The Nintendo 64 persevered despite the dominance of the PlayStation 1, and that’s even more impressive when you consider that many of the worst N64 games are strong contenders for any list of the worst video games ever made in the span of human history. The Nintendo 64 may not have done quite as well as Nintendo had hoped, but we’re still talking about an iconic console with a very respectable run. N64 fans only received a scant 388 games released worldwide, but many of those titles are highlights of not only the decade, but video game history as a whole.
We aren’t covering those today. This is for the games in the N64 library that justifiably live in infamy for terrible graphics, brutal gameplay mechanics, and a refusal to be fun on even the most sarcastic level. To put it another way, if you wanted to get drunk in order to enjoy something like Mega Man 64 or Hexen: Beyond Heretic, you would almost assuredly die of alcohol poisoning.
The scariest part? Those last two games we mentioned are putrid, but they didn’t even make our top (bottom?) 15 for the worst N64 games. If you suddenly find yourself hating the 90s by the time we’re done with these N64 duds, don’t blame us. Not everything could be Ocarina of Time or Banjo-Kazooie.
Developer: Ion Storm Publisher: Kemco
John Romero is one of the key figures behind the creation of such groundbreaking, influential first-person shooters as Quake, Doom, and Wolfenstein. No doubt he would strongly prefer that’s all you remembered him for, as Daikatana is one of the worst video games of all time. The fact that Daikatana is our first entry should give you an idea of how depraved and ugly things are going to get, but make no mistake about it, this baffling, visually horrific, and barely playable mess is utterly, completely terrible.
Daikatana was arguably doomed for much of its long development period. Everyone at least initially expected something special from Romero, who seemingly turned into Colonel Kurtz for a while. The game was repeatedly pushed back to incorporate new ideas and technology. What we finally got for the PC and N64 was an abomination that felt like a parody of gaming that you’d see Bart play on The Simpsons.
The dismal partner AI that made your partners feel like double agents sent to hold you back and loathsome controls were highlights for a game with unlikable characters, a dumbass story, and an overall sense of presentation focused on making you feel bad every step of the way.
The Carmageddon series was a popular, straightforward, and highly violent franchise. Survive and complete races, destroy the competition, and pick up as many points as possible for mowing down pedestrians in your wake. Dumb stuff, but at least those games on other platforms arguably had some entertainment value behind them. Such value is completely absent from Carmageddon 64, which suffered from so many distinct flaws, it’s hard to focus on any one wretched mistake in particular.
Where do we even begin with this unforgivable piece of garbage? Say what you want about running over humans to hear their cartoony death screams, at least it’s over-the-top fun. Carmageddon 64 replaced that with zombies that would explode in a fuzzy mess of green pixels. Every notion of fun that this game had elsewhere has been stripped for parts, and it’s honestly more fun to think of other car-related insults for this wreck.
Certainly, more satisfying than remembering the bland, dated graphics, terrible soundtrack, and controls that make you feel like you got absolutely plastered before getting behind the wheel in Carmageddon 64.
13. War Gods
Developer: Midway/Eurocom Publisher: Midway
Even at the time of its release in 1997, War Gods felt like the most obnoxious things about the 90s were boiled down to an essence that could cause severe poisoning if ingested, and not just because the Nickelodeon goo would be in that weird broth too.
An unremarkable arcade game that received several ports, the N64 version of War Gods is perhaps the worst of a very depressing bunch. Nevermind that the game feels like an aggressive ripoff of Midway’s own Mortal Kombat, with players choosing among a group of edgy, completely forgettable warriors. It’s almost a surprise that the characters aren’t also named like offbrand Mortal Kombat misfits. You half expect these dorks to be named counterfeit names like Johnny Sturdy Box, Tania Knife or Seasonally Frigid. Even the gameplay itself reminds you that you could very easily be playing something else.
The N64 was home to some of the worst fighting titles ever made. War Gods was an early effort with the 3D engine Midway would later use for the MK franchise. That 3D element was poorly executed in 1997, and it’s comically bad in the modern era. War Gods has frustrating controls to match characters and a story that you just can’t bring yourself to give a damn about. The 90s could get stunningly loud and obnoxious at times, and War Gods is a stirring testament to that fact.
12. Paperboy 64
Developer: High Voltage Software Publisher: Midway
Ask anyone who dared to play this visually unpleasant, tedious, and overall, unrepentantly mediocre remake of the 1985 arcade classic. They’ll change the subject. They’ll stare off into the distance, trying to remember what life was like before Midway wet the bed with a 3D reimagining that should have been pretty straightforward.
After all, we’re not talking about a particularly complicated game. Paperboy challenged players to deliver newspapers in chaotic, dangerous neighborhoods. Get the papers to the doorway quickly, and pick up enough new subscribers to move on to the next neighborhood. Simple enough for an enjoyable 3D game on the N64. Instead, Paperboy 64 felt like a half-finished game with some of the worst graphics in the history of the console.
That doesn’t even cover the dreadful controls, brutal difficulty, and complete lack of multiplayer. Paperboy 64 almost dared you to try and have fun. You were better off getting an actual paper route.
11. Dual Heroes
Developer: Produce! Publisher: Hudson Soft/Electro Brain/Gaga Interactive Media
“Dual Heroes is a fighting game” is one of the two full sentences used to describe the gameplay on the game’s Wikipedia page. Spend even ten minutes with this grab bag of frustration and failure and you’ll begin to suspect that whoever wrote that section is messing with you.
Technically, Dual Heroes is indeed a fighting game with a gaggle of characters who look like they were directly ripped off from some incarnation of Power Rangers. After you’re forced to sit through the game’s elaborate, laughably dark storyline of humanity’s doom and possible redemption, the fighting game portion technically begins.
And then the horrible realization comes to you. Just because you call something a fighting game, that doesn’t make it so. Fighting games are supposed to be fun, with challenging computer opponents, intriguing characters, and memorable graphics and sound. Dual Heroes has none of those things. Unless you want to watch your opponent throw themselves out of the arena, something which happens shockingly often during gameplay, there’s nothing to recommend here.
10. WCW Nitro
Developer: Inland Productions Publisher: THQ
World Championship Wrestling in 1999 was a trainwreck in every sense of the word. The 1999 N64 port of WCW Nitro, originally released on the PC and PlayStation 1 a year prior, drives this reality home.
The game was already laughably out of date by 1999, overshadowed by much better N64 wrestling titles like WrestleMania 2000. WCW Nitro was a frustrating experience on the PS1, with annoying controls existing alongside blotchy graphics and matches that lasted less time than most fighting games. The N64 keeps those shimmering qualities, adding the N64 controller to the proceedings to give you something that will drain the hope from your soul in real time. No Mercy was an N64 wrestling game made by the same damn company, and those controls are just fine, so it’s really just marrying the already-difficult controls of Nitro to a controller that wasn’t a good fit for them to begin with.
The one truly good thing about WCW Nitro was the inclusion of short videos of each wrestler telling you why you should pick them. The N64 version did away with this, meaning that you don’t even get the unintentional comedy of these little promos. All you have is a game that hates you for playing it more than Bret Hart hates Bill Goldberg.
For every really good Acclaim release for the Nintendo 64, there seemed to be a half dozen titles that felt like vomit trying to escape from behind your eyes. That’s not completely accurate, but the sheer awfulness of something like South Park Rally can leave you to suspect that the entire 90s was an obscene mistake.
This absurd farce of a supposed racing game answered the question of “What if Mario Kart played like end stage alcoholism?” Glitchy graphics. Unforgiving controls. Characters who looked even worse than the low budget animated series they were based on. The list drags on with gleeful cruelty. The less said about the insipid track designs, the better.
If South Park Rally was your first exposure to this franchise, you’d be forgiven for wondering why so many people have wasted their lives on Stan, Cartman, Kyle, Kenny, and the rest of these idiots. South Park would eventually redeem its name with games like The Fractured But Whole, but South Park Rally puts you in a dark place that is very, very far away from that day.
8. Olympic Hockey ‘98
Developer: Treyarch Invention Publisher: Midway
If you think FIFA (sorry, EA FC) and Madden are bad for being cash grabs these days, take a look at this.
The fact that Midway took their mediocre sequel Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey ’98 and rereleased it as Olympic Hockey ’98 was bad enough. The games are virtually identical, with the exception of national teams replacing NHL teams, and the addition of an Olympic tournament feature. Midway couldn’t be bothered to make any changes to a game whose overall quality was roundly criticized for being a sequel that doubled down on its weakest points, while offering virtually nothing new. The game is fun in brief spurts, but that’s almost exclusively undone by how boring it all gets before long. There’s nothing of depth here, and that becomes clear after about 20 minutes of play.
IGN infamously gave this reskin of a bad game a big fat zero in its contemporary review. Normally, that would seem kind of harsh for a game that even used the same cheat codes as Gretzky ’98, but sometimes, an extreme response is warranted. Olympic Hockey ’98 can’t even coast on its absolute minimal sense of fun because players had already seen it twice in less than two years, and it was never much good to begin with.
7. Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue
Developer: Mass Media Publisher: THQ
Here’s some good news if you read our entry on Dual Heroes, and thought, “That’s all well and good, but what if I want an irredeemably awful video game with actual Power Rangers?”
A disbelief to the existence of Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue pervades every agonizing moment you spend with it. The graphics are muddy and minimalist on a level the N64 had never quite achieved prior, which is saying something. The music is atrocious. The gameplay is a giddy mix of blandness that controls as poorly as it all seems to feel, regardless of the specific rescue mission.
There’s a few different types of missions in Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue, based on one of the thousands of Power Rangers shows created over the years. They all come down to driving missions that are annoying, flying missions that are frustrating, and combat that makes you feel like you’ve suffered more blows to the head than Dax Lo, the big idiot. The only good thing anyone will ever say about this licensed mistake is that you can finish the entire thing in a little over an hour.
6. Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker
Developer: Kemco Publisher: Ubisoft
Nothing says “Batman Beyond” like a video game that looks like a dog’s backside and plays like a punishment for daring to dream of fun.
Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker for N64 is based on the movie that brought back Mark Hammil’s Joker to essentially end Batman Beyond on a dark, dramatic note. None of that intrigue or entertainment translates to a video game in which a new Batman (not that it really matters because nothing about this game really leans into its source material in any meaningful way) fights bad guys in a bid to stop The Joker.
That’s pretty much the entire game. This is a thoroughly mediocre release in its controls, graphics, sound, and everything else, and it’s wrapped in a big, bright, miserable package of tedium that is difficult to put into words. Beat up some bad guys, move to the next room. Repeat. Long after your eyes have rolled into the back of your head, and your journey to the afterlife begins. At least, in death, you won’t have to play Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker again.
5. Earthworm Jim 3D
Developer: VIS Interactive Publisher: Rockstar Games/Interplay Entertainment
When Interplay Entertainment snapped up Earthworm Jim after the success of two pretty good games (your mileage for intensely frustrating platforming with 90s grossout humor will vary), we all should have known what we were in for.
Earthworm Jim 3D has all of the trauma-inducing rage of the first two games at their most difficult, but literally none of the humor or style that made it quite popular for at least a couple of years. It’s a wreck of forgettable level designs, some of the worst 3D cameras of this time period, and sluggish repetition.
Expect to spend most of Earthworm Jim 3D running around rooms and pressing buttons. The only way this all stops being painfully, terminally dull is when the game amps up the difficulty and hopes you choke on it. That last part is just an interpretation of what playing this game feels like. But nevertheless, Earthworm Jim 3D feels like a game with a wretchedly long production history, where someone eventually just gave up and decided to release whatever they had laying around. Odd.
After the success of Mortal Kombat III, which was not without its own issues, Midway signed off on a string of profoundly crappy games.
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero might be the worst of this period, offering an intriguing concept that becomes borderline unplayable when it’s run through the specifics of a Mortal Kombat game. Taking on the role of Sub Zero in a solo, side-scrolling action platformer, players are subjected to an elaborate series of crushing disappointments. The MK fighting style translates poorly to this format, and that’s really just the beginning of the hell that awaits you.
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero has one of the worst controller setups in the history of the Nintendo 64. The game might be salvageable if it wasn’t so difficult that you may go blind from the sheer frustration of trying to make even one jump or survive one of the normal encounters with a random enemy. The rest of the game is arguably just a veritable, forgettable orgy of frustration. It’s the controller and immediate degree of difficulty that propels Sub-Zero to a special kind of awfulness that you easily remember for a “Worst of” list almost a quarter of a century later.
3. Blues Brothers 2000
Developer: Player 1 Publisher: Titus Interactive
Blues Brothers 2000 is a cringey, unnecessary movie sequel partially saved by some pretty solid musical sequences. You don’t get that sole saving grace in the Blues Brothers 2000 video game. It’s right at home with the film’s almost decadent level of failure, offering a platformer devoid of fun, charm, or anything that could even be regarded as ironic entertainment. It’s astonishing that Blues Brothers 2000 shares the same console and genre as Super Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie.
Where do we even begin with this glaring turd? The platforming elements are uninspired to the extreme, with the constant notion that you’ve seen this done better literally dozens of times. The rhythm game elements are annoying at best with the N64 controller. The graphics are nothing special. There’s nothing to keep you going, and yet the whole thing is so intensely easy, you’ll be done in about the time it takes to watch the actual Blues Brothers 2000 movie.
Don’t do that instead. Don’t do anything. Just stay in your room and hope the millennium bug belatedly takes this game out of existence.
2. Clay Fighter 63 1/3rd
Developer: Interplay Publisher: Interplay
If you didn’t live through the 90s, you were at least spared the glut of movies, shows, and video games that told you thousands of times per second in the shrillest voices imaginable how cool and edgy they were. If you were to build a town around all of this garbage, the supposedly funny fighting game Clay Fighter 63 1/3rd could run for mayor.
Unfortunately, if you take away such classic “jokes” as a bucktoothed Chinese character named Kung-Pow and a title that riffs on the “64” part of many N64 game titles, what you’re left with is even more depressing. Bad controls, unappealing visuals, and a brutally slow playing style that makes every fight feel like a century of existential dread. Clay Fighter 63 1/3rd isn’t even fun to type, let alone play.
Clay Fighter 63 1/3rd was later released in a Blockbuster rental exclusive edition called The Sculptor’s Cut (because these weird little losers are made out of clay! Get it?), which adds new glisten to this festering mound of shit. Today it’s one of the rarest N64 games ever, proving that people will buy anything as long as you put a “very rare” sticker on it.
1. Superman: The New Superman Adventures
Developer: Titus Interactive Publisher: Titus Interactive
Some might say it’s a bit of a cliché to put Superman: The New Superman Adventures, also known as Superman 64, at the top of any list of the worst Nintendo 64 games. But that cliché exists for a reason. Pound for pound. Aneurysm for aneurysm. Nothing on the N64 comes close to the thundering disappointment and life-shortening ineptitude of The New Superman Adventures.
Have you played Superman 64 lately? Do you want to check out a game that’s about as entertaining as your parents’ divorce? Time is rarely kind to infamous video games, and the past 20+ years have only deepened Superman 64’s potential to damage your psyche on a profound and permanent level. Controlling Supes as he tries to stop Brainiac and Lex Luthor, most of your time will be spent navigating a grey, glitchy, foggy hellscape of circles that you must fly through within a certain time limit. No shit, that’s about 3/4th of this game.
To date, Superman still hasn’t received a particularly good AAA release. Until that happens, the stink of Superman: The New Superman Adventures (what a stupid title) will hang over the legendary character, like condemned ghosts in a Tolkien fantasy epic. Those howls of the damned that you’re hearing? Those are the phantom screams of children trying to get an end-stage alcoholic Superman through an endless parade of godforsaken rings.
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