The Nintendo 64 era was a short one, and it saw the end of Nintendo’s dominance in the video games industry for a while, but it was glorious. The console basically wrote the book on 3D platformers and had games which are still to this day considered some of the best of all time. However, as years passed, many third-party developers deserted the N64 and Nintendo had to work overtime to create new games and keep their console alive. It led to the cancellation of many games at different levels of completion, some of which had already been announced with great fanfare in gaming magazines.
For most of the magazine’s lifespan, I was a subscriber of Nintendo Power. I started reading it before I could even understand English. My favorite section was Pak Watch, which is where the writers would drum up excitement for the upcoming projects by Nintendo and the other companies which developed for their consoles. Not every game featured in the section was released, but the screenshots and scarce descriptions were enough to send fans in a frenzy.
Because of all of these factors, we know a lot about projected Nintendo 64 games that ended up being canceled. While some of them ended up seeing the light of day in other circumstances, many were simply scrapped, which is a real heartbreaker when you’ve been excitedly reading about them for years. In memory of what could have been, we have assembled this list of what we feel are the 25 most hyped N64 games to ever be canceled. If all these ever made it to the console, its fate could have been very different.
25 Metroid 64
Metroid 64 appeared in the Pak Watch section of Nintendo Power fairly early in the system’s lifespan and stayed there for a few years.
Though the title was announced, the truth is that the title never even had a single minute of development devoted to it.
It was a project, and nothing more. Yoshi Sakamoto, the series’ creator, wanted a game but thought he couldn’t make it work in 3D. Nintendo then approached a second-party developer, which simply thought they couldn’t live up to the legacy of Super Metroid. So Metroid 64 was effectively “canceled” without ever being worked on.
24 Earthbound 64
Another title teased through Nintendo Power, Earthbound 64 was actually about halfway done before Nintendo pulled the plug. Screenshots had been shown to the public, and an entire article had been devoted to it in the company’s official magazine. The game was even showcased at the 1999 Spaceworld Expo, but was canceled in 2000. Nintendo realized they would need another two years of work on the game, yet the GameCube was coming early the next year. Some of the game’s ideas were recycled in Mother 3, a title which still has not been released in the west.
23 Robotech: Crystal Dreams
Robotech: Crystal Dreams was going to be a Nintendo 64 launch title based on the anime series of the same name. A demo was shown at multiple trade shows and screenshots were printed in every major gaming magazine. The game was then pushed back to 1997, at which point developer Gametek went bankrupt and its assets were acquired by Take 2 Interactive. The company canceled the project and the game was never completed. An unfinished version of the space shooter can now be found floating around the internet by resourceful users.
22 Final Fantasy VII
Since the days of the NES, Square had always released its products on Nintendo consoles. The company was going to keep this trend going with the N64 but had lofty ambitions in terms of game size and technology. The company asked for a CD-ROM drive to be included on the console, but Nintendo wanted to go with cartridges. Final Fantasy VII, which was in development at that point, would have needed to be compressed, and parts of the game would have had to be deleted. Square thus moved on to the Playstation, and the game was released on a million CDs instead.
21 Grand Theft Auto
The original top-down Grand Theft Auto was supposed to be released on N64 with some enhancements. The project was cancelled without any reason being given, and no interviews have been given on the subject since. The only proof we have of its existence comes from two sources. First, the game was talked about in Nintendo Power for a few months. Second, there was an internal Rockstar Games document which circulated around E3 in the 90s which showed that the game was planned for the “Ultra 64” (the N64’s old codename) as of 1995.
20 Mega Man 64 2
Mega Man 64 was nothing more than a port of Mega Man Legends. The game was largely unchanged from the Playstation version, save for some audio changes. When Mega Man Legends 2 was announced, Capcom assured that a N64 version would once again be created. Unfortunately, there were two major problems. The first is that the N64 version of the original suffered from poor sales, making a sequel an unattractive prospect. The second if that Mega Man Legends 2 was officially completed only halfway through the year 2000, at which point the N64 was nearing its end. The port was never finished.
19 Dinosaur Planet
Dinosaur Planet was going to be Rare’s final game for N64, starring a bunch of anthropomorphic animals going on an adventure through the titular planet. The game was hyped in Nintendo Power, and Nintendo was very impressed with the demo.
They also couldn’t help but notice that the game’s animal cast could be easily replaced by the Star Fox crew.
Dinosaur Planet was then cancelled as an N64 game, and reworked as a GameCube launch title, giving one of Nintendo’s big franchises an early appearance on the console.
18 Rampage Through Time
After the success of Rampage World Tour and Rampage Universal Tour on N64 (I rented both of those so much that it might have been cheaper to buy them), Rampage Through Time was also going to be released on the system. However, it was too little too late in the Nintendo 64’s lifespan, and only the PlayStation version was ever finished. Considering that it’s the worst rated game in the Rampage series, maybe it’s cancellation was a blessing in disguise.
17 Kirby Bowl 64
This Kirby racing game was announced before the console ever made it to store shelves, and stayed in development for the entire console’s lifespan. At first, it was going to be a follow-up to Kirby’s Dream Course called Kirby Bowl 64. Then it was changed to something resembling a skateboard game before turning into a snowboard game. The next batch of screenshots showed that it was now a racing game with every character riding a star around the tracks. In the end, it was canceled for a few years, before resurfacing as Kirby Air Ride for GameCube nearly 8 years after I was first announced.
16 1080 Snowboarding 2
In 1999, Nintendo confirmed that a sequel to the surprise N64 hit was coming once again to their fledgling console. Halfway through development, Left Field Studio decided to cancel their second-party studio agreement to start making games for multiple platforms. What they had was workable, and the assets were handed back to Nintendo, but it was too late to finish the game in time before the GameCube’s launch. The game was reworked into 1080 White Storm, which would have mirrored Wave Race Blue Storm. The name was eventually finalized as 1080 Avalanche.
15 Beetle Adventure Racing 2
The first Beetle Adventure Racing was one of the most unexpected hits on the N64. It was an interactive publicity, basically, but it was so much fun that it almost warranted a follow-up.
A sequel was announced, but nothing else was ever shown.
It seems like work did start at one point on the sequel, since the game appeared on the resume of Raymond Cassidy, a game designer at Paradigm Entertainment in the 90s. With how much stuff they packed in the original, one must wonder how crazy things might have gotten in the sequel.
14 Conker 64: Twelve Tales
“But”, you might say, “there was a Conker game released for N64!” You would be right, but it wasn’t always a super raunchy title. The original Conker was announced almost at the launch of the N64 by Rare, initially looking like a Banjo-Kazooie knockoff, but before Banjo-Kazooie was released. Rare knew they had something with the character, so they included it in Diddy Kong Racing, but the game never materialized at it was deemed too derivative. It had to be reworked as a Mature title to finally see the light of day.
In 1997, Nintendo bought the rights to publish Diablo in Japan for their new add-on, the 64DD. This Nintendo 64 extension was going to use rewritable disks, giving more than enough disk space to adapt the game without cutting it down. The problem is, the add-on failed, and its death meant the cancellation of the project. This first collaboration did not pan out, it was not the end for Blizzard and Nintendo. Though it was not entirely developed by Blizzard, StarCraft 64 was released in 2000, but Diablo was completely forgotten.
12 Fire Emblem 64
The image above is the only screenshot ever shown of Fire Emblem 64. It was shown at Space World 2000, Nintendo’s own trade show.
In 1997, Shigeru Miyamoto announced in Japan that a Fire Emblem game would make it to the 64 DD.
Of course, the add-on failed, but more than that, the series’ director left Intelligent System, which was developing the game. It was completely canceled in 2000, and parts of the story were reworked into Fire Emblem: The Binding Blade, the GBA game which introduced Roy to the world.
11 Glover 2
The N64 version of Glover was surprisingly decent, and was a surprise hit, but something went massively wrong. A sequel was announced, with the selling points being a new multiplayer mode and a more complex story. The game was 85% complete but was canceled when a Hasbro employee ordered too many cartridges of the original game (like, 150 000 too many). This almost bankrupted the company. Glover, which would have been a solid hit, instead ended up not making enough money to warrant the release of the second one. The rom of the unfinished sequel is said to be floating around online.
10 Independence War 2: Edge Of Chaos
Of course, there wasn’t even an Independence War 1 available on Nintendo 64. The second one, however, was slated to make it to the console, as well as Dreamcast and PlayStation, but only made it to PC in the end. The gameplay was influenced by those early decisions, however, with the game only being able to be saved between missions due to the lack of hard drive, on those consoles. The ships are also better controlled via joystick, a legacy of the N64’s analog stick.
9 Kameo: Elements Of Power
Sure, you’re going to tell me that Kameo wasn’t even that good of a game, but I would argue that it might have been better on the N64, on a smaller scale, and with less expectations.
The game, a Rare production, was originally going to be on Nintendo 64, but was then delayed to the GameCube.
It was then ported to the Xbox when the company was sold to Microsoft, to finally become an Xbox 360 launch title. Hence, it might have lived up to expectations without the constant need to restart everything.
8 Mario Artist
The Mario Artist series included eight different games, only four of which ended up being released for the 64DD in Japan. None of those ever made it to the West, once again because of the 64DD’s demise. Of those released in Japan, we had a Mario Paint follow-up, which included pre-made stickers and models of well-known Nintendo characters as well as a polygon modelizer. Japan also had some Mario Artist games canceled, including an audio mixer and a video editor.
7 O.D.T. – Or Die Trying
This 3D adventure game was eventually released on PlayStation and Windows. However, it was also supposed to make it to the N64, to the point where the game was featured in Nintendo Power over several months, and even had a poster in the center pages.
The Nintendo 64 version was even completed, but no reasons were ever given for its last-minute cancellation.
What we do know is that the completed game was eventually leaked online, and those who played it report no major change from the other versions.
6 Gradius IV
The Gradius games had enjoyed success on most Nintendo platforms before Gradius was ever planned. The arcade version was made available in February 1999, and was supposed to be released as the creatively titled Gradius 64 by the end of the year. By that point, the N64 was clearly losing that generation of the console wars, and Gradius 64 was canceled. We had to wait until the next generation, which thankfully was just over a year later, before a home version was released on PlayStation 2.
5 Mortal Kombat: Special Forces
Special Forces was only ever released on PlayStation. However, it was also in development for Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast. We know that because of an IGN interview with John Tobias. Midway went through internal turmoil in the middle of it all, to the point where Tobias, creator of the series, ended up leaving the company. The restructuring led to the new bosses focusing on the PlayStation version. This apparently did not help the game as much as they thought it would. It sits at an average rating of 28 on Metacritic to this day.
4 Project Dream
After the success of their Super NES Donkey Kong Country games, a very ambitious Rare was developing a game known as Project Dream. It was intended to be one of their first games on N64, back when Goldeneye was still thought to possibly be released on SNES.
It was going to be a pirate-themed RPG inspired by the Japanese tradition.
This sounds amazing, but Rare was so impressed by Super Mario 64 that they retooled their game engine into what would eventually become Banjo-Kazooie. Rare would never end up making a role-playing game on Nintendo 64.
3 Street Fighter EX
Street Fighter EX was the first game in the series to feature 3D polygons, which seems like it would be a perfect fit for Nintendo 64. After the arcade game’s success, a port was announced for Nintendo’s console. It would have been the only Street Fighter title on N64, but it was eventually only ported to the PlayStation. The N64 version was canceled because of the obvious money issues, and the general problems that came with adapting any game for the very particular N64 architecture.
2 Freak Boy
A 3rd person puzzle platformer, Freak Boy was about a tall humanoid character with disembodied limbs solving riddles. The developer was Virgin Interactive, a studio which made its name by developing the 16-bit Disney games based on Aladdin and The Lion King. It was supposed to be kinda like Super Mario 64, but with aliens invading the solar system. The game was originally announced in 1996 and retooled twice, but never was completed despite the two years development period. It was called “the greatest game never made” by the studio’s vice-president, who cited “politics” for the project’s demise.
1 Toejam And Earl III
The series was a cult classic on Sega Genesis, but the lack of success of the Sega Saturn led to the intellectual property being bought back by some of its programmers and licensed to GT Interactive. They started development and the game was headed to N64, until fate struck. GT Interactive went through some restructuring, which led the new administration to not want to invest in what was seen as a minor hit, which was going to be released on the least popular contemporary console. The project was then shelved until it was revived for Xbox.