The Nintendo 64 was first released in 1996 and it’s lifespan lasted until 2003, when the PlayStation 2 essentially took over the gaming console market. But for many kids of an entire generation, the N64 was the hippest electronic toy on the block. It helped usher in a new generation of 3D graphics, and included a bunch of absolute classic games like Super Mario 64, Ocarina of Time, and GoldenEye: 007.
However, this article isn’t about the greatest N64 games of all-time. Those are well-documented all over the internet. We wanted to take a moment to remind you about some of the most underrated or forgotten Nintendo 64 games. So blow the dust off your console (or fire up your emulator), and spend some time playing these retro gems.
10. Body Harvest
These days, open-world sandbox games are a dime a dozen. But they were still mostly a new genre back when the Nintendo 64 ruled the gaming world. Body Harvest is a great example of an early open-world game, and you can clearly see the parallels between it and later masterpieces like Grand Theft Auto III. In this 1998 title, made by DMA Design (who would later rename themselves Rockstar North — ring any bells?) and published by Midway, you play Adam Drake, a genetically engineered solder who can travel through time and is tasked with stopping multiple alien invasions. As the title suggests, the aliens are coming to Earth to harvest humans for their own needs.
The game features non-linear story progression and a bunch of different vehicles and weapons to use. There are even optional side missions, which can actually be failed without affecting a player’s progress through the main story. Hmmm… sounds like another game that Rockstar North would make famous a few years later…
9. Clayfighter 63 1/3
When it comes to fighting games, the Nintendo 64 had recognizable names like Killer Instinct Gold and Mortal Kombat 4 leading the way. However, it was the tongue-in-cheek stop motion animation fighter Clayfighter 63 1/3 that we most fondly remember. After two Clayfighter titles had already been released for the SNES, developer Interplay Entertainment brought the claymation fighter to the N64.
The game, which is a clever parody of more “serious” fighting games, used actual stop motion animation instead of traditional computer animation, giving it a unique look and feel. And here’s a fun gaming fact for you: there was an updated version, called the Sculptor’s Cut, that was only available as an exclusive Blockbuster Video rental. It contained new storylines, four new fighters, and various game improvements and tweaks (almost like current games that get an online patch). This version is one of the rarest and most expensive N64 games for collectors.
Maybe it was because this game was also later made available on the “more serious” PlayStation 2 console that it was so overlooked as an N64 title. But WinBack is an excellent third-person shooter with a spy thriller theme. The one thing that really set it apart from other shooters of the time was an innovative cover system, allowing players to duck behind objects and walls, and peek out just enough to shoot. Multiple games have since copied that system, with the Gears of War series perhaps being the most famous of them all.
The rest of the game is a standard shooter, as you take out various terrorists and bad guys, with elements of avoiding traps and solving puzzles thrown in. Curiously, it was one of the first games to feature multiple endings, based on how long it takes you to get to the end.
7. Snowboard Kids 1 & 2
Combine the sweet tricks of 1080 Snowboarding with the battle racing mechanics of Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing, and you end up with Snowboard Kids. The game featured creative levels and offered rewards for pulling off harder tricks. Additionally, you had to manually get your character to the ski lift at the end of a run in order to complete the next lap, creating a mad frenzy between players.
The game was well-received by gamers and was actually awarded with a sequel, Snowboard Kids 2, which is even better. The second edition featured better graphics and more precise controls, and took the snowboarding action into different terrains, like sand. Both games are still worthy of your time.
6. Space Station Silicon Valley
We’re not exactly sure how to describe this game, but it’s basically a platformer where you control a robotic microchip that attacks and takes over the bodies of various bionically enhanced animals. The animals are then used to solve puzzles, collect the robot’s power cells, and get through the levels. There’s also an evil brain to battle with, and an impending collision between an out-of-control space station and New York City.
Space Station Silicon Valley is a cartoonish action puzzle game, which often draws comparisons to Banjoo-Kazooie. It garnered mixed reviews by critics, getting a 9.5/10 from IGN but just a 6.5/10 by Game Informer magazine. For our money, though, it flew way under the radar — partly because it was released at the same time as another game you may have heard of — The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.
Everyone loves Tetris, but you can only re-release the same game so many times. A basic port of the arcade and Game Boy classic probably wouldn’t have fared very well. However, if you tweak things just right, you get a game that feels familiar but plays like it’s brand new. That’s exactly what happened with Tetrisphere. As you probably assumed, it still involves lining up blocks in order to eliminate them from the board. Only this time, the goal is to reach the center of the sphere. There’s a couple power-ups thrown in, like lasers and bombs, to spruce up the reliable gameplay mechanic that the original Tetris made famous.
4. Road Rash 64
There were a number of good racing games on the N64 that could have made this list, including Beetle Adventure Racing! and F-Zero X. However, we decided to go with Road Rash 64, a game where players raced motorcycles and also used fists and weapons to attack their fellow racers. Finishing races at the front of the pack would award more prize money, which the player would need to upgrade their bike, pay a mechanic for repairs, or even pay a fine when busted by the police.
The game is also memorable for featuring licensed music, most notably the Sugar Ray hit “Mean Machine.” While the single player does have a tendency to get boring, multiplayer with your friends is an absolute blast.
3. Blast Corps
Blast Corps a hybrid action/puzzle game, where you must use various vehicles (including a giant robot mech) to clear the path of a runway nuclear missile on the back of a carrier. Basically, you use bulldozers, dump trucks, and (for some reason) a tricycle that shoots missiles, to destroy everything in the way or else you die.
As the game progresses, the puzzles get harder and you’ll find yourself with less and less time to clear the way before the big explosion. It feels like a bit of a precursor to the Crash Mode in Burnout 3: Takedown, where players try to amass huge high scores in terms of dollar value damage. It’s simple, yet highly addictive. It’s also included in the Rare Replay for the Xbox.
2. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
History has been more than kind to Conker’s Bad Fur Day, a game made by Rare that features a foul-mouthed, hard drinking squirrel trying to find his way home after a hard night of pounding back adult beverages. It was a brilliant game, contained smart adult humor and clever pop culture parodies, but it had two things going against it. One, it was Rated M, which prevented anyone under 18 from buying it legally — a rarity for N64 games. Secondly, it was released in 2001, which was towards the end of the Nintendo 64’s life cycle. That meant that it didn’t receive much marketing support for Nintendo, and many potential buyers were already planning their next generation console purchase.
Conker’s Bad Fur Day also featured an addicting local multiplayer mode, with multiple creative minigames like trying to rob a bank or invade a military base from a beach. The game was re-released for the original Xbox and is also part of the Rare Replay bundle on the Xbox One.
1. Mischief Makers
Even though the Nintendo 64 really wanted developers to focus on 3D titles, there were still plenty of solid 2D titles to go around. One of the best was Mischief Makers, a speedy side-scrolling game developed by Treasure. The graphics were solid, considering the era, and the gameplay was actually inventive. You play as a robot maid named Marina, on a journey to save your kidnapped creator, who must perform a combination of grabbing, shaking, or throwing objects in order to get through the levels.
Mischief Makers was originally panned by critics, who were perhaps expecting more 3D titles for the N64. In retrospect, however, gamers have looked back fondly on the title. A GamesRadar article from 2009 called it “possibly the most underrated and widely ignored game on the N64.” Which is why it tops this list.