Welcome to part two (of two) of my list of underappreciated games for the Nintendo 64. If you’ve only played the more famous games for the console, such as Star Fox 64, Super Smash Bros., and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, you might want to check out these lesser-known titles.
7. Rocket: Robot on Wheels (1999)
Publisher: Ubi Soft
Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
If you’re tired of running around on two legs in 3D platformers, take the helm of the one-wheel title character—a maintenance robot at a high-tech theme park—in Rocket: Robot on Wheels. You will roll around, jump high in the air, swing from ledges and trees, solve puzzles, collect tickets and tokens (the latter of which lets you perform advanced moves, such as freeze ray, slam, and double and triple jump), commandeer seven different vehicles (including a SpiderRider, a DuneDog, and a HoverSplat), repair broken machines, and brandish an upgradeable tractor beam used for throwing and smashing objects. You can even build your own roller coaster. The game’s physics engine, which gives the action a relatively realistic feel as different objects have a different feel and weight, helps it stand out from the pack. Rocket is fun and creatively designed, but note that it does emphasize exploration over action.
8. Shadow Man (1999)
Want a break from all the kid-friendly fodder on the N64? Check out Shadow Man, a third-person action/adventure game that casts you in the title role of a mysterious figure who can travel between the land of the dead and the land of the living. As the mortal Michael LeRoi, you’ll battle enemies with traditional weapons. As the Shadow Man, you’ll command voodoo powers and fire zombie-killing ghosts out of your gun. You can also survive long falls with impunity and swim underwater indefinitely. The game, which boasts tons of cutscenes and in-game speech, takes place in such locales as the Louisiana Swampland, a Texas Prison, and a New York Tenement. To advance, you must gain new abilities and gather an assortment of voodoo artifacts for use in solving various puzzles. Dark Souls, some of which are difficult to find, act as gateways to new areas. If you like horror combined with Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time-style adventuring, Shadow Man just might be your guy.
9. South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack (1999)
Make no mistake, South Park: Chef’s Luv Shack is not a great game. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s a good game. All I know is that I always have a lot of fun and a lot of laughs playing it. Based on the irreverent, often satirical South Park cartoon series, the game lets you and up to four players answer pop culture and general trivia questions from such whacky categories as “Hippie Crap,” “Mighty Hermathphrodite,” “My Fart Will Go On,” and “A Form of Herpes.” Humor is lowbrow to be sure, but if you’re in the right mood with a party atmosphere and good friends, it can be downright hilarious. There are mini-games as well, including clunky, lazily programmed (but somehow still entertaining) rip-offs of Asteroids, Super Sprint, Warlords, and Donkey Kong. Is this game truly a gem? I’m not sure—I just know I truly enjoy it.
10. Space Invaders (1999)
Space Invaders is one of the most famous and influential video games in the history of the industry. So, how can it be a hidden gem? Because virtual no one thinks of Space Invaders, a simple, fixed-screen, 2D shooter, in conjunction with the Nintendo 64, a console known for its 3D games and first-party titles that are much larger in scope than the old coin-op classics. “Space Invaders 64,” as you might want to call it, adds to the simple “move right and left and fire upward” formula by incorporating such elements as bosses, motherships, cooperative play, planetary progression, and power-ups (diagonal blasts, swarm missiles, laser beams, and the like) into the action. The game is more about brute force shooting than the careful timing and aiming of the coin-op classic, but it’s still a lot of fun. If you want to play the original game, you can unlock it somewhere within this reimagined/upgraded version.
11. Virtual Chess 64 (1998)
Whether you’ve always wanted to learn chess or you consider yourself a master of the cerebral game, Virtual Chess 64 delivers a convincing representation for your home console. An interactive tutorial system helps noobs with the basics (as well as advanced tactics) while experts will receive ample challenge (12 difficulty levels are available) and can study the replays of three Grand Master chess matches. A 3D mode is offered, including a comical take on battle chess, but most gamers will likely prefer 2D mode, which lets you select from a variety of game pieces and board designs. An edit mode lets you position pieces anywhere you like on the board for practicing various scenarios. You don’t typically see board games on a list of hidden gems, but who says Heritage Auctions is typical? And besides, this is a quality game you rarely hear people talking about.
12. Wetrix (1998)
Publisher: Ocean Software
Developer: Zed Two Game Design Studio
In this offbeat and creatively designed puzzler, you rotate and drop randomly shaped objects that appear at top of the playfield and guide them into position on a piece of land that is suspended in the middle of the screen. The objective is to construct barriers/raised edges to prevent water from leaking out and into a drain meter. As the action progresses, rain begins falling, making your task more difficult. Earthquakes, ice blocks (which freeze the water), bombs (which create dangerous holes in the walls), fireballs (which vaporize the water), and other variables add to the fun. Once the meter is full, it’s game over. Wetrix began as a water flow tech demo for a game called Vampire Circus, but the developers enjoyed it so much that they turned it into a complete game. I think you’ll enjoy it, too.