The Nintendo 64 is a system that refuses to die. The controllers were unforgettably unique, you could shove the console in a wet basement for a decade and it would still work if you pulled it out now, and if you mention its most famous games (Super Smash Bros., GoldenEye, Mario Kart 64), everyone in the room will get weepy with nostalgia as they remember all of the friendships irreversibly ruined during a round of Mario Party 2.
Also, no system's name is as fun to shout as "NINTENDO SIXTY-FOUUUUUUUUR."
However, when we think about N64 games, we often reserve our thoughts to those that have gotten modern sequels and spinoffs that we enjoy today. Meanwhile, there are tons of classic N64 titles that never got an update and just sit, trapped in the late '90s like diamonds waiting to be polished. And that's where this article comes in.
Here are five underrated Nintendo 64 games that deserve a reboot. That's not saying the original games are bad. It's just that my Nintendo Switch collection would look really good if it included POKEMON SNAP X or something. And speaking of which...
Released in 1999, Pokémon Snap was the perfect game to test the loyalty of the franchise's new fans. "It's like Pokémon, but instead of catching them, ya just kinda take their picture, and then Professor Oak lambasts you about it." Would Pokémon devotees accept this, or would they shriek in pain and fury as their beloved series was twisted into a new form?
Well, obviously they did that first thing, as Pokémon Snap has become a cult classic. See, the appeal of it was not only in how easy the game was to play, but also in the novelty of actually seeing Pokémon interacting in the wild. In the classic Game Boy games, you don't see Pokémon until you happen to run headfirst into them in some tall grass, and in Pokémon Stadium, you kind of assume they're waiting around, Spartacus style, in some tunnel when they're not dueling.
But since 1999, the amount of Pokémon has grown over five times, leaving us constantly waiting for that inevitable Pokémon Snap sequel that just hasn't come. And why not? A system like the Switch could certainly handle a Pokémon Snap game that either A) Includes way more Pokémon than the first, or B) Overhauls the first game into a Pokémon Let's Go style reboot. Plus, I'm sure everyone is nostalgic for the days when Professor Oak was both a notable scientist and somehow qualified to tell you your photography sucks.
Jet Force Gemini
By modern standards, Jet Force Gemini is nothing special. It's a straightforward run-and-gun shooter with some very light Metroidvania elements and the same backtracking and collectibles from Donkey Kong 64 without the pain and misery. The story is fairly forgettable, and the level design is a more than a bit repetitive.
But it's the tone and style of JFG that shine. It maintains an excellent use of bouncy, cartoonish gore in its action sequences. You'll never forget the squish of stepping on alien blood or the first time you accidentally shot one of the Ewok-looking "tribals" and saw their frowning face go bouncing around the screen at 20 FPS.
The first thing a JFG reboot could give us is a proper co-op mode, as the original co-op, which was only limited to two players, missed out on the obvious synergy between the game's three protagonists. The N64's limited power also kept large alien battles somewhat capped in size, while a modern console could cram hundreds of those little monsters onto the screen without causing the system to erupt in flame.
WWF No Mercy
Improving on wrestling mechanics is a seemingly impossible task for wrestling game developers. They can add more modes, make the wrestlers look less like microwaved Legos, and increase the character customization options so you can finally put the cast of Friends into a six-person battle royale like you always wanted. But actually making wrestling that feels good to play? Nope. Can't be done. Sorry. Maybe next game.
That's why WWF No Mercy is so continuously playable: It doesn't make the wrestling feel like a chore. It's both easy to learn and very rewarding if you practice enough, and it's also based around the most beloved time period in pro wrestling history: the Attitude Era, where "Stone Cold" Steve Austin was smashing beer cans, The Rock was raising eyebrows, and Mankind was getting thrown off of progressively higher structures.
However, even if a nostalgia-laden reboot wasn't set in the Attitude Era, a video game that adopted No Mercy's confident system of grappling would be a welcome diversion from most modern wrestling games, where the gameplay seems to take a backseat to the developers shouting "LOOK AT HOW REALISTIC THE HAIRS ON DANIEL BRYAN'S NIPPLES ARE!" Yeah, I would love for my boy Daniel Bryan to have photorealistic hair and/or nipples, but you know what would be just a biiiit better? If it was even slightly fun to play as Daniel Bryan.
I know that when I use the phrase "the N64 before GoldenEye," many will respond with "Oh yes. The dark times," but that would be ignoring the instrument of bliss that was Blast Corps. The N64 was better at displaying explosions than any console before it, and luckily enough, Blast Corps was a game about blowing stuff up.
The situation in Blast Corps is that a runaway nuclear missile carrier is careening its way across the world. You have construction machinery, some cool mechs, and one job: Destroy everything in its path. Apparently, a light tap with a building is enough to set off a sophisticated nuclear weapon. Just go with it — it was a simpler time.
That extremely '90s premise manifested in something like an action-puzzle game, one with a variety of vehicles and surprisingly clever mechanics. The success of Into the Breach and other small-scale puzzlers on the Switch means Blast Corps would surely entertain a modern audience. The Switch's significantly faster CPU could integrate realistic physics into the game a la Half-Life 2 or Trine, and who wouldn't want to swing a giant crane with gyro controls? Really. I'm honestly asking so that I can weed out the least fun people in the world.
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Back in the '90s, before the prequel trilogy, the sequel trilogy, and the death of the Expanded Universe, the possibilities for the Star Wars franchise seemed infinite and almost randomized at times. "This is a story about Luke Skywalker (who now has an eyepatch) flying into the ruins of the second Death Star, which has been reconstructed into its own planet by a clone of Han Solo, who is SECRETLY BOBA FETT'S DAD."
This is the era in which Shadows of the Empire arrived, a story that, today, seems more like fan fiction than anything else. As a child, I gobbled it up.
And the game? Well, it's mostly fun to play. The controls can get really clunky at times (especially in the first person shooter segments), and the graphics make it seem like the developers bit off more than they could chew in trying to deliver this game for the N64. But that's why a reboot would work; there's so much untapped fanboy potential in Shadows of the Empire that just couldn't be revealed through late '90s hardware.
Imagine an open world Shadows of the Empire, set in the most beloved section of the Star Wars canon. Imagine modern graphics illustrating the seediest and most fantastic portions of the Star Wars universe. Imagine controls that make wrecking ATSTs and riding speeders an absolute joy.
And now send all of those dreams to Disney, for they truly hold the fate of our world in their hands.