Despite not aging gracefully across the board, the N64 is a gem of a console packed full of underrated games. If you’ve perused The Chozo Project at all, you’ll quickly see I have a lot of Nintendo 64 nostalgia! Though my favorite Nintendo console continues to be the Super Nintendo, I own the most games for my Nintendo 64. I’ve already taken a look at my top 10 favorites (as well as box art designs), but how about the games that fly under the radar? These are my picks for underrated N64 games!
Before starting, let me say that I wouldn’t necessarily classify these as “hidden gems”. My guess if that you’ve heard of most, if not all, of the games listed before. My point is that even though they didn’t make my personal bests, they’re still stellar titles that deserve more attention! That said, let’s jump in. These are in no particular order!
It’s not easy releasing next to one of the most acclaimed video games ever made! But that’s exactly what happened with Pilotwings 64. And you know what? This is a great game! It may be a bit on the short side, but there’s a lot of variety in the gameplay. You select one of several aircraft (my favorite being the rocket belt, by far!) and complete really clever mission objectives, being scored on a set criteria. Sure, some craft is a bit hard to control (I still can’t land the hang glider correctly, more than two decades later) and the graphics are now a little muddy. But the characters are fun, the soundtrack is great, and the experience is creative and unique! It’s worth playing if you never have.
Diddy Kong Racing
A lot of gamers I know actually prefer this game to Mario Kart 64! I can absolutely understand that argument. DKR is extremely unique in its single player mechanics with a fun adventure mode, silver coin challenges, boss fights, and fun character roster (TipTup the Turtle is my boy!). I myself still prefer Mario Kart for the superior multiplayer, but Diddy Kong Racing is a joy to experience to this day. I wish we would’ve gotten a proper sequel, like the cancelled Donkey Kong Racing for GameCube!
The single player campaign of Bomberman is…fine! But let’s be honest, it’s all about the multiplayer. Even though I didn’t pick the game until well past the N64 era, it’s still been a blast (pun fully intended) to jump into some 4-player chaos on one of several delightful maps! (PSA: you can unlock 4 extra multiplayer maps by pressing start repeatedly on the title screen-it’s a must!). I honestly haven’t experienced much in the way of Bomberman outside of this release but still look on the series fondly just because of this game. Plus, the commercial using the Spider-Man theme was just delightful!
There’s certainly been a resurgence in popularity of this game now that a Switch sequel is out! I actually re-purchased it this last summer and played through it with my oldest daughter, and we had a blast. Though it’s a very short experience, being able to watch Pokemon in their “natural habitat” and attempt to trigger cool events with your items is delightful. It’s almost infinitely replayable in terms of constantly trying to 1-UP your own score, and each level is just short enough that it’s easy to keep going. I always wanted to see a sequel on the Wii U (since the gamepad would have been perfect as a camera) but I’m psyched for the new one on Switch!
Beetle Adventure Racing
Another recent pickup that I had always heard great things about! I’m generally not a big fan of realistic racing games, and lucky for me, this isn’t one! This game really leans into the “adventure” part of its title with epic, surprise-filled tracks that are extremely lengthy, creative, and whimsical. I mean, there’s a T-rex in one level. And aliens are involved in the game for some reason. That’s just superb design right there, folks. Thrilling to play on your own or with friends, it’s an excellent racer that’s still cheap and easily one of the most underrated N64 games!
A lot of folks (including reviewers at the time) overlooked this game because it was 2D (well, “2.5D”) in the era where “3D was the future”. I still enjoyed 2D games a lot so I rented it from Blockbuster soon after it released. And I really liked it! To be sure, this game is weird. You can play as the robot maid Marina, tasked with saving the “Clancers” (who to this day look very creepy to me) and rescuing your “Professor” by grabbing and shaking any and everything. A lot of the gameplay revolves around this entertaining “shake” mechanic that allows Marina to find items and operate different machinery. It’s quite clever! The music is a lot of fun, the difficulty is right in the sweet spot, and it’s a joy to play today. I picked up a few years back and finally finished it!
Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
I also rented this one from Blockbuster on a whim back in 9th grade, since the gameplay looked fun and reminded me of Zelda! And boy was it a trip! I’m not sure I’ve ever played something with a plot as wacky and nonsensical as this game. The story makes absolutely no sense, and has a laugh track synced up to the strangest moments. But it’s all part of the charm! Platforming can be a bit tricky in the game, and the camera will fight you (hard), but Konami made a beautiful world with lots of fun adventuring to be had. Plus, the “Goemon Impact” sections where you pilot a giant robot and battle others is just epic and ludicrous! The theme song that plays when you call the robot is easily one of my favorites in gaming, and the rest of the soundtrack is charming too.
Harvest Moon 64
With the release of Stardew Valley, I understand that going back to old Harvest Moon games may not be everyone’s cup of tea. But this was my personal entry into the series, and one I still enjoy today! The graphics and sound were fairly crude even by 1999 standards when it released, yet the gameplay was insanely addictive and sublime. Growing crops, tending to your animals, and most fun of all, going to festivals and getting to know townspeople was very entrancing! It’s still got a certain charm today. Check it out if you get the chance!
Dr. Mario 64
Did you know that 4-player Dr. Mario existed? Because it does, and it is awesome! Dr. Mario is my favorite puzzle game of all time, and playing against 3 other friends is both insanely fun and just insane. There’s not much in the ways of new “bells and whistles” with this game, but do we really even need it? I got this one for $10 on clearance at a Blockbuster back in the day, and have regretted nothing since. A must-have if you enjoy Dr. Mario and own an N64!
Do you agree with some of my picks? What would you add to your own personal underrated N64 games list? When are we getting a Beetle Adventure Racing 2?? Let me know if the comments below!