While there is no word yet from Nintendo on a prospective Nintendo 64 Classic Edition (I want to repeat: there’s no word from Nintendo at all), I don’t think that should stop people from speculating. Since we’ve had the NES Classic Edition and the Super Nintendo Classic Edition, it’s only natural for people to start wondering what will come next. A Game Boy Classic Edition is a guess I’ve seen floated around, but my personal belief is that Nintendo would go for a rebirth of the Nintendo 64 instead. It would appear as a smooth evolution – the NES, Super Nintendo, and Nintendo 64 all remade with HDMI ports, miniaturized designs, and the memories of countless childhoods housed within their plastic shells.
That’s the hope anyway. The truth, however, is a little less pretty. While the NES and SNES Classics aren’t without their snubs, a lot of what was included were indisputable classics, with just enough oddballs thrown in to keep the lineups interesting. With a Nintendo 64 Classic though, its library will be defined by what isn’t there, instead of what is. Maybe that’s why we haven’t heard about a Nintendo 64 Classic yet – they’re still trying to work out rights and what-ifs to make the library better than expected. It’s possible, though I don’t personally believe it.
What I do believe however, is that a Nintendo 64 Classic Edition will happen – either as a plug-and-play like the Classic consoles before it, or something completely different that no one could expect. I lean more towards sticking with tradition here, since it’ll likely come sooner rather than later. With that in mind, I’ve conjured up a list of what I would expect the software lineup to be.
Before I get into the list though, I want to go over the rules I came up with to make the list realistic. Why certain games made it and others didn’t. Hopefully, once you see what I found myself working with, you’ll understand just how much software is going to get cut – and what absolutely needs to stay in above all else. These ten rules make sense to me – and I have perhaps the knowledge base of an informed consumer. They aren’t perfect, but they are nonetheless what I’m betting Nintendo would abide by.
One: Nintendo 64 games don’t hold up visually as well as NES or SNES games. It’s in Nintendo’s best interest to include games that will make the console look as good as people remember it. Not like the console vomited an uncomfortable explosion of pixels and polygons on the inside of the screen.
Two: Keeping with Nintendo’s practices so far, most franchises will be limited to one entry on the list, unless there are outstanding reasons. For example, both Zelda titles on the N64 are iconic, while no single Mario Party is specifically different, better, or more of a hit than the others.
Three: Rare, one of most prolific developers on the Nintendo 64, is now owned by Microsoft. This means that almost none of their games will appear on the system, because Nintendo no longer has the rights to them. The only exception is Donkey Kong 64 – as that was a Nintendo franchise to begin with.
Four: Games based on licensed products were not on the NES or SNES Classics, so I doubt they would be included here either. This means no Goldeneye (also made by Rare) and no Star Wars titles either.
FIve: With small exceptions, I would also extend the no-licensing rule to in-game content as well. This means no Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games, with their licensed soundtracks and celebrity likenesses.
Six: Nintendo will likely exclude Mature rated games in order to make the N64 Classic as family-friendly as possible. This excludes the Turok series, as well as Resident Evil 2 and any Mortal Kombat games.
Seven: While Nintendo had small pockets of third party support on the N64, it was a far cry from what could be found on the NES or SNES. Some third party franchises that did appear on the console were also… less than adequate. Titles like Castlevania and Gex get axed here – and I’m going to count third party inclusion as minimal at best.
Eight: Peripherals. It would be fair to expect a Nintendo 64 Classic to have certain add-ons and peripherals built into the system in order to play some of the must-haves (the Rumble Pak and the Expansion Pak are two good examples). Other games like Pokémon Stadium and Hey You, Pikachu get excluded, however, for how much extra functionality the system would have to have built-in for them to work properly.
Nine: Due to the amount of games that will more than likely not be included, this will probably lead to some genres being over-represented. I predict that Nintendo will try to provide as much variety as much possible, leading to more high-profile games getting snubbed.
Ten: With the above restrictions in mind, it would make sense for Nintendo to try something out of the box to still draw players in. Something larger than Star Fox 2. This is why I’m predicting that they’ll attempt to throw in games from the Nintendo 64 Disk Drive – a Japanese-only peripheral that had a limited library many players in the West would like to see. This is a longshot prediction, I understand, but I’m sticking to it.
Now, as for the list itself, I’ve theorized that the official game count will be nineteen – fifteen games included across all regions, and four region-exclusives for Japan, and another four for North America/Europe. This is the ratio Nintendo has kept with the other Classic consoles, so I don’t see a reason to change that here. I also don’t think the number would be higher than nineteen, as the SNES Classic only had twenty-one titles, and the NES Classic before that had thirty. Due to the cost of emulation, the real number of games might be even lower to keep the console affordable, but I don’t think nineteen is an unreasonable number. The Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles have about twenty Nintendo 64 releases each, so this number is in keeping with that as well.
I’ve also included a list of five Maybes – games that could be included with good reason, but either couldn’t make my list, or needed some extra kinks worked out in order for them to appear. In other words, I think they’d be fun to include, but they’re on the bubble.
The Fifteen Base Games:
Donkey Kong 64 – Having Donkey Kong 64 represent the entirety of Nintendo’s relationship with Rare might strike a nerve with some fans. It’s the kind of game, though, it feels like they have to throw in, or else they’re completely ignoring a lot of what made the Nintendo 64 great. Plus, for those of us who couldn’t afford an Expansion Pak, being able to play this on the N64 without having to worry about that anymore would be an amazing feeling. Even better than the numerous chances we’ve had to download it from the Virtual Console that we’ve just been ignoring.
Dr. Mario 64 – Dr. Mario is a popular character and the first Dr. Mario was included with the NES Classic Edition. This title is also notable for being a North American exclusive when it launched on the Nintendo 64 in 2001, and then a Japanese exclusive when it was added to the Nintendo Puzzle Collection on the Gamecube in 2003. Puzzle games on the N64 were pretty scarce too, so its inclusion is almost necessary to keep the library from getting boring.
F-Zero X (plus the 64DD Expansion Kit) – This is part of why I think Nintendo should look into their library of 64DD games. Including the F-Zero X Expansion Kit along with the base game would undoubtedly be a point of interest, especially for the many fans clamoring for the series to come back. The Expansion Kit includes custom tracks, cars, and racing cups – making this a more creation-heavy game than the later F-Zero GX. Plus, the amount of localization needed is likely to be small compared to a full-sized game, so if the West sees any 64DD games released, this Expansion Kit would probably be on the top of the list.
Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards – Kirby titles sell in the millions to this day. Nintendo also released Kirby games on both previous Classic consoles (including two on the North American and European version of the SNES Classic). This makes me pretty confident that HAL Laboratory’s pink puffball would be set to return. Nintendo would have to be careful, though, as it’s easy to overrun this list with platformers of all kinds. We’re at one 3D platformer, and one side-scroller. Let’s see how well this balance keeps up.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask – One of the Zelda franchise’s oddballs, this game gets rid of the save-the-princess plot and focuses on Link’s attempts to prevent a moon with a face from crashing into a small village. Involving time travel and some dark themes, many who have played the game love it, while those of us who have not regard it as an intriguing curio that we’ll probably have to visit at some point. Mostly because we were halted again by the need for an Expansion Pak. This game has also been featured on the Wii Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console, and ported to the 3DS and Gamecube – so this is another title I’m pretty sure we’ll see regardless of what I think.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – This is a game that is still cited as one of the best video games of all time. It is a core title that holds a very special and nostalgic place in the hearts of many Nintendo 64 fans. While it has had never been bereft of praise, and has also been on every Nintendo system that could run it since its release, you can never stop hoping that the next generation will take to it like we did and love it the same way. Thanks to how it looks now, that goal gets harder and harder, but I still think it’s possible. Plus, the 3DS version exists, too.
Mario Kart 64 – The Nintendo 64 was home to a great number of racing games, to the point that this list could very easily be more than half racing games, and people would be happy. Easier than its F-Zero counterpart, and more party oriented, Mario Kart 64 has nonetheless been the destroyer of friendships, a prime target for screen-looking, and the cause of many damaged controllers thanks to its addictive Battle Mode. Another shoo-in, if you ask me.
Mario Party 2 – While I would personally prefer Mario Party 3, Mario Party 2 is the title Nintendo has chosen to represent the series on the Virtual Console. There’s no reason to believe that would change any time soon. It might be the awesome cowboy-hatted Mario on the cover. Either way, playing Mario Party with friends was a special experience all its own back then, and Nintendo would be missing the boat by not including one of them so a whole new generation of kids can have that kind of fun inflicted on them, too.
Mega Man 64 – I’m a huge fan of Mega Man Legends, so that may be clouding my judgment here. However, I really don’t see many third party games that would be viable, and Nintendo has included a Mega Man game on both of their Classic consoles so far – so why not extend that to a Nintendo 64 Classic too? The game has always had a mixed response, as it focuses more on 3D exploration and dungeon crawling than the action-platforming of the games before it. But the thing is – it’s a gem. Plus, it holds up a lot better than many other games from this era. So, if Nintendo’s going to have any third party support at all (and it would be a mistake not to) – Mega Man 64 has to make it in.
Paper Mario – In terms of traditional RPG-like experiences, the NIntendo 64 (especially outside of Japan) didn’t have much. Worse, the majority of them (Quest 64 and Aidyn Chronicles) were not satisfying at all. Paper Mario is perhaps the lone exception – a title that in some ways picks up where Super Mario RPG on the SNES left off and goes in its own direction. For genre diversity alone it should be included – the art style and the writing just help solidify that.
Pokémon Snap – A Nintendo 64 Classic wouldn’t be complete without a Pokémon game. As we talked about earlier though, titles like Pokémon Stadium and Hey You, Pikachu have very low chances of inclusion because they have special key functionalities tied to peripherals that would likely not be included. You may not be able to share the photos you take anymore, but it’s still a fun and relaxing title to have around. A sequel on Switch wouldn’t be a bad idea either – but that’s a topic for another article.
Sin and Punishment – On-rails shooters are another genre that ends up popping up a lot on this list. The great thing is that Pokémon Snap, Sin and Punishment and Star Fox 64 are all so different, it’s hard to think of them as being in the same genre. What makes this game so special, is that it’s the pinnacle of the work developer Treasure did for the Nintendo 64 and one of the first previously un-localized titles Nintendo brought to the Virtual Console. They even made a sequel on Wii, thanks to how well the first title did on VC. I don’t think Nintendo would avoid publishing it here.
Star Fox 64 – Many people would say Star Fox 64 was the last time Nintendo knew what to do with the Star Fox franchise. I would disagree – I like the experimentation done with Adventures and Command – but I still see the bigger point here. Even recent releases like Star Fox Zero and the belated Star Fox 2 have had a lot of criticism levied at them. I’m not even that big a fan of Star Fox 64 personally, but if people want it and it’s a well-known franchise – I don’t see a reason not to include it.
Super Mario 64 – The granddaddy of them all. It’s one of two launch games to accompany the launch of the system in North America (one of three in Japan). If you decided to buy the console that early, you pretty much had to buy this too. Its place in gaming history is without question – redefining 3D gaming, platforming, and the Mario franchise itself in a single piece of software, it proved that the Nintendo 64 could do much more than the Playstation, even if the sales never reflected that. It could be said that there’s no Nintendo 64 without Super Mario 64 – so of course it has to be included. It, above all else, should be included.
Super Smash Bros. – The Smash Bros series is more popular than ever, so I would consider this a no-brainer, as it’s such an important piece of what Nintendo is today. It’s a name that’ll help sell any console without a second thought. It gives the Nintendo 64 Classic a great fighter (since Street Fighter skipped out), and a great party game on top of that. It does raise the question of how hard it’ll be to get four N64 Classic controllers together to play, but hopefully the only bigger complaint than that is that you can’t use a Gamecube controller to play it.
Now that I’ve established the fifteen base games for this proposed system, let’s jump into the region exclusives. The Nintendo 64 had some exclusives both in Japan and in America, so this list might not be as hard to make as it seems. However, lack of localization isn’t always a requirement. Some games are made with certain audiences in mind, and others are included as overflow from the previous list.
North American / European Exclusives:
Excitebike 64 – Nintendo got into a whole mess of sports games during the late nineties, and their collaboration with the California-based Left Field Productions produced the NBA Courtside series, as well as this title. Really, this slot came down to a standoff between Excitebike 64, Wave Race 64, and 1080° Snowboarding. My money is on Excitebike because it provides the most interesting counterpart to Mario Kart 64 and F-Zero X as a dirt bike racer, as well as the franchise’s previous inclusion on the NES Classic Edition. I would have discounted it for featuring real life biking brands like No Fear, but its release on the North American Wii U Virtual Console tells me that Nintendo is still willing to work with the game to give it the audience it deserves.
Harvest Moon 64 – Why might Harvest Moon 64 be an exclusive for North America and Europe? The blunt answer is this – Japan has Dobutsu no Mori, otherwise known as the first Animal Crossing title, and it was one of the last games Nintendo released on the system back in 2001. Harvest Moon in place of Animal Crossing is as good a trade-off as we can get. The title has appeared on the Wii U Virtual console though, and other critics like Jeffery Matulef at Eurogamer have pointed out that modern Harvest Moon-branded titles aren’t exactly what people are looking for anymore (that would be Story of Seasons). This is also another shot of solid third party support, which is certainly always welcome as well.
Pilotwings 64 – The second title that appeared when the Nintendo 64 launched in America, Pilotwings 64 may not be remembered as much as its SNES predecessor, but it’s still a fun flight simulator to fire up now and again. There is nothing specifically about it that would be better for a North American or Japanese audience, but I think the game is important enough to include in some sort of fashion. I feel more strongly about this than a simple Maybe, and the potential Japanese exclusives are all pretty sweet in their own right, so I place it here. We’ve gotten big exclusives before like Bubble Bobble and Castlevania II, so there’s a precedent for this kind of thing, too.
Pokémon Puzzle League – Never released in Japan, Pokémon Puzzle League is a direct relative of Tetris Attack, and heavily based on the American interpretation of the Pokémon anime. Given how much time has passed since its release, I won’t say a late localization into Japanese is impossible, but as the Pokémon franchise has progressed so much in the last eighteen years, I hardly see the point. As it’s the only other feasible Pokémon game to include on the Nintendo 64 Classic, I’m pretty confident in this prediction.
Custom Robo V2 – Nintendo’s relationship with the Custom Robo franchise has always been kind of strange. This action RPG series didn’t make its way to the States until the Gamecube era, and hasn’t seen a new entry since the original DS. Custom Robo V2 was re-released on both the Wii and Wii U Virtual Console in Japan though, so they seem to like this one over the original. I doubt the West would see a localization unless the series was re-released as a collection on the Switch, so I’ll throw my hat behind V2 as one of the games chosen to be a Japanese exclusive.
Dobutsu no Mori – Though this first Animal Crossing title hasn’t seen any re-releases since it launched, I would be surprised if Nintendo didn’t include this in the Japanese Nintendo 64 Classic. Sure, the game’s formula has since been improved on by subsequent sequels, but this is where it got started. Plus, this is another one I wouldn’t expect a localization for either, as this IGN article about the localization of the Gamecube version really gives a good view for just how difficult it was to bring to a mass audience.
Mischief Makers – Two Treasure games on one Nintendo 64 Classic would be a fan’s dream come true – but is it too much Treasure? Too much platforming? I see this title being a Japanese exclusive because I don’t think it has the same name recognition Sin and Punishment does outside of Japan. It’s a cult classic, sure, but so was The Legend of the Mystical Ninja on Super Nintendo – and that was only re-released on the Super Famicom Classic in Japan. I don’t think it’s impossible for the game not to be included in North America too, I just think it has a better chance at being included in the Japanese version, at the very least.
SimCity 64 – Incredibly, Nintendo and HAL Laboratory made an exclusive SimCity game for the Nintendo 64DD, and never took it outside of Japan. If my theory is right and Nintendo decides to look into the 64DD as a way to augment a potential Nintendo 64 Classic’s library, I think SimCity 64 would be one of the few titles worth bringing forward, as it’s a surprisingly obscure entry in an otherwise very popular series. They could localize it, I suppose, but the F-Zero Expansion Kit is one thing, and a whole game like SimCity 64 is another. I’m not sure Nintendo would spend the time – especially when they could be working on bringing over Doshin the Giant, which has an English script already and is the only other 64DD game that I’d consider worthy of a shot at a global audience.
Chameleon Twist – Perhaps it’s because I grew up near a McDonald’s that had Chameleon Twist set up as a playable kiosk, but I always thought of this game as a cult classic. It’s a third party title that people, in my experience, seem to like, and would be a great addition to a Nintendo 64 Classic. The issue is – who owns the rights? Though Sunsoft published the game outside of Japan, it was handled by a company called Japan System Supply in its country of origin. From what I’ve seen, though Gamefaqs and Giant Bomb don’t reveal much, the company did not make it past the nineties. This makes the rights to Chameleon Twist kind of a mystery – at least to us consumers. Hopefully Nintendo has a lead they can follow, but that might be more work than they’re looking for. I still think it’s possible.
Doshin the Giant – The last 64DD game that probably deserves a second chance, Doshin the Giant is a god game designed by Kazutoshi Iida, the creator of the obscure Playstation gem Tail of the Sun. Despite appearances in Super Smash Bros. Melee and a port to Gamecube that released in Europe, this title never managed to find its way to North America. If Nintendo were going to look into the 64DD’s catalogue, this would likely be the marquee title – and with an English script at least floating around, there might be just enough work done already to make Nintendo interested in releasing it worldwide. Might. Maybe. This is another longshot prediction that I’m making. It’s a good a time to see this game come to North America as ever, though.
Mario Golf – The first iteration of what’s considered the Mario Golf series was NES Open Tournament Golf on the NES – and that title was released in Japan only. The Mario Golf series has also not had as much success or as many entries as its sister Mario Tennis series, leading me to believe that if it came down to it, Mario Tennis would likely get the pick. This puts Mario Golf at a good disadvantage in my eyes, but I can still totally still see it getting included anyway.
Mario Tennis – At a certain point, you’d think there’d be too much Mario. The NES and SNES Classics both had four Mario-related games apiece, and my predictions for the N64 Classic include five. Though these five represent how wide the Mario brand expanded as time went on, I’m hesitant to put even more titles related to the series as sure-things, because at that point we’d be at oversaturation. Mario Tennis is great, but this is one of the high-profile snubs I was talking about – forced out, if only to prevent the N64 Classic from becoming just a Mario machine. It’s still possible, but there’s nothing I’d want to swap it out with.
Yoshi’s Story – Yoshi’s Story would probably be seen as a pretty big snub if it wasn’t included in the Nintendo 64 Classic, but between Super Mario 64, Kirby 64, and Donkey Kong 64, the platforming genre is pretty well represented. Those three titles also have better reasons to be included than Yoshi’s Story. While Nintendo has never exactly let bad press stop them, Yoshi’s Story was never given the best reviews, neither when it first released, nor when it came back out on the Wii and Wii U Virtual Consoles (here are some choice reviews to see what I mean). It’s not bad, but there’s a lot better that’s out there. The way I see it, it could be included – but there better be a pretty good reason to have it bump something more worthy off the list.
I understand that I’ve probably left off a few third party favorites, like Bomberman 64 and Cruis’n USA, some that have even been re-released on Virtual Console in fact. I chalk up a portion of that to personal taste, and also cue to just how tight space would be in a Classic Edition of this size. I don’t know if Bomberman might be a good replacement for Dr. Mario 64, or if Cruis’n would better represent racers than Excitebike 64, Mario Kart, and F-Zero already do – but feel free to disagree with me and respond to this list if you like. I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.
Knowing Nintendo, they’ll do something that will surprise us all if and when a Nintendo 64 Classic Edition is announced. Maybe it’ll be as simple as including each unit with four controllers, or including wireless capability so people can bring their Pokémon into Pokémon Stadium from a Game Boy Classic. It seems pretty to think so, but you never know with them. They’re a company that delights in surprise and mystery, and a lineup like this for a Nintendo 64 Classic seems pretty delightful to me, given the circumstances. Hopefully we’ll see how right (or wrong) I am in just a short time.
If you’re a fan of the Nintendo 64, I’m sure you had plenty of your own opinions about this list. If you want to discuss them, you can follow me on Twitter! Or email me at dcichocki(at)tiltingwindmillstudios.com!