The Nintendo 64 was released in North America in 1996,and, over its lifespan, 296 games would be released. When compared to the PlayStation’s 1100 games and the Sega Saturn’s 600 games, that number looks downright minuscule. One would think that with such a small library, Nintendo 64 games were painstakingly curated to make sure that every release would set a new standard in their respective genre or, at the very least, that they were worth their customers’ money. Unfortunately, making a video game is a difficult balancing act where all parts must come together perfectly to create an enjoyable product. Several outside factors can single-handedly ruin a game. Sometimes it is simply bad timing. Sometimes it is a lack of production value. While it is true that classics like Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Banjo-Kazooie have marked gaming history in their own way, let us not forget that these games only represented the cream of the crop.
Today, we are going to look at a different kind of games. We are going to look at the bottom of the barrel. We are going to see the games that never made it to any “best of the year” list, the ones that forever stayed on the shelves at your local Blockbuster. Every single game on this list has offended gamers for one reason or another. These are the forgotten horrors of their generation.
These are the 25 worst games on the Nintendo 64.
Originally a critically successful PC game, Hexen was ported to the Nintendo 64 in 1997. In the process, it was stripped of anything that made it remarkable or different: Gone were the haunting soundtrack or the story-explaining cut scenes. Players were left to navigate confusing levels with one of three characters, one of which did not even have any projectile-based weapon. Why does it matter? Because this game was designed as a first-person shooter, in the same style of Doom or Duke Nukem 3D.
To make matters worse, the game was already a year and a half years old by the time it was released on Nintendo 64. While the cardboard-style sprites representing the enemies were all the rage in the early 90s, the game looked downright dated next to Turok or Goldeneye, both released mere months before or after. Hexen was simply too little, too late.
24 Earthworm Jim 3D
Earthworm Jim and Earthworm Jim 2 were both beloved platformers of the 16-bits era known for their off-beat humour and challenging levels. Shiny Entertainment, developers of the original games, were sold to Interplay Entertainment shortly after the release of the second games. Development of the series was from that moment on handled by a completely different developer, who then spent nearly four years working on a new Earthworm Jim.
The results were less than stellar. The humour, which had been a trademark of the series, was replaced by out-of-context call-backs and random references to the TV series. An erratic camera made exploring the tedious levels a chore. Earthworm Jim 3D was the antithesis of everything that made the originals famous. It is no surprise that the series has been inactive since then, save for a remastered version which was made without the approval of the character’s creator.
23 Dark Rift
Released in 1997, Dark Rift was definitely pretty for its time. The sleek graphics were enough to wow anyone who would see preview screenshots in GamePro or Nintendo Power. Those who were duped into buying the game were then confronted by an uninspired cast of characters, most of which were a variation on “demon” or “tough guy with a big weapon.” The gameplay was nothing to write home about, feeling like a second rate Mortal Kombat or Virtua Fighter.
The lack of originality was such that Dark Rift, along with two other fighting games developed by the same company, were christened “The Trilogy of Terror." While the three games were released on different systems, they were all uniformly panned for their lack of personality and derivative nature.
22 Quest 64
Where to start? This was touted as the first role-playing game released in North America for the Nintendo 64. With an audience which was craving anything in the genre, it would have been easy for Quest 64 to set the standard and find some measure of success. Instead, the game was just as bland an uninspired as its title.
The fact that the main character has the same haircut as Cameron Diaz in There’s Something About Mary could be bad enough. The biggest problem however comes from the combat system, which tries to fuse turn-based with action-based gameplay. Your character is constantly surrounded by a white octagon, which limits where you can go to dodge your enemies’ attacks. It looks more like a low-resolution UFC fight in the middle of a school production of Lord of the Rings than a real RPG.
21 Deadly Arts
As we keep going down this list, you will realize that one of the biggest problem with the Nintendo 64 was the astonishing number of disappointing fighting games plaguing the system. Deadly Arts had many faults, the biggest of which was that it looked soft. The characters floated through their fights, with their punches and kicks landing with all the impact of a marshmallow landing on a fluffy pillow.
Furthermore, this is a game which has Deadly in its title and yet no one dies, sheds blood, or even faints. The game was indeed originally (and ridiculously) titled G.A.S.P!! Fighters’ NEXTream in Japan and Europe. It is understandable that the North American publisher would want to find a more palatable title which could evoke memories of popular games such as Mortal Kombat or Fatal Fury, but they landed on something which is both inaccurate and generic.
20 Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone
Mike Piazza’s Strike Zone played like an approximation of an approximation of baseball. It was as if someone read the rule book and decided to make a video game about it without ever watching a ball game live. The pitching is unresponsive. The hits are so soft that you would think it’s a game of tee-ball. The animations of the players, from the moment they walk to the plate to their “swing,” are robotic at best. The players themselves are faceless, giving the game an eerie feel. It looks like Field of Dreams if it was made by Guillermo Del Toro.
On a console that already had MLB Featuring Ken Griffey Jr. and All-Star Baseball, Strike Zone never really stood a chance. A third series of good-to-great baseball games would have been oversaturation at best. A mediocre one was never going to be anything more than a footnote. As it is, Strike Zone’s only merit is to make Bottom of the 9th, the other forgotten baseball game on Nintendo 64, seem competent in comparison.
19 War Gods
Another sub-par fighting game! While Dark Rift was brought down by its bland cast of characters, War Gods decided to go the other way entirely. Every fighter available here is more laughable than the last. There’s Voodoo, the witch doctor! Tak, the statue come to life! Warhead, the radioactive soldier! Everybody is clad in neon and/or loud primary colours. You fight in the jungle, on a volcano, even in space! This game took the attitude of the 90s and made it a mission to show us just how bad it could get.
The game was released as a test drive of sort for Midway’s newest 3D engine before it was unleashed on the Mortal Kombat series. Unfortunately, the developers forgot to change everything but the ridiculous characters. The fatalities are still there, the announcer is still the same, even the actors are shared! Indeed, Brian Glynn and Kerri Hoskins, who appear as Shao Khan and Sonya Blade in MK, portray Warhead and Vallah here.
18 Polaris SnoCross
In the late 90s and early 2000s, everything had to be extreme: the sports, the wrestling, even the Ghostbusters. After a while, it was only natural that even snowmobiles would be taken to the extreme. That is how we ended up with Polaris SnoCross, a game designed for the wide-reaching audience of snowmobile racing. A sport which is no doubt fun to do, but which is sandwiched on ESPN 3 (or TSN 2 in Canada) at 4am, between poker and darts.
Polaris SnoCross was a terrible ambassador for its sport: the game is glitchy in the worst way, with some jumps sending you crashing through the scenery and leaving you stuck. The walls, the trees and the track itself appear and disappear on a whim. The sky in the distance looks like a picture of the actual sky filtered through the screen of a broken smart phone. If Polaris SnoCross was supposed to broaden the sport’s audience, I would call the experiment a big miss.
17 Big Mountain 2000
1080 Snowboarding was well-received by critics originally. It was praised for the quality of its controls, its graphics and its solid physics. Its one glaring issue, however, was the available number of tracks. With only six mountains to play on, one had to find every available shortcut to get the most out of their game. Now what if a similar game was released, only two years later, with worse graphics and even less tracks? This is exactly what you get with Big Mountain 2000.
The one thing the game had going for it was the addition of skiing on top of snowboarding, which would have been a fun way to extend the life of the game’s four courses. Having to master a second discipline would effectively double the replay value, if only the developers had bothered to make snowboarding and skiing play differently in any way.
16 Razor Freestyle Scooter
One of the last games released on Nintendo 64, Razor Freestyle Scooter was basically nothing more than a clone of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, but with a handlebar glued on top of the skateboards. Somewhere in the cloning process, a few things were lost: the frantic sense of speed, the tight controls, the good music, and the feeling of excitement.
The sterile environment and the soulless gameplay are only part of the problem. The act of skating and the tricks themselves lack any velocity or impact. The characters move with the same sense of urgency as a snail stuck in molasses. The game was probably supposed to appeal to kids who preferred scooters to skateboards, but a random cameo by Tito Ortiz makes it unsure just who the intended audience was.
15 California Speed
This game looks like, feels like and plays exactly like Cruis’n USA and its sequels. The difference is that California Speed came out more than two years after Cruis’s USA, but did not bother changing the graphics or the gameplay. Instead, the developers threw in a few wacky cars (a golf cart!) and tracks (the inside of a computer!) and called it a day.
To say that the game is a shallow experience is an understatement. The eleven available races are all short and must be played repeatedly to unlock every car. Racing in a bulldozer or a Mountain Dew pick-up truck could be fun, if only any of the cars handled differently. As it is, the repetitiveness is more akin to torture than any kind of replay value.
14 Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.
Bio F.R.E.A.K.S. had a good idea to start with: big cyborgs try to kill each other in a 3D environment. The execution, however, was lacking. The game tries to throw a bunch of spectacular things at your face in hope you won’t notice it – Blood! Limb loss! Fatalities! – but the truth is that all the fireworks in the world cannot hide how empty the game feels.
The environments are all very gray and devoid of personality. The fighters look impressive, but handle poorly. Some of the levels are so big that most matches will end in a time out. The game was ambitious for the time, but it doesn’t really have anything going for it outside of a cool concept. A planned arcade version was cancelled before release, sparing mallrats and megaplex moviegoers from this calamity.
13 WCW Nitro
If there is one genre where Nintendo 64 outshone its competitors, it is wrestling games. The WCW (and later WWE) games developed by Asmik and AKI are still looked at fondly by gamers as the gold standard for gameplay in a wrestling game. With critically-acclaimed games already released by 1999, it was a puzzling decision to release a complete port of the inferior WCW Nitro, originally a PlayStation product.
Featuring a frustrating control scheme and matches that are over faster than a Braun Strowman squash, the Nintendo 64 port did away with the PlayStation version’s only redeeming quality: the intro videos. In it, the real-life WCW wrestlers took 15 seconds each to convince the player to pick them, resulting in unintentional comedy gold. Take that away and there’s no reason for this rehash to exist.
John Romero is a legendary game designer who suffered from an unfortunate brain fart in the late 90s. The result was a now-famous ad in gaming magazines which proudly declared that "John Romero’s about to make you his b****." This was supposed to hype the upcoming Daikatana, supposedly Romero’s magnum opus.
Suffering from multiple delays and an unfortunate engine change, the resulting mess was a Frankenstein monster of ambitious, but underdeveloped ideas. In the end, the hype meant nothing as the final product was sub-par. Removed from its own history, the game could have had a better fate,and simply be known as a middle-of-the-pack shooter. Curiously, the Game Boy Color version did much better with critics, reimagining the game as a Zelda-esque adventure.
11 MRC: Multi Racing Championship
It is hard to decide what is MRC’s biggest flaw. Could it be the number of tracks available? After all, in a move unseen since the days of the NES, this racing game features only three tracks which must be played over and over to clear Championship Mode. On the other hand, no doubt to get the most out of the available resources, the developers made this the slowest racing game on Nintendo 64, and possibly of its generation. If only the tracks were interesting in the least, but it isn’t the case. Instead, players are treated to the very generic Downtown, Sea Side and Mountain. Even as a rental, Multi-Racing Championship was over before you could get your five dollars worth. In the very crowded market of Nintendo 64 racing games, MRC did nothing to stand out, or even to simply appear competent.
10 Dual Heroes
Sometimes, a product is so bad or outrageous that it goes right past “bad” and circles back to being “good” again. Dual Heroes did not bother to do any of that. It settled for ridiculously terrible and displayed its mediocrity with pride. Featuring Power Rangers rejects fighting in a hellish landscape, the game focuses on its inane story of humanity’s doom to show how tough and gritty it is. To make sure that you understand just how serious these Ultraman lookalikes are about their fighting, the game opens with an unskippable scroll which spells out the mess of a story. The game spends a long time establishing the stakes and telling you that this is a battle for the survival of humans. Then the fighting starts and most matches can be won by dodging out of the way and letting your opponent accidentally throw itself out of the ring. It’s the gaming equivalent of coitus interruptus.
9 South Park Rally
Everybody knows just how maddening it can be to play Mario Kart for too long. The series is great as a party game, but it has a way to turn quickly turn triumph into defeat which can make even the most patient people lose their temper in a hurry. Now what if all the fun parts were taken out of Mario Kart? What would you get? South Park Rally bravely tries to answer that question.
I like South Park, but even its biggest fan would go crazy listening to the repetitive voice acting on display. Unresponsive controls and plain course design is drowned in an ocean of “YOU BASTARDS!” and “HOWDY HO!” I am sure that I had more negative things to say about the game, but after the 1000th fart by Terrence and Phillip, my mind went completely numb and left only a vague impression of uneasiness in my mind.
8 Blues Brothers 2000
Nintendo 64 has so many memorable 3D platformers, and even more average ones, that it would be easy to wonder why someone decided to take a genre usually reserved for the cutest and brightest characters and environments, and decide to apply it to the world of the Blues Brothers. Even worse, this is not based on the classic movie, but the abomination of a sequel called Blues Brothers 2000. Furthermore, the game was released two years after the movie, making sure that any reason this turd had of existing would be long gone. Finally, to top this mountain of crap, Blues Brothers 2000 sends the player to collect coins in a prison, in a sewer and in a grayish landscape which is supposed to represent Chicago, like the most disappointing version of Super Mario 64 ever imagined.
7 Olympic Hockey Nagano '98
The first Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey was a fun but shallow game which presented an exciting version of hockey, but offered only a barebone season mode. The sequel, Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey 98, improved slightly on the season mode, but not enough to make it interesting. Released only three months later, Olympic Hockey Nagano 98 changed the name of the teams and players, slapped a bunch of flags on the existing jerseys, then called it a day. Everything, from the engine, to the commentator’s lines, to the cheat codes, is the same. They even left the gravity-defying power checks intact in a game which is supposed to represent the cleaner, Olympic version of hockey. To say that this is the laziest sequel to a video game ever would not do it justice. To call it a shameless cash grab would be closer.
6 Carmageddon 64
While I wasn’t the game’s biggest fan, I understand the appeal of the original Carmageddon on PC. The game allows people to drive like maniacs and run over pedestrians for points. It is grotesque yet comical, disgusting but subversive. The courses are well-designed and the way your victims explode in a cartoonish way takes a bit of the guilt out of the act. The appeal is certainly there.
Carmageddon 64, on the other hand, replaces the cartoonish humans and their screams by cardboard-thin zombies that disappear in a scramble of green pixels. I could rag on the loose controls or the dated graphics, but the truth is that the game is nothing like the original. It is Carmageddon in name only, downgrading everything that made the game slightly palatable, and taking away the one thing that made it famous in the first place.
5 ClayFighters 63 1/3
ClayFighters tries to portray itself as a parody of fighting games, but it is neither good nor funny enough to stand out on its own. Once you take away the broad caricatures serving as playable characters – Terminator as a rabbit, Robocop as a hobo, a Chinese man who fights with chopsticks – you are left with a painfully slow fighting game that can be beaten easily with button mashing.
The game’s only claim to fame is that the Sculptor’s Cut edition of the game is now one of the most expensive Nintendo 64 games for collectors. It was released exclusively as a rental through Blockbuster, which means that very few copies of the game were produced, and most of the boxes and manuals were destroyed over the years. If you are one of the lucky few possessing it, you could get anywhere between $400 and $750 depending on the condition and completeness of your copy.
4 Batman Beyond : Return of the Joker
Before the Arkham series perfectly captured the feeling of being Batman, a few games tried and failed to emulate the experience of being the world’s most famous crime fighter. Ubisoft was correct in assuming that a big part of being Batman is the fighting. They failed when they decided that it was the only thing needed to become The Dark Knight.
Armed with punches and kicks both right and left – and not much more – Batman makes his way through room after room filled with enemies that he punches, kicks, punches some more, then kicks again in this approximation of the animated series. And then, when Batman is done defeating his enemies, he moves on to another room, almost identical to the last one, then kicks and punches again until your character dies, or you quit the game out of boredom.
3 Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue
It is hard to put into word just how ugly this game is. This product was released near the end of the Nintendo 64’s life and, yet, the animations and textures are laughable at best, or downright lazy at first. Grass is represented by a patch of solid green. Sidewalks are solid white. And somehow the graphics are the least of this game’s problems.
The gameplay, which is mind-numbingly boring, can be summed up thusly: run around to the end of the map, and shoot glittery balls of energy at the enemies. When you are done, do it again. There is no real challenge. Your character is never in any danger. And then, before you know it, it’s all over. The game can be completed in an hour, if you take your time. I have seen more complex games run on my TI calculator in college.
2 Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
I believe that Mortal Kombat is inherently cool, but if one stops long enough to examine the first few games, it’s easy to realize that behind the fatalities and the colourful ninjas lies stiff gameplay and frustrating AI. Still, the cast of Gods and ninjas just oozes attitude, which is why a game exploring the story of the coolest of these ninjas, Sub-Zero himself, seemed like a can’t miss opportunity at the time.
The stiff controls mentioned earlier can be tolerable for a fighting game, but they are unforgivable when applied to a platformer. Barely playable as it is, the game is constantly interrupted by “cut scenes,” which are only pixelated screen shots of the videos presented in the PlayStation version. Given how legendarily bad the acting was in those scenes, owners of the N64 version should consider themselves lucky. Somehow, they were served the best version of this garbage.
1 Superman: The New Adventures
Could it really be any other game? Superman has been widely panned by pretty much everyone who has ever tried it and has even been considered to be the worst game of all time by many magazines and websites. Even the venerable but defunct Nintendo Power has named it the worst game ever released on a Nintendo system.
Everything must have gone wrong during development. The distance fog is so thick that the developers refer to it as “Kryptonite fog,” as if it was a feature and not a bug. The controls, the graphics, the gameplay… everything is broken! Imagine a special version of hell, where you can’t see more than three feet in front of you and you are forced to go in a circle for eternity. This is a literal description of half of the game!
That is why Superman is the worst Nintendo 64 game of all time.