In the early '90s, Nintendo reigned over the gaming world with a plumber-shaped fist. Sure, Sega presented an alternative, but Sonic the Hedgehog was barely a fly on Mario's windshield. As the Super Nintendo Entertainment System gradually concluded its incredible run, gaming underwent an industry-wide shift towards 3D, so the Japanese company needed to up the ante with its next console. Even though the Nintendo 64's commercial viability paled in comparison to Sony's PlayStation, the platform still housed some of the most influential titles of this particular era.
Technology is never static, so every new gaming period coincides with a noticable leap forward in terms of graphics and immersion. Nevertheless, a convincing argument can be made that the largest jump happened from the fourth to the fifth generation. Regardless of their ambition, developers can only work with the tools available to them, and the late '90s opened up a whole new world for creators who were willing to experiment. Unsurprisingly, 3D brought forth a range of unique challenges, and many titles struggled to properly implement their new resources. Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time are rightfully recognized as gaming royalty, but there is far more to the Nintendo 64 than just two of the greatest games of all time.
Whether intentionally difficulty or bogged down by awkward controls, Nintendo's first 3D-capable platform contains more than its fair share of frustrating experiences. Here are 25 classic N64 games that are impossible to beat (and how to beat them)!
25 Jet Force Gemini
Developed and published by Rare, Jet Force Gemini may be the studio's most ambitious game to date, mixing third-person shooter mechanics with platforming and shooter elements. Remembered fondly enough to warrant a spot in Rare Replay, Xbox One owners should consider giving this a try; however, prepare yourself for a tough time! The controls are generally responsive, but Rare packed each level with so much action that one could find themselves buried under a sea of pixels within seconds. Due to its arcade roots, constant movement is key to besting Jet Force Gemini.
24 Mischief Makers
Published early into the Nintendo 64's lifespan, Mischief Makers serves as an early prototype of a 2.5D platformer. Developed by Treasure, who was largely known for run and gun titles like Gunstar Heroes, this sidescroller's levels venture on the manageable side, especially due to the focus being on exploration rather than action. If this is the case, why even put Mischief Makers on this list? Well, Treasure decided to throw out a curveball with a stage set around a Sports Festival, that requires players to partake in a serious of minigames that offer a huge difficulty spike. Our recommendation? Patience is key, as this section is more trial and error than anything else.
23 Duke Nukem 64
Serving as a humorous alternative to Doom, Duke Nukem used to sit among gaming's most renowned mascots before Forever dropped the ball in spectacular fashion. While the easiest modes present little in the way of challenge, Duke Nukem 64's Damn I'm Good difficulty will test even the most seasoned of first-person shooter players. Disabling cheat codes and causing enemies to respawn if not completely destroyed, Duke Nukem's arrogance finally got him into a situation that is above his pay grade. In order to avoid being swarmed by enemies, the only option is to stock up on explosives!
22 F-Zero X
Forget platformers and RPGs, racing is comfortably the hardest genre on the Nintendo 64, although this has more to do with studios struggling to truly adapt to the new technology. F-Zero X is an exception, as the racer controls like a dream and has super responsive gameplay, but the AI just happens to be fairly competent. Waiving visuals for speed, F-Zero X's races move along at an insanely high velocity and the smallest of bumps could send your spaceship flying off the track. A solid start tends to decide who comes out on top, as the remaining racers duke it out in an intergalactic dogfight. Also, due to there being fewer laps, the earlier races tend to be harder on the lowest difficulty setting.
21 Blast Corps
While researching this article, we could not help be reminded of Rare's '90s brilliance. The studio blessed the industry with one masterpiece after another and it is a shame that the fifth generation marked the end of Rare's heyday. Blast Corps' premise is relatively straightforward: destroy buildings to clear a path for an out of control nuclear missile carrier. The main missions are fun rather than challenging, but the bonus time trials can be merciless! After obtaining gold medals for all the levels, platinum times are unlocked and they require a near flawless run. Prior to each race, Blast Corps allows players to pick a vehicle, so it is best to experiment.
Daikatana is hard to play in more ways than one, but this entry will focus on the intentional side of things. Sort of similar to Dark Souls, Daikatana's initial hours are far more challenging than the end-game content; however, unlike FromSoftware's beloved series, we would be hard-pressed to describe the FPS's difficulty as fair. Right out of the gate, players are presented with a weak melee attack and a self-harming weapon, while enemies only require a small number of hits to elicit a respawn. Things get progressively better, but the first few levels reward cautious play rather than Doom's run and gun madness.
19 Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
With technology finally reaching a point where creating interactive planets seemed possible, George Lucas' space opera sunk its teeth into the gaming industry. Amidst a sea of mediocre licensed games, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron stands as a bonafide hit capable of teleporting fans into Lucas' beloved universe. Holding minor similarities to Star Fox, Rogue Squadron's combat is intuitive and accessible, but completing the 16 stages requires patience, commitment, and a couple of controllers. With only three lives and no checkpoints, the later levels are nail-bitingly intense, but the only option is to memorize the area's layout.
A couple of notches above the much-maligned PlayStation port, Nintendo 64's Glover is a strange beast that puts gamers in the glove of a sentient clothing accessory. Divided into more than 30 stages, gameplay boils down to pushing a ball through a 3D landscape towards the end goal. Glover's mechanics require a bit of getting used to, but the gameplay is largely tight; nevertheless, levels get progressively harder to the point of frustration and the bonus stages are especially grueling. Glover's presents a number of unique ways to interact with the ball and anyone seeking to complete the campaign on a higher difficulty must master them all.
17 Conker's Bad Fur Day
Conker's Bad Fur Day is a fever dream masquerading as an adorable platformer and Rare spiked up the difficulty to match the target audience. The leap to 3D led to many improvements, but the extra dimension made platformers far easier. Completing Super Mario Bros. was no easy feat, but Super Mario 64 had no chance of featuring on this list. In comparison, Conker's Bad Fur Day is considerably harder, but the difficulty takes a while to truly kick in. The first six chapters are a cakewalk, but there is a noticeable spike during the last couple of stages. Like most platformers, it comes down to exact timing and perseverance.
16 Body Harvest
Prior to Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar North released Body Harvest under the studio name of DMA Design. Garnering a decent but unspectacular reception upon release, this third-person shooter is worth playing merely to experience the origins of Grand Theft Auto. The gameplay boils down to shooting or driving over aliens while protecting civilians, so Body Harvest is far more restrictive than Rockstar's legendary series. While the bosses present a noteworthy challenge, saving civilians is by far the hardest part of the campaign. Success lies in upgrading your cars, while nobody will judge you for using a cheat code...
15 Buck Bumble
Hailing from the same studio that blessed gamers with Star Fox and Croc: Legend of the Gobbos, Buck Bumble removes the former's limitations but suffers from the latter's awkward controls. Equipped with a number of weapons, players control a bee through a series of missions, but the protagonist's movements have not aged particularly well. The levels themselves are not particularly troublesome, so most of the challenge arises from the controls themselves. Just to be clear, Buck Bumble was a more than decent game for the time, but its shortcomings are hard to ignore. Approach this like a Star Fox clone and you should be okay.
14 Ogre Battle 64: Person Of Lordly Caliber
When contrasted with other real-time tactical RPGs, Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber is nowhere near the hardest to complete, but unlocking the good ending requires a ton of planning. For the uninitiated, Ogre Battle 64 puts players in charge of a large battalion consisting of troops led by various generals, so picking the appropriate units to attack a specific town plays a huge part in determining the ending. Striking a balance between forceful and altruistic unlocks the best ending, but a slip up could result in one of the more mundane conclusions. When targeting a town, aim to liberate rather than conquer them.
13 Donkey Kong 64
Donkey Kong Country is notorious for its difficulty, a trend that continues to this day. Rare's 1999 release does not even contain the series' hardest campaign, but Donkey Kong 64 may win the prize for being the most irritating to 100%. Collecting all the bananas requires backtracking through the same levels with five different characters, while Rare included a number of old-school Donkey Kong arcade games that must be completed. If these obligations were not already asking for too much, there are also Nintendo and Rare coins to unlock, which are just annoying to collect. Frankly, Donkey Kong 64 is far more entertaining when not seeking that elusive 101%. While a fantastic game, Donkey Kong 64 is formed on repetition, to the point that memorization is far more important than skill.
12 Doom 64
While not the franchise's first foray onto consoles, Doom 64's visuals and level-design were a step above its predecessors, although critics were somewhat annoyed by the shooter's unwillingness to take risks. Among these earlier iterations, Doom 64 seemed the most determined to reduce Doom guy into a human-shaped puddle. Even on the default setting, standing idle for a second will result in an immediate defeat. Approaching Doom 64 as a modern FPS is a recipe for failure and the only viable strategy is to run and gun.
11 Superman 64
Superman 64 is trash. We understand if some readers need a second to digest that unexpected revelation. Surprising absolutely nobody, the Man of Steel controls like a one-winged airplane that lacks a working radar. Completing this abomination requires a far higher threshold of pain than most can muster, and none of the perceived challenges are intentional. Refusing to obey input commands, Superman has a mind of his own and DC's legendary hero seems determined to end this game as quickly as possible. If someone is determined to complete this trainwreck, the only option is to track down whatever version this reviewer was playing. For the flying sections, Superman is closer to an aircraft carrier than Star Fox 64's Arwing.
10 Command & Conquer
The RTS genre was designed for the keyboard and mouse. Even though consoles receive their fair share of ports, PC gaming will always be the king of real-time strategy. A highly influential title that proved an RTS can function with a controller, Command & Conquer's importance cannot be understated; nevertheless, EA's decision to not port the next couple of sequels is somewhat telling. To avoid any misunderstandings, Command & Conquer's console ports were a success, but the less accurate controls put players at a considerable disadvantage when up against the ruthless AI. A toaster can run Command & Conquer, so just play the original on PC. As with any strategy game, rather than focusing on numbers, try to create an army suitable for that particular environment.
9 GoldenEye 007
Out of all things, Rare turned the FPS genre on its head with a licensed game. Featuring prominently in the memories of many gamers, GoldenEye 007 may be one of those titles better left to nostalgia, as the gameplay has aged quite poorly. Rare's campaign is beatable on the lowest two difficulties, but 00 Agent removes auto-aim and ramps up the enemies' stats to near impossible heights. One needs to genuinely be the world's greatest spy to withstand GoldenEye 007's hardest preset difficulty. After completing this mode, 007 Agent is unlocked, which allows players to tweak the AI's capabilities. If everything is turned up to its maximum limit, GoldenEye 007 goes from being nearly impossible to a downright futile adventure. If in a firefight, make sure to never stop moving.
8 Diddy Kong Racing
When placed alongside Crash Team Racing and Mario Kart 64, Diddy Kong Racing's adventure mode does not stray too far from the beaten track. As tends to be the case with kart games, the hassle resides in unlocking all the side content, but Diddy Kong Racing pulled no punches when it comes to T.T. As one of only two secret racers, this anthropomorphic clock was created solely for Diddy Kong Racing and has the highest stats in the game, but unlocking Tick Tock requires beating him across all 20 race tracks. Nowadays, forums allow gamers to unite and overcome an especially precarious hurdle, but the '90s were less forgiving. Do not be afraid to experiment with the racers, as some characters perform better on certain tracks.
7 Rayman 2: The Great Escape
If Super Mario 64 showed the potential of 3D action-adventure games, Rayman 2: The Great Escape perfected the formula. Unlike the former, Ubi Soft Montpellier's highly acclaimed sequel is not afraid to test the player's skills, with a couple of the final levels bordering on unfair. Checkpoints are quite rare and stages seem to stretch on forever, so a slip up could render obsolete the last 20 minutes worth of progression. As a franchise, Rayman is known for its crushing difficulty and this characteristic survived the transition to 3D. The latter levels require perfect timing, so it is really just a matter of not giving up. There are also a number of helpful cheats designed to ease the pain.
6 Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark has aged better than Rare's spiritual predecessor, but time has done little to lower the difficulty threshold of the FPS's 30 challenges. If played on Special Agent or Perfect Agent, Perfect Dark's story requires complete concentration to complete, but the mission objectives never feel unnecessarily obtuse; however, the same cannot be said for the last few challenges. Whether tasked with winning a "King of the Hill" with only a pistol or surviving an onslaught without a shield, Rare made sure that this optional content lived up to its name. Practice makes perfect, but Perfect Dark requires a slightly more cautious and strategic approach to GoldenEye 007.
5 Robotron 64
A sequel to Robotron: 2084, Robotron 64 transposed the multi-directional shooter mechanics from the original title onto a 3D playing field. For the most part, the move proved to be reasonably successful, although the series struggled to reach the same lofty heights set by the first game. Depending on the chosen setting, the campaign's length varies accordingly, with Easy and Normal consisting of 100 and 200 levels respectively. As can be expected, the latter demands near perfection from the player. Besides just buckling down, there is a cheat that rewards players with 50 lives. Trust us, Insane mode will use them all up!
4 Goemon's Great Adventure
Ramping up the difficulty considerably from its predecessor, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, 1998's 2.5D platformer is a treat for anyone who appreciates this type of game. Opting for larger intricate levels and a day/night system that alters the encounter enemies, Goemon's Great Adventure remains a blast to play and serves as a perfect entry point into the forgotten series. Putting aside the vast amount of unlockables, Goemon's Great Adventure features a playable cast of four characters, who come with their own unique move sets. Backtracking is a must to finish the story, but completion requires mastering all four personas. Take it slow and get used to the controls!
3 StarCraft 64
Ported to Nintendo's platform around a year after Command & Conquer, StarCraft 64 cemented that consoles were a viable option for the RTS genre. Conversely, Blizzard Entertainment's classic re-confirmed that a controller cannot reliably replicate the precision of a mouse. StarCraft 64 is a more than an acceptable port, but each scene is so overstuffed with action that battles can fly by without allowing players enough time to properly react. While the enemy AI's capabilities cannot be dismissed, your own army requires handholding to do anything right. In other words, micro-management leads to victory!
2 Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire
Published less than four months after the Nintendo 64's inauguration, Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire opened with a stunning Battle of Hoth rendition and blended numerous gameplay styles across ten levels. Ambition should always be praised, but good ideas are nothing without the proper execution; unfortunately, when it comes to the latter, Shadows of the Empire regularly falls short. With the exception of the vehicle sections, the controls are not particularly smooth and completing missions depends more on memorizing the level's layout than actual skill.
1 The Legend Of Zelda: Majora's Mask
Last and (arguably) least, at least when it comes to the topic at hand, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask's difficulty feels somewhat artificial. Viewed on their own; the puzzles, dungeons, and bosses are around the same level as Ocarina of Time, but the sequel's central gimmick is that Link's adventure comes with a deadline. Each temple must be completed within three days, so there is a certain urgency that pervades the entire experience. As Majora's Mask rarely provides clear instructions on the safest path to take, Link can end up wasting time on filler material that does not matter. During the first couple of hours, we recommend focusing on the main story, as this will increase the silent protagonist's HP and abilities.