The Top 20 Games of 1996-2000

What were the best games from the N64 and Game Boy Color?

By Nintendojo Staff. Posted 05/02/2012 13:00 8 Comments     ShareThis

1. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)

Predictable, perhaps, but no less deserving. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was a stunning tour de force when it was released back in 1998, an epic the likes of which had never been seen before. Just as Mario before him, Link was able to not only survive the transition to three-dimensions, but thrive because of it, setting the benchmark by which all future games would be judged. Hyrule became even more majestic thanks to the Nintendo 64’s graphical capabilities, and the stunning soundtrack, which introduced many of the themes that would become synonymous with the series, helped imbue the title with a sense of wonder and grandeur.

We can go on and on about the challenging dungeons or how Z-targetting revolutionized combat in a 3D space, but the truth is, it’s the little things that made Ocarina of Time such a momentous experience. Seeing the drawbridge to Castle Town close as night began to creep in, watching the sun sink into the horizon as you rode across the expansive Hyrule Field, or cutting a sign in half and watching the debris float in a nearby pool of water– all of these little touches, as insignificant as they may seem compared to the vast landscapes or the grand storyline, brought a sense of life to the adventure that made it feel that much more immersive. It’s no wonder that Ocarina of Time is still considered the best Zelda game ever made.

Why Eileen Cullen loves The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

Prior to the release of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, I had enjoyed other games in the series. But it was this game that solidified me as a fan of the franchise. While all of the games up to this point had great gameplay, I wasn’t captivated by their stories. When I was playing Ocarina of Time for the first time, I genuinely wanted to know what the fate of Hyrule was going to be. The characters were more complex than they had previously been and they drove my interest in the story. I even loved Navi, who was, despite being annoying at times, very endearing. Yes, I spent several frustrating hours in the Water Temple and I was kind of scared by the Shadow Temple when I was younger. But these troubles made victory that much sweeter, and it was with a tear in my eye that I watched Navi fly out of the Temple of Time.

Why Mel Turnquist loves The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

This was the first game that I could actually call mine. As a kid, I had to share everything and always got the hand me downs. I was the Player 3 in a 2-Player world. I only got a turn once someone let me use it. Even with the Nintendo 64, I ended up having to wait my turn due to not having enough controllers. However, when this game came out, I bought it with my birthday money (yeah, I got it like 4 months after it came out…I got Pokémon Blue for Christmas) and fell in love with the game. Everything about this game that made me love it: the detail, the storyline, the adventures, the memorable characters. Plus, the Z-Targeting was a thing of genius. That was a huge turning point in pretty much all of gaming. Now instead of having to slash wildly, hoping to hit something, you had something that could lock you onto them like a sniper and go in for the kill. At last, you can finally cut down those signs without harming any Cuccos…because it’s fairly common knowledge that 80% of Zelda deaths are the result of Cucco abuse.

Why Joseph Nelson loves The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

A Link to the Past may have been the first Zelda game I played, but this was the gamechangerOcarina of Time turned my mild intrigue into a full-blown love affair. N64 may have made Link’s head all triangular, and Zelda’s face a little creepy, but my imagination– unbound by this game and turned into something magical– filled in the shortcomings. A tale of epic proportions (classical epic, not internet epic), there is nothing quite as wonderful as watching those ending credits, knowing you have banished evil and saved a kingdom and literally turned back time to do it. It sounds cheesy, but this game taught me an important lesson– a good deed is its own reward– so I can say that this game has made me a better person. I’m not sure I can say that about any other game.

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8 Responses to “The Top 20 Games of 1996-2000”

  • 21 points
    Dave Magliano says...

    As I read these half-decade lists today as a 30-year-old! I’m reminded how much my favorites of the past are as much about the overall playing experience as the game itself. For me, Mario Kart 64 was about playing with my Dad and brother. Goldeneye was about my best friend (who 11 years later was my best man). In the end, while I might call one game better, I wouldn’t trade the memories of the others. That’s why these lists are great, because they mean something different to everyone. It also reminds me that despite its failings, the N64 was both an important and fun-filled system.

    • 1332 points
      Andrew Hsieh says...

      It’s only looking back that I think, “oh, hey, N64 wasn’t quite as successful as it could be.” Actually, when it was in vogue, I rather enjoyed playing the system, haha! I didn’t even realize the Playstation was “winning” the console wars because I was just having too much fun playing Mario Kart 64 and Super Smash Bros. for hours on end. That’s all I ever really needed– though, to be honest, I also enjoyed Quest 64, so maybe all my opinions are invalid.

    • 360 points
      M. Noah Ward says...

      Great to see you commenting on here Dave! I totally agree… N64 was *the* game party machine for me. I’d bring out Dreamcast for the occasional Samba de Amigo, but there were so many great 4-player games on N64, from GoldenEye to Mario Kart to Smash Bros. to Mario Tennis to back when Mario Party was good and relevant…

      • 21 points
        Dave Magliano says...

        The only site I comment on, be it only for a few days so far. :) kudos for keeping it going all these years. Don’t know where you find the energy.

        Totally agree on N64. Probably goes with my age, but it is my “system of memories.” so many good times.

  • 201 points
    NintendoDad says...

    I’ve been gaming since the Coleco/Atari 2600 and this time period is my all-time favorite for gaming. I was a huge N64 fan, had the money to buy games when I wanted, and was just getting acquainted with the internet. These factors contributed to feelings I don’t think I’ll ever experience again. With the exception of Smash Bros (which I rented and just didn’t like), I own, played, and beat every N64 game on this list. Rare was in its prime and it was almost like having another Nintendo producing games. Many of them are all-time favorites of mine, especially Banjo-Kazooie and Majora’s Mask.

    I can even remember discovering Nintendojo during this time period. And to this day, I can remember the way the message boards were set up with the black background. It was the first message board I ever used. Man, I even remember some of the posters (Cobra 95 who was awesome–I had almost identical gaming tastes as him, Marshmallow, and somebody named RZA who was just a pain…I was WhoDey) and some of the threads. Someone posted a thread titled “I can’t believe I’ve been ignoring this game” in a tribute to Mario 64 a year or two after it was released. Then there was the fight I had with someone after I vented upon discovering FF7 was going to the Playstation. I posted about catching a Hyrule Loach when playing Zelda: TOoT and everyone thought I was making it up at the time. Great memories. Was anyone else here during that time?

    • 360 points
      M. Noah Ward says...

      I remember some of those names from waaaayyy back when I started around here NintendoDad… thanks so much for sticking with us for so LONG! :D

    • 1 points
      Kevin Knezevic says...

      I haven’t been gaming quite as long as you have, but my history is pretty similar to yours, NintendoDad. The first console I ever owned was the NES, but the N64 was when I really became interested in the hobby (and Nintendo in particular). There was just something magical about the games released during this time period, and like you, I was just starting to use the Internet to learn more about them, which made everything feel new and exciting(though I didn’t discover Nintendojo until late into the GameCube generation). Incidentally, two of my all-time favorites also happen to be Majora’s Mask and Banjo-Kazooie, so I can certainly understand why you like those as well. :p

  • 1244 points
    lukas85 says...

    The n64 is my favourite console/period of all time, this was when i became a Nintendo lover, i enjoyed the Nes and Snes, but was the n64 who really made me an absolute fan of videogames. I totally agree with your top 3. And i still consider ocarina of time as the Best Videogame in History.

    My top 5

    1) Ocarina of time
    2) Mario 64
    3) Majoras Mask
    4) Mario Kart 64
    5) Banjo Kazooie

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