My top 10 most underrated N64 games, a list that was no easy feat as there are plenty of underrated games that have been over looked more than a decade ago since the N64’s release. According to Google, underrated is defined as: “To underestimate the extent, value, or importance of (someone or something).” So in this list underrated could not only mean a game that was literally underrated by critics, but could also include games that deserved more attention, praise and remembrance from gamers. Great games that may be forgotten but deserve to stand against some of N64’s greatest.
10) Blast Corps
The first Rareware game on this list but not the last (spoiler alert?) is Blast Corps. Released in 1997, this is one of the Rare games that faded into absolute obscurity. It’s a shocker too because it was so well received by critics but it didn’t sell well at all. It’s a vehicle focused, objective based mission game with a focus on causing utter destruction. There are a variety of different vehicles (including bad ass flying mechs) each with their own learning curve that you use to pass certain missions. These missions include destroying obstacles for a nuclear tanker trunk so it can reach the end goal or destroying every building on a map in a pre-chosen vehicle in an allotted time as well as other varying objectives. Doing so allows you to unlock new levels and worlds to play on. You can also go back and play old stages again for better times and medals.
The game is fairly straight forward and there isn’t much to explain other than it’s a lot of fun. The graphics are incredibly plain and dated but it keeps the game going at a steady 60 frames per second even with the abundance of explosions. Though the sound and music are ultimately forgettable, the story is almost nonexistent and some of the vehicle controls have a steep learning curve this is not a game you play for anything other than just good old fashioned fun, time killing and mayhem. I mean come on, who the heck doesn’t love wreaking havoc anyway? Well, in video games that is.
9) Buck Bumble
Oh, Buck Bumble… It was a game that was not only overlooked and forgotten but also had mixed reception. Playing as a gun toting bumblebee in an insect war zone isn’t exactly the type of game most gamers were clamoring for but it’s actually surprisingly fun. It’s a 3rd person action shooter where you fly through linear stages that can mostly be compared to the star fox games at the time but where is those games were on rails this game allowed free open 3D control. The game spans across 22 missions where you fly and pick up different guns and power ups on the stage’s map with varying objectives all the while blowing up enemy wasp that want to wreak havoc on your honey suckling world.
The graphics do a good enough job but weren’t mind blowing even for their day but I was surprised by how well the controls held up. Usually games with free flying controls are known for being notoriously frustrating but Buck Bumble controlled well enough without some steep learning curve. So whether you were one of the few who always wanted to be a little bee and blow crap up or you think that sounds too silly, I say give it a go. It’s fun and legitimately challenging. Also it features a killer soundtrack and theme song that will be forever be engraved into your brain for the rest of your life the second you hear it. So if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to get down with the bickity buck bumble! Dang. You see what I mean? Play this game and try not to have this theme song stuck in your head. I dare you!
8) Chameleon Twist
Chameleon Twist, released for the N64 in 1997 developed by Japan System Supply. Chameleon Twist was never a big hit and reviews on the game were mixed for difficult/complicated controls or short length but it had a somewhat of a decent cult following. I disagree with the former but agree on the latter. Playing this game again after so many years I was rather impressed with the unique control scheme. A special colored chameleon of your choosing ends up in some bizarre wonderland world where he (or she) is gifted with a more humanoid like form that grants them new abilities and you must control them to their way back home. The chameleon uses their tongue for just about everything in this game. You press the B button allowing you to guide your tongue with the analog, storing and spitting back enemies to attack. It is also be used to connect to certain platforms or to reach higher ledges.
I thought it controlled well and is unique from other platformers at the time, especially with its over the top view camera angle. But the downside is that the game is very short and in a time when games were $50-80 I can see why some critics pegged down the score of this great game. Fortunately for this game, prices for it are no longer an issue as it can be picked up cheaply or played easily through an emulator thus allowing it to be enjoyed for the fun but short adventure that it is. The game only has 5 level, each level is completely unique with its own quirk, setting and over the top boss battle along with a 6th bonus stage if you collect everything in all of the prior five levels. The graphics are overly simplistic and have not aged well like others on this list but works in favor of the game’s simplistic nature. It’s a straightforward and fun adventure; just don’t expect it to last you very long.
7) Snowboard Kids 2
Snowboard kids 2 is an N64 exclusive sequel to you guessed it, Snowboard Kids. It’s a fun snowboard game that mixes your traditional snowboard racing with Mario kart-esque power ups to take down your opponents a few notches. It’s a cartoony game with lead characters akin to a children’s anime with a colorful palette that really pops. The sequel even added a cool story mode with its own cutscenes that revolve around a demon kid named Damien who’s jealous of you and your friends in Snowboard Town. Fueled by this anger he wants to take you and your friends down. Having a story mode is a really sweet incentive along with fun races on unique tracks that go beyond just snowy mountains, different characters with their own unique stats, boss battles and even a small hub world where you can explore and access different modes that can be played to earn cash for buying new boards. It’s a shame over the years it’s been overlooked by other prominent snowboarding games at the time but this game is just as up to par. This game should be played by anyone who enjoys snowboard games and/or just Mario kart like racing games in general.
Glover, the game you probably remember seeing the box art for at your local blockbuster in the 90’s but probably never bothered to rent it because you’d rather rent Mario Party 2 for the 25th time. If you’ve ever avoided this game like me then you too have made a grave mistake. The story is simple and starts with a King wizard (A wizard who’s a King not the King of Wizards!) who rules over a peaceful kingdom. One day while concocting a potion with his magical gloves something goes terribly wrong resulting in a bad batch that sets off a chain reaction of explosions causing the kingdom to fall into peril. The explosion causes the Wizard’s right hand magical glove, Glover, to fly out his nearest window while his other glove falls into the cauldron transforming it into Glover’s corrupted evil antithesis. Now it’s up to Glover to pick up the pieces and restore order to the kingdom.
The story is silly fun and perhaps it doesn’t feature the most inventive main character of all time (A sentient glove?) but it’s really irrelevant compared to its vibrant worlds and one of a kind platforming. Like most 3D platformers the camera can be a pain at times and the controls sometimes can be very sensitive where the slightest mistake can cause a headache but it doesn’t bring down the overall experience. It manages to be a unique platformer where Glover uses magic to summons a different variety of spheres ranging from beach balls to bowling balls to throw at enemies, solve puzzles or clear obstacles of each stage and its world’s boss. Each spherical object has its purpose and physics that you need to use if you want to make it to the end. Also Glover’s bright stages with its dastardly but genius level design is where this game really shines the most. It’s a game I wish I actually gave a chance when I was younger but luckily for me it still holds up today. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of 3D platforming games.
5) Jet Force Gemini
Jet Force Gemini, released in 1999 by the legendary Rareware during their peak of golden games. I feel Jet Force Gemini has never really been talked about much besides the occasional niche crowd or critic these days. I can’t help but wonder why it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves? It’s by no means a bad game; in fact it’s a good one that was well received, so why was it so forgotten? It could be any number of issues like a poorly timed release or terrible marketing. I’m not entirely sure but what I do know is what I stated earlier, Jet force Gemini is a good game that doesn’t tarnish the old Rareware name.
Jet Force Gemini is a Sci-fi third person action shooter that takes place in space and a fictional planet named Goldwood. The main character, Juno, his twin sister Lupus and their trusty wardog mascot must save Goldwood and its inhabitants, the Tribals, from the dastardly clutches of Mizar and his ruthless army of drones. All three characters are playable through the story’s campaign where each one has their own specific abilities to get past missions tailored to them. The game seems more linear than Rare’s other third person adventures but there are actually many branching paths to be explored.
Jet Force Gemini isn’t by any means perfect however. The camera can be frustrating; the control scheme is outdated (by today’s standards) and hard to get accustomed at first. The game can also be quite difficult and even sometimes frustratingly so. This game is for the hardest of hardcore who don’t mind crushing their controller in their hands from time to time or love a good challenge. You need time to get more in tune with the controls and overlook the fact that this game was made before third person shooters were common place and control schemes have revolutionized. The game gets better and more fun as you get better at it. But don’t let that deter you because everything in this world has flaws. The awesome soundtrack, twisted dark sense of humor, cool cutscenes, shockingly huge amount of gore for a kids game, awesome multiplayer, Co-op mode and mostly fun gameplay make up for its flaws. Jet Force Gemini is one flawed masterpiece.
4) Mystical Ninja starring Goemon
Anyone remember Mystical Ninja for the SNES? It was a 2D side scroller that starred a blue haired ninja named Goemon in Japan on a journey to save his town of Edo. Mystical Ninja also had a bunch of sequels, an NES game, board games, arcade games, animes, mangas in which most of it never released in America. Suffice to say that this series was incredibly popular in Japan. Well, like a lot of games on the N64 this was a first time this 2D character made the transition to full 3D with a new adventure to save his home town once again from dastardly villains who want to take control. Let me tell you right now…this game…is…AMAZING. It certainly took the series to new heights with a fully realized 3D world that continued the series staples of catchy soundtracks, silly story and solid gameplay. Though it isn’t like its original SNES side scrolling prequels. Mystical Ninja is more in the veins of Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time or Mega Man 64.
It’s a 3D adventure game with some RPG elements but unfortunately it was severely overshadowed by those two games because they are so much more iconic leaving Goemon to sob quietly in the shadows. Mystical Ninja is just as good as either of those games and is just as worth playing for any N64 fan. The game has bizarre Japanese influenced charm and humor at every corner that makes it so much more fun to experience. Unfortunately that could be the reason why it alienated mainstream American audience in the first place. It’s a must play for anyone who’s a fan of Japanese culture, old Japanese folk legends, an offbeat sense of humor or just flat out loves great 3D adventure games . You explore towns, perform quest, solve dungeons and face off in some epic battles all while eventually being able to switch between 4 main characters with their own abilities. Also it has some epic levels where you’re in a giant mecha robot suit destroying enemies in your path leading up to epic Mech on Mech boss battles. Oh sweet, sweet destruction. But that’s just tip of the iceberg because this game is filled to the brim with variety. Just a shame that sometimes the camera and frame rate aren’t always up to par but it doesn’t stop this gem from being an absolutely amazing game.
3) Goemon’s Adventure
Hey, Goemon, what are you doing on this list again? So the “sequel” to N64’s Mystical Ninja deserves a spot on this list too and high on the list to boot. If you’ve never played both, I’m sure you’re wondering why. Goemon’s Adventure, besides featuring the same cast of characters, is an entirely different game genre. Where Mystical Ninja is a 3D Action/Adventure game, Goemon’s Adventure is a 2.5D side scrolling action platformer. It also features a linear stage progression on map like an old school Mario game. Goemon’s Adventure is much more in tune with its original NES and SNES roots. Goemon and his friends are on another new adventure to save the day once again with new villains and silly story twist to experience and get a chuckle out of. It’s one the better side scrolling games not just on the N64 but in general. It has great graphics, great music, great control, good level design, awesome bosses and that old school challenge in difficulty. I have little to no complaints about this awesome whacky adventure. Whether this game is better than Mystical Ninja is up to you and your genre preference but this one to me deserves to be higher on the list for less technical problems. Also yes, this game has awesome Mecha boss battles too.
2)Rocket: Robot on Wheels
Rocket: Robot on Wheels, made by the now famous developers, Sucker Punch, well before their Sly Cooper and Infamous days. The N64 has since given birth to some of the best 3D platformers ever. To this day you’ll still hear gamers mention Mario 64 or Banjoo Kazooie but not many remember Rocket. The story is about an architect named Dr. Gavin who creates a theme park and zoo titled, Whoopie World. Its mascot is an actual goofy walrus named Whoopie along with his sidekick Jojo the Racoon that Dr. Gavin has locked up in cages in his office. Dr. Gavin goes out to a party one night leaving his greatest creation, a robot named Rocket, to look over things, including Whoopie and Jojo in their cages. He glances over and notices a devious Jojo looking over obvious plans to ruin opening day of Whoopie World. This gets Rocket’s attention by luring him to the cage but before he can do anything Jojo whacks Rocket with a mallet knocking him out cold. JoJo kidnaps Whoopie then continues to takes the entire theme park and zoo animals’ hostage. Now it’s up to Rocket to save the day before Dr. Gavin gets home. I‘ve always had a soft spot for sidekick gone villain out of jealousy and hatred. It’s a fun and silly premise to supplement the great gameplay here.
The game takes place in 6 different theme park based worlds and you have to collect tickets to advance to new worlds. It’s very “Banjoo Kazooie/Mario 64” in terms of progression and hub worlds but it has its own unique objectives and a huge focus on physics to complete task or solve puzzles for tickets that help separate it from the rest of its fellow 3D platformer crowd. There are some really ingenious design and objective here. Rocket can also learn new moves and abilities that will help him with his quest against JoJo the Racoon. With stellar graphics that hold up, catchy jazz inspired soundtrack and a unique emphasis on physics make it stand as one of the best 3D platformers on the Nintendo 64. This game can stand toe to toe with the best 3D platformers on this console, make no mistake about it. So if by any chance you’re tired of beating Mario 64 or Banjo Kazooie for the 52nd time and never tried Rocket, then do yourself a big favor and play this. You may have just found yourself a new favorite 3D platformer.
1) Mischief Makers
Mischief Makers is not only a stellar 2D side scrolling game but it’s one of the best 2D side scrolling games ever made. If you were one of the ones who played upon initial release, you’re lucky because this game is just absolutely phenomenal and I hate my self for avoiding it when I was younger. During the 64 era everyone was all enamored by all that 3D graphics jazz but there was still some amazing 2D gems on the console to play that weren’t exclusive to games like Yoshi’s Story. Mischief Makers is a game where you’re in the role of a kick ass female humanoid robot named Marina, who’s out to save her master, Professor Theo, who was kidnapped while you two were visiting the planet Clancer.
Clancer is a fictional planet that is overrun by civil war that Marina chooses to help save along with Clancer’ inhabitants during her epic journey to save her master. The gameplay, graphics, story and music are so charmingly irresistible. It’s not always your average straightforward get to the end of the stage platformer. There are sometimes different task you have to perform first like saving fellow citizens or solve environmental puzzles to advance the level. Not a single level really felt like I was doing the same thing. One minute I’m hitting switching to make the stage flip upside down to navigate through and another minute I’m running through a stage with a giant gun mowing down enemies in my path. This game has some of the best level design in a 2D platformer I’ve ever played.
Marina’s main moves involve grabbing and shaking things… OK, so that sounds really weird but it works great. With Marina’s grab she’s able to grab hold of enemies, objects, weapons, and even some enemy projectiles or attacks, which can be thrown or shaken, depending on the object. Sometimes you can shake certain objects for items, different effects or to activate new paths to advance the stage. Also the grab move is used a lot for platforming along with a jet pack dash that’s just feels so awesome to use. It’s fun and it’s a challenge. Anyone who loves 2D games and/or sidescrollers should definitely check this one out. It’s one of the best around.
So do you like or agree with my list? What games do you feel are underrated titles? Let me know in the comments below.