Nintendo’s N64 console was the first venture by the company to embrace true 3D. While games like Star Fox had flirted with rudimentary forms of the technology before, the N64 presented fully polygonal environments for players to explore in games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64.
Happily, if you were the kind of gamer who liked to have friends round for a few bouts of something competitive (or co-operative, of course), the N64 also boasted four controller ports without needing to buy additional peripherals.
Of course, that also meant it was important for the N64 to have a robust library of multiplayer titles, and indeed, that proved to be the case, so let’s take a look at the 15 best multiplayer N64 games out there.
1. Mario Kart 64
Whether or not this game or the one we’ve got in the number two spot is the greatest N64 game is a matter of debate, but Mario Kart 64 solidified the franchise’s reputation for exciting multiplayer shenanigans thanks to its iconic roster and range of different courses. Slipstreaming meant you could catch up to rivals if you trailed them, and the ability to carry more than one item at a time made for a surprising level of strategy on top of the usual racing chaos.
2. Super Smash Bros.
It all began here. Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. asked the obvious question: who would win in a fight between some of the company’s most iconic characters? The roster included stalwarts like Mario, Captain Falcon, and Samus, and while it would be a while before third-party characters would begin to appear, the sight of Nintendo’s mainstays roughing each other up across themed levels was a delight. The single-player mode was the icing on the cake.
3. GoldenEye 007
GoldenEye 007 recently got a re-release on modern platforms, but nothing quite beats the original game for multiplayer fun. Grabbing a few friends, heading into the Facility (or any of the game’s other expertly-crafted maps) and chasing each other around with silenced pistols or making a play for the Golden Gun simply never stopped being fun. With plenty of different rulesets and characters to choose from, GoldenEye 007 arguably defined multiplayer gaming for a long time after its release.
4. Mario Party 2
The original Mario Party is still an excellent game, but our hands haven’t forgiven its brutal stick rotation minigames yet, so we’ll let the sequel take its place on this list instead. The premise of Mario Party is simple: you and your friends take turns moving around a board, taking part in minigames, and trying to collect stars. From such a basic premise comes one of the most competitive and hilarious multiplayer experiences you’re likely to find in the world of gaming.
5. Perfect Dark
You needed an Expansion Pak if you truly wanted to experience Perfect Dark’s multiplayer, but once you picked one up, the game was a thrill. Taking the basic shooter gameplay of GoldenEye 007 and expanding it with new objectives, weapons, and gadgets was a genius move on Rare’s part. Although few people remember Perfect Dark more fondly than GoldenEye 007, we’re prepared to go out on a limb and say that it bettered the Bond game in many ways (although it’s less iconic).
6. Mario Tennis
Mario Tennis, much like another Mario sports game that will appear on this list before long, presented a surprisingly deep and engaging version of its titular sport. Of course, that wasn’t what we were all there to see; instead, we wanted to see Mario and his friends duke it out on the tennis court, and that’s exactly what we got. Mario Tennis’ multiplayer mode was great fun, and this is also where iconic character Waluigi got his start, so we have this game to thank for that as well.
7. Pokemon Stadium
Both Pokemon Stadium and its sequel are excellent games, so you can take the original’s place on this list as a recommendation for both of them. Pokemon Stadium takes the 2D battles of the Game Boy games and transposes them into glorious 3D, allowing us to see what our favourite Pokemon look like on a larger scale. Each move felt like it really landed, and the enthusiastic announcer, range of minigames, and ability to play the original Game Boy games with a special accessory just added to the magic.
8. Mario Golf
Along with Mario Tennis, Mario Golf solidified the plumber’s reputation as more than just a purveyor of platforming. Developed by Camelot, who would go on to work on a lot more Mario sports games, Mario Golf mixes the wacky antics of Mario and his friends with the sedate, relaxing nature of golf, creating an experience that’s never either boring or too twitchy for less skill-oriented gamers to enjoy. There are lots of different modes on offer here, too, in case plain ol’ golf isn’t your bag.
9. WWF No Mercy
Released in the time before the WWF became the WWE, No Mercy was an incredibly influential wrestling game that is still defining the template to this day (upcoming wrestling game AEW Fight Forever will apparently be heavily inspired by No Mercy). This was many players’ introduction to the AKI style of wrestling game; alongside Yuke’s, AKI helped to define the wrestling sim in the 90s and early 2000s, and WWF No Mercy’s huge range of multiplayer modes and customisation options made it a joy to play.
10. Diddy Kong Racing
What Crash Team Racing was to the PlayStation, Diddy Kong Racing was to the N64. While it couldn’t quite hold a candle to Nintendo’s excellent Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing placed a greater emphasis on single-player content. That didn’t mean that it wasn’t a great racer for multiplayer, too; it was a more skill-based affair than Mario Kart, so you needed to have your wits about you if you wanted to win races. Diddy Kong Racing was the multiplayer racer you played if you truly wanted to settle some scores.
11. Gauntlet Legends
The Gauntlet games were mainstays of the co-op multiplayer world for a long time, and Gauntlet Legends gave the N64 one of its best hack-and-slash titles. The gameplay wasn’t particularly deep; you chose one of four different characters and set out to beat up a variety of fantasy enemies, levelling up and building your attributes as you went. Still, the side-scrolling beat-’em-up is great for grabbing some buddies and shooting the breeze as you play, and that’s what Gauntlet Legends offered.
12. International Superstar Soccer 64
The ISS franchise would eventually morph into Pro Evolution Soccer, which would then be renamed to eFootball, giving rise to the execrable eFootball 2022. Before that, though, there was ISS 64, which was an excellent arcade-style football sim. Unlike FIFA, it didn’t offer a full roster of licensed players, but that didn’t make its multiplayer madness any less enjoyable or engaging. Add to that the fact that four players can play on the same side against the CPU, and ISS 64 was the ideal multiplayer experience for football fans.
13. Bomberman 64
It’s hard to remember just how ubiquitous Bomberman was back in the 90s. This franchise was a stalwart of the multiplayer landscape, and Bomberman 64 was one of its best entries. Bringing the series’ signature gameplay into 3D, Bomberman 64 added the ability to throw bombs diagonally at your enemies, which transformed the way players needed to think about the space. Revisiting Bomberman 64 today, you’ll find it’s still an excellent multiplayer game to enjoy with your friends.
14. F-Zero X
The N64 had no shortage of great racing games, proven by the existence of Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing, and F-Zero X. While the former two were fairly accessible kart racers, F-Zero X was intended for a more hardcore crowd; it moved at a breakneck pace, so if you couldn’t keep up with its action, you were doomed to fail. That made F-Zero X the ultimate test of racing skill, but it was equally fun just to pick the game up and watch as new players and old hands alike hopelessly fell off its tracks time and time again.
Many people think of the N64 as a console for kids, but games like Quake proved that wasn’t necessarily the case. Id Software’s shooter holds up incredibly well on the N64, and while it won’t provide the same kind of buttery-smooth action you could get on a top-range PC at the time, it still gave you and your friends the chance to duke it out in exciting arena matches, grabbing power-ups and taking each other out across the game’s moody stages. Quake is still incredibly playable today, no matter which platform you pick it up on, but there was nothing quite like the N64 version for settling scores and arguments you might have had with your friends on the playground.