“Switch Anticipation, part III: 20 Third-Party N64 games Nintendo can learn from!”

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“In everybody’s life there’s a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can’t go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That’s how we survive.”
-Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

 

 

The N64 may have been Nintendo’s first step toward irrelevance. Certainly that didn’t mean it was a terrible system. It’s remembered fondly as the console of many of our childhoods, and with good reason. It had some stellar games like Super Mario 64, the first Super Smash Bros., and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask.

But the fact of the matter is, the N64 was the first time that Nintendo dropped from their place as champions of the console wars. They’d revived the industry with the NES and fought down a dirty battle against Sega with the SNES but with the advent of Sony’s first PlayStation, everything changed. The company that once was synonymous with gaming was now second-fiddle. People used to say when I was a kid: “I’m going to go play Nintendo” when they actually just meant “video games”. Not anymore.

Stubbornly sticking with cartridges, losing out on FFVII being developed for their system, largely putting for the first time emphasis on graphics over gameplay, featuring a ridiculous controller, overstating their importance and moving toward exclusivity… all of these things and more contributed to a console that has a lot of games which aged badly, with first-party games that remain definitive and a bunch of third-party games which seem like throwaways.

The N64 contributed for the first time to the image of Nintendo as “out of touch”. They’ve never truly caught up since (though an arguable case can be made for their share of the handheld market).

Again, I’m not saying the N64 was rubbish, so please don’t leave me the comment equivalents of atom bombs. It was a good system with some neat ideas but which ultimately couldn’t compete with the paradigm shift, a system which didn’t live up to Nintendo’s earlier success. That’s that.

Nintendo has seen their first weekend since the Switch’s launch and things seem to still be largely positive. But look at any list of the best N64 games and you’ll undoubtedly see it’s mostly first-party titles. So here is a list of strictly third-party games from this console. Here’s what Nintendo can learn from the third-party situation of the N64, making these kind of games a priority rather than an afterthought and avoiding the same mistakes.

 

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#20. Superman 64 (1999)
Titus Software

Speaking of mistakes… it’s actually saying something about the lack of notable third-party games on the N64 when Superman 64, one of the biggest butts of all jokes of all time, appears on such a list as this. So many things went wrong with this game. What could they have done different? Well, never fear, The Well-Red Mage is here. I wrote a post a while back entitled “Rocksteady’s Superman Game”, so read it for truth, justice, and the American way, and dream on about such a game on the Switch.

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#19. Earthworm Jim 3D (1999)
VIS Entertainment/Rockstar Games

What went wrong here? Developers should understand when a franchise is done. End on a high note. Go out with a bang not a whimper. Never set a bag of dog crap on fire. Other adages. What can the Switch learn from the failed and far less funny that its predecessors EWJ 3D? Don’t over-rely on sequels and don’t milk tired IPs. Nintendo.

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#18. Namco Museum 64 (1999)
Mass Media/Namco

You can get a lot of these games on nearly any platform, so why are these on this list? Because Virtual Console. We’ve been told it’s coming in some way, shape or form but Nintendo really should have had this up and running for launch. Who knows how it may have affected the Switch’s sales? Nintendo has some of the longest running and most successful franchises in gaming, and they really need to capitalize on that with a bombastic VC.

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#17. Nightmare Creatures (1998)
Kalisto Entertainment/Activision

A survival horror game? On a Nintendo console? They’re out there. Nintendo has a pretty dedicated ideology toward being “family friendly”, so the odd rated-M title is a rarity but titles like Nightmare Creatures prove it has been done and can be done. So far what’s the scariest title announced for the Switch? Flippin’ Dead? Don’t forget about variety, Nintendo.

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#16. Quest 64 (1998)
THQ/Konami/Imagineer

One of the reasons why the N64 seemed lackluster was because of a lack of RPGs. How many were there? Quest 64 and Paper Mario? Also, this one didn’t exactly satisfy the yearning for deep, in-depth role-playing nurtured in us by years of playing great JRPGs on the Super Nintendo. By comparison with the SNES, the N64 was severely lacking in RPGs, probably most likely due to Square and Nintendo parting ways. Failing to accomodate Final Fantasy VII was the final nail in their fifth generation coffin. As for the Switch, may it have many an RPG and many a great RPG. Several titles look like they’ll scratch this itch and fill this nitch, including the launch port of I Am Setsuna, which I do recommend.

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#15. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (2000)
Edge of Reality/Activision

If you weren’t self-aware at the time, then you have no idea how popular Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and its sequels were. This game was the after school time killer of choice. It even was for me, a non-skater. What can the Switch learn about this? I think keeping up with popular games would be the superficial application when there’s a deeper truth that Nintendo should latch on to, namely that ports will not ultimately satisfy in place of exclusive third-party titles. THPS was just more fun to play on the PlayStation. Nobody will pretend that the Switch, though lightning fast, has better capabilities than the PS4 Pro, so that means the Switch’s ports will ultimately be somewhat milquetoast if not downright poor. This is especially true for the baffling ports the Switch is receiving such as those for games that are already years out of date and out of style. Ports are great filler and they can be a great chance for gamers to play titles they missed out on. I for one am hoping for ports from the Wii U, since I purposefully missed that console. But the point is, at the end of the day, ports aren’t stand ins for what the Switch largely needs.

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#14. Spider-Man 64 (2000)
Neversoft/Activision

Quite a lot of Activision titles on this list. I guess they stuck with Nintendo through the thick and thin. In the entry above, I mentioned that following popular trends isn’t really the thing that Nintendo needs to do but hey, it couldn’t hurt. The Marvel movieverse is at a height of delirious popularity, so why not figure out a way to capitalize on that? Just ensure it possesses higher quality than Spider-Man 64 did.

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#13. Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six (1999)
Red Storm Entertainment

Not every adult feels comfortable running around in colorful worlds with Super Mario or searching the vast wilds in the new Zelda. Some older gamers prefer serious experiences. Cue Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six. Now call to mind all of the announced games for the Switch coming this year and next. How many fit the bill of a game like this? Exactly. And that’s the problem: a lack of diversity. With the NES and SNES, we saw Nintendo’s successes. With the N64, we reflect on the possibility of the Switch repeating some old failures.

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#12. Gauntlet Legends (1999)
Atari Games/Midway Games

How about something a little more optimistic? The N64 was awesome because it had the built-in capacity for four-player games with four controller ports. Now that controllers have become largely wireless, this innovation is obsolete. Despite the Switch having extremely expensive Joy-Cons, we have to admit that it has the capacity for some mondo multiplayer, especially local multiplayer, so bring on more games like Bomberman R and Gauntlet Legends that let you play with a bunch of friends all at once. I’ve got a green friend who’s hopefully going to be getting her own Switch soon. Once that happens, it’s on like a giant, angry gorilla with a red neck tie.

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#11. The New Tetris (1999)
H2O Entertainment/Blue Planet Software

Okay, okay, this game was published by Nintendo making it technically not a third-party game, truly. But hey, I’ll break my own rule for the sake of Tetris because it illustrates a point. Nintendo built the handheld gaming industry. They’ve never been dethroned in that arena. Since the GameBoy, they’ve reigned as kings and nothing, not the Game Gear, not the Vita, could overtake their lead. That’s thanks in large part to Tetris. It’s great to see Puyo Puyo Tetris on its way to Nintendo’s newest pseudo-handheld and I think it’ll find a great home with gamers who use their Switch’s mobility to its fullest.

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#10. StarCraft 64 (2000)
Blizzard Entertainment/Mass Media Inc.

Yep, there was a version of StarCraft on the N64. Home console versions of stellar PC real-time strategy games were often a hit or miss. This one, as I remember rightly, was a miss. But that’s because I think the N64 was woefully ill-equipped to feature a PC RTS. Now the Switch on the other hand, with its touchscreen and handheld-only style future projects, could possibly be a candidate for an interesting home console/handheld RTS.

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#9. Rampage 2: Universal Tour (1999)
Avalanche Software/Midway

I remember spending a Friday night playing through this game when in college with a friend and it made for some great memories. That’s the kind of fun and personable experience that I think Nintendo is always trying to get back to. They just gotta figure out how.

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#8. Castlevania 64 (1999)
Entertainment Kobe/Konami

Before Konami went off the deep end, they made a lot of Castlevania games which featured heavily on Nintendo’s platforms. Imagine waking up tomorrow to the breaking news that a new Castlevania title was going to be coming to the Switch. This long-time Nintendo fan would be ecstatic. Castlevania 64 may not be the best in the franchise, but was one Castlevania better than none?

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#7. ClayFighter 63⅓ (1997)
Interplay Entertainment

The Switch could use more original, exclusive fighters. Beyond that, I don’t know what to say. I’m glad we’ve moved beyond the weird-for-weirdness-sake, gross-out type humor of the 90’s. No wonder a franchise like this didn’t exactly catch on.

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#6. Perfect Dark (2000)
Rare

I remember Perfect Dark only mistily but I do remember it being well-respected. Quickly surveying its critical responses since its inception has solidified this impression. Perfect Dark seems to be a game that in so many ways is anti-Nintendo, yet there it is: an N64 exclusive. Again, the point of bringing up games like this is not just so Nintendo makes a clone or a remake of Perfect Dark. Rather it’s to hope beyond hope that they create something for the Switch that fills its shoes, so to speak: an involved, adult, thematic, engaging game for adults. This will not hurt your kiddie image, Nintendo. It will merely emphasize it.

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#5. Doom 64 (1997)
Midway Games

And now we’re thoroughly out of kiddie game territory. Slaughtering the demons of Hell is absolutely non-Nintendo but again, lads and lasses, Nintendo did once break down and allow a Doom sequel on their console. I appreciate Nintendo’s adherence to being family friendly, since I’m a family man with very young children, but I can also appreciate a gaming library that would appeal to a wider audience, something which I anticipate the Switch will need to develop.

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#4. Conker’s Bad Fur Day (2001)
Rare

The ultimate example of an adult game, Bad Fur Day was made even worse because it used a facade of friendly forest animals anthropomorphized into boozers and whores. It even came complete with an advisory printed on its cover. This is one of the weirdest games I’ve ever played, made even stranger because it was a game that was so well put together with some of the N64’s best graphics. I’m not sure how many people want another Bad Fur Day on the Switch but given the acclaim this game received, there’s room for some rated-M on Nintendo’s latest hardware.

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#3. Harvest Moon 64 (1999)
Toy Box Creative/Natsume

The farming sim will never die. It just keeps getting bigger. Compare the original Harvest Moon to HM 64, and then again to Stardew Valley and its future multiplayer on the Switch. Fans of the farming life always have something to look forward to. Given how popular the Harvest Moon franchise and Stardew Valley have been, I’m sure this will be at least a small boon to the Switch’s sales.

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#2. Mega Man 64 (2000)
Capcom

I loved Mega Man Legends. The 64 version was clumsier than its PlayStation counterpart and on top of that it was 3 years behind the original release in Legends, but it was still a measure of the presence of Mega Man, a star nearly as iconic as Mario himself. We haven’t seen much of the Blue Bomber lately and Mighty No.9 helped deflate some of the lingering excitement surrounding him, but hey, a mage can dream, can’t he? Perhaps some day we’ll get a brand new spin-off franchise for Mega Man on the Switch.

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#1. GoldenEye 007 (1997)
Rare

Also published by Nintendo (we’re breaking all kinds of rules for the 64) but still developed by Rare, and it’s based on a movie franchise, so I’m counting it as third-party since it’s obviously not a cookie cutter first-party Nintendo game. The ironic thing is, I don’t even particularly like this game. At least I didn’t. I used to vastly prefer playing Super Smash Bros. instead of GoldenEye in the afternoons, which is at the heart of the problem with the N64, but let’s not forget that this game meant Nintendo used to win the Game of the Year. I can respect this one and it’s clearly one of the best third-party(ish) titles on a system that sorely lacked them.

This was a tough list to put together and I had to bend some restrictions as to what a third-party title really is. What are some we may have missed from the N64?
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-The Well-Red Mage

 

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32 thoughts on ““Switch Anticipation, part III: 20 Third-Party N64 games Nintendo can learn from!”

  1. The N64 was definitely one of my favorite systems growing up. I played it at a critical time in my gaming life, and I will always love it. My love for it may reveal itself sometime soon, as you may find out. But back to the third party list, I actually expected to have a lot of matching games, but I haven’t actually played a good number of games on your list. Likewise, I actually had a good number of third-party games that I loved on N64 that I’d like to share that haven’t been already, just in case you ever wanted to check them out in the future. So without further ado, here are some other games in no particular order:

    Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
    Goemon’s Great Adventure
    Ogre Battle 64
    Mischief Makers
    Bomberman 64
    Bomberman Hero
    Bomberman 64: The Second Attack
    Banjo-Kazooie (we’re counting Rare, right? Good)
    Banjo-Tooie
    Chameleon Twist 1/2
    Snowboard Kids 1/2
    Space Station Silicon Valley
    Tetrisphere
    Rayman 64
    Tonic Trouble
    Blast Corps

    Those are just my picks though.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh what a mysterious intro to your comment! Now I’m going to waste away from curiosity, Panda! I’m also surprised our twinsies-ness didn’t overlap with N64 games. I played it after latching on to the SNES, so for me it was a great system with great graphics but it didn’t live up to its predecessor all the way. There are certainly far worse systems, though. I’ve played a couple on your list here and there but don’t remember them well at all. Ogre Battle and Goemon particularly are ones I’d love to revisit someday. Thanks for sharing! This has been a controversial post (hehehe) but all in all I hope Nintendo can learn whatever they can from their own history.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I was going to comment on his Nintendo’s draconian censorship laws would’ve drastically altered FFVII’s presentation on its system, but you preempted my argument by including Conker’s Bad Fur Day, which is one of the raunchiest titles ever released. I forgot that that game was for the N64.

    Looking at this critically, you’re right. The N64 was not a bad system, and many of its titles were stellar, but Nintendo no longer owned the top place, nor was it synonymous with video games anymore as you so eloquently pointed out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah it’s crazy that there were some edgy titles on the N64 but nothing compared to what the PlayStation had. I’m glad you see things from this perspective too. This has been a controversial post, so thanks for understanding! I love Nintendo but some of the things they’ve done in the past are a little strange.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: when you love something and/or are a geek for it, you recognize its foibles even as you continue to love it. You want it to improve! You want it to be the best version of itself it can be. This is my relationship with Squeenix/Final Fantasy. I’ll critique it, but it’s only because I love it so much. I think people may have a problem understanding that saying this doesn’t mean you’re bashing it. You’re giving honest feedback/critiques. Nintendo does a lot of things that are counter intuitive, and we, as fans, have an obligation to call them out 🙂

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        • You struck the nail on its head, as always. Something I’ve been mulling about recently is how our postmodern culture has embraced to the fullest the maxim that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, which has led to pure subjectivism in art. If we disagree about something that’s good or bad in entertainment, it just comes down to taste ultimately. Thing is, I don’t agree with that. I think it’s bogus. Yeah, part of not liking something can come down to taste, but there MUST be good and bad decisions and applications in art and entertainment, otherwise there are no standards for creating that entertainment. I think that great art is great because it has flaws. Nothing we are or do is perfect or can be. Here’s an interesting video about the descent of objective quality in art over time, which I think is transferrable to some extent in video games. I know you enjoy food for thought:

          Liked by 1 person

          • The point you made about subjectivity is something I desperately try to impart. There are things I like that I know are not good, even though I like them. Liking something (even if you have refined tastes, not saying I’m the most refined person, but I do have a decent idea of how a story should be told) does not mean that thing has intrinsic value.

            This also goes back to my views about FPS games in contrast. They’re not my preferred (sub) genre, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer value to the video game zeitgeist. I think people miss this because they can’t see value outside of what they like/dislike. My father has no time for RPGs so in his opinion “Final Fantasy sucks” (ugh). He’s utterly missing all the value such games bring. I have an acquaintance who doesn’t understand this concept either. He doesn’t see why certain movies win awards, while others don’t. He doesn’t get that just because something is entertaining, it doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good (granted, I could heavily critique the entire award system, but that’s beyond the scope of my point). This also hearkens back to the often cop out phrase “agree to disagree.” If we’re talking about whether or not you like chocolate or vanilla ice cream, sure, but if we’re talking about whether or not such and such is a good game, that doesn’t fly.

            Good art has value outside of whether a random person likes it, and being able to see that value along with the flaws is what separates a good critique from someone just enjoying the show for their own personal reasons.

            I’ll mark that video for later! I can always use good things to listen to at work!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Brilliance. Liking something does not mean it has intrinsic value. Value in art is not necessarily something we quantitate anymore, given the subjectivity of everything in our culture from art to morals to behavior to even history it seems. I, like you, can appreciate the value of something I don’t like (though there are somethings I dislike because I legitimately believe they’re meaningless). The whole “so bad it’s good” thing baffles me in terms of film. I get it’s entertaining but it’s not the best film just for the fact that it came up with the novel idea of combining sharks and tornadoes, for instance. Haha that sounds snooty and I like it that way.

              I’m very glad to see that you and I see the same way on this, and I suspected as much! I trust you’ll enjoy that video then 😉

              Like

        • It occurred to me also, after posting my previous reply, that there’s no point in our writing reviews is there is no more objectivity in modern art (video games) since then there’d be no point in using a points based system to grade them! We might as well embrace critical nihilism!

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Also (and then I’ll shut up I promise 🙂 ) The AKI Wrestling games were a big deal. WWF/E, and WCW were huge during the Monday Night Wars. tens of millions of people tuned in to RAW, and Nitro back then. In the 80’s, and 90’s wrestling was at it’s most mass-market level. It’s still huge today, but it was even more popular back then. Even people who didn’t watch wrestling knew who Stone Cold Steve Austin, The Rock, Mick Foley, or Chris Jericho were. And it was the same with the games. Non wrestling fans got into them too. Because they were easy to pick up, but took time to master. Now were they Metal Gear Solid huge? Absolutely not. But WCW/n.W.o Revenge sold almost as many copies as Perfect Dark. That’s pretty impressive.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ehh … I don’t know. I can name two of the four men you named but that’s because I was never into wrestling. From a young age I thought it was silly and fake. Not bashing people into that. I love plenty of things that are silly. But wrestling has never been extremely popular in my experience with the people I’ve known, though I knew a few die-hard fan families here and there through the years. We used to play N64 nearly every day after school for years with a rotating door of friends and none of them expressed interest in wrestling. So I’m still skeptical about the claim that people bought the system just for that, and Perfect Dark wasn’t even a top 10 best selling game on the system anyway. I’m going to make this a question I ask around to see if I can get a variety of answers.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The decision to use cartridges was a big mistake, but the console also did a huge amount right. It was revolutionary at the time – from the graphics to the controller, it was a bold step forwards. I presume this list is a bit tongue in cheek as there are plenty of third party N64 games far superior: Turok 2, Body Harvest, Mystical Ninja, Glover, Doom 64, Ogre Battle etc.

    From my perspective, Sony’s use of CDs (a brilliant decision) was also accompanied by the fatuous concept of “mature” gaming, which led to the odious Lara Croft and her enormous fake breasts. Sony’s rise has, in turn, led to an emphasis on graphics over gameplay (not at all helped by the arrival of the Xbox, so Sony and Microsoft battle it out for graphical supremacy), little innovation (the PS4 is almost exactly the same as the PS3, but with slightly better graphics), and those horrendous, invasive cutscenes as developers think making games like movies is the way forward. This has ultimately led to the perpetual stream of tedious CoD and GTA clones which now plague mainstream gaming. However, this is apparently what the vast amount of mainstream gamers want as the PS4 has been a big hit.

    I’m quite happy for Nintendo to stay out of touch and keep innovating as without them I’d be permanently on Steam playing indie games. That’s no bad thing, but mainstream gaming should offer a lot more. Breath of the Wild has delivered that, thankfully.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alright, so I’m glad this has sparked some intense conversation! Though we’ve written with much tongue in much cheek, this particular post is based off of my personal gaming experiences with the N64 and specifically the games I can remember playing/own to comment on. Okay, so Superman 64 is included here as a joke. I had to. We did mention Doom64 but I don’t remember the Ogre Battle or Turok 2 titles enough to include them. In so many words, it’s a personal list so I’m happy to have commenters fill in the gaps with third-party titles they remember and enjoy. “Top 20” is click-bait, my friend, and there’s the tongue in cheek part. These are my personal top 20 I can remember! 😀

      Seems like the N64 was a good but not great system with some good ideas dragged down by alienating developers and sticking with cartridges. Sega had long been waging this war against Nintendo that Sega could deliver on mature gaming while Nintendo couldn’t. Nintendon’t and all that. Ironically, it appears that their attacks struck home but benefitted Sony instead of Sega in the long run. I think Xbox takes the idea too far and they’re pretty boring, imo. You’ve summed up everything I don’t appreciate about mainstream gaming but I’ve been able to enjoy a wide variety of games within the PlayStation family that I couldn’t with Nintendo, as much as I am their devoted fan.

      Nintendo should always be about innovation and I would never want them to be the next PlayStation. What I do want is a little more variety, in their own way. Actually… I really want a massive blood feud between Sony and Nintendo to give us the game-generating competition of yesteryear. I want them to get down and dirty and duke it out, and kick Microsoft out of the picture. Make them the new Sega.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Turok 2 really was exceptional at the time, it was considered better than Goldeneye really. The N64 was primarily about the input from Nintendo and Rare, though. The latter was on top form: Blast Corps, Jet Force Gemini, Diddy Kong Racing etc. But there were many other third party gems, which is why this list looked a bit weird to me. Some of the others are notoriously dreadful! I read N64 Magazine back in the day so I was always directed to the best games.

        Anyway, for the Switch they do need better third party support so, hopefully, that’ll be in place this time around. It was badly lacking on the Wii U.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as familiar with the N64 as I was with the NES or SNES. Rare seemed to dominate on it and I remember those titles you mentioned but either only vaguely or by name. DK Racing was a favorite of my wife’sand I thought about including it here until I couldn’t think up a point to mention as its lesson for the Switch. Haha maybe I’ll change the title of the post. Can’t say as I’ve read the N64 Magazine ever, so thanks for your own recommendations!
          At the very least, this post is really about the Switch and how much it needs third party support so I think we can hold hands and walk into the sunset on that dead horse. 😉

          Liked by 1 person

  5. I have fond memories of some of these. Gauntlet Legends was bad but great fun with 4 people. The Switch has great potential for those sort of games once again. But they need to consider variety (as you pointed out) if they want to have major success. Early sales figures, in the U.K. at least, are looking reasonably good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey, I just saw those sales figures for the UK today. I wonder what the US figures will end up resembling. In Japan it apparently beat out the Wii U’s launch sales, so that’s a plus. Did you pick up a Switch? Stop me if we’ve had this conversation.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t think we have! I’ve not picked one up but I’ll be keeping my eye out later in the year for good prices and games I’m interested in. The UK sales also outdid the Wii U. Beat the Xbox 360 too.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Nice! I’m not a Microsoft fan and I wear that on my sleeve, so I’m delighted to hear that news. I’ve been recommending that people who are on the fence wait until later in the year to pick up a Switch. We may see a surge of sales toward Christmas if Nintendo can really sell Odyssey and even announce some other titles. That’d be nice.

          Since this is a 64 post, I’m wondering also what your general opinion is of the 64 and what some of your favorite games on the system were? Pointedly, what do you think of the allegation that Nintendo’s journey toward irrelevance began with the 64?

          Liked by 1 person

          • I feel other console manufacturers began to move forward during that era whilst Nintendo didn’t. I don’t think they fully realise how much the industry has changed since the NES/SNES era. On the other hand, I loved the multiplayer aspect of many games on N64, which is what they seem to be trying to recapture.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Do you remember at the Switch presentation (if you watched it) when they mentioned the Switch would be taking inspiration from past consoles? It’s the multiplayer from the 64 that warrants emulation but not the backwardness of stubbornly sticking to cartridges or old ports. Maybe Nintendo just needs some young blood working for them?

              Liked by 1 person

                • Right, and I don’t like the constant fear of Nintendo’s next being their last console. I hope they’re able to compete enough to stay in biz. I’m going to hope that they’ll pull ahead in the console wars but I very much doubt it, and neither of us wants them to become truly mainstream in order to do it.

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  6. Man, I have to disagree with you to some degree. You’re not wrong in that the system didn’t get the most popular games. But The Nintendo 64 had a lot of pretty wonderful third-party games, even if nobody paid enough attention because they weren’t Final Fantasy VII, or Metal Gear Solid.

    The Nintendo 64 was THE console at the time for First-Person Shooters. It didn’t have many fighters, or high profile RPGs (The PlayStation, and Dreamcast owned those genres.) But if you wanted good shooters, there were more than Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, and Doom. There was an original version of Quake II, built around the console, rather than trying to shoehorn the game onto a console (Unlike the passable PSX port.) Quake 1 was shoehorned on fairly successfully. As was Duke Nukem 3D. Not to mention the four Turok: Dinosaur Hunter games that only ever came to the N64, and PC.

    The system was also the console of choice if you were a pro wrestling fan. No other console since has had a line up of wrestling games so revered by the fandom. Thanks to Aki (Who no longer make wrestling games), and THQ’s stellar move of getting IP contracts, we had two awesome WCW games, and two awesome WWF/E games. The console was out during the Attitude Era, and Monday Night Wars. So these games not only had an excellent set of wrestling mechanics, but (for the time) impressive models of wrestlers, and arenas. A lot of PlayStation owners who also loved Pro Wrestling ended up buying an N64 for these titles. WCW vs. n.W.o World Tour, Revenge, WWF WrestleMania 2000, and No Mercy are some of the most popular games ever made. All of which exclusive to the Nintendo 64.

    The Nintendo 64 also had a lot of hidden gems, that command high prices to collect now. The Goemon games are all excellent, especially Goemon’s Great Adventure, which is very close to it’s Super Nintendo cousin Legend of The Mystical Ninja. There are also the Atlus Snowboard Kids, and its sequel which combine arcade snowboarding with JRPG conventions. That Castlevania game gets a lot of heat, but I really enjoyed playing through it, and most of the issues were fixed when the Director’s Cut version followed (Legacy of Darkness.) Konami also made Hybrid Heaven which while not a great game, is still pretty interesting.

    Some other great third-party games in my collection include Road Rash 64 (Which I reviewed awhile back), a technically impressive port of Resident Evil 2 (How Angel Studios got the CD video compressed on to the cartridge without losing too much quality is still amazing.), as well as excellent versions of Luxoflux’s Vigilante 8 games.

    They may not have gotten the most high profile games, but they had plenty of good ones. Many still hold up. That isn’t to deny the overwhelming success of Sony’s first outing. But the N64 wasn’t nearly the dumpster fire people sometimes make it out to be. It was a distant second, but it was the place to be for platformers, shooters, and pro wrestling. It had a lot of games that would go onto become sought after collector’s items, and it even held its own when Sega replaced the Saturn with the Dreamcast. Not to mention all of the timeless Nintendo games on there. Again, not bashing the PlayStation. It was the place to go for Fighters, Shmups, and JRPG goodness. It had Tomb Raider, Crash Bandicoot, and even it’s own share of lesser known must owns. (Seriously, play Destrega.) But the N64 held it’s own pretty nicely.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aw yeah, bring on the controversy. The N64 is a good system but not a great one in my estimation, but it’s firmly rooted in the memories of many so I expected some resistance to this post. I understand your points and approach so I’ll do my best to respond. I had to switch to the Comments viewer on the WP Dashboard for this epic comment!

      When I began this post by saying “The N64 may have been Nintendo’s first step toward irrelevance” I meant it was a first toward (possibly) in that direction. I don’t think it was as much a failure as the Wii U, for example, nor do I think it’s a “dumpster fire”. Absolutely not. I enjoy it quite often. It’s no Super Nintendo and certainly no NES, though. But here’s the approach I took in understanding and measuring the 64 in terms of failure/success: it’s variety of games compared to the PlayStation, the way that it lost touch of third-party devs that previously worked with Nintendo, and especially its sales compared to the PlayStation. By comparison, and I remember this being contemporaneous, the 64 seemed like a modern anachronism. I think that 32 million units sold compared to the very first PlayStation’s 102 million units sold is a HUGE difference and a big indication that something was awry. The N64 also moved less units than the SNES and the NES, while still beating out the Saturn, which had a terrible library in terms of size. Sega was lagging for a while but the 64 couldn’t hope to touch Sony. Why? I think the best explanation is the 64 dropped the ball in some sense. Getting ports years later is just one example. But these numbers have to be explained somehow!

      Perfect Dark, Doom, GoldenEye, even some of the Turoks are fondly remembered in my circles and pretty well put together but a lot of the other FPS’s haven’t aged well at all. Also personally, all of the wrestling games seemed VERY lack luster to me, and I’d consider them niche interests for fans of wrestling. Played them but never owned a single one. I can’t think of anyone I know personally who was into those games who didn’t already enjoy wrestling. I’d like to see some metrics to back the claim that these are some of the most popular games ever because that would be an interesting revelation when I’d think the more obvious choice would be SM64. Out of your trifecta of platformers, shooters, and pro wrestling that leaves just the platformers and shooters. I wouldn’t dispute the platforming, since that’s Nintendo’s bread and butter, but to narrow down the PS One’s popularity to FFVII and MGS is an oversimplification in my opinion. Not being a fan of shooters narrows the variety of the N64 even further. It’s a limited console compared to PS One and I think that’s perhaps the best explanation. It’s not that it was only a terrible system with terrible games, just that by comparison it wasn’t enough and wasn’t good enough. PlayStation got a variety of platformers and even the best Castlevania. Looking back at the development and evolution of Sony and Nintendo, Sony has continued to expand a library of games for their consoles that’s diverse whereas we’ve ended up with a Nintendo that’s become extremely exclusive and reclusive.

      There are certainly the odd hidden gems for the 64, as well. Given, I haven’t played every game for the N64 and this list of third-party titles is based on personal experience, since I couldn’t very well comment on a game I’ve never played. I just think that the N64 was a missed opportunity for Nintendo in so many ways. Millions and millions of sales below PS One and lost third party devs make that clear at least to my mind. I respect the system and again I think it’s a good one with some passable titles and some genuinely awesome ones, but the awesome ones folks name are often Nintendo developed and published so I think that says a lot about this system as well. I won’t take up the point that you’re knocking Sony because I don’t think you’ve made that your intention. It’s not mine to knock the N64 except to point out its place in Nintendo becoming the company it is today, from the king to the underdog. I think that first began with the 64. You might place it later, in which case I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on that.

      Responding to long and thoughtful comments can be a challenge so I hope I didn’t misconstrue any of your points.

      Like

      • I don’t deny that Nintendo’s choices drove away some of their former support. Going with cartridges did keep some of the bigger titles away, as to create cartridges with 540MB of space would have made these games cost double. Sony’s choice to follow PC’s, and go with optical media wooed some of them away, as it was cost effective. Sony also undercut Nintendo on licensing fees, and had relaxed content rules. So a lot of third-parties took that into consideration.

        But my argument wasn’t so much that this wasn’t a factor (it was) it’s the idea that Nintendo as a company would become irrelevant. After a lot of the management changed, Nintendo was in a different position. So often people will cry “DOOOOOOOOMED” like Bender because they make baffling decisions. But a lot of times they’ll argue they need a powerhouse. Nintendo tried the powerhouse route when Microsoft entered the fray. The Gamecube was more powerful than the PS2, it had near parity with the Xbox, it used an off shoot of the IBM Apple chips while Xbox ran on a modified Intel Pentium III. And the Xbox was using an NVidia GeForce III that had been cut down for cost, while the GCN ran on a custom ATI card (AMD bought out ATI years later.) Anyway, it still came in third, though very close to the Xbox. Now sure there were some shortcomings like smaller capacity discs which made some games impossible to bring over. But when you get down to the weeds, a small percentage of games ever went beyond 1.5GB at the time. And the bigger issue was Nintendo didn’t embrace internet gaming which hurt them in multiplayer. Still, how much online deathmatches would have helped? That’s hard to say.

        But the late Iwata was onto something with the DS, and the Wii. Those consoles put the company back on top, by differentiating. The thing people forget is there have been times in gaming where all platforms were similar, with similar libraries. Look at the market before the crash, Atari had two consoles on the market, one with aging graphics tech, one with a terrible controller. Mattel had the Intellivision, Coleco had the Colecovision, Bally had the Astrocade, there was the Odyssey 2, and several esoteric machines. Oh and the Vectrex came out at precisely the wrong time. Thing is when you look at the libraries, all of them had a lot of the same third party titles. There wasn’t much to differentiate them. A glut of platforms, and attractive home computers that were more powerful, did more than gaming (You could program, publish, do business, school work, chip tunes, etc.) for not much more, and it was curtains for many of the consoles. Oddly enough, only the Atari 2600 survived.

        Go into the future, and we had a time with Super NES, Genesis (and its many add ons), Jaguar, 3DO, CDi, Neo Geo, Amiga CD32, and I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, were all on store shelves. The circumstances were different. But again, there wasn’t much to differentiate here. (Except the CDi wasn’t going to last long anyway, and the Neo Geo was too expensive.) Sure the Jag didn’t get a ton of support, but there were a number of games that were also on the 16-bit consoles, and were just as good. It didn’t do anything different enough (other than brag about the added power) to get people to choose it over something else. Before long the PlayStation, and Saturn were out to kick the remains aside.

        The point is, Nintendo is smaller. They’re also pretty good at saving money. But they don’t want to just do the exact same thing as everyone else, because they’ll stagnate, and there’s no guarantee large swaths of people who are loyal to their PS4, would skip over a Sony PS5 for a Nintendo PS5 equivalent. With the Wii, they made gaming even more mainstream. For the first time since the Atari 2600, EVERYONE was buying a console. That isn’t to downplay the PS2 which sold a boat load, but they made something everyone wanted, even if it wasn’t very powerful. The 2600 was a similar approach, that system ran on a cut down 6502 (The same chipset in the 5200, 7800, C64, and NES), on a cost effective video tech, and sold at an affordable price.

        The Wii U was a fun machine, But it wasn’t marketed right at all, and it didn’t sell well. It made the company money, but not enough to be very competitive. With the Switch, it looks like they’re doing something that is not only different, if it works out for them it could disrupt a different market. Tablets. Think about how many $200-$300 tablets people get, and find there aren’t much in the way of games aside from the freemium fare on phones. Parents getting nagged by their kids for nickel, and dime purchases. Now you have a Nintendo tablet, with detachable controllers, that can give you premium games, and I’m sure eventually will have the apps people use on tablets, YouTube, Hulu, Netflix, Chrome, etc. Plus the dock lets them easily use it on a TV. A lot of people don’t know about mini HDMI cables for their current tablets.

        So far it looks like it’ll do okay, but if it doesn’t, they’re far from done. They have a ton of reserves. They could launch several more duds before being in dire straits. And that doesn’t mean I think they’re fault free. They haven’t been very good with online infrastructure save for Mario Kart, and Splatoon netcode (For some reason I rarely see lag in those games). Their YouTube profit sharing program is abysmal which is why a lot of big names on the site don’t make many Nintendo themed episodes. Their aversion to fan projects. And now, and again they’ll make a completely bad or wrong decision about a given product. Like creating artificial shortages with the earliest amiibo toys, or the NES Classic Mini fiasco.

        But if the Switch doesn’t set the world on fire, it isn’t over for them.

        Getting back to the N64 itself, yes it got its clock cleaned in the grand scheme of things, and the PlayStation clearly had a much wider variety (over 2,000 games were released compared to the N64’s paltry 388). But the N64 was still far from a failure. Nor would I say it sent Nintendo toward even possible irrelevance. But the PlayStation did put Nintendo, and Sega on notice. They put out a great machine, that businesses liked because of the low production costs, and lax restrictions, and fans liked because it was solid, and had a lot of great stuff to play. I’m not saying Nintendo can do no wrong, they certainly have, as mentioned above. But they’re not going anywhere. I’m sure there will always be some sort of Nintendo device, even if that device only runs Nintendo stuff. Like the Apple of game systems. Just not the Pippin. That would be worse than the Virtual Boy 2.0

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes.

          Hahaha so anyway, I think you may have misunderstood me and my intentions and outlook on Nintendo. I will only say you can rest assured that I’m not part of the crowd that says Nintendo is doomed or the Switch is going to be their last console. Far from it. In fact, I’ve been writing very positively on the Switch, partly in hopes of spreading optimism for Nintendo. You can check my post history on that. I’m not even saying the 64 was a failure, the point of this post is to postulate how Nintendo can learn from some of the past failures they made on the 64. The point of this post is not to say the 64 in itself was a failure. Even with the information you shared, I’m more resolutely convinced that the 64 was a step (a mere step) TOWARD irrelevance. The GameCube even more so. The Wii was a spike and a phenomenon but its follow up in the U was a disaster.

          I empathize with your apparent frustration with people who think Nintendo is a lost cause, but I’m not one of them. Far be it from me to want Nintendo to become another PlayStation. That’s dumb. Rather, these posts are hopes for third-party exclusives that are actually good. I believe it’s possible to love something while still point out its flaws, and to my mind, now more than ever, the N64 was a chink in their armor. Not a perfect system nor a crappy one, but just good and not great.

          In a nutshell, I agree with you that the 64 got its clock cleaned and I agree with you that it had a paltry 388 games and was far from a failure. On that basis, though, I’m saying it was a step toward becoming irrelevant to so many minds. Yeah, and they’re not going anywhere, either. Those are my points and I’m sticking to ’em.

          Liked by 1 person

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