The N64 Fighting Game Library

n64-fighters-header

Note from racketboy: A special thanks goes out to Ack from this roundup of the N64 fighting library.  You may remember his journey through the SNES fighting collection (both the good and the ugly) in addition to a number of other wonderful contributions.  I hope you enjoy this guide!

When people think of the Nintendo 64, fighting games are never the first thing to come to mind.  In fact, they never really come up at all.  After all, the two big publishers of fighters, Capcom and SNK don’t lend any of the their fighting properties to the N64.  In the entire N64 library, fewer than 25 titles are really fighters, and the quality of many of them is generally poor.  Still, there are a handful worth playing (and maybe a few more if you just love exploring the genre).  Here’s a look at the various fighting games on the Nintendo 64, with my personal thoughts.  Nothing fancy, just a quick rundown.

Super Smash Bros.

smashbros No conversation about fighters on the Nintendo 64 could come without this gem, easily one of the defining games of the console.   In typical Nintendo fashion, Super Smash Bros. takes a genre that typically scared off more casual gamers and turned it into something that because a favorite in dorm rooms and parties for gamers of all experience levels.

Players select leading characters from Nintendo’s biggest properties, characters like Mario, Donkey Kong, Link, Samus, and Pikachu, and then have them duke it out for dominance over the various themed stages.  Instead of health bars, damage adds to a percentage at the bottom, with the higher the number the farther a character will fly when hit.

Ultimately the goal is to knock all other characters off the stage, though this formula can be modified via multiple modes and gameplay options.  In fact, if you’ve never partaken of the four-player mayhem in this classic title, go buy it.  Go buy it now.
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Killer Instinct Gold

killer-instinct-gold Ok, so this title isn’t perfect, and purists of the KI fighting property will argue for hours about how this does not replace KI2 in the arcades since FMV sequences and some frames of animation were removed due to hardware limitations.  Still, it is the only way to play Killer Instinct 2 on a home console without emulation, and it did see some improvements over the arcade.

Stages are fully 3D rendered, with zooming camera, and with much more in the way of options, including Team Battle.  Multiple training modes were also put in to help teach the KI system.  While it’s not my favorite Killer Instinct due to the removal of a certain glowing inmate by a boxer who shall remain nameless, it’s worth a look if you can find it.  Oh, and on a side note, raise the game speed to the highest setting, and KI Gold becomes even more intense.
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Flying Dragon

flyingdragon It’s unfortunate that this title is often overlooked as it’s actually two fighting games packed onto one cartridge with more options than you can shake a stick at.  The first is a normal 3D fighter, reminiscent of Virtua Fighter, though for kicks you can turn on a 2D mode which does effect dodging and various moves.  The other, and arguably better, mode is a super deformed version with RPG elements, including acquiring items to make the character more powerful in combat.  Characters appear in both modes.

The title is generally considered one of the best N64 fighters to make the American market.  The Japan-only sequel, S.D. Hiryu no Ken Densetsu, apparently featured a refined version of the SD segment with more characters, items, and game modes, though good luck finding it for sale.  I’d say this is definitely worth owning by any fighter fans who want something for their 64.
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Custom Robo

customrobo-1 This is more a mecha RPG with a combat system that reminds me of a colorful Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.  than a fighting game, but fans of the genre might be interested.  Fights are composed in arenas with pre-constructed characters, though storyline is handled in more the standard RPG fare.  Players acquire new equipment to load out their fighters, enabling varying attack means and styles.

A particular favorite of mine is to use rapid fire machine guns since enemies can be knocked into combos fairly easily, though all manner of mayhem from big bombs to lighting fast bum rushes are accessible.  Unfortunately both it and it’s sequel, Custom Robo v2, were Japan only.  I really liked them, I just wish I spoke Japanese.
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Rakuga Kids

Rakuga-Kids The plot of this game basically boils down to a bunch of kids drawing doodles that battle it out with each other in a six-button layout.  It’s colorful, kiddie, and unfortunately never saw release in America, though Europe was lucky enough to get this game.  The cast list is small at seven(nine counting the two bosses), though incredibly diverse: everything from a super hero to an astronaut with a ray gun to a robot to a bear tank.  Yes, you read that right, a bear tank.

The game’s not the deepest, and it’s charming demeanor might not endear it to the crowd of gamers that play only M-rated games, but it’s hard not to enjoy it.  It does seem a bit choppy visually and it really hasn’t aged well, but give it a chance and you might find yourself liking it.
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Mortal Kombat 4

mortalkombat4 Before we begin, I suppose I should note that this is personally my least favorite of all the Mortal Kombat games, 2D or 3D.  That said, there are a lot of things that Mortal Kombat 4 did right.  First, it included Goro, as did all the ports of the game.  Second, it brought us a new stage and extra costumes.  And third, since it could use FMV for the intro, bios, and endings, it used the in-game engine to do it.

The audio is great, using a lot of bass, and al speech is digitized, though it is unfortunately only in mono.  The lighting is excellent, the graphics are well designed, and the game keeps up a consistently high framerate.  Control is well implemented, definitely a step up from the test case War Gods, though it still feels like a 2D Mortal Kombat in 3D.  Still, a valid title, worth owning by any MK fans who have a Nintendo 64.
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Mortal Kombat Trilogy

mortalkombattrilogy Often overshadowed by its superior PlayStation, Saturn, and PC ports, Mortal Kombat Trilogy still offers some interesting surprises on its Nintendo 64 version.  Motaro and Shao Kahn were given fatalities.  Chameleon was replaced by a female counterpart, Khameleon, who gets a full storyline.  The “Ultimate Kombat Kode” was included.  A new stage was added, as well as tweaks to older stages.  And most importantly, three on three battles were included, allowing players to use three characters each, one after the other, to beat the snot out of each other.

Still, cartridge size did require that the classic versions of many characters had to be left out.  Frames of animation were cut so character movement isn’t fluid, and boss characters are only available through cheat codes.  Also, the two Sub Zeros are combined and Goro and Kintaro were cut.  And audio was only used from Mortal Kombat 3 and is in horrendous quality in comparison to other ports, though all the ending themes are intact.  Ultimately, I’d say it’s best to pass this version up for the CD-based ports.
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Fighter’s Destiny

fightersdestiny In what I consider one of the more interesting takes on the genre, Fighter’s Destiny and its sequel, Fighter’s Destiny 2, are point-fighting games.  Ultimately the point is to win battles by earning the required amount of points to move on, by doing such things as pummeling your opponent, knocking them to the ground, ringing them out, or various other techniques.  In this sense it is more like the sport-martial arts systems that have had heavy influence in the genre over the years.

Unfortunately it’s not the most entertaining, as combat is a bit stop-and-go, generally in very short bursts with a short break as points are totaled after a specific move is executed, again just like point-based martial arts tournaments.  The game’s also visually bland, with the actual arena never changing.
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Clayfighter 63 1/3

clayfighter6313 The continuation of the ClayFighter series brings many new characters, 3D environments, another dose of bizarre and irreverent humor, and a strange mix of styles, including a Killer Instinct Gold-esque combo system and Street Fighter style special moves, parries, and super move bars.  Arenas are big, multi-room affairs, giving plenty of space for the twelve fighters to duke it out.

All the character moves are done with claymation, which is unique but leaves characters seeming stiff.  Perhaps one of the biggest pluses to the game is that both Earthworm Jim and Boogerman are playable characters.  The rarer and more expensive Blockbuster exclusive, ClayFighter 63 1/3: Sculptor’s Cut, adds new fighters but removes the combo system and some super and special moves.  It would be the last release in the ClayFighter series.  If you’re a CF fan, they’re worth looking into.
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Super Robot Spirits

super-robot-spirits This title’s not without its problems, but still a very cool idea.  Super Robot Spirits is a Japanese-only 3D fighting game offshoot of the Super Robot Wars series, which incorporates many of the more popular mecha anime series in its universe.  Series with characters in SRS include Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Aura Battler Dunbine, Dancouga – Super Beast Machine God, and more.  It features combat both on ground and in the air, unblockable super moves, and some great audio and sound work, though graphically it’s somewhat dull and combat is a bit slow.

Super Robot Spirits also holds the distinction of being one of the worst selling N64 games in Japan, with fewer than 10,000 units sold.  While it’s a bit on the mediocre side, N64 fans don’t have a lot to choose from, and fans of the various series that are represented will probably get a kick out of it.
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Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.

biofreaks Some consider the Nintendo 64 version superior to the PlayStation in this fully 3D futuristic game of cyborg mayhem.  Above all else, it does earn its Mature rating.  Combat takes place not just on the ground in a circular arena, but also in the air, from up close to long range.  Any of the eight main characters and the two boss characters(one of which is playable) can be dismembered or outright killed.

Dismemberment plays heavily into the control system, as buttons correspond to maneuvers with various limbs.  Unfortunately, it is this control scheme that makes or breaks the game, and opinions on it are a very mixed bag.  I found it enjoyable, but not so much that I keep returning to it.
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Xena: Warrior Princess – Talisman Of Fate

xena Published by Titus, the same company that brought us Superman 64, this Xena title isn’t great but surprisingly gets enough things right that it’s worth noticing.  First, it allows the player to chose from a decent handful of characters from the show, including Joxer(Ted Raimi) and Autolycus(Bruce Campbell).  Each character features unique attacks and special moves, and the game allows four player combat.

Unfortunately it doesn’t have much depth to the combat, and I did have some problems with targeting different opponents.  Graphically it’s mediocre, though sound clips are included from the show and alternate costumes are available.  It does experience some balance issues as well.  Still, I enjoyed it.  It’s the kind of thing I’d play for laughs with a few friends.
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Tom And Jerry: Fists Of Furry

tom-jerry-fists This is a Power Stone clone, through and through, though it does its absolute best to stick to the sense of humor of its namesake.  Arenas are settings from the animated series, with even the load screens looking like the cartoon title screen.  Players must grab various spawning objects such as recliners or cookie jars and hurl them, go man to man with fisticuffs, or use various stage traps to deal damage to their opponents before the timer runs out.  Players only start with Tom and Jerry selectable, though by playing through the game, more cartoon characters are unlocked.

Unfortunately, the amount of health players possess often makes that the only way to win a match.  There really isn’t much to the game, and it is seriously hindered by only allowing two player support, though it is entertaining for a short while.  This is perhaps the greatest problem with the title, as four player battles would have been epic.
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Mace: The Dark Age

mace-the-dark-age At the time of its release, it was incredible looking, featuring interesting character designs, nice stage detail, and water effects that were realistic for the time.  The music fits the theme, and Midway was even good enough to include options to let us listen to it;  I wish we could still get that in games.  A nice practice mode was included, and the game keeps a large cast.

The secret characters also prove the creators had a sense of humor.  Unfortunately there are some issues with framerates and poor animations, and the controls don’t feel so great.  Also, the game suffers slowdown problems.  I really want to like Mace, but with all its problems I just can’t bring myself to do it.  Still, it does allow me to play as a chicken.
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Transformers: Beast Wars Transmetals

transformers-beast-wars This was the second Blockbuster exclusive fighting game for the Nintendo 64.  It featured a slightly different cast of characters than the mass market PlayStation release of the same game, as well as a sizable selection of mini games and individual endings for each character.  The game also features voice work from the Beast Wars television show, though it isn’t in the best quality and the music is pretty awful.  Graphically, it’s got a few little touches, but it’s nothing much to look at.  If nothing else, they could have gotten size correct.  Now everybody’s the same height.  Waspinator is the same size as Rattrap, who is the same size as Tarantulas.  But at least they’re all shiny.

The game also suffers from shoddy hit detection, tracking shots that don’t always connect, and the dreaded unblockable attack.  But you can transform between Beast Mode, Robot Mode, and Vehicle Mode.  There are better games out there, though fans of the series may enjoy it.  Unfortunately it’s somewhat rare due to its exclusivity and one of the most expensive fighters on the console.  Also, if you manage to pick up a Japanese version of the game, you can use the Nintendo 64 Transfer Pak to unlock information in the Japan-only GameBoy Color game, Ketō Transformers Beast Wars: Beast Senshi Saikyō Ketteisen.
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Powerpuff Girls: Chemical X-Traction

powerpuffgirls This title was one of the last to ever be officially released on the Nintendo 64.  It wasn’t worth the wait.  It does include the flagship characters of the series as well as a horde of enemies, though much of the exuberance is gone.  First off, the game operates like a bad version of Power Stone.  While it’s not the only clone of that game, it does feature shoddy collision detection, poor controls, and a camera that doesn’t understand how to properly zoom.  This is especially hazardous when considering the levels are irregularly designed, leading players to become trapped or even not shown.  But even when the camera does catch the action, poor particle effects can obscure the play field.

The voice acting is limited to pained outbursts, and not by the actual voice actors, and the one song is the Powerpuff Girls theme.  It’s not so bad at first, but after ten minutes, your ears will be bleeding.  Still, the 3D intro is pretty cool.  I’d avoid this game and watch the intro on YouTube.
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Dark Rift

darkrift This is the sequel to Criticom, and one of the first fighting games on the Nintendo 64.  It’s also notable as the first game on the Nintendo 64 to hit 60 frames per second.  Unfortunately that’s where the good parts end.  On its release, Dark Rift was generally slammed for poor gameplay, with its graphics being the high point.  And those graphics really haven’t aged well.

Factor in that some model televisions are incapable of rendering the game in color(I wouldn’t have believed it if it hadn’t happened on one of mine), and this game doesn’t seem worth it.  Still, it’s ok for a short amount of time, and if nothing else the character design is on the inventive side.  The PlayStation-only Cardinal Syn is the conclusion to the trilogy.
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GASPFightersNextreamG.A.S.P.!! Fighters’ Nextream (Gasp)(Deadly Arts)

G.A.S.P.!!  Fighters’ NEXTream, sometimes known as GASP in Europe and Deadly Arts in the United States, has some nice stuff going for it.  There are multiple unlockable characters, the game featured a character creation system that could be saved over to the Nintendo 64’s Memory Pak, and the music is passable.  It’s too bad the system was terrible and the controls were garbage.  Plus, the game just isn’t that difficult and just doesn’t entertain.

To add to the problems, character design and stage design lack anything to set the game above the pack.  This is a case of a good company, Konami, just making a bad game.  This is one to generally avoid.
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War Gods

war-gods Basically, if you took a 2D Mortal Kombat, put it directly into 3D, removed all of the characters and plot and threw in a bizarre story about ten people finding magic stones.  And while some of the characters are reasonably based on mythic immortals, such as Anubis or a Valkyrie and gladiator, or an Aztec priest or a Pagan witch, there are a few that will raise an eyebrow, such as the cyborg.

And then there’s my favorite description ever, from Wikipedia: “Warhead (Radioactive American soldier with missiles).”  I have no words for that. This game was literally Midway testing a 3D gameplay engine for Mortal Kombat 4, and attempting to make some money in the meantime.  Seriously, don’t bother.
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Dual Heroes

dualheroes Duel Heroes has the express honor of having once been voted the worst video game in the world by the readers of Nintendo Gamer magazine in Australia.  It’s not exactly highly considered in any other country, either.  Fights generally end with you mashing only one button, either punch or kick over and over again as the shoddy AI stands there and takes it.  Still, there are some interesting ideas, such as the “gamer” selection.  The player must choose an opponent “gamer” who then picks one of the eight playable characters to use against you.

All of the “gamers” have different speeds and preferred tactics, which could have seriously helped the game if the system weren’t garbage already.  There’s also Robot Mode, which enables you to train the AI by showing it various techniques and combinations, so it will use them against other opponents.  Oh, and it doesn’t help that the graphics make me want to stab out my eyes with a fork.
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Summary

So there you have it folks.  All of the fighters on the console, not including sports titles like wrestling or boxing titles.  As you can see, the console does feature the genre, though quality isn’t always their strongest suit.  But if you’re sitting there on a rainy day, hankering for both a fighter and a 64 game, you do have a few options.  And yes, I do own most of these, though not all…yet.

29 Comments

  1. William says:

    As usual, we get a comprehensive list with some pretty obscure titles thrown in for good measure. Keep up the good work, guys.

  2. Another great account, I’m with the guy above, keep it up. ^_^

    Although, like some of the other articles, I stumbled upon a number of significant grammar and spelling oversights. I can’t see how you didn’t catch those? Sorry, for being a downer on an otherwise great article.

    The Nintendo Gamer reference is interesting since I owned all of those magazines and I don’t remember them mentioning Dual Heroes at all. Most likely because they re-launched it after the defunct N64 Gamer which I think would have more likely been to say something along those lines. Then again, they died and came back to life (again!) about a year ago, so maybe they said it in the newer issues. Beats me. I’m just curious about the reference that’s all.

  3. racketboy says:

    Well feel free to email me with the corrections you find…
    Thanks!

  4. Ack says:

    Actually, that little snippet came from Wikipedia, in reference to the original title of the magazine, N64 Gamer. I was under the impression that it had just undergone a name change, not died and returned. Sorry about the mix up.

    Sorry about the grammar issues as well. I’ve never been very good at proofreading my own material. Things that make sense to me don’t always work out for others since they’re not inside my own head. I sometimes mash sentences together because I’m thinking too far ahead, and when I read over it again, my brain just bridges the gap automatically.

  5. Ender says:

    I have to say I am surprised at the amount of fighters N64 had/have

  6. geozeldadude says:

    yet another great article. i suddenly got all nostalgic for the orig. smash bros. 😉

  7. Nateup2 says:

    Wow… when I saw the title, I immediately tried to think of as many N64 fighters as I could before looking. I could only think of Mortal Kombat 4 and trilogy which are both terrible at best.

    Thanks for the heads up on some of these that may prove to be somewhat enjoyable.

  8. rid says:

    i remember always looking and waiting for a good fighter to come out for the n64. smash bros. was the only one i found.

  9. Luke says:

    I own MK Trilogy, KI Gold, and Mace. I think all 3 are pretty solid games.

    I used to have MK Trilogy on the PS1 and that version had glitches galore and some horrible loading times. So I really wouldn’t recommend that version over the N64.

    Killer Instinct Gold does run great on “Ultra” speed. I’m glad you mentioned that

    And Mace is a very good (but not great) 3D fighting game. It is very underrated and often over-looked though, in my opinion. It takes a little while to master the controls and all the special moves, but once you do it’s an enjoyable game. Plus, this game does have fatalities in it! So that’s cool

  10. pwnsause says:

    unless Im mistaken, wasnt the n64 version of MK trilogy superior? other than the controls (PS version better obviously) the PS version often froze when you did a move. It has loads of glitches that the n64 version did not have. it could be some other game though.

  11. Ack says:

    I just couldn’t get into Mace. I like the idea, but I guess it just has never clicked. I really didn’t like combining a VF-style with SF-style special moves. Maybe it’s a personal decision, though I’ll definitely go back and spend more time playing with it. Any tips to get the system down better?

    What are you guys running MK Trilogy on? It has a few bugs on the PS3 and doesn’t run at all on the PS2. I don’t know about it on the PS, but it did get the FMV sequences, more characters, and better animation. Also, the music quality is considered better overall.

  12. KaL says:

    Great list but do you think the n64 Evangelion game may warrant a mention. Sure it’s a collection of mini-games but to be fair its most complete sections are the 2d fighting sections and it does include a 2 player fighting mode.

  13. Ack says:

    I debated about whether to include it for a while, though due to it not just being a fighting game, I decided against it. Thanks for bringing it up, though!

  14. Luke says:

    @Ack

    The “Greatest Hits” version of MK Trilogy (PS1) is the only version that will run on the PS2. The original black label will not work.

  15. Ack says:

    Interesting. Good to know, thank you.

  16. Leon says:

    I find Deadly Arts somewhat underrated >_>, but it did age since the last time I played it back in 2000.

  17. Scottykick says:

    Technically, a handful of great games can be added to the “fighting” game genre for N64. WWF No Mercy, WCW vs. NWO Revenge and WWF Wrestlemania 2000. Wrestling games IMO can be labeled as sports or fighting or both.

  18. Ack says:

    Yeah, I realize that the wrestling games on the Nintendo 64 are actually quite good. I’ve just never considered them fighting games. But I can easily understand why people would say they are.

  19. rdaneel72 says:

    You forgot one…

    Depending on your definition of fighting game, you could include Konami’s Hybrid Heaven. It is like a turn-based fighting game/RPG. You run through bland environments until you come across an enemy. When you attack, a menu of possible moves pops up, and you select one. Arms and legs can be leveled up and new attacks/defenses learned.

    It was a pretty tedious game otherwise, but the fighting mechanic was strangley satisfying.

  20. Ack says:

    Actually, I know about Hybrid Heaven. I was considering doing a piece on Nintendo 64 RPGs, and I was going to include it there! It and Custom Robo were the two that I was the most iffy on, but at the end of the day, I decided Custom Robo played more like a fighter, and Hybrid Heaven looked like it played more like an RPG(I’ve never gotten to play it, just watched footage on Youtube).

  21. Cory says:

    Wow, the N64 really had some terrible fighters. This list brought back a few bad memories.

    Nevertheless, Killer Instinct Gold still holds a place in my heart as one of the best fighters of all time. It was fun to quickly pick up and play, and if you were willing to give it some of your time and train, then the game did a phenomenal job of allowing you to continue to increase your skills with complex comboes and parry moves. It never got stale, there was always room to grow, plus the A.I. was good enough to keep up with you when your friends no longer could. I got really good at this game, but the toughest difficulty settings always provided me with a worthy challenge without leaving me feeling cheated.

  22. Jason Rioux says:

    being big fighting fan have most of games in the this list and played almost all the game in this list.

  23. breakwind says:

    It seems that the N64 fighting game library is rather a mixed bag.Too bad you did’nt include wrestling games that’s were the N64 would have shined at.

  24. Ack says:

    Yeah, true, the wrestling games on the Nintendo 64 were one of the high points of the console.

  25. domino says:

    I’m not really sure what you were attempting to do with this article, you list a whole load of games and then systematically rip them all apart (even the ones which don’t actually deserve it like Fighters Destiny and Mortal Kombat 4) in the end the article just comes across with the message that overall N64 fighting games suck really bad.

    Saying that Mortal Kombat 4 is the worst MK game is a truly ludicrous statement, there are many, many terrible MK games out there. The hate for MK4 is just one of those irritating fanboy attempts to re-write history as MK4 is actually a pretty good game, which, whilst never gaining critical acclaim still managed to garner positive reviews across the board in magazines of the time. Most of the criticism of the time was actually leveled at the fact that it played too much like the 2D iterations of the game.

    Fighters Destiny is a very entertaining fighting game if you spend the time to learn it fully, it starts off feeling a bit stop-start when you first pick it up but the fluid combos are there if you look for them. The nature of the 1-hit knock downs and throws also help to add a real element of tension to 2-player matches.

    I agree that Smash Bros is awesome 🙂

    Most of the other games on this list can be pretty much disregarded, Bio Freaks, Mace, Rakuga Kids, and Flying Dragon are kind of decent games I guess, but everything else is atrocious.

  26. racketboy says:

    Well, the goal with most of these types of guides is just to show what the system offers. While it’s true that the N64 isn’t exactly a fighting fan’s paradise, it’s still fun to explore the library and see what is out there.

    And of course, some statements of opinions can vary. Personally, I was never much of a Mortal Kombat fan. (I enjoyed 2 a bit here and there, but never really got into the series as a whole)

  27. jjj says:

    I’m glad I found this, as it’s exactly what I needed. I find myself coming to this site more and more often, hm 🙂

    As for MK4 and WarGods – come on! :p MK4 was and still is a very good game (disclaimer: I count the first four MK’s as one of my top 5 favorites ever, while the rest of the series doesn’t exist in my parallel reality where Boon was quartered by displeased fans, in a final fatality for him), while WG always has been a pile of dung. Which is sad, but Midway had a habit of screwing up interesting concepts. I’ve decided to check out Mace and Bio FREAKS. Again, thanks for the informative article.

  28. Patrick says:

    Its sad that the N64 never had any Street Fighter games. the Sega Saturn had amazing library of 2D fighting games.

  29. Skeletorn says:

    Hi, i must write some good about Dark Rift. For my this game have more good things than graphic(with is very good) only. Music is good too and sound effects is also good but not as good as music. Character is interesting – all is different and have fine looking different moves and specil moves. Story is not too important and than this game have only one but most important bad thing – bad controls and gameplay itself is becouse this thing only just above average. Bud still i like this game, Morphix is my faworite character and other is also very good. Look at rankings on wiki – worst is 1/5 and best is 8/10. My personal rank is 68% and i recommend
    this game because you can buy it for less than 8$, many times even less. I’ buy it for 3,2Euro = 4,3$ including postage !