The holidays are coming up quickly and chances are you’ve got some gifts to buy, and you’re dropping hints for particular gifts. Although the Switch and its games are hot right now, Nintendo has a long history of successful home consoles which can still be found online and in person, if you’re lucky enough to live near any retro game stores or in an area with a lot of tag sales. This holiday season, we compiled a list of some common, uncommon, and rare picks for the Nintendo 64 and Nintendo Gamecube for the nostalgic or curious gamers and collectors.
Please note that NES and SNES games were not considered for this list because the recently released NES and SNES classic systems pretty much cover the gamut of the “must-have” games for their respective systems.
Nintendo 64: Banjo-Kazooie (1998), Banjo-Tooie (2000)
Banjo-Kazooie is a unique Rare platformer. You play as a bear (Banjo) and a bird who lives in his backpack (Kazooie) trying to save Banjo’s sister Tootie from the witch Grunty, who wants to sap Tootie’s vitality so she can be young and beautiful. Along the way, Banjo and Kazooie meet some interesting characters like Mumbo-Jumbo, a shaman who can transform the duo into new creatures, Bottles, a mole who can teach Banjo and Kazooie new movies, and Clanker, Grunty’s mechanical shark. The worlds include Clanker’s industrial shark tank, Grunty’s own haunted mansion, a wood that can be entered during all four seasons of the year, among many other interesting locations. The soundtrack is also memorable for Grant Kirkhope’s use of many instruments that one wouldn’t normally hear together, like xylophones and saxophones. This game may sound childish, but don’t let that deceive you: it’s a challenging, clever platformer, with a good sense of humor. There’s a reason why fans were so excited when the game showed up in the Xbox One estore.
Banjo-Kazooie is available on Amazon.
Banjo-Tooie is, you guessed it, the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie! This game begins during a dark and stormy poker night. Grunty’s other witchy sisters have heard about their sister’s defeat, and revitalize her. Hungry for revenge, she destroys Banjo’s home and starts moving back through a set of new worlds, tormenting the unfortunate inhabitants in her path. This time the worlds include Grunty’s below-code theme park, a prehistoric region full of dinosaurs and cavemen alike, and the lost city of Atlantis. The worlds are also interconnected in this game, and many puzzles require some travelling back and forth between worlds to complete them, adding another layer to this sequel.
This game also improves the graphics from the first, and tons of new moves and items for the duo, even allowing them to split up and go their own way to complete certain tasks. Grant Kirkhope returns with another stellar soundtrack, and the humor is even more biting this time around. Plus, there is a multiplayer mode that lets you play the minigames as you unlock them in the main game with your friends.
Banjo-Tooie is available on Amazon.
Gamecube: Super Smash Bros. Melee (2001), Resident Evil 4 (2005)
Super Smash Bros. Melee is, for some gamers, the end all and be all of the Smash series. Despite the fact that we’re now two Smash games away from Melee, there are dedicated fans who won’t play anything but Melee, and the news that Gamecube controllers were made compatible with the Switch immediately had fans speculating. Like the previous Super Smash Brothers for the N64, Melee hosts a lineup of classic Nintendo characters poised for close-combat brawls. Melee expanded the lineup of playable characters from 12 to 25, added many new stages and playable content outside of the beat-’em-up main mode, and introduced many players to game franchises that weren’t well known outside of Japan at the time like Fire Emblem, and the still-developing Earthbound series. The Gamecube controller also made controlling characters much easier and more comfortable than it had been on the N64, and it could be argued that this handy controller contributed much to this franchise installment’s favored status.
Super Smash Bros. Melee is available on Amazon.
Resident Evil 4 does have connections to previous games in the Resident Evil series, but it can be played without them. This third person shooter catches up with Leon S Kennedy, who has been sent to a rural part of Spain to rescue the president’s kidnapped daughter. The villagers, the main enemies in this game, range from shuffling cult members and zombies, to humans riddled with alien-like parasites, though Kennedy also dukes it out with a lake monster, malformed giants, and a pipsqueak wannabe Napoleon. Admittedly, the story is pretty convoluted, but these games aren’t necessarily the type you play solely for the story. The escort missions with the president’s daughter can be frustrating, as the game ends if the villagers get a hold of her and she’s pretty much helpless, though she can be hidden in spots like dumpsters.
Nonetheless, this game is often considered the best of the series, and it’s worth playing even if you’re iffy about shooters. The Gamecube version of this game also comes on two discs (Gamecube discs are smaller than the standard size), so be sure to check online listings of the game carefully before purchasing.
Resident Evil 4 is available on Amazon.
Nintendo 64: Diddy Kong Racing (1997), Pokémon Snap (1999)
Diddy Kong Racing never got the same kind of recognition Mario Kart gets, which is sort of a shame. It’s your basic cart racing game, though it also has hovercrafts and airplanes thrown into the mix. The racers consist of some characters that only appear in this game, and a couple of early versions of now-favorite Rare characters: Conker, Banjo sans Kazooie, TipTup, and the Nintendo mainstay associated with Rare in 1997, Diddy Kong. There’s a challenging story mode and a multiplayer mode, though for some reason the game doesn’t play level music if you have more than two human players at once. That’s too bad, because the music is another one of Diddy Kong Racing’s strong points.
Diddy Kong Racing is available on Amazon.
Pokémon Snap lets you explore the world of professional Pokémon photography on an island (and once in space) that has been abandoned by humans. It’s exactly as it sounds: you’re taking pictures of 63 of the original 151 Pokémon and you get rated on them. This game rewards experimentation with the camera and the items you receive to help you take better pictures. Pokémon Snap also features a pretty catchy soundtrack. The only downside is that, like many other Pokémon games, it only has one save file. This game is notoriously difficult to emulate, so a hard copy is your best bet if you’re curious about it.
Pokémon Snap is available on Amazon.
Gamecube: Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door (2004), The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2006)
Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is an RPG Mario game which sees a 2D Mario in an environment that looks as if it has been constructed out of paper. There’s then an interesting aesthetic and a game genre that we rarely see Mario in, and a genre that suits Mario and co. surprisingly well. This game is set in Rogueport, a town in the Mushroom Kingdom which was built to replace a rich seaside town that was destroyed. Legend says that the Thousand-Year Door will lead to the riches lost in the destruction. Princess Peach tells Mario that she has found a map related to the door and then disappears suddenly, drawing him into the mystery.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door is available on Amazon.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess built off controls and some story elements of the smash Nintendo 64 hit, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Twilight Princess takes place in Hyrule some centuries after Ocarina of Time and the most recent incarnation of Link is just a simple farmhand before his adventure starts. Pulled into a twilight world, Link is transformed into a wolf, and a strange creature named Midna offers to help Link, so long as he follows her every order. The gameplay is based on Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask control schemes, so it’s easy to pick up if you’ve had experience with those games, and honestly doesn’t have much of a learning curve even if you haven’t. It is meant to be a much realistic-looking and darker Zelda experience, so at times the visuals can be a bit dull, but the aesthetic and effects are an interesting divergence from the N64 and toon Link looks.
This game was met with mixed responses from fans upon its initial release who had gotten used to the N64/toon looks, but it has since been accepted, remakes and rereleases of the games sell well, and now it’s among the many Zelda games that are referenced positively when fans are complaining about the latest addition to the series.
The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is available on Amazon.
Nintendo 64: Space Station Silicon Valley (1998), Mario Party 3 (2000)
Space Station Silicon Valley has gained something of a cult status in recent years, but it still seems strange to mark it as anything but rare, as nobody else seemed to own it in the N64’s heyday, nor remember it during the Gamecube and Wii years. This imaginative game had characters controlling Evo, a robot’s hard drive, which can implant itself in “dead” robotic animals that are housed on an interstellar zoo of sorts. And the animals you can control aren’t just cute little bunnies or anything like that. Almost all of them have upgrades like motors, rocket launchers, nuclear poo… Heck, even the cute little bunnies can create atomic blasts by pounding their feet on the ground! This game also had a funny side and an even better, memorable soundtrack.
One big downside to Space Station Silicon Valley is that the game is pretty ugly—even when it first came out it didn’t look fantastic, although one could argue that that’s just the game’s purposeful style. Another is that the game is sometimes painfully challenging—it will chew you up and spit you out if you’re not up to snuff. As a kid I was constantly asking my older brother for help with this game, and as an adult, I’m not ashamed to admit that I still need it.
If possible, try to pick up a copy of this game in person rather than ordering it offline so you can test it out. For some reason, it seems like this game has a high rate of cartridge degradation, and there are many complaints about this online. I’ve always been very careful about taking care of my games, and even my copy inexplicably started freezing on the fourth level (and only the fourth level) about four or five years ago.
Space Station Silicon Valley is available on Amazon.
Mario Party 3 is pretty similar to other prior and succeeding Mario Party games. You play against your friends across a digital gameboard, and you’re all pitted against each other in a series of minigames. Your success is measured in Stars, player with the most being crowned winner. What makes Mario Party 3 unique is its Duel Mode. Only available in Mario Party 3, Duel Mode lets players pick their characters as usual, and then partner that character with a minor or enemy character from the Mario games, from Toad to Thwomp. Each partner has different stats and benefit in different way. Your goal in the duel is not only to earn stars, but to deplete your opponent’s HP using your partner’s attacks whenever you cross paths. It’s a great twist on the usual game modes, and Duel games usually go much quicker than a full gameboard game. For the Duel mode alone it’s worth checking out this particular incarnation of Mario Party.
Mario Party 3 is available on Amazon.
Gamecube: The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition (2003), Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance (2005)
The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition was a promo disc that could be obtained in the US through certain Gamecube bundles or by subscribing or renewing a subscription to Nintendo Power magazine, and by other means in Japan, Europe, and Australia. This disc contains the two original Legend of Zelda for the NES, and the two N64 Zelda games, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask. There is also a short demo for the The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, and a few promotional videos.
This disc really just had basic ports of these four games: controls were upgraded, some translation errors had been corrected, but there was no upgrade in graphics, or anything like that. Majora’s Mask supposedly has issues at times with cutscene elements not loading correctly or at all or lag when one enters or exits the menu, but there’s nothing game-breaking or even game-crippling about these issues. This disc will get you four great games, save some space on your shelf, and though it isn’t the rarest disc for the Gamecube, it will definitely earn you some bragging rights.
The Legend of Zelda: Collector’s Edition is available on Amazon.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance premiered Ike, now well-known from his presence in the Super Smash Brothers games. In the beginnings of what appears to be a hostile takeover, the mercenary Ike discovers the last heir to the throne of his nation, Crimea. Ike then begins a quest to restore the heir to her throne and soothe tensions between the neighboring nations to fight the true enemy as one. As with the other Fire Emblem games discussed in these retro gift guides, this game is a strategy game with permadeath that can’t be turned off. However, Path of Radiance does offer three different difficult modes. Characters can be recruited in battle, and indeed, one is expected to if one wishes to successfully beat the game. This game also features a Base where characters can trade and forge weapons and have support conversations to improve their relationships, adding another layer to a game series known for its combat.
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance is available on Amazon.