is the path to nowhere. Here are seven reasons why:

1. Graduate school is an extreme investment for a fluid workplace. If you are graduating from college today, you will change careers about five times over the course of your life. So going to graduate school for four years—investing maybe $80,000—is probably over-investing in one of those careers. If you stayed in one career for your whole life, the idea is more reasonable. But we don’t do that anymore, so graduate school needs to change before it is reasonable again.

2. Graduate school is no longer a ticket to play. It used to be that you couldn’t go into business without an MBA. But recently, the only reason you need an MBA is to climb a corporate ladder. And, as Paul Graham says, “corporate ladders are obsolete.” That’s because if you try to climb one, you are likely to lose your footing due to downsizing, layoffs, de-equitization, or lack of respect for your personal life. So imagine where you want to go, and notice all the people who got there already without having an MBA. Because you can do that, too, in a wide range of fields, including finance.

3. Graduate school requires you to know what will make you happy before you try it. But we are notoriously bad at knowing what will make us happy. The positive psychology movement has shown us that our brains are actually fine-tuned to trick us into thinking we know about our own happiness. And then we make mistakes. So the best route to happiness is one of trial and error. Otherwise, you could over-commit to a terrible path. For example, today most lawyers do not like being lawyers: more than 55% of members of the American Bar Association say they would not recommend getting a law degree today.

4. Graduate degrees shut doors rather than open them. You better be really certain you know what you’re going to do with that degree because you’re going to need to earn a lot of money to pay it back. Law school opens doors only to careers that pay enough to repay your loans. Likewise, your loan payments from an MBA program mean that you cannot have a scrappy start-up without starving. Medical school opens doors to careers with such bad work-life balance that the most popular specialty right now is ophthalmology because it has good hours.

5. If you don’t actually use your graduate degree, you look unemployable. Let’s say you spend years in graduate school (and maybe boatloads of money), but then you don’t work in that field. Instead, you start applying for jobs that are, at best, only tangentially related. What it looks like is that you are asking people to give you a job even though you didn’t really want to be doing that job. You wanted another job but you couldn’t get it. No employer likes to hire from the reject pile, and no employer wants to be second choice.

6. Graduate school is an extension of childhood. Thomas Benton, columnist at the Chronicle of Higher Education, says that some students are addicted to the immediate feedback and constant praise teachers give, but the work world doesn’t provide that. Also, kids know how to do what teachers assign. But they have little idea of how to create their own assignments—which is what adult life is, really. So Benton says students go back to school more for comfort than because they have a clear idea of what they want to do with their life.

7. Early adult life is best if you are lost. And I was lost my first four years of adulthood so I picked college. It used to be that you graduated from college and got on a path. The smart kids got themselves on a safe path fast. Today there are no more safe paths, there is only emerging adulthood, where you have to figure out who you are and where you fit, and the quarter-life crisis, which is a premature midlife crisis that comes when people try to skip over the being lost part of early adult life. Being lost is a great path for today’s graduates. And for most people, graduate school undermines that process with very little reward at the end.

Dan Ariely, economist at MIT, found that when people have a complicated choice to make—and there is a default choice—they pick the default nearly every time. So if your parents or friends went to graduate school, you are likely to do the same, not because it’s good for you personally, but because choosing the alternatives seem more difficult. But making exactly that kind of difficult choice is what your early adult life is all about. So don’t skip it.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Top Nintendo 64 games

     Iggy's Wrekin' Balls          
      Kicking off the list we have this odd 2.5D racing game that has you racing a variety of balls around courses of loops and ramps. The only game I can think of to compare it to is the SNES title Uniracers, except here you have a grapple hook to use instead of a focus on doing tricks. The game is a lot of frantic fun on multiplayer with four friends, but the single player experience can be a little lacking at times.
          Mace: The Dark Age          
      This is a 3D fighting game from Midway, the creators of the Mortal Kombat franchise. Mace is a weapons-based fighter which plays like a mixture of Mortal Kombat, and Soul Edge. Its a general combo-based 3D fighter with some nice graphics, competent gameplay, and crowd-pleasing finishing moves.
          NHL 99'          
      Smooth Ice Hockey game with good controls, good multiplayer, and lots of fighting. NHL 99 is based on the foundation of the earlier Playstation game NHL 98, but with the gameplay tweaked, graphics improved, and a few of the programming issues ironed out.
          Dr Mario 64          
      N64 update of the popular NES puzzle game. The aim of Dr Mario is simply to eradicate virus', you do this by placing capsules of the same colour adjacent to them. This iteration is similar to the original, but includes a bunch of new modes. The game is to play fun alone, but the new 4-player mode is the addition that most stands out.
          V-Rally 99'          
      This is actually a belated port of the Playstation's first V-Rally game, which was an arcade style rally game in the vein of Sega Rally (rather than one focused on realism). V-Rally was a fun game which offered tons of content and longevity. This port has some alterations to the courses, and some minor tweaks here and there, but overall comes off as inferior to the original in the graphics and audio department. All in all its a valid choice for fans of driving games, but the tradeoffs with the Playstation original make it somewhat a mixed bag.
          Gauntlet Legends          
      Here we have another excellent 4-player title, this time its an arcade port of a hack n' slash dungeon crawler RPG, sequel to the 80s classic, Gauntlet. Gauntlet Legends has you moving through the levels killing monsters, using spells, and leveling up. The main gameplay draw here is the teamwork, and camaraderie of bringing your friends along for the adventure, Its a fun, but brainless title. The N64 version is a good port of the original, much better than the Playstation version (which only supports 2-players), but weaker than the later Dreamcast release, which included elements from the sequel.
          Nuclear Strike          
      This is another great release in the "Strike" series of games, a series which started out during the 16-bit era with the release of the popular Desert Strike. Nuclear Strike continues the gameplay style of its predecessors, with you flying around the stages trying to complete objectives and generally just blowing stuff up, its generally just a fun action focused game. This one also has you controlling a selection of other vehicles, such as Tanks and hovercrafts to give some variety.
          F1 World Grand Prix 2          
      Definitely one of the better formula 1 games on the market at the time, F1 World Grand Prix is a polished N64 exclusive. The game looks great, handles extremely well, and does a very good job of recreating the depth and precision of the racing sport.
          Command & Conquer          
      A very late port of one of the most important real time strategy games ever made, a title which created huge waves on its original release. C & C has you mining minerals, building up your base, and creating troops to fight against the enemy, its a system pioneered in the earlier game Dune II, but tweaked, and popularised here, which went on to inspire countless other games (Warcraft, Starcraft, KKND etc). To make up for the late arrival this version's graphics have been redone in full 3D, and there's some new N64 specific missions. Unfortunately the lack of mouse control hurts the game a little (as always for console strategy games), and there's no multiplayer support, but its still a fun, in-depth, and interesting game with some decent additions.
          Indiana Jones & the Infernal Machine          
      Here's a Tomb Raider-esque action adventure game from Lucasarts. The game has you playing as Indi as he jumps and climbs his way through the levels searching for artifacts, it looks good and plays pretty well too. When originally coming to the PC, Infernal Machine was a clunky, hard to control, and buggy game, luckily however when it came to porting the game to N64 Lucasarts decided to bring in genius German game developers Factor 5 (makers of the Rogue Squadron series) for the job. Factor 5 tightened up and overhauled the controls and pretty much added a new layer of polish to everything, even including some new graphical effects! Overall a very playable Tomb Raider alternative.

The New Tetris          
      I know, Tetris is Tetris no matter what system its come for, but credit where its due the game is a puzzle classic that pretty much has to be mentioned. The New Tetris keeps the gameplay of the series intact, whilst improving the presentation and adding a few new modes of its own (one notable addition being the new, extremely fun 4-player battle mode). All in all its a great version of one of the most elegantly designed games in the history of the industry.
          NFL Quarterback Club 99'          
      American Football game from the developers of the Turok series. The Quarterback Club series focuses on realism, depth (with a lot of work put into the AI) and graphical fidelity, with the hi resolution graphics of the series very much standing out at the time. This 99' addition of the game tightened up the gameplay over earlier releases.
          Extreme G          
      Futuristic racing game where you ride bikes through rollercoaster-esque tracks picking up weapons and firing off rockets and such. Extreme G is a little rough around the edges, starting off a bit overwhelming, but it has an exhilarating illusion of speed, a lot of atmosphere, and is a rewarding experience for anyone wanting to take the time to master it. The game is obviously inspired by the popular Wipeout series, but it has a very different dystopian-inspired feel to it, and the tracks have more of a vertical, topsy-turvy bent to their design.
          Duke Nukem 64          
      This is a good port of the classic first person corridor shooter. Duke built on the formula laid down by Doom by adding a lot of interactivity and humour to the genre, whilst also being a little more ambitious with the level design. This version of the game plays very well, but unfortunately is censored (the original could be pretty raunchy at times), and was a little dated by the time it was ported to N64 (GoldenEye was already out by this stage). On the plus side though is the excellent addition of a splitscreen co-op mode, and a very respectable 4-player deathmatch feature (neither of which made it into the other console versions). Other quirks worth mentioning are some new weapons, some layout changes, and some new 3D models for some elements.
          Top Gear Rally          
      Early rally game which might not look amazing, but has fun, well rounded gameplay, well designed tracks, and good arcade style handling. For its time Top Gear Rally had a notable amount of content and options, ranging from car colour customisation, to changing weather and a variety of different modes. The creators obviously put a lot of work into this, whilst still making sure to get it out on time, its a polished racer which entertains but doesn't astound.
          Doom 64          
      This is a cool N64 exclusive Doom game. Doom 64 plays very much like earlier games in the series, you basically search for keys to open up areas whilst shooting some nasty looking monsters, but here they've also added some puzzles to the levels to make it a little more interesting. The graphics of Doom 64 are very much improved, with new, more frightening monster designs, and a lot of spooky lighting effects to keep you at the edge of your seat. At the time reviewers criticised Doom 64 for its use of "dated" 2D sprite enemies, but honestly these days without the shadow of "progress" to worry about, the thing which is most noticeable is how smooth and fast the whole thing runs in comparison to a lot of other N64 first person shooters.
          Ready 2 Rumble Boxing          
      This is a quirky, fun boxing game that doesn't take itself too seriously. The controls here are well thought out, giving you all the necessary moves, it plays fluidly, and the inclusion of super moves help to make the game stand out against other boxing titles.
          Battle Tanx: Global Assault          
      Vehicular combat game which has you driving around in tanks. Another tremendous multiplayer experience for the N64, Global Assault has fantastic control, a good variety of weapons and different tanks, and a lot of different modes to play in, including a Co-Op campaign mode to go along with the usual Deathmatch and Capture the Flag modes. The single player here is a little weak, and can get repetitive after a while, but is fun enough in short bursts, its all about the multiplayer where Battle Tanx is concerned. Note, the Playstation game is not really the same game, it has completely different maps and story, and is a much weaker game.
      This was an important early first person shooter for the N64, not only did it show up during the system's early game drought, it also showed that the console could cater to the more adult gamers out there. The game is a comic book adaptation that has you searching for artifacts and coming up against a variety of Dinosaurs. Turok is a little dated in comparison to some of the later first person shooters on N64, there's a lot of close fogging cutting down your viewing distance, and jumping sections can be tricky (make sure you get into a habit of staring down at the ground when you jump), but its big strengths are still as apparent as they were when the game arrived. Turok is a fast, smooth game. Running through the environments jumping and climbing has a great feel, its much more kinetic and lifelike than anything found in its console contemporaries. The extra work the developers did on the animation here also helped to make the world more immersive, and gave the weapons a bit more kick.
          Hybrid Heaven          
      One of the few worthwhile RPGs on the N64, Hybrid Heaven has you making your way through an alien base trying to thwart a conspiracy to take over the Earth. The game is a mixture of exploration, and the sort of simple puzzle solving you'd find in an action adventure game. The battle system here is an interesting, 360 degrees real-time affair which kind of plays like a prototype to the system in Vagrant Story. You shuffle around the areas in real time choosing different melee attacks, and defence options. Each limb actually gains experience independently. Overall its a competent RPG, the setting can be a little bland at times, but the game plays well, with a lot of unique elements, and the plot is fairly developed and entertaining.

Tom Clancy's Rainbow 6          
      Tactical strategy/shooter where you have to kit out a team of counter-terrorist operatives and then plan out and supply them with orders to complete your mission. The game is both an in-depth, realistic, stealthy action game, and complex strategy all in one, with you switching between first person shooter style action one moment, and giving orders the next. A tense and unique N64 experience.
          All Star Baseball 2000          
      Iguana Entertainment (the makers of the Turok series) really stepped up their game with the 2000 edition of their N64 Baseball series. Here Iguana tweaked the gameplay, included many more options, and improved the already impressive graphics to create an intuitive, highly polished Baseball game.
          Pokemon Puzzle League          
      Unfortunately there were never really any true Pokemon games made for the N64 (a fact made even more annoying when taking into account the RPG drought the console had). Out of the cash-in's this Pokemon themed sequel to the SNES classic Tetris Attack is by far the best, being built on the foundation of what was already a great game, just now with Pikachu's face plastered all over it. The Tetris Attack games are puzzlers where the aim is to arrange blocks into three of the same by swapping them with their neighbour, the gameplay here is as fun it ever was, and there's a bunch of new gameplay modes added here too.
          Snowboard Kids          
      Fun multiplayer orientated racer that plays like Mario Kart on ice (those wanting a serious snowborder should look to 1080 instead). Snowboard Kids has you sliding down mountains picking up colour-coded power-ups which are red (projectile weapons), or blue (various items such as shields). You can hold one of each at a time. The graphics are a little ropey, and single-player is nothing special, but the gameplay has a lot of its own nuances (most attacks can be evaded with skill for instance), and the balance and handicapping make for exciting competition, with the multiplayer mode often reaching sky high Mario Kart 64 levels of fun (in this one area I actually prefer it to Diddy Kong Racing). Definitely one to check out for party play with a bunch of good friends.
          Quake 64          
      After the huge success that was Doom, developers Id Software decided to go Medieval for their highly publicised successor, Quake. Quake is a corridor first person shooter where the aim is pretty simple, kill monsters and find keys to open doors. The game is just exciting, gory, brainless, fun. Monsters are grotesque and do their best to make you jump out of your seat in fear, and the atmosphere is thick, creepy, and feels almost Clive Barker inspired. The N64 port is good but not great, the texturing is simplified and indistinct (make sure you turn off filtering in the options), but the game is fast and smooth, and its water and sky effects were improved from the PC original.
          Duck Dodgers          
      This is an excellent 3D platformer from Paradigm, the developers of Pilotwings 64. Duck Dodgers is a very fun title that has you running through all the platform game staples in a search for Atoms. Level design is put together very well, there are a lot of very fun items to use and puzzles to solve throughout the game, and the style and humour of the original cartoons is very much recreated. So if its so great, why's it in #75? Well, there are a few elements that aren't that polished, the camera for instance can be a pain (I'd recommend putting it on manual), and the framerate can be choppy (it gets better as the game progresses though). All in all though its a great game that fans of 3D platformers should try out, and a must buy for any fans of the cartoon.
      Enjoyable, but tough first person shooter that's reminiscent of the old PC game Descent (kind of plays like Doom, but in a craft that flies instead of being on foot). When you get the hang of controlling the craft Its an engrossing game with a lot of smooth shooting action, and a good 4-player deathmatch mode. What some may not realise is this isn't strictly a port, as the N64 game actually has completely different levels to the PC original, and the Playstation port (which should be avoided).
          Top Gear Overdrive          
      This is a nice, fast, arcade style racer for the N64 with great atmosphere, a lot of style, and Grungy rock music that complements everything perfectly. The game gives you over-the-top crashes, blazing boost pick-ups, and loads of shortcuts to learn. Outside of that it looks great with the Expansion Pak, and has good 4-player support.
          International Superstar Soccer 98'          
      For me this was simply one of the best footy games of the time. ISS 98' is a fast, smooth, and responsive title with loads of moves and intuitive gameplay. The game dominated the competition until the appearance of ISS Pro Evolution on the Playstation.
          Fighter's Destiny          
      What a strange, unique 3D fighting game! This seems to have more in common with the karate games of old than it's peers of the time. There's not really a health bar here, you can win a round in one move just by completing a throw, or pulling off a special, but everything here revolves around gaining points. You need 7 points to win the match, and throwing will only give you 2 points, whilst dazing someone and then doing a finisher will give you 4 points, so all in all it balances out. Due to the nature of 1-hit-wins, matches between skilled opponents regularly turn into tense stand-offs between players each looking for an opening so they can decisively beat their opponent. The game is not for traditional fighting fans, but those looking for something different may find they appreciate it.

Yoshi's Story          
      Simple platforming sequel staring Yoshi as he navigates platforming stages searching for fruit. Yoshi's Story is a bit disappointing in comparison to its predecessor on SNES, but its still a game full of charm that contains the hallmarks of classic Mario platforming, with loads of fiendish jumps and memorable boss fights. Where the game falls down most is its longevity, its a little too easy overall, especially if you only play the preliminary levels (getting enough hearts in each stage opens up a load of optional, harder levels to play), but its still very fun while it lasts.
          Star Wars Episode 1: Racer          
      Take the futuristic racing game Wipeout and make it easier and more accessible and you get an idea of Episode 1 Racer. Ep1 goes with wide courses and low penalty for edge scraping, the game's main mechanic is a boost system whereby you have to charge (by pushing up) for a certain amount of time and then let go and accelerate, this allows you to move at higher speed until you touch an edge (or blow up from overheating!). The game starts off a little too easy, but things pick up quickly and reveal a challenging game with excellent presentation, good amounts of content, and great courses.
          Duke Nukem: Zero Hour          
      Exclusive Duke Nukem game made by ever reliable UK developer Eurocom. With this game Eurocom decided to go with a 3rd person view and an emphasis on straight-forward shooting action. The series went through the transition fairly well, with the new view allowing for some new jumping sections and a higher emphasis on taking cover and such. The game is a good length, and is packed with items and equipment to learn and use (the gas mask is especially useful). Overall one of the better Duke Nukem episodes.
          Mario Golf          
      A fun Golf game made by Camelot, a company known for their popular Hot Shots Golf series on Playstation (to be honest Mario Golf practically is a Hot Shots Golf game, just with Nintendo's famous characters in it). The game is accessible, and easy to get into, but still has the kind of depth required for a Golf game, with wind direction, and weather conditions playing an active part.
          Harvest Moon          
      This is a very addictive simulation game where you have to run a farm, make friends, get married and have children and such. The game is honestly a lot more fun than it sounds, its infused with a whole load of charm and is always giving you new things to keep you busy and thoroughly entertained.
          Rogue Squadron          
      This is the first game in the popular series of Star Wars-themed Mission-based shooters from Factor 5. The game has you piloting a variety of aircraft shooting down enemies, protecting allies, and tying up walkers. Most of the elements apparent in later games were already well established here, with the game offering a lot of fun and excitement, but I've dropped the game a few places in favour of its pseudo-sequel Battle For Naboo, which has aged a little better in my opinion.
          Space Station Silicon Valley          
      One of the more interesting puzzle games on the N64, Space Station has you playing as a computer chip which can attach itself to animals to solve puzzles and complete objectives (each animal has different abilities). Its a quirky game with a lot of charm but can be a little slow paced at times and has a somewhat flawed difficulty curve. Best suited to those who like to take their time and work their way through problems as opposed to those looking for quick action and excitement.
          Hydro Thunder          
      Watercraft racing game where you collect power-ups to fill up a boost gauge, and search for short-cuts. Hydro Thunder is a fun, attractive looking arcade port with excellent handling and controls. The game was available on most consoles of the time, with the PS1 version being slightly weaker and the Dreamcast version being better, but this was the only one with a 4-player split-screen option, and its a great example of what the N64 can accomplish when put in the right hands (ie Eurocom).
          Vigilante 8: 2nd Offence          
      Sequel to the original Vigilante 8 game (which was also on N64). This is essentially a Twisted Metal style game, with the aim being to drive a variety of vehicles around arena's dispatching your opponents. The game is a lot of brainless fun, with devastating weapons and big explosions being the order of the day, and a cool 70s vibe playing throughout. This is a good port of the game, the music isn't quite as good as the Playstation version, but the graphics and control have been tweaked and there's now some excellent 4-player split-screen support.
          Mortal Kombat 4          
      With Mortal Kombat 4 Midway attempted to bring the fighting series into the 3D era whilst also trying to take it back to its classic, mystical roots. The 3D here is more of a cosmetic addition overall, with the game mostly playing a lot like Mortal Kombat 3, but with some new dodge and weapon mechanics, as well as a more concerted attempt at character balancing for tournament play. Whilst the gameplay has more in common with the third Mortal Kombat game, the style of the first two Mortal Kombats makes a welcome return here, with the game filled with malevolent looking dungeons and arenas. Overall this has to be the best 3D fighting game on N64, its not top tier for its generation, but its still a worthy, fun play for fighting game fans.

Starcraft 64          
      Take Command and Conquer, then build on it with more options, better graphics, a higher emphasis on story, and more tactical polish, with three very different, very balanced factions to choose from and you get an idea of Starcraft. The game is a real time strategy where you have to mine minerals for cash and then use it to build up your base and army, with the ultimate goal of defeating your opponents. Starcraft was a highly respected, beloved title on the PC. This N64 port (the only console version the game received) is good, but like most RTS console ports suffers from the lack of mouse and keyboard controls, it does however include a pretty cool 2-player split screen mode, and the additional Brood War Expansion. If the game was cheaper I would wholeheartedly recommend it for all strategy fans, but unfortunately this sells for quite a bit on Ebay so to be honest its probably one for die-hard N64 fans only.
          NBA Courtside 2          
      This is a Nintendo published Basketball game that was known back at the time for its advanced computer AI and high resolution graphics. The game is fun, polished, has a lot of moves and options, and looks great. A worthy addition to any sports fan's library.
          Mario Party          
      Multiplayer focused collection of mini-games held together by a board-game styled map. The aim here is to navigate the map trying to collect stars, other stars are awarded at the end of the game for players who win the most mini-games, or fulfill other various objectives. With a bunch of friends joining in the Mario Party series is a lot of fun, and good for wasting inordinate amounts of time. The mini-games are varied and entertaining, and there are a lot of other quirks to keep the competition fierce and close. Single-player is a dire borefest so only grab the game if you think you can get multiple players together, each of the games in the series are barely any different to the last (even to this day) so pick up whichever you find that's cheapest.
          Quake II          
      Fast, action packed first person shooter sequel to the original Quake. Big guns, gore, and grotesque monsters are the order of the day here, with you blasting your way across alien worlds, bases, and space stations. Quake II on the N64 is not actually strictly a port of the PC game, like Forsaken 64 its more of a new game made by re-mixing stages of the original, so there's a lot of familiar content here but the area layouts are different (and are now distinct, separate levels), on top of that GoldenEye-style level objectives had been added in. Overall the game is admittedly a little dated, with the aiming feeling a little imprecise at times, but there's a lot of good stuff here, and the 4-player deathmatch is also of a high quality.
          Worms Armageddon          
      Turn-based strategy game where the aim is to use your team of worms to wipe out all the other teams on the map using a variety of wacky weapons. The game is on just about every system out there, and is quite rightly considered a multiplayer classic. This is a good version that's well worth picking up, but I can't really fully recommend the game to US fans unless its found cheap, as its simply not worth the ludicrous prices it sadly sells for these days.
          Top Gear Rally 2          
      This is only a sequel to the first game in name only, its actually made by a completely different company and has a very different gameplay style and atmosphere, focusing more on realistic graphics and effects, and damage & repair elements. Its an excellent sim(ish) rally racing game with good controls, a great feel, a lot of content, and some fun and fluid sliding action.
          Operation Winback          
      Operation Winback is a 3rd person shooting game similar in some respects to Syphon Filter, but with a lot of stealthy Metal Gear Solid style elements that give it more of an espionage feel (going out all guns blazing like you would in something like Syphon Filter will get you killed, fast). The game actually introduced some fundamental gameplay mechanics to the genre, such as the ability to take cover behind any object (which has become a staple of 3rd person shooters), and is somewhat un-appreciated, but its not without its flaws (mainly its difficulty curve). Still, it provides an excellent adventure, with an above average plot, lots of action, and some well-ahead-of-their-time controls.
          Mystical Ninja 64          
      An awesome 3D action adventure game starring one of Konami's fan favourite characters, Goemon. Mystical Ninja has you exploring Goemon's world, navigating its overworld, and beating its dungeons to pick up new abilities required to proceed in your quest. Its the sort of thing you expect from a 3D action adventure game really, except with tons of surreal, wacky humour (the main antagonist's evil plan is to turn everyone in Japan into dancers!), and the odd stage here and there where you jump into a huge mech (which has its own introductory song!). The gameplay here has a lot of focus on platforming and melee combat, so its a little more action oriented than, say, the Zelda games. Overall its a totally mad, fun, and accessible adventure outing, and those who love wacky nonsensical Japanese humour should definitely check the game out.
      This is a very nice arcade style racer with a well judged difficulty curve, and nice colourful environments with jaw-dropping visuals filled with lots of detail and small touches. The game gives you good, arcade style control, memorable courses, and other features such as differing weather conditions, pit stops, and tuning options. Its generally a sunny, lightweight, enjoyable game which looks great and is fun to play. This is by far the best version of the game out there, even the Dreamcast version managed to be inferior! with many bugs, graphical tradeoffs, and a general unfinished feeling bringing that particular version down a lot.
          Turok: Rage Wars          
      Rage Wars is basically a mixture of Turok 2 and the then popular arena based fps games of the time such as Quake 3 and Unreal Tournament. There's no real story mode involved here, the game is completely focused on deathmatch play whether its being experienced in singleplayer or multi, with the aim simply being to navigate the maps killing everything in sight. There are a lot of advantages to doing it this way, the main of which is the fact that the framerate and graphics here are polished to perfection on multiplayer mode, and that the developers were given the time to focus on crafting interesting levels filled with places to hide and take people by surprise. Outside of the two main modes there are some co-op options, and a nice variety of extra game types. As a multiplayer FPS this is easily the main competition for Rareware's incredible releases on the N64, with Rage Wars admirably managing to hold its own.

Rakuga Kids          
      One of the genre's the N64 struggled with was fighting games, luckily Konami's Rakuga Kids (unreleased in the US) just about fills the classic 2D fighter void. Rakuga Kids essentially plays like a Konami version of Capcom's X-men: Children of the Atom arcade game. The game has all the usual Street Fighter II quarter turn and combos', but with newer gameplay mechanics like high jumps and aerial raves bringing it more into line with its contemporaries. Its not quite up to the standards of Capcom's classic offerings but it has a few of its own gameplay mechanics that mix things up a little (such as the super moves being split into offense, defense, or combo's), and the game actually has an awful lot of charm too. I would recommend the game be played at 60hz (the PAL version doesn't seem to be optimised) as it plays a little too slow otherwise.
          Micro Machines 64          
      Updated 2.5D version of the Mega Drive classic that had you racing miniature cars through huge real world environments (such as breakfast, or Snooker tables, garden paths etc). This is actually a port of the Playstation game Micro Machines V3, which included huge numbers of tracks and a variety of different vehicles (including tanks and such), and updated the graphics to polygons. As a port this is a good one, they added a number of turbo settings to make the game faster, and a couple of extra modes, whilst there are very few noticeable tradeoffs.
      This is a very cool, and innovative (though a little rough around the edges) puzzle game that successfully brings back the ball rolling mechanics from the classic Marble Madness and combines it with 5th generation 3D platformer sensibilities. In the game you play as a glove that can walk around, jump, and ground pound, but also attach to, and manipulate a rubber ball which needs to be taken to the end of the stage through rolling, throwing, and bouncing. Its a smart game, and in many ways looks as though it influenced some of Sega's later games, such as Billy Hatcher, and Super Monkey Ball, causing a sort of short-lived renaissance of new Marble Madness descendents. Avoid the Playstation version, its an rushed port with inferior graphics, a lower framerate, simplified levels, and a slightly more frustrating camera.
          Puyo Puyo Sun 64          
      Always one of the better Tetris style games to come out, the Puyo Puyo series featured an excellent core system which ended up working very well for combo-ing and competitive play. The game has you matching coloured blobs to remove them from the field before they build up and kill you, if you set the blobs up to create chain reactions as they're removed you can send them to your opponent as garbage to get in their way. Puyo Puyo plays as well as any other game in the series, and features updated graphics and sound as its pros
          San Francisco Rush 2049          
      With the third game in the San Francisco series Atari eschewed any kind of pretence of realism and went straight for over the top futuristic action. This was a masterstroke and this change, coupled with a general honing of the gameplay provided a game that was a huge improvement over its predecessors. The racer has a big focus on elaborate short-cuts, and over-the-top crashes, expect loads of close calls and cork-screws through the air as you careen through the imaginative futuristic city courses.
          Goemon's Great Adventure          
      The second Goemon game on the N64 went back to the classic 2D formula of the earlier SNES games (except now with a new 2.5D look), and actually stands as one of the best of these action-packed Goemon games ever released. The game is a fast action-adventure title that has you slashing and jumping through fiendish stages avoiding hazards and dispatching the multitude of enemies blocking your way. The classic 2D action is well done, and challenging, there's a 2-player co-op feature (and a hidden 4-player one), and the music is catchy and memorable.
      Ingenious puzzle game from the Pickford brothers, whom some may remember for the SNES game Plok, or their earlier ZX Spectrum titles (Feud, Zub etc). The game has you building up a land mass in order to hold water, if the water leaks over the sides a meter builds up and you die when its full. It sounds simple, but as you progress more and more depth shows through as new elements show up which need to be carefully balanced, such as ice, and keeping the land mass' height low so as to avoid earthquakes (there are also a whole range of ways to multiply your points which I wont go into here). At first the game is a little unwieldy, but once you've gotten used to placing the pieces it becomes a very, very addictive, fun, and frenetic game.
          Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness          
      With their first Castlevania game on N64 Konami had to make quite a few concessions to get it released on time, so whilst good it was still far from what they'd originally conceived, with some unpolished controls and camera implementation bringing it down a bit. Legacy of Darkness for all intents and purposes is a special edition of that first game, with improvements to the graphics, revisions to some of the levels, tightened camera and controls, and two entirely new character campaigns added to the two original ones. Overall this comes much closer to Konami's original goal, bringing Castlevania into a full 3D action adventure set-up of puzzles, combat, platforming, and memorable set-pieces. Writers of the time criticised Konami for rehashing the game at full price, saying this should've been the original release in the first place (a fair enough criticism), but these days it simply stands as the more complete version of the game for those who don't already own the good, but flawed original.
          WWF No Mercy          
      Aki did a great job transferring the sport of wrestling to gaming form here, creating an excellent, and fun fighting engine, and including a lot of cool features such as the ability to create your own wrestler (improved for this installment) and 4-player modes. Outside of the gameplay, the graphics here are very good, all in all they've done a great job of recreating the look and feel of the show. Even today No Mercy is still often touted as being one of the greatest Wrestling games ever created, and for good reason.
          Star Wars: Battle for Naboo          
      This plays like a pseudo-sequel to Factor 5's earlier game, Rogue Squadron, except this time using the prequel licence (making it a branch off of sorts I guess). Battle For Naboo, like its predecessor has you piloting a variety of craft trying to fulfill specific mission objectives whilst shooting down enemy vehicles along the way. The main change here is that unlike Rogue Squadron, which was primarily about flying dogfights, Battle for Naboo adds in a lot of new ground based missions. The graphics and sound here are phenomenal, and not only improve on the earlier game, but actually stand as some of the most impressive on N64, with an excellent draw distance, level of detail, and near CD quality music! Where the gameplay is concerned I'd say this is also a little more polished over Rogue Squadron, it feels easier to get into and less frustrating.

Donkey Kong 64          
      Praised at the time for its huge scope and technical prowess DK64 tends to garner a little more of a mixed reaction these days. Donkey Kong 64 is a work of pure excess, the idea that more is always better. The game includes many times the number of items to find than Mario 64 and Banjo Kazooie, pretty much everything that can be collected, has to be. Some say the game is simply too big, personally I think the problem is more one of pacing, there's just not enough levels here to fit all this stuff into, you end up getting bogged down searching the same levels over and over instead of moving forwards and seeing new things to keep you interested. On the other side though, there is a lot to like here, many of the challenges are as fun as you'd expect from Rare, the environments are cool and well designed, and its certainly technically excellent too (in fact DK64s greatest strength over its siblings Conker, and Banjo Tooie remains is graphics and smooth framerate). Overall its long and bloated, but for those who love these kinds of games and just have to collect every last thing this will probably be mana from heaven.
          Bust a Move 99/Puzzle Bobble 3          
      This is a revamped version of the 3rd Bust-A-Move game. The game is a puzzle classic which has you shooting coloured bubbles at clumps of same coloured bubbles to burst them and hopefully clear the screen. The gameplay here is as great as it was in earlier iterations of the series, with the added extra here of an excellent 4-player battle mode (which is a rare feature for the series). Overall its a very polished, and well-ported version of what was a classic arcade game.
          World Driver Championship          
      Whilst the N64 library is packed with many of the best racing games of its time, realism in the genre is not really the system's strong point. World Driver Championship is the main challenger representing this side of the genre, luckily its a good game, and manages to be one of the most graphically impressive titles of its generation. The game starts off a little slow, with some of the early cars not having the best handling, but give it some time and everything starts to fall into place revealing a very playable, challenging, in-depth, and enjoyable racing experience to get stuck into.
      Treasure ended up making a total of three games in for the N64 and as can be expected of a company with such pedigree, all of then ended up pretty much being stone cold classics. Bangai-O is a very unique, frantic, and generally over-the-top shmup that has you piloting a hovering mech through a bunch of different stages shooting anything that moves. The game controls well, with you being able to fire in any direction and move independently, and it never stops being exciting and totally engrossing.
          Wipeout 64          
      It was a long time coming, but when the popular futuristic racing series did eventually make it to the N64 it was worth the wait. Wipeout 64 may not have been the greatest Wipeout of its generation, but its definitely the most under-appreciated one. Whilst rarely mentioned, this is actually very competitive with the Playstation classics, containing all of their rewarding gameplay, and stylish art design. Wipeout 64 is essentially a re-jigged amalgamation of the first Wipeout game, and Wipeout 2098, containing altered courses from both games that have been changed to emphasise speed, and have new environment artwork. The re jigged stages look fantastic, and very different to the originals, new analogue controls give you a glorious feeling of precision in movement, there's an excellent new challenge mode (great addition), and this is also the only game in the series to feature a 4-player split-screen mode.
          The World is Not Enough          
      GoldenEye was a hard game to follow, but it has to be said that Eurocom actually did a pretty good job here as TWINE is certainly one of the more criminally overlooked first person shooters of its generation (note that this game is an N64 exclusive, the PS1 game is completely different, and inferior). The game closely follows the gameplay mechanics of GoldenEye, giving you a load of mission based stages requiring shooting skills, stealth, and general espionage inspired gameplay gimmicks. In my opinion the single player experience of TWINE has actually dated much better than many other fps titles on N64, mainly due to Eurocom's focus on getting the game running smoothly with a good framerate and clean, detailed graphics. Levels tend to be more consistent here than in GoldenEye, but obviously its all very derivative, and the multiplayer is unfortunately inferior. Ironically many years later Eurocom actually went on to make the remake of GoldenEye on the Wii. Fans of Rare, and Free Radical's fps titles should definitely check this out.
          Beetle Adventure Racing          
      Easily one of the best arcade style racers on the N64, Beetle Adventure Racing focuses on uncomplicated fun, and colourful, imaginative courses filled with secrets to discover. The game is infused with a quirky, non-serious vibe, with you racing through courses populated with things like Dinosaurs & UFO's, and careening off ski jumps. There's a lot of content here to keep racing fans busy (including a 4-player battle mode), and due to its offbeat nature its actually aged quite well.
          Jet Force Gemini          
      Another memorable game from Rare, Jet Force Gemini is a 3rd person shooter reminiscent of games like MDK and Body Harvest, except with Rare's usual humour and cartoon styling apparent in spades. The game is mainly focused on gung-ho action, with you amassing loads of fun, overpowered weaponry to deal death and destruction to your enemies, but there's also ample adventuring elements, and other secondary mission objectives to keep you involved along the way.
          Pilot Wings          
      Pilotwings was a beautifully realised N64 launch title which has you flying different aircrafts (including Auto-Gyro's, hand-glider's, and jet packs) around islands fulfilling a range of mission objectives. This sequel to the SNES original was made by Paradigm, who had previously been a company specialising in designing commercial flight sims for the US department of defence (amongst others). Nintendo contracted them to develop the game, and they subsequently shifted their projects towards gaming, going on to develop some other interesting, and underrated titles, such as the aforementioned Beetle Adventure Racing, and Duck Dodgers. I'd say Pilotwings remains their greatest release though, a very singular, unique, and carefree experience.
          Mario Tennis          
      The best of Mario's sports outings, Mario Tennis has you playing some very fun, arcade focused Tennis with famous characters from the Mario franchise. The game has all the required elements you'd expect from a good Tennis game, with good controls, a variety of different shots, and multiple court types. It also has some Mario themed game modes which are a lot of fun, such as one which has you using items a la Mario Kart. All in all a very admirable, and fun Mario outing which is great to play both alone and with friends.

Mischief Makers          
      Treasure make another appearance here, this time to deliver what has to be the systems best 2D platformer. Mischief Makers is a unique, and interesting game that's full of ideas, humour, and some of the most memorable boss battles ever conceived. The game focuses on the mechanic of manipulating objects by shaking, throwing, and pulling, this, added to the sheer variety of levels really makes the title a breath of fresh air for the genre. All in all just the sort of fun you'd expect from Treasure.
          Rocket: Robot on Wheels          
      Here's another objective based 3D platformer a la Mario 64, this time from newly formed developer Sucker Punch (who went on to make the excellent Sly Cooper games). Unlike some of the other pretenders to the throne, the developers here really tried to think outside the box, creating a game filled to the brim with puzzles that are clever, and innovative, and a general design that is smart and imaginative. Definitely one of the lessor known "must plays" of the N64, Rocket even manages to give Banjo, and Mario a run for their money.
          Shadow Man          
      This is an excellent action adventure game throwing you into a fully formed world of grim horror, violence, and intrigue (think of the Ocarina of Time with blood, gore, chains, and axe wielding maniacs!). Like most action adventure games this is non-linear, with your character having to explore hell (the literal one) collecting lost souls to increase his health and open up areas, as well as accumulating new moves along the way. The game is fairly tough, with little hand-holding along the way (make sure you get a copy with a map), but its a well crafted game for those who like to fully explore, and get completely immersed in their games. A word of caution, avoid the horribly rushed Playstation port, its a bit of a mess unfortunately (the Dreamcast version on the other hand is excellent).
      I don't think anyone really expected this licence game to turn out quite as good as it did, but the great platforming action (that included all of Spider-man's signature moves), and inclusion of cool stealth elements, all held together with high quality programming created a real winner in the sea of licensed dross (Superman 64 anyone?). The porters did a very good job here, with the graphics maybe looking a little better than in the PS1 version, and the only real omission being the lack of FMV (but to be totally honest that actually kind of sucked on the PS1 anyway).
          Body Harvest          
      One of the most ambitious games of its generation, Body Harvest was DMA's (the company who would go on to be Rockstar North) first foray into the 3D open world sandbox genre, and was the spiritual precursor to the famous Grand Theft Auto III. Body Harvest had a very tumultuous release. It was originally planned as a launch title, but the original publisher, Nintendo kept sending it back on the grounds of it being too violent. Eventually Nintendo dropped it entirely and DMA had to search for a new publisher, the game ended up getting released two years late! Body Harvest, at its heart is a 3rd person shoot-em-up that has you trying to stop an alien "harvest" of the human race, you go back and forth through time shooting the bug-like aliens and trying to shut down their human-mulching operations. The thing that makes it so original is the sheer freedom of choice involved, you get to explore the huge levels however you feel, procuring a multitude of cars, tanks, boats, and even aeroplanes to fulfil your objective. Outside of that though, the game is full of good puzzles, fun weapons to use, and whilst not that graphically great, has a lot of atmosphere, with a sinister, sometimes melancholy feel to it. Body Harvest takes time to get going, and is quite a tough game due to some very spread-out save points, as such its probably a game for adept players who want something challenging, casual players may find it frustrating.
          Turok 2          
      Another stand-out first person shooter for the N64, Iguana Entertainment (the spiritual predecessor to Nintendo's Retro Studios) made a lot of changes to this sequel from their earlier hit, with numerous changes to both gameplay, and general theme. Turok 2 was packed with big, non-linear levels to explore, some of the coolest weapons ever to grace an FPS, memorable set-pieces (such as riding on the back of an armoured Triceratops), impressive graphics, and loads of over-the-top gore. The game is slow to start, and has a high difficulty level, but perseverance pays off and reveals a meaty adventure with lots of serious FPS action. Turok 2 is a little dated by today's standards, with an unreliable framerate often causing problems (stick to Letterbox Mode), but even now it remains a unique and worthwhile gameplay experience on N64.
          Excite Bike 64          
      Coming very late in the N64s lifespan, Excite Bike shot out of nowhere and managed to be one of the finest dirt bike racing games of its time. The game carries on Nintendo's high pedigree of polished, in depth terrain- focused racers, competing very favourably with the likes of Wave Race and 1080. Like those two classics Excite Bike contains an excellent physics model, and intuitive controls that leave a lot of room for mastery, and finesse. Its a shame so few people got to play the game as sadly most had moved on to newer consoles by the time it was released.
          Ogre Battle 64          
      Unfortunately, unlike it predecessor the SNES, the N64 always struggled to provide RPG fans with enough games to play. Happily, when Ogre Battle 64 arrived it didn't disappoint the genre starved N64 fans, and the game serves as the system's primary serious RPG. Ogre Battle's gameplay is focused on tactics, it gives you large numbers of units and classes each with a variety of uses and strengths, and the main crux of the gameplay is in growing and managing these units into an effective army through careful formation positioning, general experience accumulation, and purchasing weaponry and armour. The game has a lot of content, is very long, and has an in-depth plot which branches off to provide multiple different endings.
          Tony Hawk's Skateboarding 2          
      This is a good port of the Playstation classic. The Tony Hawks games essentially have you placed in an environment with a set of objectives, such as reaching certain points thresholds by doing tricks, or collecting certain objects etc. The games are very rewarding to practice and learn, with tons of moves and opportunity for flair. This port is well done, the sound quality is slightly lower than the PS1 game, but the graphics are smoother, and there's a new additional area.
          Mario Kart 64          
      The Mario Kart series has to be one of the premier multiplayer game experiences ever devised, and the N64 iteration happens to be my favourite of them all. For anyone who's not familiar with the series, players race around courses vying for first place whilst picking up a variety of weapons to mess with their opponents. Mario Kart 64 has some of the most memorable courses of the series, with a well balanced selection of choices available, ranging from simpler courses such as Luigi's Raceway, all the way up to tricky ones like Banshee's Boardwalk, or the hectic mirror mode of Toad's Turnpike, there's even some out and out odd ones like the anonymous, multi-pathed Yoshi's Valley to add variety. MK64 also doesn't baby the player as much as subsequent releases, with each course promoting a plethora of tactical thinking, as well as many containing decisive shortcuts. It was a hard decision for me to leave this out of the top 20, but in the end I just can't overlook the poor single-player mode, which feels like an afterthought to the (admittedly) amazing, and timeless 4-player experience.

Ridge Racer 64          
      I'd have to say this is the system's best arcade style racer. Ridge Racer 64 isn't really a true port of any of the earlier games, Nintendo's NST division (also responsible for the later GameCube racers 1080 Avalanche and Wave Race: Blue Storm) pretty much created this game from the ground up themselves, merely taking the course layouts from Ridge Racer, and Ridge Racer Revolution. Ridge Racer 64 plays in a very different manner to those games, feeling a little more over-the-top and bombastic, with much more ludicrous (and fun) drift mechanics, and a more clean, almost bordering on cartoony art style, it sometimes feels like the love child of Ridge Racer and Sega's Daytona. On top of the old courses you get an excellent brand new area (Desert) with three more exclusive courses. In the battle of the Ridge Racers I'd have to say that the PS1s Type 4 is the better game, but honestly this is such a different experience that there's no reason to choose one over the other, Type 4 was focused on unlockables and content, whilst this is a more challenging game which aims at a more traditional difficulty curve.
          Blast Corps          
      What a genius concept for a puzzle game! a truck containing nuclear missiles is out of control and you have to clear a path for it using an assortment of vehicles (including giant robots) before it crashes. This game really manages to build up the tense action, and stands as one of the more original titles in the N64's library.
          1080 Snowboarding          
      1080 was one of the most important, if not the most important snowboarding game of the so called 5th generation. Most of the other snowboarding games of this period were very lightweight on physics, 1080 on the other hand went to town on making sure that the physics, handling, and general feel of the board were just right, really trying to recreate the feeling of traveling over different types of snow. Its a rewarding game that requires a lot of careful precision, having much more of a sim-ish feel than its later GameCube sequel.
          Resident Evil 2          
      Before this arrived I don't think anyone would've believed such an accurate port of Resident Evil 2 could be possible. The game was very much designed around the strengths of the PS1 and CD format, so fitting all that data onto a cartridge had to be a real feat of design. Resident Evil 2 was one of the premier survival horror games of its generation, it has you making your way though a city shooting at zombies and solving puzzles, making sure to conserve ammo and health along the way. The N64 port handles itself very well, the fmv quality is lower here than in the PS1 version, but some of the areas have had a resolution increase (expansion pak required), and the game now has surround sound, overall its around par with the PS1 version but with tradeoffs.
          Rayman 2          
      It's all well and good jumping around solving puzzles and collecting stars and such but sometimes you just want an uncomplicated, enjoyable platform romp, and that's exactly what Rayman 2 delivers. The game is just full to the brim with classic, straightforward 3D jumping action, and the new gameplay mechanics (such as the awesome grappling hook) really add to the experience and help to make sure you're never less than fully engrossed. This N64 version was one of the original releases (this and the PC version came out first), it holds up very well (much better than the PS1), and pushes the hardware, but the later Dreamcast version was admittedly a little better.
          Star Fox 64          
      This is an inspired update of the SNES classic. Star Fox is a rail shooter that has you piloting a variety of vehicles, from spaceships, to tanks and submarines along a set path blowing up everything that stands in your way. The game plays beautifully, with inspired, memorable boss battles, and level designs that never become repetitive. Replayability is also high due to the inclusion of an addictive combo-based medal system whereby you can acquire medals by hitting certain points thresholds for each level (points go up if you blow up multiple enemies with each shot), as reward for hitting these targets you unlock extra modes, such as the fun (but lightweight) 4-player battle mode included with the game.
          Banjo Kazooie          
      With Banjo Kazooie Rare took what was laid down in Mario 64 and built on that foundation, adding an interesting 2-in-1 character design (later used in the Ratchet and Clank series), more focus on proper characterisation, with Banjo and Kazooie really having personalities of their own, and a presentation that was well beyond that of that launch title classic. So why is it lower? the decisive factor for me is the lack of clues in BK, its a small point but I find you tend to get stuck a little more often here than in in Mario 64.
          F-Zero X          
      Whilst not looking like the most attractive of racers for its time, what F-Zero X lacks in the graphics department it more than makes up for in the adrenaline fueled white-knuckle speed department, and the lack of graphical detail helps to keep that speed running at a super smooth framerate. Track designs here are inspired, with loads of tubes and corkscrews to race on, and through, the music is great, and there's loads of content and modes to keep racing fans happy. Another first class racer from Nintendo.
      Everybody knows about GoldenEye, probably the N64's biggest killer app of the time (the game was just so far ahead of every other console FPS out there that it ruled the roost for years!). This milestone release amazed gamers with it's stealthy gameplay and multitude of different weapons and features, not to mention the massive amount of replayability it had in the form of an addictive 4-player splitscreen deathmatch mode (a feature that had been previously nonexistent). These days however I find the game a little bit dated due to a few weak level designs, and some dodgy enemy AI, and its also my belief that its unofficial sequel, Perfect Dark, had a lot of major improvements made to what was pioneered here, I've dropped it a few places due to these reasons.
          Wave Race          
      Here's yet another racing classic for N64, cementing just how strong the system was for that particular genre. Wave Race was a truly amazing game when originally released, in no small part due to the undeniably brilliant (for the time) water effects, which added a new depth to the control and feel of the game, but also due to some extremely well-judged gameplay, and an enduring sunny, summer vibe that shines through. Definitely one of my personal favourites in the racing genre.

Super Smash Bros          
      I'm going to say it, Smash Bros was probably the most important fighting game to appear since Street Fighter 2. Coming completely out of the blue with a totally unique, amazingly fun and well judged battle system (kinda' based on sumo of all things), Nintendo crafted the supreme 4-player fighting game experience. Smash Bros has you choosing from a variety of Nintendo stalwarts, ranging from Mario and Donkey Kong, to Link and Samus, you bounce around the brilliant arenas fighting, wearing each opponent down until you can deliver a coup de grace knocking them out of bounds. The start of what has to be one of the greatest multiplayer gaming series' ever created, N64 didn't have many good fighters, but at least here it had one of the best.
          Diddy Kong Racing          
      With DKR Rare looked at Super Mario Kart, and Mario Kart 64 and went to town on trying to create a better game. Here we have a very different 1-player experience to the afterthought that was seen in MK64, there's more tracks, an overworld hub to explore, a variety of challenges, and even true boss fights against a bunch of memorable opponents. On top of the Kart racing Rare even added two other vehicles to use which really add to the game's variety, a plane to fly around in, and a hovercraft for water stages. Just as soon as you think you've got a handle on the game it throws you into Wave Race style courses with their own water physics! Honestly its almost like you get three different games in one here, and that's not even taking into account the variety of other multiplayer modes on offer. As mentioned earlier where it comes to multiplayer shenanigans MK64 definitely has this beaten, but in the single-player Kart racing stakes this is pretty much unbeatable.
          Banjo Tooie          
      This sequel to the beloved Banjo Kazooie built upon the foundation of the excellent original game by putting much more focus on well written dialogue and creating a more interesting plot, resulting in a humourous, and more engrossing overall experience. Tooie is packed with many more ideas and puzzles than the original, there are some excellent new boss fights, and a more ambitious, fully formed attempt at an overworld. Thankfully it doesn't get bogged down like Rare's other release from the same period, Donkey Kong 64, its just much pacier and better retains a sense of wonder throughout.
          Majora's Mask          
      Much darker and more downbeat than it's N64 sibling, Majora's Mask managed to squeeze even more out of the 64' with even better graphics this time around (with what is, in my opinion far superior art design), and also added in many cool new ideas of its own. Majora's Mask's gameplay revolves around a three day system. Time moves forward as you play and at the end of the third day the world ends, forcing you to return to the first day again (hopefully having achieved something concrete that will aid you in your quest), many puzzles also require you to do certain things on certain days, which adds to the complexity. In regards to atmosphere, and plot, this game is second to none, the game doesn't have as many dungeons as Ocarina, but the side quests are fun, and memorable, and the whole world, and the people living in it are very fleshed out. You really feel as though you're watching the final days of peoples lives play out before the end. Why is the game lower than Ocarina? personally, for me, in straight comparison this is the better game, but I can't overlook the fact that this blatantly re-uses a helluva lot from Ocarina, and Ocarina was the big originator, so for that reason I've put this lower, just by a hair's breadth.
          Paper Mario          
      Paper Mario takes pride and place as the best RPG on the N64. Though the N64 isn't really known for its RPGs, Paper Mario is a very high quality one, the battle system looks fairly simple on the outside, and is very easy for beginners to pick up, but its a lot of fun and there's a bunch of tactics for older gamers to discover here. The battle system is based on using the most effective moves, and timing your button presses to make attacks and defense more effective, badges can also be discovered and equipped which give a variety of different abilities and effects. The graphics are bright, and jolly, the story is fun, and unlike a lot of traditional RPGs you get to do loads of puzzles throughout the dungeons to keep your brain on its toes (think Zelda), this factor, as well as the lack of random encounters make the game very easy to pick up and play, making it a title that should definitely be checked out by both RPG fans, and non-fans alike.
          Perfect Dark          
      Rare built on their earlier FPS classic GoldenEye in virtually every respect here, and then threw in more options and extras than anyone could've ever imagined. Not only was the whole campaign mode that little bit more consistently brilliant, with well balanced, graphically superior stages containing tons of stealth and action, but the whole thing could now be played in co-op (make sure the screen's split vertically) and counter-op as well, and added to that was a co-op mission mode that was nearly another complete game on its own. On the multiplayer front there were tons of different modes, new levels, guns (as well as many of the old classics from GoldenEye making a welcome return) and AI bots to play with. The new Sci-Fi theme allowed for much more imagination, and resulted in guns and environments that were much more memorable and unique. Outside of that Rare threw it loads of stat counters, and extra game options as a bonus. Simply phenomenal.
          Sin and Punishment          
      Sin and Punishment has you controlling two rebel heroes as they plough through reams of monsters and soldiers. The game is a rail shooter, so you move along a set path, only really needing to focus on bullet dodging and aiming. Here you also get a close quarters melee attack, and can rebound powerful enemy shots to do more damage. The title is among the best action games of its generation, with excellent controls, a great, over-the-top plot, and some of the most memorable set-pieces ever to grace a game. The audio here is first rate, with brilliant voice acting (which is all in English I might add), and very high quality music. All these elements add up to make Sin and Punishment one of the best rail shooters ever created. Treasure at their very best.
          Super Mario 64          
      Who out there can say they weren't astounded when they first saw this game in action? Mario 64 brought new levels of control and immersion to the 3D platformer, here you were free to explore the fully realised world, you could creep, jog, or run through the stages (due to the well implemented analogue controls), and had at your disposal a myriad of different jumps and maneuvers crafted to fit every occasion. Levels here were well designed, fun to explore and see, and were filled with variety and ideas (Who can forget the first time they took to the skies with the flying cap?). Easily one of the most influential games ever made.
          Ocarina of Time          
      After Mario 64 set the bar for what you could do with a 3D environment, Ocarina managed to raise the bar even higher, bringing a much more cohesive experience. Gone were the thinly veiled teleporters of Peach's Castle, to be replaced with a full 3D overworld littered with dungeons and villages to explore. I'm not quite as enamoured with this game as many people are (I find some of the art design and plot to be lacking), but it can't be argued that Ocarina has some of the most carefully designed, and polished gameplay of its time. Each dungeon has been honed to perfection, and they all manage to be both consistently clever, and intuitive. The game's fighting system (whereby you can target enemies and maneuver around them) is elegant, and well thought out, allowing for dynamic and exciting battles. Overall Ocarina more than deserves its reputation as one of the best releases of its generation. In regards to later ports, the original gold cartridge N64 version is the only one that is uncensored, all subsequent releases had the red blood removed, as well as the Islamic chanting which took place in the Fire Temple stage.
          Conker's Bad Fur Day          
      A huge, enjoyable romp through pastiches of everyone's favourite movies, Conker's is my clear choice for best game on the N64. This game brought everything Rare had learnt about making platformers together to create a big, highly ambitious game filled with variety and fun. There's a memorable plot (which might not have been the most cohesive, but managed to be totally engrossing and consistently funny), some of the best graphics to be seen on the system, and a mass of excellent multiplayer modes thrown in for good measure. On a technical level Conker leaves most other N64 games in the dust, including voice acting with lip synching, amazing levels of textures (which was one of the 64's biggest technical limitations) and dynamic shadowing. Even now I struggle to think of any game out there quite like it.