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Hidden gems for the Nintendo 64

Even if you own all the latest video games, there's nothing quite like dusting off an old console and rediscovering your old favorites. If you decide to recapture some of your old Nintendo 64 nostalgia by breaking out your old favorites for another try, you should also consider checking out some of the other amazing N64 games that you missed out on back in the day. 

With over 300 titles in the N64's library, there are likely dozens you haven't even heard of, let alone played. Next time you're hunting for some old Nintendo 64 classics, be sure to try and check out these hidden gems first. 

Blast Corps

Released in 1997, Blast Corps offers one of the best action/puzzle hybrids ever made for Nintendo 64. You control a variety of demolition vehicles in a timed race to strategically destroy buildings and other structures in the path of a runaway nuclear missile carrier. If it collides with anything, the missile explodes, ending your run. Each of the eight vehicles has a different way of destroying structures, and much of the puzzle-solving in Blast Corps involves picking the right vehicle or switching between them to clear the way or bridge a gap.

Blast Corps features 57 increasingly difficult levels, with extra features like secret levels, medal rankings, bonus objectives, and more. After its early 1997 release, Blast Corps received critical acclaim and sold over one million copies. This actually turned out to be a disappointing number for developer Rare, who were previously known for amazingly successful games like Battletoads and Donkey Kong Country

But Rare made up for it in late 1997 with their next two N64 releases: GoldenEye 007 and Diddy Kong Racing. These titles both earned acclaim and racked up massive sales, effectively stealing the limelight from Blast Corps. Overshadowed and outclassed by its younger "brothers," Blast Corps faded into the background and ended up becoming one of Rare's most underrated and overlooked titles.

Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon

If you like genre-bending games and quirky Japanese humor, then 1997's Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon is the perfect hidden gem for you. It would be impossible to fully explain the plot of this action-adventure platformer, so here's a quick run-down: After a gang of dancers in a spaceship destroy a castle, the blue-haired mystical ninja Goemon and his companions set off on an adventure across Japan to confront these dangerous "Peach Mountain Shoguns." Along the way, they encounter some crazy plot twists, giant robot battles, and several musical numbers. That should give you the basic idea behind Mystical Ninja, but you really just need to experience it for yourself.

Although Goemon was already a popular franchise in Japan, this was only the character's second game to hit North America. Mystical Ninja only sold about 55,000 copies here, so few gamers have had the opportunity to explore this creative and zany game. The gameplay mechanics are solid, the soundtrack and graphics are great, but the hilarious dialogue filled with surrealist humor is really what makes Mystical Ninja stand apart from the crowd.

Shadow Man

Released by Acclaim in 1999 for Nintendo 64 and several other platforms, Shadow Man was overlooked by most gamers back then and has been essentially forgotten today. Obscure games aren't necessarily good ones, but this atmospheric and mesmerizing 3D action-adventure definitely deserves more attention.

The "Shadow Man" himself is Mike LeRoi, a man with a tragic past and the power to travel between the realms of the living and the dead. He serves a Voodoo priestess, who sends him to stop the demon Legion and his apocalyptic plans. Legion has recruited five serial killers to harvest Dark Souls, powerful spirits he can use to end the world. To stop him, Mike must fight off hordes of undead and find the Dark Souls, defeating Legion's five lieutenants before confronting the demon himself.

Shadow Man offers non-linear and action-packed gameplay with a chilling atmosphere straight out of a horror film. There's no in-game map, so pay attention while you play — you'll need to backtrack frequently when items and abilities unlock new areas. If you love exploration, puzzle-solving, good storytelling, and zombie-killing action, then this hidden gem definitely belongs in your Nintendo 64 game collection.

Jet Force Gemini

Rare's 1999 third-person 3D shooter Jet Force Gemini was created by the same brilliant team that made Blast Corps. An insectoid army of drones led by the tyrannical Mizar is infesting the galaxy, and only Jet Force Gemini can stop them. After Mizar destroys the Jet Force fleet, survivors Juno, Vela and loyal dog Lupus escape to the planet Goldwood, where the peaceful Tribals have already been enslaved by the drones. Like Blast Corps, this hidden gem was upstaged when a later Rare release — 2000's Perfect Dark – effectively stole its thunder.

Initially, you control the characters individually in stages combining shoot 'em up and platform elements. Later, you use all three, taking advantage of their unique abilities in each level. There are 15 unique worlds to explore as you rescue Tribals, collect starship parts, and splatter plenty of bug guts before finally confronting Mizar himself. In multiplayer mode, campaign progress unlocks new deathmatch and co-op levels, shooting challenges, and even racing mini-games. This action-packed title definitely respects its roots, paying tribute to arcade classics like Space Harrier and Devastators. Gamers looking for a challenging and fun shooter with intense action and impeccable level design should definitely check out Jet Force Gemini.

Body Harvest

The violent action-adventure Body Harvest is a great game from 1998 which represents the humble roots of the Grand Theft Auto series. After a century of alien attacks, humans have been nearly wiped out. Their last hope is Adam Drake, a genetically engineered soldier who must travel back in time to stop the attackers and their campaign of extermination.

Body Harvest was originally slated as an N64 launch title, but Nintendo dropped the game over its violent content. By the time it was published, developers DMA — later renamed Rockstar North — had already moved on, creating Grand Theft Auto for PlayStation and PC. Although Body Harvest features alien invasions instead of gangland battles, you'll still recognize many trademarks of the GTA franchise — including nonlinear gameplay with a focus on missions. You have a variety of weapons at your disposal to dispatch enemies, and over 50 different vehicles to help you explore the five expansive eras of history. Body Harvest will definitely entertain sci-fi and action lovers, as well as Grand Theft Auto fanatics hungry for a look at the origins of the franchise.

Space Station Silicon Valley

Body Harvest wasn't DMA's only contribution to the Nintendo 64's game catalogue: in 1998, the company developed the platform adventure Space Station Silicon Valley. In the year 3000, Dan Danger and his robot companion Evo are sent to investigate when the eponymous space station suddenly appears near Earth. Originally designed as a high-tech zoo, Silicon Valley went missing in 2001, along with its cargo of animals. Over the last 1,000 years, the animals have evolved, merging with technological components of the station. After their ship crashes, a damaged Evo must rescue Dan and make it to the Silicon Valley control room to stop the wayward station from colliding with Earth.

Space Station Silicon Valley is a wacky and entertaining adventure that offers the best of old-school platforming in a slick and stylish 3D world. After the crash, Evo is reduced to a crawling microchip, and you use him to attack and take control of the crazy creatures running amok in the 30 levels spread across the station's four different biozones. While this may look like a title meant for the kids, adults would be making a mistake to dismiss this game. Players of all ages will find hours of enjoyment from the innovative levels, clever puzzles, and distinctly British sense of humor.

Mischief Makers

The 1997 side-scroller adventure Mischief Makers is one of the few "2.5D" titles made for the Nintendo 64, and it offers a variety of fun, frantic levels that will keep you guessing. The game begins with robotics expert Professor Theo, who's kidnapped by a gang of bad guys during a visit to the planet Clancer. You play as the robot maid/bodyguard Marina, who sets out to rescue her creator. Along the way, she learns more about his kidnappers and gets caught up in a high-stakes planetary conflict that complicates her mission to save him.

Mischief Makers features some extremely fun gameplay, centered on Marina's unique mechanic of grabbing, shaking, and tossing enemies and items. There's a bit of a learning curve with the controls, which utilize all the controllers buttons and the D-pad instead of the analog stick. However, the game provides several tutorial areas to help you get started. There are over 50 different unpredictable levels to explore, which will keep you on your toes as you go from puzzle-solving to platforming to boss battles from one moment to the next. It may not have a particularly deep plot, but this funny and original game is a great addition to any Nintendo 64 owner's collection.

War Gods

The underrated 1997 fighting game War Gods was made by Mortal Kombat developer Midway Games, and includes several cool features that eventually ended up in their Mortal Kombat 4 release later that year. Throughout human history, ten different humans have found mysterious stones from outer space, which instantly transformed them into the ultra-powerful beings known as War Gods. Now these ten warriors are going head-to-head in a battle to possess all the stones and become the ultimate War God.

War Gods was one of the first fighting games to take advantage of the Nintendo 64's hardware, and it offers lifelike characters and detailed backgrounds, as well as crisp sound effects and speech throughout. In the fully 3D arena, you can sidestep and move freely while setting up attacks. Mortal Kombat fans may find the basic moves somewhat familiar, but War Gods kicks the difficulty up a notch with challenging ten-hit combos. The game offers some pretty creative fatalities, too, like CY-5's face-melting UFO attack and Tak's head-punting maneuver — which later reappeared as Jax's signature move in the 2011 Mortal Kombat reboot. While not as well-received as Mortal Kombat 4, this title still deserves a look from fighting game fans.

007 The World Is Not Enough

Published in 2000, the James Bond game 007 The World Is Not Enough is easily one of the best first-person shooters available on Nintendo 64. While it's hard to imagine any first-person shooter eclipsing Rare's legendary GoldenEye 007, this game comes pretty darn close. Unfortunately, this hidden gem from Eurocom was largely overlooked by gamers because of the mediocre movie it was based on. Don't confuse it with the inferior (and entirely different) PlayStation game from Black Ops Entertainment – because this sweet little N64 title definitely deserves your attention.

The game's campaign mode stands out for its realistic setting and level design, which was based on production materials for the film. The London Underground mission (which doesn't appear in the movie) is just one impressive level among many. The World Is Not Enough brings a strong multiplayer game, too — with traditional deathmatch and co-op modes, 14 different maps, and several other cool multiplayer modes. Eurocom created a special 3D FPS engine just for this game, which makes for some of the fastest, crispest, and smoothest visuals you'll see on the N64. Combined with detailed special effects, score, and sound design, 007 The World Is Not Enough delivers a truly cinematic experience that's just as challenging and satisfying as Rare's other legendary FPS, Perfect Dark.

Robotron 64

If you're an old-school arcade hound, you've probably heard of the popular '80s shooter Robotron 2084, created by arcade legend Eugene Jarvis for Williams Entertainment. In 1996, Williams developed Robotron X, a 3D sequel to the arcade classic for PlayStation and PC. Robotron X didn't make a big impression on gamers, but two years later, Crave Entertainment produced an outstanding Nintendo 64 port: Robotron 64. With updated graphics, camera angles, sound, and some innovative additions, Robotron 64 is superior in every way to Robotron X and should please retro shoot 'em up fans and nostalgia-seekers alike.

Robotron 64 isn't the type of game you buy for its eye-candy graphics. Even still, the visuals are solid nonetheless, providing a smooth gameplay experience as you move around the grid-like levels, defeating waves of enemies and saving the humans frantically running from them. Even with the cartridge-based compression, the dozen or so new electronic tracks sound great and add a lot to the experience. Best of all, you can even play with two N64 controllers at once — using both analog sticks for a more authentic, twin-stick-shooter arcade feel. With 200 levels of non-stop frantic action, Robotron 64 is one of those extremely addictive games you'll still be playing years later, trying to beat your high score.   

Tetrisphere

While pretty much every new console gets a Tetris port, you've probably never played one as cool as the 1997 puzzler Tetrisphere before. Originally developed for a cancelled release on Atari Jaguar, Tetrisphere was reworked by H2O Entertainment into a totally unique and addictive title for N64. Instead of an empty playing field that fills with falling pieces, the various Tetrisphere gameplay modes feature a spherical field covered with pieces. You rearrange and stack these pieces to cause reactions, which remove layers to reach the "core" of the puzzle. Make just three mistakes, and it's game over.

It sounds like a pretty simple concept, but Tetrisphere offers many features that will surprise even seasoned Tetris pros. Among the five single-player modes, Hide & Seek and Puzzle mode provide the most challenging twists, and the multiplayer mode allows you to go head-to-head against the computer or a friend in a timed race. With so many options and a polished techno soundtrack composed by Neil Voss, Tetrisphere is sure to become your new favorite time-waster, even two decades later.

Beetle Adventure Racing

When it comes to "branded" video games, most end up being shameless reskins of other titles or mediocre efforts made solely to push a product. However, 1999's Beetle Adventure Racing! is an exception to that rule, offering a truly fun experience that easily rivals Wave Race 64 as the best racing game for N64. In Beetle Adventure Racing!, you hop into a new Volkswagen Beetle and race against the computer or other players on a variety of challenging and enjoyable courses.

Developed by Paradigm Entertainment and published by Electronic Arts, Beetle Adventure Racing offers well-rounded gameplay that's reminiscent of EA's own Need For Speed franchise. The six innovative tracks more than make up for the lack in vehicle choice, with plenty of secret shortcuts and alternate routes you can take for power-ups, bonus points, and crazy tricks. Along with single-player championship and race modes, this hidden gem lets you duke it out with friends in races, or in the awesome "Beetle Battle" mode that blends racing and demolition derby combat. Add in some polished graphics and a groovy soundtrack, and you end up with a game that belongs in every N64 owner's collection.

Snowboard Kids

After the first Winter X-Games in premiered in early 1997, snowboarding and other winter "extreme sports" soon became the newest video game craze. While you might remember playing later Nintendo 64 snowboarding titles like 1080° Snowboarding or Twisted Edge, few have gotten to experience the awesomeness that is 1997's Snowboard Kids. This hidden gem was among the earliest snowboarding games, and the first one for N64. Instead of focusing on getting big air or doing crazy tricks, Snowboard Kids is at its heart a racing game. Although it was clearly designed with a child audience in mind, Snowboard Kids still holds a lot of appeal for gamers of all ages.

Snowboard Kids falls firmly in the realm of other kid-friendly racing titles like Mario Kart 64, with players each picking a pint-sized snowboarder before hitting the slopes. The nine unique courses range from snowy mountain runs to more unconventional locations, including a desert and an amusement park. However, unlike Mario Kart, you have to pay for support and attack items using coins that you collect along the course or earn for doing tricks. The controls are tight, the tunes are crunchy, and the powder is fresh — so what are you waiting for?