When you hear “Nintendo Hard,” you might not immediately think of the N64, but it has some of the hardest games in the long history of Nintendo systems.
Even though the N64 wasn’t the “last great console” when it came to hard games, it was one of the last consoles that always had games that were so hard you wondered if they were broken.
Well, some of them were actually broken (you know which one we’re going to talk about), but most of them were just that hard.
These are the hardest N64 games ever made, thanks in large part to the work of creator Rare.
- 18. Banjo-Kazooie
- 17. Sin And Punishment
- 16. Castlevania 64
- 15. StarCraft 64
- 14. Indiana Jones and The Infernal Machine
- 13. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
- 12. Perfect Dark
- 11. Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
- 10. Mischief Makers
- 9. Body Harvest
- 8. Doom 64
- 7. Superman 64
- 6. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
- 5. Blast Corps
- 4. Donkey Kong 64
- 3. F-Zero X
- 2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
- 1. Jet Force Gemini
To really understand how important Banjo-Kazooie is, all you have to do is look at how excited people were when the strange but cute bear/bird creature was added to Super Smash Bros.
Ultimate’s cast more than 20 years after it first came out.
Banjo and Kazooie have been around for a long time, both as characters and as a game.
When Super Mario 64 came out, it changed the way games were made.
Rare took what made that game special and built on it to make an adventure with an odd group of characters that will never get old.
17. Sin And Punishment
Sin and Punishment used to be an import-only N64 shooter with arcade-style gameplay that pushed players a lot.
It gained a cult following and a long-awaited release in North America.
As Saki, who has a gun and a sword, the player must jump and roll to avoid obstacles and avoid getting hit by enemies.
The controls are hard to use, which makes the game hard to play on any difficulty level above the usual.
On Turbo Hard, even blinking can mean instant death from environmental hazards and charging enemies.
16. Castlevania 64
Castlevania 64 came out two years after the fan favorite Symphony of the Night and was praised for being the first 3D game in the series. It was again about Dracula waking up.
The controls were probably not the best of the series.
The game was about two vampire hunters, Reinhardt, the youngest son of the Belmont family, and Carrie, a psychic who can use magic.
The camera wasn’t very stable, and the way things moved felt a little too loose.
But what was even worse was that Reinhardt’s classic whip only worked on close enemies and had none of its other uses.
This made it nearly impossible for Reinhardt to beat the game alone unless the game was on easy mode.
Also, the Tower of Sorcery and the Hedge Maze are well-known for how hard they are to beat.
15. StarCraft 64
The N64 version of StarCraft isn’t as good as the PC version, but it’s not that bad, especially given that this game shouldn’t have been playable at all on the N64 controller.
Still, the controls of the N64 really show how hard StarCraft could be. It’s an old-school real-time strategy game that requires quick reactions and a level of micromanagement that many other games don’t teach.
14. Indiana Jones and The Infernal Machine
This early 3D Indiana Jones game is a bit overlooked, and it’s also one of the N64’s most surprisingly hard games.
This game’s puzzles and labyrinthine level design might be enough to put it on this list, but the action is what really makes it stand out.
Controls that aren’t very exact and enemies that are way too strong late in the game will make your blood boil.
You should also not try to finish this game 100% unless you like to be punished.
13. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
If you’ve only played the Xbox version of this famously mature (or, more correctly, immature) 3D platformer, you might be surprised to learn that the original Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a shockingly hard game to beat.
Remember the word “beat” because the last few levels of Conker make you go through a number of challenges that throw off the difficulty curve so much that you’ll start to think something is wrong.
Even the most patient gamer would punch a hole in their TV the size of a controller through the watery maze.
12. Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark got great reviews and is often ranked as one of the best N64 games ever, but it didn’t hold back when it came to giving fans a tough task.
There’s not much room for error, it’s easy to get lost on any given level, and some of the tasks can seem nearly impossible at first.
In Perfect Dark, there are different levels of challenge that players can choose from. All of them are pretty hard, though, so that’s not a good thing.
And unless a true master is playing, the hardest level is only good for a few laughs at the player’s expense.
11. Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
Turok 2 might not be the first game that comes to mind when you think of the hardest first-person shooters from the golden age of hard FPS games, but don’t be fooled: this somewhat underrated N64 game is definitely in that elite group.
Most sane players would give up on this sequel because of how hard the boss fights are, but this game is famous among people who like to be challenged because of how long and complicated the levels are.
This one is so great because you don’t know where you’re going and you keep dying while you’re trying to figure it out.
10. Mischief Makers
Mischief Makers didn’t get much attention when it came out in 1997, but it has since become a real cult classic among people who like its weird style and the fast-paced gameplay that developer Treasure is known for.
Of course, when I say “Treasure was known for fast-paced gameplay,” I really mean “extremely hard gameplay.”
Mischief Makers isn’t Treasure’s hardest game, but its tough 2D action and sometimes confusing platforming/puzzle parts keep you on your toes in a way that other games don’t.
9. Body Harvest
I’m in the camp that thinks Body Harvest is another underrated N64 gem, but suggesting this strange game is almost as hard as playing it.
The confusing mechanics of Body Harvest, which the game doesn’t do a great job of explaining, are bad enough, but the real problem is that there aren’t many save places.
You could spend hours trying to figure out what to do, then fall into a hole you didn’t know was there and lose everything you’ve done.
Body Harvest may have the hardest learning curve of any N64 game.
8. Doom 64
Like StarCraft 64, some of the difficulty of Doom 64 can be “blamed” on the fact that it is hard to play what is basically a PC game with an N64 mouse.
But it’s amazing that Doom 64 is still pretty hard to play whether you use a mouse and keyboard or a modern game controller.
You can blame some of that on the game’s puzzles and secrets, which are incredibly hard, but what really sets Doom 64 apart from other Doom games is how powerful the average enemy is.
They’re harder to kill and hit harder, and the game makes up for the fact that there aren’t as many of them by making sure that the ones it does send at you are more than capable of killing you on their own.
7. Superman 64
Some games are made to be hard on purpose, while others are hard because they are.
Superman 64 is known for being broken and is often put on lists of the worst games ever made.
Critics say that the game is bad because the controls are hard to use, the gameplay is boring, the graphics are hard on the eyes, and there are a lot of bugs, glitches, and other technical nightmares.
But there is an ironic love for this book that makes some people want to read it just to see how bad it is.
When they do, they usually find that the game is so broken that it is very hard, almost to the point of being addicting. Almost.
6. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire might be best known for its Hoth level, which almost perfectly recreated the opening battle of Empire Strikes Back.
However, it might be better to remember it as one of the hardest Star Wars games ever made.
Shadows of the Empire is the old beater that will take you down memory lane and show you how hard early 3D platforming was, especially when it was part of an action game.
Only understanding it’s the end of the game and you still don’t know how to use the jetpack is worse than falling off a cliff for the hundredth time.
5. Blast Corps
I love Blast Corps, and I’m glad that when it was re-released as part of the Rare Replay collection, it gave more people a chance to play this truly original bombing game.
I also dislike Blast Corps, and there are parts of it that I wouldn’t wish on my worst friends.
The core gameplay of Blast Corps is hard enough because it is a strange mix of action games and very difficult puzzle games, but man, the late-game medal tasks might be some of the hardest goals in video game history.
The QA teams for the game are said to have competed against each other to make sure that these goals could only be reached properly.
Martin Wakeley, who made Blast Corps, has said that they are “insane” and that he has only ever beaten a few of them himself.
4. Donkey Kong 64
We keep going through the “Rare” part of the show by taking a look at one of the last 3D platformers from a time when 3D platformers were really good.
Of course, Donkey Kong 64’s difficulty is probably part of the reason why games with this style of gameplay haven’t been as popular since it came out.
We’ve already talked about how trying to finish Donkey Kong 64 is a trip into the heart of madness.
Donkey Kong 64 took the idea of a “collect-a-thon” platformer to a whole new level with its crazy backtracking and long list of things to collect that you couldn’t fit on a CVS ticket.
3. F-Zero X
F-Zero is a game that is often praised for how hard it is, but that praise comes with a lot of screaming, thrashing, drop-kicking consoles, and crying in the fetal position in front of a TV that doesn’t care.
These are not easy games.
Many people think that F-Zero GX is the hardest, but F-Zero X isn’t that far behind.
The controls on the Nintendo 64 version aren’t as smooth, which makes it harder for many people.
But other than that, it has held up pretty well and is now available on Nintendo Switch Online, so any brave rivals might want to give it a try.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The “time loop” mechanics in Majora’s Mask, which sometimes put a soft timer on the game, tend to make players disagree.
Some people thought it was a great idea, while others thought it took away from the standard Zelda adventure they wanted.
Most people seem to agree on one thing, though: this game’s time loop features make some puzzles and dungeons that were already hard even harder.
This would still be a pretty hard Zelda game in the traditional sense, but having to constantly think about a moving clock while also trying to get past some big problems is too much for many players.
1. Jet Force Gemini
Fans of the Nintendo 64 often say that Jet Force Gemini is probably the hardest game in the system’s entire library.
Not because it takes too many heroic feats of dexterity or moments of impossible precision, though there are some of those.
Rather, it’s because you have to do so many crazy things to get from one level to the next.
Finding hidden items can be fun and difficult, but when players have to go back over the same ground over and over again and some of the items are so well-hidden that it’s hard to believe, the fun can quickly turn into pure rage.