Mario Party 3

Although it takes a fair shot at fixing the series’ lack of an engaging single-player experience, Mario Party 3 does not succeed in that regard, just like all of its sequels eventually would. However, even if it does not do as much as Mario Party 2 did for the formula, it is able to – through the punctual polishing it gives to the visuals, boards, and mini-games – take the franchise to its Nintendo 64 apex. Some of the Mario Party games may have done one or two things a little bit better – such as the orb system introduced on Mario Party 5 or the boards governed by different rules of Mario Party 6 – but Mario Party 3 was the very last time (to those who have been following the series since its inception) in which it felt like the franchise took a good step forward, consolidating what had been done before it and propelling the package to a new level of quality.

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Mario Party 2

In other words, Mario Party 2 is a game that gives players way more tools to mess with their dearest friends than its predecessor did, something that will inevitably work, at some point, both for and against all players regardless of their level of expertise, as even though experienced gamers will have more control over their fate here, they will still be quite vulnerable to the turns destiny loves to take. And that factor will make its skirmishes far more fun, hilarious, exhilarating, and infuriating; making Mario Party 2 quite easy to recommend to anyone who has neither a weak heart nor a short temper.

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Mario Party

Mario Party works as a virtual board game because it mixes the concept of having a group of friends sitting around a table and reacting to each other’s moves and actions with the craziness that only a video game could provide. By building something that leans on human interaction as much as it relies on the interface between players and machine it successfully makes the magic of Checkers, Chess, Monopoly, and Clue materialize in the electronic gaming world. It makes it clear that these games do not simply work because they are addictive or well-designed, but because they pair that prowess with the ability to gather people so that they can laugh, get angry, and shout together. That is the beauty of board games; that is the beauty of Mario Party.

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Diddy Kong Racing

Diddy Kong Racing is able to, then, lift itself above the generic building blocks it uses. Differently from most kart-racing games, it may not be stacked with recognizable brands, characters, and assets, a reality that is slightly harmful to the overall experience. However, Rare – in the midst of a breathtaking streak of creativity – was able to infuse the title with enough content, genuine challenge, and refreshing ideas to transform it into the Nintendo 64’s most fun racing effort and one of the few games of its genre that rightfully deserves to be placed alongside the best entries of the Mario Kart franchise. That, in itself, is a feat that reveals a lot about the degrees of creativity and dedication that were employed in the game’s making.

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Paper Mario

By its curtain call, Paper Mario will have proved itself to be an improvement over its predecessor; certainly not an affirmation to be taken lightly given the classic status of Super Mario RPG. Supported by three strong pillars of unquestionable quality – its creative writing, its engaging exploration, and its simple yet deep RPG elements and battle system – the game shows that Nintendo and Intelligent Systems used the knowledge acquired from their partnership with Squaresoft to build a work that is utterly original, from its visuals to its gameplay, and that is not afraid to abandon the more traditional approach of Super Mario RPG for something that feels fresher and even more aligned with the aura of the Mario franchise. Legends are not easy to topple, but Paper Mario does it.

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Donkey Kong 64

It is hard to deny the greatness of Donkey Kong 64. As a game that, even before release, wore on its sleeve the intention to be as big as technologically possible, it delivers in every single way. Given games of its kind would sadly fall out of favor during the generations that followed, it has remained as the largest and most demanding collection-based platformer ever since then, with no palpable contestants in sight. It is a game that may occasionally go overboard in its quest for scope and challenge, an exaggeration that will alienate many souls that will drown in backtracking and frustration. But the bottom-line is that it is fun. It does not aim for immensity for the sake of being big; it does so to make room for the insurmountable amount of ideas it sports. It is not a hollow behemoth, but a juggernaut exploding with spectacular moments.

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Jet Force Gemini

True to Rare’s traditions, everything is done remarkably well: the 15 worlds are gigantic, present different environments, and are given life by a wonderful fauna, a rich flora, and alluring bluidings; all clear displays of the brillancy of the game’s artistic team. Playing through Jet Force Gemini is, consequently, experiencing a welcoming mix of atmospheric delights and thrilling action.

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Banjo-Tooie

In its endless megalomania, Banjo-Tooie tops Banjo-Kazooie by a considerable margin. What was once a stellar game turns – when infused with punctual fixes, the addition of clever ideas, and the expansion of others – into one of the biggest and most ambitious games the world has ever seen. Everything it tries to do is positively enormous, and although some will turn away due to its grandeur, those who fall in love with its desire to build one interconnected all-encompassing world by linking its stages together and sprinkling big amounts of backtracking into the formula will find unparalleled levels of satisfaction on its exploration and puzzle-solving. Banjo-Tooie is one-of-a-kind, and its gigantic and demanding ways have yet to be duplicated.

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Conker’s Bad Fur Day

Conker’s Bad Fur Day is, then, able to stand out from its peers not only because of its obscene content and propensity to go far beyond what is morally clean, but also because of its many prowesses. It is an impressive work that displays great attention to detail and that dares to step outside the gameplay bones of its generational counterparts. Even though it is frequently remembered for being dirty to strong degrees, its colorful surface hides qualities that go far beyond excrement, blood, and beeps censuring bad words. Its heart might be clouded by too much alcohol, but its intentions are good, and it is able to fulfill them; even if it sometimes stumbles and vomits along the way.

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Banjo-Kazooie

In the midst of such overwhelming greatness surfacing from every single corner, however, no issue could have possibly held Banjo-Kazooie back. After many years, its gameplay still stands tall and strong. It may not have opened the gates to a new era like Super Mario 64 did, but it showed – more than any other game – that classics can be topped, even within a few years of their original release. With over twenty hours of gameplay towards full completion, Banjo-Kazooie is a sprawling masterpiece that time has not eroded; and the joy attached to its exploration has barely been replicated ever since.

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