The Nintendo 64's lack of ROM space proved a hindrance to many developers; if the game were to even be ported over, it would usually suffer from lower-quality sound and all the FMVs being cut out or replaced with stills. Resident Evil 2 originally shipped on two CDs, but lost surprisingly little when ported over to a 512 Mb (!) cartridge - all the voice acting and FMVs were still in place and sounded very crisp, and even the detailed backgrounds and character models still looked pretty damn good. They further sweetened the pot by adding some content from the later ports of the game (harder difficulty, Extreme Battle mode) and even some new features exclusive to this version, like an item randomizer, new costumes and even the ability to switch to a new control scheme - no more tank controls! A stunningly good port of a survival horror classic.
5. Star Fox 64 (Nintendo, 1997)
A great many fans ended up disappointed when Star Fox 2 went unreleased. Understandable, as the game looked fantastic, expanding on the original in every way imaginable and featuring some downright amazing 3D graphics on the SNES (which, as stated, was not designed with 3D graphics in mind at all). Well, Nintendo somewhat made it up to us with Star Fox 64, a solid remake of the original game featuring a voice acted narrative (with actual voice acting, not garbled gibberish), sharp graphics, gigantic bosses, clever stage designs and numerous stage routes that gave the game some substantial replay value. There were even two new controllable vehicles in the form of the Landmaster Tank and the Blue Marine sub, which were pretty cool but sadly limited to specific stages. All in all, though, we have a solid entertaining game that's fun to try and get a high score on. It was also the first game that touted the use of the "Rumble Pak", the device that introduced proper force feedback to gaming and would shake your controller whenever you took an especially big hit. Every major game console since has incorporated that into their controllers in some form or another, so it was a pretty big deal at the time.
4. Mischief Makers (Treasure, 1997)
The first Treasure game I ever played, and once I did, I was hooked on the company for life. Equal parts over the top, silly and awesome, the game has you playing as Marina Liteyears, a hyper-strong jet-propelled robotic maid out to rescue Professor Theo from his kidnappers, the Clancer army. The game's mechanics center on grabbing, shaking and throwing items to a variety of effects - grabbing missiles out of the air, shaking them to make them larger, and throwing them back at your enemies to name just one. Tossing enemies into one another, throwing bombs and items into a pot then shaking to "combine" them into one larger item to name a couple more. It even features some delightfully silly stages like riding a giant bee, outrunning a tidal wave on a tricycle and the ever-awesome missile surfing stage (pictured), as well as boss fights against some truly outlandish boss monsters. Hell, there's even a time trial system and a hidden gold gem in each stage that extends the ending cinematic slightly, giving it some considerable replay value as well. Another game that should be rereleased to a wider audience but still hasn't for some reason...
3. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (Nintendo, 1999)
The somewhat divisive direct sequel to Ocarina of Time, which not only required an N64 RAM expansion to even run, but introduced tons of new elements to the gameplay (some might say too many). Most of these come in the form of equippable masks that grant Link new forms and abilities - from running faster with the rabbit mask to being able to safely approach certain enemies to full-on transformations into the form of a Deku scrub, a Goron and a Zora that granted entirely new movesets and abilities. Most of these were optional, however, which gave way to a surprising amount of sidequests and extra tasks that could be done in nearly any order, giving the player a tremendous amount of freedom. Perhaps the most controversial element came in the form of an ever-present time limit - as the game begins, Termina is threatened by the evil-possessed moon about to fall and destroy it, and you're in a constant race against the clock to try and free the four gods before that happens. Thankfully you do get the ability to reset the timer and slow the countdown relatively early on, though the former carries the price of losing all of your progress in a dungeon as well as any rupees, arrows and bombs you're carrying.
In short Majora's Mask is a game with a lot of ideas, and while not all of them work, the ones that do make for a very interesting and compelling game experience unlike any other game in the franchise (or any other game, for that matter). It was also nice to see them put that 4 megabytes of extra RAM to use to deliver sharper graphics and a significantly more colorful and detailed game environment than the one OOT sported.
2. Super Mario 64 (Nintendo, 1996)
Like the Super Nintendo before it, the first game released on the Nintendo 64 was not only a groundbreaking title that showed off the power of the system, but a testament to the staying power of Mario. Sporting reworked gameplay that included new moves like wall jumps, slide kicks, triple jumps and the ever-fun ability to pick up and throw certain enemies around, as well as a huge variety of stages and goals, the game was just as much of a joy to explore as it was to complete goals in. Sure, the camera was annoying at times and the level design somewhat threadbare, but there's no denying that this game, unlike virtually every other 3D game before it, played just as well as it looked, capturing all the platforming joy of a Mario game while setting itself apart in the best way possible.1. Perfect Dark (Rare, 2000)
The spiritual sequel to Goldeneye and in every way its superior, toting more of the game objective and gadget-based gameplay, more weapons, brilliant multiplayer for up to 12 characters (four player controlled, eight AI-controlled), unlockable cheats, challenge levels, and even a cooperative single player campaign (and a somewhat broken "counter-operative" campaign where the second player plays as a random soldier and tries to stop the first player from completing the single player mode's objectives). It was also an amazing game on a technical level with its sharp visuals, excellent soundtrack and even some surprisingly intelligent enemy AI that could, among other things, draw a bead on you from great distances, use melee attacks to disarm you and would even sometimes retreat from a battle when things were going badly, only to regroup and come after you again later. Another game that required the Nintendo 64's RAM expansion, but it was well worth it to see the system pushed to the absolute limit of its potential. Hell, I still dig out the old N64 and play this one occasionally - it's too good not to.