Top 100 Games of All-Time: #9

Star Fox 64

Release Date: June 30, 1997

Platform Played On: N64

2018 Placement: #8 (-1)


What It Is:

The (not cancelled) follow-up to Star Fox on the SNES, Star Fox 64 takes the same general directional shooter gameplay of the original and expands upon it greatly. You play as Fox McCloud, piloting an Arwing through different planets while your trusty wingmen Peppy, Falco, and Slippy help you and give you advice. The levels vary in size and scope: some are linear, on-rails shooters while others involve “All-Range Mode,” a new system that allows you to dogfight in a large arena. In addition to the Arwing you can pilot a tank, the Landmaster, and a sub, the Blue Marine, depending on the planet.

The plot of the game is a basic repeat of the first one, almost a retelling. It introduces the Star Wolf team, which is the evil version of your team of pilots. There’s also a multiplayer mode that allows you to battle your friends in an Arwing, a Landmaster, or on foot with a rocket launcher – something you don’t get to do in the single-player campaign. It’s probably the most well-known and most referenced of all the Star Fox games – this one stuck to the shooter gameplay the original was known for without too many gimmicks.

Why It’s Important To Me:

To understand why this game has stuck with me for so long, you have to understand how different the landscape of voice acting in gaming was 25 years ago. That is to say, there was hardly any. Even big budget RPGs like Final Fantasy 7 didn’t have any voice acting at the time. But Star Fox 64 was fully voice acted. Yeah, they were all very short, kinda cheesy lines, but it made the game an instant favorite among me and my friends due to the endlessly quotable lines from all the characters.

From Peppy’s ubiquitous “Do a barrel roll!” to a boss’s quick and disgusted “Cocky little freaks!” From Star Wolf’s introduction (“Can’t let you do that, Star Fox!”) to their in-battle taunts (“Too bad dad’s not here to see you FAIL.”). From the boss’s laments as they die (“I can’t believe I lost to this scuuuuuuuum!”) to the final boss’s final words (“If I go down I’m taking you with me!”). There are so many lines from this game that are eternally buried in my brain because of how much personality was injected into the characters by the voice actors. I can still quote most of these with the exact cadence and accents (well, badly in my case). Yeah, the gameplay itself was great and you can’t really get it anywhere else in other games, but it was all the characters coming to life and getting to see the potential of voice acting in future games that made me fall in love with it as a whole.

My Strongest Memory:

Aside from the aforementioned voice acting, this was a game I platinumed before there was such a thing as achievements and trophies. Back when all 100%ing a game got you the feeling of a job well done. I beat this game, got all the medals on the hard path, and then played it again on Expert. It was a game that captivated me so thoroughly that I played it and beat it multiple times in multiple ways. Sometimes I’d just pick it up and play through a run just for fun. (No wonder I still remember all the voice lines.)

It was also the first game that made me realize I loved dogfighting as a concept in video games. When All-Range Mode kicked off for the first time I geeked the hell out. Getting to do flips and barrel rolls and take on my friends in multiplayer was also a huge highlight. While I later got into games like Twisted Metal that replicated the same sort of dogfighting arena single player and multiplayer, Star Fox 64 was really the first that grabbed me.

Why It’s #9:

It’s weird. I can take each individual part of this game and find other games that do it a bit better. Yeah, I love the minute-to-minute gameplay of Bloodborne more. Yeah, I kinda like the characters and story from Persona 5 a little more. Yeah, there’s other games I prefer the multiplayer for. But Star Fox 64 is more than the sum of its parts. It’s just a damn classic. Even games that have hundreds of hours of voice acting now still can’t compete with Falco being a smart-ass. They’re the original smack talkers, and in my heart they always deserve a stop in the top 10.