Hidden Gems for the Nintendo 64 Part 1

Critics of the Nintendo 64 often say that the console has nothing really good to offer outside of a few triple-A first-party titles like Mario Kart 64, Super Mario 64, Goldeneye 007, and Pilotwings 64. While the system does indeed have its share of stinkers (Superman: The New Adventures, anyone?), there are a number of lesser-known games well worth playing, whether you’re an N64 noob or a longtime fan.

Two such quality titles—Blast Corps and Jet Force Gemini—are mentioned as hidden gems so often that they basically aren’t hidden anymore, so I’ve selected a dozen others, including several that are truly old-school, even for the late ’90s.

Here are my first six picks, in alphabetical order. I will follow up with the other six in a subsequent post sooner rather than later, so stay tuned to channel N64 and this website—and enjoy!

1.      Beetle Adventure Racing (1999)

Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Electronic Arts/Electronic Arts Canada, Paradigm Entertainment

If you like the arcade stylings of San Francisco Rush, check out Beetle Adventure Racing, where you, perched behind the wheel of one of several 1999-model Beetles, cruise at breakneck speeds on six cinematic, beautifully designed courses: Coventry Cove, Mount Mayhem, Inferno Isle (think Jurassic Park), Sunset Sands, Metro Madness, and Wicked Woods. You can stay on course (so to speak) or venture off the track to discover secrets and peril-filled shortcuts. One Player mode offers Single Race, Championship Circuit, and Time Attack action while Two Player features head-to-head racing against a friend. Up to four players can battle it out in Beetle Battle, a competition to find six ladybug icons in several arenas featuring such weapons as mines, rockets, and even magic. This is one of the better (not to mention better looking) racers of the era.

2.      Body Harvest (1998)

Publisher: Midway
Developer: DMA Design

You are genetically enhanced marine Adam Drake, outfitted in Bio-Mechanical Armor and toting a 12mm semi-automatic pistol. Your helmet doubles as a communications device while your backpack stores what you need to survive the alien apocalypse, which has decimated Earth. In this expansive time-traveling adventure, which you view from a third-person perspective behind your character, you solve puzzles, enter buildings, converse with locals, gather items and weapons, commandeer more than 60 different vehicles (driving and flying), and battle more than 70 different types of aliens. The action takes place in five areas covering 1,000 virtual square miles. Body Harvest was originally planned to be an N64 launch title, but it was delayed. Luckily, it was well worth the wait as a prototype of sorts of the type of mission-based, non-linear gameplay found in Grand Theft Auto.

3.      Gauntlet Legends (1999)

Publisher: Midway
Developer: Atari

I’ll never forget walking into the Land of Oz arcade at the mall near my house in 1985 and seeing Atari’s Gauntlet, with four players gathered around the cabinet, battling baddies in tandem within a series of scrolling mazes. Gauntlet Legends captures the spirit of that classic multi-player action, but with 3D visuals and the ability for the playable characters—warrior, wizard, Valkyrie, and archer—to level-up and earn experience points for improving ratings in armor, health, speed, and strength. You and your friends will explore more than 30 labyrinthine levels spread over seven kingdoms as you battle monsters (with standard weapons as well as three-way shots, super shots, and fire breath) and acquire such items as food, keys, magic, runes, and switches to open doors. The game was adapted from the 1998 coin-op semi-classic of the same name, but levels, puzzles, and item locations were changed.

4.      Mischief Makers (1997)

Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Treasure

A versatile platformer, Mischief Makers has you guiding robotic maid Marina Liteyears through 50-plus stages spread over five worlds while on a mission to rescue her boss, Professor Theo. She doesn’t simply run, jump, and duck; she can also slide, dash, climb, hover, roll, pick up and throw things, ride various vehicles (including a bike and a missile), and use such weapons as a machine gun, a boomerang, bombs, and missiles. Here most distinctive and unusual attribute is the ability to shake things for different reactions. For example, shaking the machine gun lets her fire low, middle, and high shots while shaking certain items and enemies releases gems for restoring health. You’ll engage in marina races, battle Gunstar Heroes-type bosses (the game is developed by Treasure, after all), hitch a ride on an enemy-smashing block man, and much more. There’s a lot going on here. Once you get used to the controls, you’ll have a blast.

5.      Ready 2 Rumble Boxing (1999)

Developer: Midway Home Entertainment
Publisher: Midway Home Entertainment

Get ready to rumble with this punchy pugilist punchout on the Nintendo 64. If you want to jump right to the cartoonish action, select Arcade mode, which lets you fight as one of 17 boxers, ranging from a petite 21-year-old girl to a 358-pound sumo wrestler to a 500-year-old demon from another dimension. In Championship mode, you train using such equipment as a speed bag and weights and work your way up through the bronze, silver, and gold classes. To purchase gym equipment and compete in Title Fights, you must earn money by entering Prize Fights. Easily one of my two or three favorite boxing games, Ready 2 Rumble, which was also released for the Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Game Boy Color, was popular when it came out and even spawned a couple of sequels. However, it’s unfairly faded into relative obscurity, which is why I’ve spotlighted it here.

6.      Robotron 64 (1998)

Publisher: Crave Entertainment
Developer: Player 1

Based on the brilliant Robotron: 2084, which Williams released to the arcades in 1982, Robotron 64 features the same type of basic gameplay, but with a ¾ perspective instead of the traditional top-down. You guide a freely moving polygonal character (a “genetically enhanced scientist”) through a whopping 200 grid-levels, firing in all directions at dozens of evil robots while rescuing humans that run around aimlessly on the grid. Saving innocents isn’t required, but you get extra points (translating to extra lives) for doing so. Unlike the coin-op classic, there are power-ups, such as a flamethrower and simultaneous multi-directional fire. Also, unlike the original, this game is easy, even on the “insane” difficulty (you’ll breeze through the first 50 levels in normal mode). The action gets repetitious, but it’s still a lot of fun. And it’s certainly an improvement over Robotron X, which was the PlayStation version.

Heritage Auctions Heritage Auctions (21 Posts)

The world’s largest collectibles auctioneer, Heritage Auctions was founded in 1976. Early in 2019, they began auctioning video games, everything from Atari to Xbox. While most of the games the company sells are factory sealed and/or graded, they also offer group lots of ungraded games and consoles. Heritage hosts weekly “Mini-Boss” auctions as well as themed Showcase and high-end Signature sales. You can check them out at HA.com.