It may not be the first console you think of when you hear the term “Nintendo Hard,” but the N64 is the quiet home of some of the hardest games in the impressive history of Nintendo consoles.
While hardly the “last great console” so far as hard games go, the N64 is one of the last consoles that consistently featured the kind of games that were so hard that you honestly wondered if they were broken. Well, some of them were actually broken (you know which one we’re going to talk about), but in most cases, they really were just that difficult.
Thanks largely to the contributions of developer Rare, these are the hardest N64 games ever made .
15. StarCraft 64
The N64 port of StarCraft isn’t going to make you forget the PC version of the game, but it’s honestly not that bad considering that there’s no way this game should have been even remotely playable on the N64 controller
That said, the N64’s controls really highlight how tough StarCraft could be. It’s an old-school RTS that demands rapid reaction times and the kind of micromanagement that many other games just don’t prepare you for.
14. Indiana Jones and The Infernal Machine
This somewhat underrated early 3D Indiana Jones game is also one of the N64’s most surprisingly difficult experiences.
This game’s puzzles and labyrinthian level design are arguably enough to earn it a spot on this list, but what really puts this game over-the-top is the action. Somewhat imprecise controls and absurdly powerful late-game enemies join forces to bring your blood to a boil. You should also forget about trying to 100% this game unless you’re a glutton for punishment.
13. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
If you’ve only ever played the Xbox remake of this famously mature (or, more accurately, immature) 3D platformer, you may be shocked to learn that the original Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a shockingly tough game to beat.
“Beat” really is the word to keep in mind here, as Conker’s final levels force you to navigate a series of challenges that destroy the difficulty curve so thoroughly that you’ll start to wonder if something has gone wrong. The underwater maze section alone is enough to make even a patient gamer put a controller sized hole through their TV.
12. Perfect Dark
GoldenEye’s harder difficulty levels and hidden challenges were tough, but Perfect Dark was a downright cruel FPS experience that sometimes doesn’t get enough love from fans of hard games.
Playing Perfect Dark on Perfect Agent difficulty is the kind of difficult gaming experience that’s so absurd that it’s honestly hard to be angry at it. Nearly everything can kill you instantly, and the game’s already confusing level design is made that much worse by the presence of additional objectives more demanding than any of the game’s main objectives.
11. Turok 2: Seeds of Evil
Turok 2 may not immediately spring to mind when you think about the hardest FPS games of a golden era of hard FPS games, but make no mistake that this somewhat underrated N64 title belongs in that elite class.
This sequel’s absurdly difficult boss fights are enough to make most sane gamers call it quits, but what makes this game legendary among challenge seekers are its incredible long and surprisingly complicated levels. It’s that combination of not knowing where you’re going and constantly dying while trying to figure it out that makes this one so special.
10. Mischief Makers
While it didn’t get a lot of love when it was released in 1997, Mischief Makers has gone on to become a true cult classic among those who appreciate its bizarre style and the kind of fast-paced gameplay developer Treasure is known for.
Of course, by “fast-paced gameplay developer Treasure was known for,” I really mean “incredibly difficult gameplay.” Mischief Makers isn’t Treasure’s hardest game, but its combination of tough 2D action and sometimes confusing platforming/puzzle segments means that it keeps you on your toes in a way that other games simply do not.
9. Body Harvest
While I’m actually in the camp that thinks Body Harvest is another worthwhile, largely overlooked N64 gem, the only thing tougher than recommending this bizarre title is the difficulty of the game itself.
Body Harvest’s confusing mechanics (which the game honestly does a poor job of explaining) are bad enough, but the real issue here is the relative lack of save points. You could spend hours figuring out what you’re supposed to be doing, fall into a hole you didn’t know was there, and lose all your progress. Body Harvest may boast the most intimidating learning curve in N64 history.
8. Doom 64
Much like StarCraft 64, some of Doom 64’s difficulty can obviously be “blamed” on the challenges of playing what is essentially a PC title on the N64 controller. However, Doom 64 surprisingly manages to retain much of its difficulty even when you play it on a mouse and keyboard or modern console controller.
Blame some of that on the title’s surprisingly challenging puzzles and secrets, but what really separates Doom 64 from other Doom games is the power level of the average enemy. They’re tougher to kill, they hit harder, and the game makes up for featuring fewer of them by ensuring that the ones it does throw at you are more than prepared to end you by themselves.
7. Superman 64
What do we do about Superman 64? Like some of the other difficult games we’ve talked about in the past, there’s no denying that many of Superman 64’s technical problems are the biggest contributors to its difficulty. Superman 64 is simply broken, which obviously makes it quite challenging.
With all of that out of the way, let me just say that this could be the most frustrating game ever “designed” by a team of “professionals.” Superman 64 is like the home for bad gameplay ideas. Time limits, confusing objectives, rebellious controls…even if you summon the urge to beat this game, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever do so.
6. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is arguably best remembered for its Hoth level that essentially recreated Empire Strikes Back’s opening battle with stunning accuracy, but it should perhaps instead be remembered as one of the toughest Star Wars games ever made.
If you ever wanted to be reminded just how hard the early days of 3D platforming were (especially platforming sections in an action game) Shadows of the Empire is the jalopy that will take you down memory lane. The only thing that beats falling off a cliff for the hundredth time is realizing it’s the end of the game and you still don’t know how to properly use the jetpack.
5. Blast Corps
I love Blast Corps, and I’m thrilled that it seems like more people got a chance to play this truly original demolition game when it was re-released as part of the Rare Replay collection. I also kind of hate Blast Corps and wouldn’t wish parts of this game on my worst enemies.
The core Blast Corps gameplay is tough enough due to the strange way it combines elements of action titles and particularly challenging puzzle games, but oh man, the late game medal challenges may just be some of the toughest objectives in video game history. The story goes that the game’s QA teams challenged each other to ensure that these objectives were only technically possible to beat. Blast Corps designer Martin Wakeley previously described them as “insane” and said that he has only ever beaten a few of them himself.
4. Donkey Kong 64
We continue our journey through the “Rare” portion of the program by looking at one of the last 3D platformers of a kind of golden era for 3D platformers. Of course, Donkey Kong 64’s difficulty is arguably part of the reason that style of gameplay design went on a bit of a popularity hiatus following this title’s release.
As we’ve previously discussed, trying to complete Donkey Kong 64 means accepting a journey into the mouth madness. Donkey Kong 64 took the idea of a “collect-a-thon” platformer to an entirely different level with its absurd backtracking requirements and a list of requirements so long you couldn’t fit them onto a CVS receipt.
3. F-Zero X
You know, it’s not often we get to talk about a racing game when we’re talking about the hardest games ever made, but it’s also rare that racing game demands as much from its players as F-Zero X does.
Yes, F-Zero X was fast, but what made it so truly difficult was the fact that you could be knocked off the track at pretty much any time by even the slightest error or bump. If you want to beat this game’s toughest races, you essentially need to become an F-Zero X playing machine that is able to complete almost literally perfect runs.
2. The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
The sometimes divisive Majora’s Mask tends to split gamers over the use of its “time loop” mechanics which sometimes put a soft timer on the game. Some loved the idea, while others feel it interrupted the classic Zelda adventure they were looking for.
One thing that most people seem to agree on, though, is that this game’s time loop mechanics make some already difficult puzzles and dungeons that much more complicated. This would still be a fairly difficult traditional Zelda game, but constantly needing to consider a ticking clock while also trying to overcome some substantial obstacles proves to be too much for many players.
1. Jet Force Gemini
The debate over which game is the hardest in a console’s library is almost always a vicious one, but in the case of the N64, the overwhelmingly popular consensus is that Jet Force Gemini is more than worthy of this honor.
This game’s pacing and requirements almost make Donkey Kong 64 look tame. The amount of backtracking required to do pretty much anything in Jet Force Gemini is enough to make you glad that mechanic isn’t nearly as prevalent as it once was, and the fact that you have to complete so much content that would be optional in other games simply to progress is reason enough alone to simply give up. Jet Force Gemini is designed to wear you down, and it accomplishes that goal better than most other games ever made.