By the end of this month, the Nintendo Switch Online service will be broadened via the Expansion Pack. At a higher price point, Switch owners will have access to not only the current online perks but the addition of Sega Genesis and Nintendo 64 games. Earlier this month, on Last Word on Gaming, I touched upon a few Genesis games that subscribers should try at launch. The Switch Online N64 games to come are arguably more interesting, mainly because they haven’t been re-released as frequently as Sega’s 16-bit offerings.
With that said, it’d be difficult to say that the Nintendo 64 has aged as well as the Sega Genesis. Despite housing some of the most memorable games in history, the N64 helped to usher in true 3D gaming, which brought a few rough edges into the fold. Nonetheless, based on the announced Switch Online N64 games at launch, it’s evident that there were mostly winners selected. Having said all this, if you’re new to Nintendo’s first foray into 3 dimensions, here are the N64 titles to try once the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack releases later this month.
Switch Online N64 Games – What to Try
Super Mario 64
When discussing the launch lineup of Switch Online N64 games, it’s worth starting with a game most closely associated with it. Super Mario 64 was released in line with the Nintendo 64 in 1996, bringing the iconic mustachioed plumber into the third dimension. It’s important to note that this game was made available for the Nintendo Switch already, via Super Mario 3D All-Stars released last year. However, if you missed the aforementioned release or have yet to dabble in the Nintendo 64, now’s as good of a time as any.
Super Mario 64 was very much a trendsetter when it hit store shelves, establishing a blueprint of sorts for future 3D platformers to follow. Its use of a hub world – Princess Peach’s castle, in this case – and a free camera are just a few elements that other titles in this genre have gone on to implement. Super Mario 64 may be primitive compared to contemporary platformers, but it remains a legendary experience that rewards replayability.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Speaking of “legendary,” it’s time to move onto what has been called one of the greatest games of all time – The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Much like how Super Mario 64 brought Mario into 3D, Ocarina of Time took what made the Zelda series special and seamlessly woven in an additional dimension. Originally released in 1998, Ocarina of Time featured dungeons that felt bigger and more exciting, a story with unforgettable characters, and a world that, while desolate in certain areas, is primed for exploration.
There isn’t much that can be said about The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time that hasn’t been talked about, at length, already. It brought its own innovations to the action-adventure genre, including the ability to target specific enemies during combat. This made battles feel snappier and after a few hours with Ocarina of Time, it’s difficult to readjust to action-adventure titles that lack this feature. Throw in a memorable soundtrack, composed by Koji Kondo, and Ocarina of Time is an experience that’s all the more – pardon the pun – legendary.
Star Fox 64
Released in 1997, Star Fox 64 is considered, by many, to be the best entry in the Star Fox franchise. This rail shooting title focuses on the Star Fox team, tasked with battling the nefarious Andross and his merciless forces. The original Star Fox, released for the Super Nintendo, was incredibly ambitious for its time, utilizing 3D polygonal graphics. Star Fox 64 took this premise to the next level, utilizing the Nintendo 64’s superior power and creating a thrilling adventure that’s talked about to this day.
Admittedly, Star Fox 64 doesn’t boast a lengthy single playthrough. To go from Corneria to the end credits can take anywhere from an hour and a half to 2 hours, but the magic of this title lies in its replayability. By taking different routes, players will see new levels and learn how their choices impact the rest of the game. Furthermore, from the airborne Arwing to the tank-like Landmaster, this title isn’t short on gameplay variety. Even more than 2 decades following its original release, Star Fox 64 remains one of the best-aged Switch Online N64 games.
Mario Kart 64
The Nintendo 64 came equipped with 4 controller ports, which made it ideal for multiplayer offerings. In regard to the Switch Online N64 lineup, few will keep the attention of players as well as Mario Kart 64. Released in 1996 in Japan and 1997 in other regions, this title helped establish the formula for future Mario Kart titles to build upon. Though Super Mario Kart for the SNES had its supporters, Mario Kart 64 proved to be a better experience, utilizing true 3D graphics as well as analog movement courtesy of the Nintendo 64 controller.
While Mario Kart 64 can be played solo, especially with Grand Prix and its four different cups to go for, it’s most enjoyed when played with others. This is particularly true for Versus and Battle Mode, the latter of which sees players challenge each other to become the last one remaining. The courses offered in Mario Kart 64, from the introductory Luigi Raceway to the obstacle-filled Toad’s Turnpike to the winding, colorful Rainbow Road, ensure good times and cursing at friends and family members alike.
Sin and Punishment
This can best be described as a wildcard among the initial Switch Online N64 games. For those that don’t know, Sin and Punishment is an on-rails shooting game, originally released only in Japan in 2000. It was a Nintendo-published title co-developed by Treasure, known for developing such games as N64 platformer Mischief Makers and Gunstar Heroes for the Sega Genesis and Game Gear. Sin and Punishment would be released in other regions via the Wii and Wii U’s Virtual Console services. Later this month, it will be available to a wider audience via Nintendo Switch Online.
Sin and Punishment feels less like a home console game and more like an arcade experience, tasking the player with targeting their attacks and dodging incoming offense via rolling and strafing. It also features a targeting mode, not unlike The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, which makes combat feel all the more intuitive. Furthermore, it can be played in both single and multiplayer mode with another person. The original Sin and Punishment may not be one of the most well-known N64 games, but its value will become evident following a session or two.
Other Switch Online N64 titles to be released at launch include Yoshi’s Story, Dr. Mario 64, Mario Tennis, and Koei Tecmo‘s WinBack. Furthermore, more N64 titles are set to hit the service, later on, ranging from Nintendo-developed titles including F-Zero X and Paper Mario to third-party offerings such as Banjo-Kazooie. In the meantime, there won’t be a shortage of N64 games to try once the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack service is made available.