It’s pretty safe to say that everyone you know has played the N64 at some point. Ask any gamer and they will, more likely than not, be able to rattle off a list of some games they played or still play for hours on end with their friends. The stunning 64-bit graphics (try to remember back) and the ability to have 4 person multi-player made games like GoldenEye 007, Super Smash Bros., Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Party and Mario Kart 64 household names and ingrained the N64 in our hearts and minds. However, below this party-friendly, commercially successful exterior lies the dark underbelly of the N64 games catalog. A deep, extensive catacomb with layers and layers of danger and deceit. A place where some real gems have been buried by poor marketing, foreign releases and the sands of time. I have delved this catacomb, and today I would like to bring you my *queue opening treasure chest music* “TOP TEN BURIED TREASURES OF THE N64″ in no particular order.
10: Fighting Force 64 – A 3D beat ‘em up, how could you go wrong? Well, apparently a lot of critics felt that this game did go wrong as it garnered mostly mediocre to poor reviews. I however, will have to respectfully disagree. This game is a lot of fun. Think streets of rage in 3D with the option of picking up guns as weapons and the ability to play co-op with friends. I will admit that the game is kind of short and the controls are kind of hard to get used to, but hey, once you do you’ve got a 3D beat ‘em up that’s short and sweet.
9: Buck Bumble – You are a robotic bee with guns, flying around and shooting evil mutated bugs. While the single-player story mode was kind of lacking, the multi-player more than redeemed this game in my eyes. Specifically, I am talking about Buzz Ball. A seemingly last minute multi-player option, Buzz Ball is basically a game of soccer played with an enormous ball by two cybernetic bees with rifles that must shoot the ball to move it. Very simple, but very, very addictive. VEEEERY addictive.
8: Clay Fighter 63 1/3 – A real gem of a fighting game that laughs in the face of every other fighting game. The name, characters and moves were all parodies of other games like Street Fighter, Killer Instinct and Mortal Kombat (Claytalities…GET IT!?). The animation was done with stop-motion and clay mation, producing a very unique effect not seen in many other games and the levels were some of the first to feature multiple stages (example: I uppercut you and you fly through the roof. Now we’re fighting on the roof). It was just so weird, so funny and so unique that I think everybody with a strange sense of humor and a love for fighters should play it at least once. Another version, Clay Fighter 63 1/3: Sculptor’s Cut, featured some new characters and was released for rental only at Blockbuster Video. It’s reported as being one of the rarest and most expensive N64 games out there.
7: Flying Dragon – First released in Japan and then in America with no translations this game was a one-of-a-kind fighter/RPG with the option of playing with either adult characters or child characters. This game stood out for several reasons. The blend of fighter and RPG was intriguing, your character could level up and gain money and treasure from winning fights, an aspect seldom seen in most fighting games which added depth to the characters. The game controls were smoother than other fighting games on the 64 and it was actually possible to remember and perform combos and special moves (!). Throw in the fact that you have a giant robotic Sumo wrestler fighting a Mayan pugilist while they scream in Japanese and you’ve pretty much sealed the deal.
6: Battle Tanx: Global Assault – Post-apocalyptic, mutant tank gangs and cultists roaming the ruins of metropolitan areas and fighting for the hell of it, ’nuff said. Each gang had specializations, strengths and weaknesses providing a lot of customization and an interesting strategic option to the game during a time of mostly “fastest-reflexes-wins” kind of games. This was the sequel to Battle Tanx, however 3DO went bankrupt before they could release another sequel.
5: Space Station Silicon Valley – Quirky is the best way to describe this game. Silly yet incredibly hilarious, primitive but in an endearing way and most of all inventive. The premise of this game is that you are a little microchip with legs that must run around inhabiting the bodies of animals on a strange space station. The different animals have different abilities (yes, apparently sheep can float) which you must use to solve puzzles and overcome obstacles. The best comparison I can make is: it’s like Banjo-Kazooie, except it’s a lot darker and instead of just getting a bear and an ostrich (or whatever Kazooie is) you can choose from a bunch of different animals to control. Definitely a breath of fresh air from most of the other platformers on the system.
4: Blast Corps – Two ticking time bomb nuclear missiles need to get to a safe detonation site. However, there are a lot of pesky cities and towns in the way. They must be destroyed, that is your job. This is one of the best single player games I’ve ever played. Mindless destruction of buildings with bulldozers and giant robots mixed with fast paced puzzle solving. It’s very simplistic and very easy to lose track of time while playing this game.
3: Ogre Battle 64: Person of Lordly Caliber – One of the only RPGs for the 64 and definitely the only SRPG (strategic RPG). Ogre Battle 64’s game play is very similar to the other games of the Ogre series (and most other SRPGs, like Fire Emblem, for that matter) but with the benefit of having much better graphics. One of the unique points of this game was that the decisions you make actually have repercussions that change the outcome of the game, so there is no way for you to unlock every character or explore every path in the game one time through. This game can be played over and over and if you’re the kind of person that enjoys SRPGs then this is definitely a must.
2: Winback – This third-person shooter is a stealth based game, very similar to Metal Gear Solid style creeping. A very rare sight indeed on the N64, a shooter where it is actually necessary to take cover. It provides hours of enjoyment sneaking around and popping enemies in the head on the single player, and even the multi-player can be a lot of fun. Definitely worth a look if you’re tired of running up and slapping your enemies to death all of the time.
1: Vigilante 8 – A spitting image of the Twisted Metal series, but much less Sci-Fi and much more 1970’s. This game actually had much better graphics and better car handling controls than its PS counterparts. The vehicles featured cool weapons and the sound track was definitely the kind of the thing that would get you revved up for some moto-violence. Fun to the bitter end and a more realistic change of pace from the whimsical vehicle combat of Mario Kart