There can be no doubt that the Nintendo 64 is one of the most beloved consoles of all time. It was a staple of many of our childhoods, it revolutionized 3D gaming, and it is home to some of the greatest games of all time. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Super Mario 64, Banjo Kazooie, the list continues.
Yet, despite all the highly renowned games released for the Nintendo 64, there is one prominent blind spot in the console’s software repertoire. For whatever reason, the Nintendo 64 wasn’t great for RPGs (and no, Zelda games are not RPGs). This is especially surprising when you consider that Nintendo had this genre nailed down in their previous two consoles. The Nintendo Entertainment System was ground zero for some of the most beloved RPG series of all time, while the Super Nintendo is still considered to have one of the best line-ups of RPGs in history.
But when the Nintendo 64 came out, many of the leading RPG developers of the time, such as Square Soft, Enix, and Atlus, defected the way of the PlayStation with its CD technology being able to handle the ambitious stories and worlds that these developers wanted to take us to. As such, the Nintendo 64 has a remarkably slim roster of quality RPGs, especially considering how many great games were released in this genre for other systems.
However, while the Nintendo 64 may have missed out on Final Fantasy VII, Suikoden, and Chrono Cross, it did enjoy a small handful of quality RPGs on its own. These games may not be as remembered today, but they are even more valuable in some ways. It’s true that the Nintendo 64 wasn’t an excellent RPG system, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t any great RPGs for the system. Today, we are going to check out the best of the best the N64 has to offer for those who love to grind, level up, and explore substantial fantastical worlds.
Here are the best N64 RPG games of all time!
After the success of 1996’s Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars for Super Nintendo, it seemed like a guarantee that there would be a sequel for Nintendo’s fancy new 64-bit console. There was just one problem. The developer Square was already busy making Final Fantasy VII for the PlayStation. What to do, what to do…
While it wouldn’t release until 2000 in Japan and 2001 for the rest of the world, Paper Mario was well worth the wait and a more than worth spiritual successor to Legend of the Seven Stars, this time developed by Intelligent Systems. While more recent Paper Mario games have strayed further and further away from the series RPG roots, this original is well and truly grounded in the genre’s core tenants of gaining experience points to level up your character, learn new moves, and become stronger and stronger as the quest progresses.
In this game, you play as Mario trying to save Princess Peach from King Bowser (nothing too out of the ordinary there). Only this time, the entire world of the Mushroom Kingdom is crafted from paper, giving everything a gorgeous tangible aesthetic that has aged much better than a lot of other Nintendo 64 games. It’s an art style that Nintendo has used time and time again, and even more, modern games have been inspired by it (I’m looking at you, Tearaway).
But what makes Paper Mario such a memorable game is its gameplay and story are both deep enough to not be boring but accessible enough that younger audiences will get a lot from experience. Indeed, Paper Mario takes the cornerstones of RPG design and boils them down to their absolute basics. Battles are engaging without having to worry about juggling multiple characters and dozens of abilities. Dungeons are a lot more interactive and explorable than typical RPGs, even feeling like more simplified versions of Zelda dungeons. And the writing contains the same self-referential wit and humor that made Legend of the Seven Stars feel like such a breath of fresh air upon its release.
Extremely well designed, endlessly replayable, and an absolute joy from start to finish, Paper Mario stands as one of the premier RPGs for the Nintendo 64.
Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber
If you are looking for a slightly more hardcore gaming experience on the Nintendo 64, then you cannot go wrong with Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliver. This real-time tactical RPG was developed by Quest Corporation and released for the console in 1999; this game is one of the truly massive RPGs to be released for the system. If you love RPGs that will take dozens of hours to play through, with extremely deep systems for you to dive into, then this game has your name written all over it.
Ogre Battle 64’s gameplay consists of you controlling a battle of soldiers made up of several fantasy races – such as gorgons, saturos, and amazons. Your battalion is then split up into several smaller units, each controlled by a leader. During battles, each unit can be controlled individually on the battlefield. When they encounter an enemy unit, the perspective switches to a separate battle screen where separate character inputs can be executed in real-time in order to defeat the enemy and gain the upper hand in the overall battle.
It’s an interesting and engaging system that is quite unlike anything else that was released on the Nintendo 64. Leveling up your soldiers, playing around with different classes, and thinking strategically can become incredibly addicting over the course of the game, and Ogre Battle 64 can easily become the type of experience where you are playing long into the night, scribbling down notes next to your controller as you plan the optimal path to victory.
Alongside the epic battles, Person of Lordly Caliber also features a deeply engaging plot following Magnus Gallant. As a recent graduate from a military academy, Magnus is quickly swept up in the civil war that is taking place across his home country of Alba. It isn’t long before Magnus joins the side of the revolutionists and acts to overthrow the tyrannical government. The plot is incredibly immersive and deep, dealing with politics and difficult questions around loyalty and freedom and the right for people to choose their own path.
Ogre Battle 64 is one of the most comprehensive experiences on the Nintendo 64 and should be played by anyone with interest in the genre of real-time tactical RPGs.
Its name may give it away, but Hybrid Heaven is one of the most unique games on the Nintendo 64 for its blending of different genres. The result is an experience unlike any other on the system and stands as one of the great hidden gems of the Nintendo 64.
On the one hand, Hybrid Heaven plays just like any other 3D action-adventure game. The characters can run and jump around large levels. There are certain puzzles that the player must also solve in order to progress all the Legend of Zelda games.
However, combat switches to a completely different perspective, more in line with traditional RPGs. The character and the enemy are presented on a grid-based arena where they have to gradually move closer to each other until they are in range to attack. Once they are close enough, the battle truly begins, and the player can choose from a list of attacks reminiscent of a classic turn-based battle system.
This blending of different styles and genres makes Hybrid Heaven a truly unique experience for the system, and its science-fiction storyline keeps the adventure engaging from start to finish. While there may be more polished and well-known RPGs on the system, Hybrid Heaven occupies its own special position within the history of the genre and should definitely be tracked down by anyone who wants to enjoy everything the N64 has to offer.
Just be warned, if you want to purchase an original cartridge of Hybrid Heaven, get ready to dish out some pretty big cash in order to buy it off eBay. Is it worth it, though? We’ll let you find out for yourself.
The Best RPG games for the Nintendo 64
While there are other notable RPG games for the Nintendo 64 – such as Gauntlet Legends and Harvest Moon 64 – these three do a good job demonstrating that there was a selection of quality RPG titles for this system. While the Nintendo 64 may not go down in history as an RPG powerhouse, it still gave us some great games that left a mark in the history of this stories genre and continue to be a blast to play all these years later.