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The Underrated N64 Platformer You Likely Never Played

There are plenty of hidden gems in the Nintendo 64 game library. Even over two decades later, that console is still beloved by many Nintendo fans for featuring some truly odd and experimental games. However, there are a few titles that seem to have been more or less lost to time and probably should get a little more attention. One of these is 1999's Rocket: Robot on Wheels.


This quirky little platformer was notably the very first game developed by Sucker Punch Studios. If that name sounds familiar, it's because Sucker Punch went on to make such classics as the Infamous series and 2020's critically acclaimed Ghost of Tsushima. Rocket: Robot On Wheels would end up being the only game Sucker Punch Studios made for a Nintendo platform, which makes it even more of a curiosity. 

However, this game is more than just an odd footnote in video game history. If you never played Rocket: Robot on Wheels, then you really missed out on something special.

What is Rocket: Robot on Wheels?

The development of Rocket: Robot on Wheels was an interesting process. According to a Nintendo Life interview with game designer Don Munsil, Sucker Punch set out to make a game that combined the platforming of the Super Mario games (specifically Super Mario 64) with a more realistic physics engine. This led to the developers designing some intricate physics-based puzzles for the adorable Rocket to solve in order to progress through the game.


As explained by Munsil, the physics engine developed by Sucker Punch's Chris Zimmerman was way ahead of its time. Munsil told Nintendo Life, "The physics engine on Rocket is astonishingly good and something that Nintendo didn't really think was possible."

Rocket: Robot on Wheels also had an amazing amount of variety in how the different levels played. One level saw players painting over various obstacles and NPCs, which would change their properties or make them behave differently. Another required the player to design and build a massive rollercoaster to get to the end of the stage. In making its first game, Sucker Punch essentially threw everything at the wall to see what would stick, and the risk paid off.


Why you should play Rocket: Robot on Wheels

Not only is Rocket: Robot on Wheels remembered fondly today, but it was well-reviewed when it was released. GameSpot praised the soundtrack and gameplay, calling it "a deep, fun-filled adventure that really draws you in."


On the other hand, IGN wasn't wild about the game's up-tempo jazz soundtrack, which reviewer Matt Casamassina called "distracting." However, the physics engine pushed the boundaries of what had been seen in gaming, which garnered it significant praise. Casamassina wrote, "The physics engine ... is one of the most amazing technical achievements in a Nintendo 64 game to date.IGN ultimately awarded Rocket: Robot on Wheels a 9/10 score.

Unfortunately, it doesn't appear as though Rocket: Robot on Wheels will be receiving any kind of rerelease in the immediate future. It can, however, be found through secondhand sellers — although copies of the game can go for pretty hefty prices. The year 2019 marked the 20th anniversary of Rocket: Robot on Wheels, and fans are still clamoring for some kind of remaster. Hopefully Sucker Punch will be able to make that wish come true, particularly for the people who never got a chance to play it when it originally came out.