BANJO-KAZOOIE / Rare / Nintendo 64
Banjo is a bit too "kiddie" for me, and there's too much emphasis on collecting of random knicknacks, but I can't deny that it is a very good 3D platformer in the style of Mario 64.
Though Banjo uses Mario 64 as a template, right down to having you travel from level to level using paintings, it improved on the formula in a lot of ways and introduced some new twists. Banjo and his cruelly imprisoned bird backpack buddy have a slightly larger suite of moves than the Italian plumber, and as the game goes on you gain the ability to transform into other creatures.
The game's main strength is that the levels are just really solidly designed and are a joy to explore and play around in. Tight control and a really good camera system (why couldn't Mario 64 do this?) complement this, as does the window dressing of really nice textures and some quite decently animated characters for the time.
* Gameplay Video
* Game Over hotness