The Nintendo 64 recently celebrated its 25th birthday. For most children of the 90’s the N64 is fondly remembered for its unforgettable characters, stories, and games. Whether it was saving Princess Peach or defeating Ganon in “The Legend of Zelda-Ocarina of Time” the Nintendo 64 is a legendary console. As we celebrate the N64, I am going to give you the top 5 sports games during its run from the late 90s through the early 2000’s.
First, some ground rules. Extreme Sport games are included, although professional wrestling games will not be on this list. “WWF No Mercy” is one of my favorites, and is still looked at as the “crown jewel” of wrestling games but that can be on a list for another time. “Mario games” that revolve around actual sports will be included (sorry, no Mario Kart). Now, let’s dive into some nostalgia.
Honorable Mention: 1080 Snowboarding
As soon as you put this game in the slot and switch the power button on your TV is blaring metal music as the name of the game is blasted on your screen. You see one of the characters hit a jump in the background and you know you are in for an extreme snowboarding experience. Unfortunately, there are only 6 courses and 5 snowboarders to choose from. “1080’s” graphics were stellar for the time, but its lack of content keeps it outside of this list.
Number 5: Mario Golf
Not only is this a great Mario game but it’s a great golf game for its time. It is easy to pick up and once you get some timing down you are in for a ton of fun. There are 6 main golf courses, and two mini golf courses. There is a decent campaign mode where you have to defeat other golfers to unlock them. One negative is that Mario is one of those golfers. You wont get to play as Mario until late in the campaign when he is unlocked. Some people do not like this because the title character is unplayable for the majority of the game. The graphics haven’t aged particularly well, but this is still a good time to revisit every now and again.
Number 4: All Star Baseball 2000
I have to admit that I only played this game a handful of times, because I didn’t own it. I do remember a few things. First the graphics were out of this world for the year 2000. The batters had different stances and their faces/body types had some detail to them. It was a joy to play as your favorite team and see players do things similar to real life. This was the first video game that felt like a simulation of a baseball game. That is why it is honored on this list.
Number 3: NHL 99
I remember being so excited when I opened this game up on Christmas because Eric Lindros was on the cover. It was the first time I ever saw a player from my team on the cover of a game. Like “Mario Golf” this game is pretty simple to pick up. A to pass, B to shoot/check, and that’s it. The game was fast paced and gives you that hockey feel that was missing from hockey games that came before it. The fighting was added giving it a final “chef’s kiss”. One aspect of the game that I always remember is the broadcaster. To this day when I see a big hit in the NHL I think of that guy screaming “FREIGHT TRAIN CHOO CHOO”. I picked this up a few months ago with some friends and it is still an absolute blast to play.
Number 2: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
We all remember the first time riding down the Warehouse ramp to Goldfinger’s “Superman”, but the better game on the N64 was the sequel, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. It provided more of everything, more areas, more skaters, more boards, a create-a-skater, and a create-a-park feature. Gameplay also added the manual so that combos can be even longer than before. I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the soundtrack. Like every Tony Hawk game this soundtrack does not disappoint, “Guerilla Radio”, “No Cigar”, and “Bring the Noise” are just a few of the bangers this game includes. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 was groundbreaking and there is a reason why it was completely remastered for the Playstation 4.
Number 1: NFL Blitz
Is “NFL Blitz” a perfect resemblance of a football game? No, but it’s fun as hell. “NFL Blitz” gives simple plays, and categorizes them so they are easy to find for players who do not have extensive knowledge of football. During season mode you will be able to play out the actual 1998 schedule, which was great for an arcade style game. With the ability for your players to activate power ups, produce heart pounding hits, and taunt opponents, “Blitz” gave you an alterative to what other football games were trying to do at this time. Madden and Quarterback Club were trying to make a simulation, where “NFL Blitz” made an over the top cartoon. At the time, I loved Madden and although “Blitz” was fun I wasn’t as into the game as some of my friends. That all changed when I replayed the game years later. The reason “Blitz” is ranked number 1 on this list is because it has aged incredibly well. Where other sports game are not enjoyable to revisit, Blitz still delivers. Making it the best sports game on the Nintendo 64.