When it came out, the Nintendo 64 was the most impressive video game console many people had ever seen. Technically more powerful than the Sony PlayStation, the N64 featured higher-quality textures and character models, and little to no loading times. Of course, cartridges didn’t have anywhere near the storage space as the PlayStation’s CDs, and many games had an odd blurry quality.
Still, back in 1996, the N64 was truly amazing. The new 3D graphics should have opened the door for new, amazing superhero games. Sadly, despite the abundance of fantastic superhero games on the previous generation of consoles, costumed heroes were hard to come by on Nintendo’s 64-bit system. What did come out wasn’t always something you’d want to play. Good games did exist for those willing to seek them out, though, so let’s go back in time with the 10 best superhero games the system had to offer, and five of the worst.
15. BEST: EARTHWORM JIM 3D
One of the greatest comedy superheroes of the 1990s made his 3D console debut on the Nintendo 64. Earthworm Jim 3D had a prolonged, troubled development, and by the time it came out, other N64 games were doing 3D platforming better. It was developed by VIS Entertainment, after original “Earthworm Jim” developer Shiny Entertainment was acquired by Interplay and put on a different project. Despite all that, it was still one of the better superhero games on the Nintendo 64. Using Jim’s abilities is fun. You can blast enemies, whip them with your worm body, and helicopter around levels.
Unlike previous entries in the series, “Earthworm Jim 3D” takes place inside Jim’s brain. After being hit by a flying cow, Jim is in a coma. His usual rogues have entered his brain and are driving him insane. Jim must drive them out and collect Golden Udders to restore his sanity and unlock different areas of his brain. After facing his worst fears, Jim confronts his ultimate insecurity: his repressed feminine side, Earthworm Kim. The gameplay itself may not have adapted well to 3D, but “Earthworm Jim’s” signature sense of humor made the transition mostly intact.
14. BEST: THE BOMBERMAN SERIES
While the “Bomberman” games are generally known for multiplayer, the N64 series added single-player adventure modes that turned the character into a superhero. In “Bomberman 64,” he defends the peaceful Planet Bomber from the evil space pirate Artemis. Each level is filed with puzzles that can be solved by sliding, throwing and jumping across bombs. Bomberman’s abilities are widely expanded for his first foray into 3D. He can now pump up the power of his bombs, and add a remote detonator to control when they explode.
The sequel, “Bomberman Hero” takes out the puzzle elements and becomes a traditional 3D platformer. Bomberman can now jump and throw bombs further. The story brings Bomberman to different planets as he tries to rescue a rebel princess from an evil galactic empire. It’s basically “Star Wars” with bombs. It’s just as awesome as it sounds. Bomberman’s final N64 outing was 2000’s “Bomberman 64: The Second Attack.” The gameplay returned to the style of the first “Bomberman 64,” only now the explosions took on the classic cross shape, rather than the half-sphere of the previous two. The story involves Bomberman defeating an evil galactic force and learning the origins of his universe.
13. WORST: FIGHTING FORCE 64
There was a lot to be excited about when “Fighting Force” was announced for the PlayStation, and later the Nintendo 64. Developed by Core Design as a fourth game in the “Streets of Rage” series, “Fighting Force” promised to bring classic beat-em-up gameplay into the third dimension. Players selected one of four characters and fought their way through levels. To its credit, the fighting system was a little more varied than certain other beat-em-ups on this list, but that wasn’t enough to save it.
Two of the four characters were functionally the same, though they had different motivations for fighting Dr. Dex Zeng’s criminal army. The other two were typical video game archetypes: a hard-hitting but slow bruiser, and a fast but low damage fighter. The game played decently and was even fun for the first level. After that, things went downhill. Environments and enemy types repeated and soon, you were doing the same thing over and over again. Despite the weapons available to you, combat boiled down to repeating the same three-hit combo until the enemies fell down. The game got boring fast. It was even worse on the N64, which was plagued by framerate slowdown and terrible sound.
12. BEST: BUCK BUMBLE
When “Buck Bumble” came out, it wasn’t a technical masterpiece. By that point, most other Nintendo 64 games had learned how to reduce or eliminate the distance fog and slowdown that plagued “Buck Bumble’s” larger levels. Despite those issues, Buck buzzed into players’ hearts with fun gameplay, and features that no game had tried before. Developed by Argonaut Games, who was partially responsible for “Star Fox” on the Super Nintendo, “Buck Bumble” allowed players to fly freely around the level, and even walk along the ground. It also had the best theme song of any game on the system.
“Buck Bumble” is set in the futuristic world of 2010 London, where a chemical spill has caused the insect population to mutate. The mutated insects have banded together to form the Herd, who are determined to take over the world. Buck is a friendly volunteer bumblebee who gets implanted with cyborg technology to fight the Herd. Buck is capable of a wide array of aerial acrobatics. He also has access to weapons like a laser and a rocket launcher. In a world overrun by mutant bugs, a cyborg bee is our last best hope for survival.
11. BEST: MEGA MAN 64
The “Mega Man” series produced some of the best games on the NES and Super Nintendo, but Nintendo 64 fans had to wait a long time for the blue bomber to appear on their home console. Luckily, they got one of the best Mega Man games of all time. “Mega Man Legends” didn’t set the critical world on fire when it came out. Even so, many gamers latched on to its well-written story, diverse dungeons and gameplay reminiscent of “The Legend of Zelda.” The N64 version has slightly better graphics than its PlayStation counterpart, with smoother textures and anti-aliasing. Unfortunately, the sound quality took a hit, and the game looks a touch darker on Nintendo’s machine.
Set thousands of years after the other games in the series, “Mega Man 64” takes place in a world that’s been flooded. Mega Man Volnutt is a digger, investigating ruins looking for ancient technology. He’s searching for the Mother Lode, a device that can supposedly deliver infinite power. Along the way, he’ll fight a comedic band of pirates, giant robots and another Mega Man unit from an orbiting space station. He’s a much more effective flooded Earth hero than Kevin Costner ever was.
10. WORST: POWERPUFF GIRLS: CHEMICAL X-TRACTION
“The Powerpuff Girls” was one of the best superhero cartoons of the late ’90s. It combined humor, action and adorable character design to create something truly special. For the video game adaptation, nearly none of that carried over. Developed by Vis Entertainment, and published by BAM!, “Powerpuff Girls: Chemical X-traction” was a simplistic 3D fighting game that came and went with little fanfare. The story involves Mojo Jojo stealing a pie containing the superhero creation liquid Chemical X, and feeding it to all the villains of Townsville. Players choose their favorite Powerpuff Girl and go through a series of one-on-one fights to extract the chemical.
The 3D environments are admittedly nice-looking recreations of settings from the cartoon. The problem is they’re tiny, even by Nintendo 64 standards. Players have access to all the girls’ powers, but there’s not much room to use them. The combat has little depth, and each character only has one unique move. Even in the multiplayer, where you can play as the villains as well, there’s not enough variety to make things interesting.
9. BEST: BODY HARVEST
This game was developed by DMA Design, which would go on to make “Grand Theft Auto III.” Before they changed the entire video game industry, DMA Design created a little-known open-world action game for the Nintendo 64 called “Body Harvest.” Playing it now, you can see the developers experimenting with ideas that would become the groundbreaking features of “Grand Theft Auto III.” Each level was an open map, where the player had a list of missions to complete. Vehicles were scattered throughout the level, and players could enter and drive any of them. They were required to, in fact, because the maps were too big to traverse on foot under the time limit.
You played as Adam Drake, a genetically engineered soldier tasked with saving humanity from an alien invasion. Roaming around the far-flung future of 2016, Drake must save individual civilians from an alien threat. The aliens will teleport onto the map and attack a group of Civilians. Drake has to find and stop the attackers before they slaughter all the humans in the area. It’s a fun, action-packed super soldier adventure that was far ahead of its time.
8. BEST: XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS
Before anyone even picked up the cartridge, “Xena: Warrior Princess: The Talisman of Fate” had two strikes against it. First, it was a licensed game in an era where “licensed” meant “terrible rush job.” Second, it has two colons in the title. That’s just awkward. Gamers who overlooked those two details, however, were rewarded with a tight, responsive weapons-based fighting game. “Xena” looked amazing when it came out. It may sound silly now, but reviewers in 1999 said the character models made it look like you were playing an episode of the TV show. Plus, even with the highly-detailed character models and complex arenas, the framerate remained stable, making for a satisfyingly smooth fighting experience.
Developed by Saffire and published by Titus Software (which was responsible for the N64’s worst superhero game), “Xena” sported an impressive roster of characters from the show. 3D fighting arenas were still new at the time, and this game handled four-player brawls better than almost any other fighter out there. Best of all, each character sported their iconic weapons and signature moves from the show. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of throwing Xena’s Chakram and finishing an enemy off with a sword combo.
7. WORST: BATMAN BEYOND: RETURN OF THE JOKER
If you wonder why licensed games had such a bad rap, look no further than “Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker.” Developed by Kemco and published by Ubisoft, this game was a side-scrolling beat-em-up with limited 3D movement. Kemco tried to add variety by including four different batsuits players could switch between, but none of them changed the gameplay in any appreciable way. Batman was either a little stronger, a little hardier, or could jump slightly higher.
The game was plagued by repetitive environments and boring combat. Batman has a few weapons at his disposal, but none are as effective as the standard punch or kick. That turns the game into a mind-numbing slog, where you move forward a few feet, punch and kick the enemies until they fall down, and repeat ad nauseam. The stiff controls didn’t help either. It’s sad because “Batman Beyond” was a fantastic followup to “Batman: The Animated Series,” and the movie this game is based on is one of its best moments. The game itself is a dark spot on the otherwise legendary DC Animated Universe.
6. BEST: SHADOW MAN
Based on the Valient Comics series, “Shadow Man” casts players as a voodoo warrior trying to protect the land of the living (Liveside) from an evil force in the land of the dead (Deadside). Since it’s based on Volume Two of the comics (written by Garth Ennis with Art by Ashley Wood), the Shadow Man in this game is Michael Le Roi. Michael must travel between the two worlds to collect the Dark Souls (no relation), and save Liveside from an evil being named Legion (also no relation). It’s the kind of fun, M-rated comic book horror story you didn’t see much on the N64.
The gameplay had a tight action-adventure feel similar to the “Tomb Raider” series. Players traversed cool-looking, gothic-styled environments. In addition to his fun Voodoo powers, Michael had access to a wide array of weapons, which added variety to the combat, and kept the game feeling fresh all the way through. This was one of the few titles that was objectively better on the N64. The PlayStation couldn’t quite handle the large environments and intricately-designed characters. The PlayStation version was filled with slowdown and stuttery character movement that wasn’t present on the more powerful Nintendo 64.
5. BEST: MISCHIEF MAKERS
One of the best, most underrated games on the Nintendo 64 was a 2D side-scroller called “Mischief Makers.” Developed by Treasure, the game was a challenging platformer built around grabbing and catching objects. “Mischief Makers” cast players as Marina, a robotic girl, or an Ultra-Intergalactic-Cybot G, as she calls herself. She and her creator, Professor Theo, land on Planet Clancer, which is in the middle of a civil war. Professor Theo is kidnapped by Imperial forces and the pair are drawn into the conflict. Throughout the game, Marina fights a host of colorful bosses, each with their own quirky personalities. Rescuing Clancers from various threats, she becomes the planet’s own robotic superhero.
“Mischief Makers” felt like playing a Saturday Morning anime. Each level felt like a cartoon episode, and the fluid animation only added to that aesthetic. The precise controls made the demanding challenges fun, rather than frustrating. In addition to grabbing, shaking and throwing objects and enemies, Marina could also fly and dash for a limited time, using the rocket on her back. The variety of moves at your disposal and the quickness with which you could fly through levels, made this a platformer every N64 owner must play.
4. WORST: POWER RANGERS LIGHTSPEED RESCUE
“Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue,” developed by Mass Media Inc., and published by THQ, sounds fun on paper. You pick your favorite power ranger, fight off bad guys, drive around in vehicles and eventually control the Zords. Unfortunately, none of those elements are fun to play in practice. The controls are simplistic and your moveset is surprisingly limited. You run your chosen power ranger around a small, poorly-rendered 3D environment, shoot energy balls at bad guys, then do it all again. Even the first-person Zord fight wastes all its potential. It’s a simplistic sequence where you hammer on a single button until the enemy dies. That’s it.
Worst of all, the game looks terrible. By the time this game came out in 2000, people were doing amazing things with the Nintendo 64. There was no excuse for the low-quality polygons and stuttery animation on display here. Even the story sequences were cheap 2D scenes where clip art juddered around the screen. If this game had anything going for it, it was mercifully short. You could get through it in an hour and take it back to Blockbuster the same day.
3. BEST: THE TUROK SERIES
Based on the Valiant (then Acclaim) Comics series, “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter” was one of the most celebrated first-person shooters on the Nintendo 64. Developed by Iguana Entertainment, “Turok: Dinosaur Hunter” had more action than the comic typically did. Turok was tasked with defending the barrier between Earth and the Lost Land. Over the course of the game, he prevented an evil alien overlord from destroying the barrier and letting dinosaurs loose on Earth.
The first game featured heavy fog that made it difficult to see when a dinosaur was about to attack. Even so, the sense of adventure that came from exploring the vast, diverse environments, as well as Turok’s varied moveset, endeared the game to N64 owners everywhere. The game spawned two sequels, each one better than the last. There was also a multiplayer-focused spinoff that isn’t quite so fondly remembered. In the sequels, the graphics were improved and the distance fog wasn’t nearly as much of a problem. Turok also gained new abilities and weapons, including a higher jump and a homing projectile. Those who had the system’s RAM Expansion Pak were treated to higher resolutions and better textures in the sequels as well.
2. BEST: SPIDER-MAN
Given that the wall-crawler had some of the best superhero games on the Super Nintendo, it’s only natural that the best superhero title on the Nintendo 64 would be “Spider-Man” (published by Activision, developed by Neversoft). This game did a fantastic job of putting players into the web-slinger’s tights. Not only could you swing freely between buildings and stick to walls, you could tie up enemies, create a shield, add a spike to Spidey’s fists or fire high-powered balls of impact webbing. You also had Spidey’s full array of fighting moves, allowing players a variety of tactics to take out enemies.
The story was also pure comic book fan service. Doctor Octopus works with Carnage to blanket New York in a dense fog. Not only does the story justify the game’s low draw distance, it allows all of Spidey’s most colorful and recognizable rogues to make an appearance. You fought Rhino, Venom, The Lizard, Scorpion and many more. Though this game also came out on the PlayStation with full-motion cutscenes, the N64 version had still comic-book style story scenes that many gamers preferred. It made the game feel like you were playing a comic book.
1. WORST: SUPERMAN
You knew this was coming. Though based on the excellent “Superman: The Animated Series,” Titus Software’s “Superman” was the absolute worst game on the Ningendo 64. Gamers in 1999 knew this game was trouble from moment one. The very first sequence has Superman flying through rings in a tiny, foggy simulation of Metropolis. Miss more than one and it’s game over. Go over the strict time limit, and it’s game over. It gets worse. Superman was super hard to control, veering wildly off course at the slightest nudge of the analog stick. The collision was also poorly implemented, with Supes getting stuck under platforms a full inch above his head.
The game takes place in a virtual world, which producer Eric Caen claimed was mandated by Warner Bros., who didn’t want Superman fighting real people. The combat was stiff and awkward. Worst of all, Superman could also only use his powers in specific rooms. The game was also the buggiest commercial product to be released on the N64. It was such a mess, in fact, Titus had to cancel a planned PlayStation port, which means only N64 owners had to suffer through it.
Do you have a favorite Nintendo 64 Superhero game that’s not on this list? Or maybe one of the “Best” games doesn’t deserve to be there? Let us know in the comments.
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