Presented by Ack & Fastbilly1
During the fifth generation of video game consoles, the Nintendo 64 was routinely criticized for its lack of third-party support, and the “kiddie” and relatively non-violent focus of its game library. Yet, though it did not fare as well as the PlayStation and Nintendo has suffered from a recurring image problem ever since, the Nintendo 64 would lead to the rise of one of the biggest genres of the sixth and seventh console generations, known for its violence and gore, the claims that it trains gamers to kill cool and casually, and the trash talk and behavior that its multiplayer community has spawned: the console First Person Shooter.
That’s not to say that the N64 had the first console FPS titles. Console FPS titles had been around since at least 1992, with the release of Faceball 2000 on the Super NES(interestingly enough it was released a year after Faceball 2000 on the Game Boy in 1991, possibly the first handheld FPS). And the FPS genre can be traced back to its roots with the release of Maze War in 1974, one of the earliest known examples of a first person computer game. But while the PC FPS was having its FPS revolution in the early to mid-90s with the release of Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Doom 2, and Quake, the console FPS had hardly expanded beyond a massive number of Doom ports.
That changed with the Nintendo 64. With its built-in four-way multiplayer capability, and the controller’s utilization of analog sticks, allowing for some precise control and maneuvers, the N64 was built for FPS action. Throw in a couple of licensed properties like James Bond and Turok, and the stage was set. The console FPS took off, first with Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and then even further with GoldenEye 007’s release a few months later. And with GoldenEye came the console multiplayer revolution that would inevitably lead to the popularity of HALO, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, and every other popular console FPS since.
So for those interested in checking out how this phenomenon got its start, or possibly just interested in finding some games they never knew about in a genre they enjoy, here are all of the First Person Shooters for the Nintendo 64.
(NTSC-J: 8/23/1997, NTSC-U, PAL: 8/25/1997)
When it was first announced, GoldenEye did not drum up much fanfare. Being created by Rareware and based on an established franchise, a lot of people were skeptical. Previous James Bond games had been fairly terrible, and many initially speculated that it was going to be some sort of platformer. Little did anyone know that GoldenEye was going to become a revolution.
Released in 1997, it gave gamers a fairly solid story mode with just enough to keep us going back for more, and more importantly, the ability to kill our friends in a variety of ways. GoldenEye did not create deathmatch, nor did it really add in anything new to genre (sans zoomable sniper rifles), but what it did do was put everything together into a tight package that is to this day one of the most user friendly and solid console fps titles ever related. Despite what you think about how well it has aged, we all have stories about proximity mines. The fact that over 10 years down the road people still complain about that is a testament to its greatness. (See also our full retrospective on Goldeneye 007)
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(NTSC-U: 5/22/2000, PAL: 6/30/2000, NTSC-J: 10/21/2000)
Rare took a lot of what made GoldenEye great, cut out the James Bond, threw it into the near future, added aliens, and pushed the Nintendo 64 to close to its limit and created Perfect Dark. It plays like GoldenEye, but looks so much better. It features voice acting, an engaging plot, secondary fire on every weapon, good sized multiplayer maps, AI bots, and the ability to fall,
Perfect Dark was tailor-made to appeal to those who wanted more out of GoldenEye and it delivers on every level. It is simply GoldenEye 2.0. Joanna Dark is a poor substitute for James Bond, but the pros far outweigh the cons. The only big downside to Perfect Dark is that the game will lag badly in four player with a lot of bots. But even with the slowdown, 6 on 6 matches between your friends and bots in proper Capture the Flag is a lot of fun (I’ve had a lot of luck with 4 on 4 matches, humans on bots, with little to no slowdown). Now the prequel on the Xbox 360 you need to stay away from.
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Turok: Dinosaur Hunter (NTSC-U: 2/28/1997, PAL: 3/01/1997, NTC-J: 5/30/1997), Turok 2: Seeds of Evil (NTSC-U: 12/10/1998, PAL: 12/11/1998, NTSC-J: 6/18/1998), Turok: Rage Wars (NTSC-U: 10/31/1999, PAL: 12/26/1999) Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion (NTSC-U: 8/30/2000, PAL: 9/08/2000)
Who’d have thought that a lesser-known Native American comic book character created in the 1950s and known for hunting dinosaurs with his younger brother would receive one of the most prevalent game series for the Nintendo 64? That character would be Turok, who’s self-titled game series would see four titles on the Nintendo 64, though with some changes to the formula: Turok is more of a mantle than an individual character, with three main protagonists taking it up over the four games. Of the four games, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil, and Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion all share a continuous storyline, though the quality varies throughout. While all three were considered solid games by reviewers, Turok 2 received the highest ratings, and Turok 3 was considered the weakest of these entries.
The popularity of Turok: Dinosaur Hunter quite possibly saved Acclaim from bankruptcy, which had lost over $200 million in 1996, laid off a large section of its workforce, and watched as its stock plummeted roughly 80%. But after considerable quality control and a heavy marketing campaign, the first Turok video game became a phenomenal success, saving the company’s profits and becoming one of the best selling games on the console at the time. Though eventually out-shined by GoldenEye 007, Turok showed that console first person shooters didn’t have to just be poorly made DOOM clones by allowing an amount of 3D movement hardly seen in the genre before this, especially for consoles, and it also proved that companies could make excellent third party titles for the Nintendo 64, something that Nintendo’s third console is still often criticized over. It was even the first third-party game to become a “Player’s Choice” in 1998.
Announced several months before its predecessor’s release, Turok 2: Seeds of Evil further upped the ante with a complex single player mode and excellent multiplayer. New weapons and enemy AI made for a significantly improved gameplay experience, with even more blood and gore than the first, though with frame rate issues that could become severe at times. The multiplayer featured a character selection process, where different characters featured different abilities, such as differing speeds, sizes, or regenerating health, making multiplayer strategies dependent on who the player was going up against. On an interesting note, Turok 2 was released in Japan as Violence Killer Turok: New Generation.
Unfortunately things were going downhill for Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion, which despite adding multiple player characters to choose from in the game, it ended up removing some of the gameplay elements of the second. The plot also moved away from fighting dinosaurs entirely to fighting the Flesh, a group of optional enemies present in Turok 2, which brought criticism that the series had moved away from its roots.
Turok: Rage Wars, released between Turok 2 and Turok 3, built on the multiplayer features of Turok 2, though at the expense of a true single player campaign. It is often compared to Quake 3 in that both titles forgo single player campaigns to focus on multiplayer. However, unlike Quake 3, Rage Wars was not well received. The original run of the game features a glitch which makes the player unable to unlock one of the medals in the game, thus not allowing the player access to all the material in the game. Much like Turok 2, Rage Wars could be played with an expansion pack but did not require it.
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007: The World Is Not Enough
(NTSC-U: 11/01/2000, PAL: 12/08/2000)
While not developed or produced by the same company that brought us GoldenEye 007, The World Is Not Enough is technically its sequel since it was the continuation of the Bond franchise on the Nintendo 64. And while it’s not considered as good as GoldenEye, it did stay true to its roots. Eurocom, the principal designers of The World Is Not Enough, decided to go back to basics after their first Bond game, Tomorrow Never Dies, failed commercially. The end result? An experience very similar to GoldenEye which was claimed in 2009 by IGN to be “the second best bond game ever.” Not bad, considering that only GoldenEye was ahead of it in that list.
Notable features to The World Is Not Enough included changeable weapon modes(such as attaching a silencer to a pistol or changing the firing rate), a multiplayer mode with AI bots, new multiplayer game modes, the ability to save allies in levels, and the ability to unlock levels for multiplayer. Additional characters were added to the multiplayer, though certain characters feature increased base health. The single player mode is also more “cinematic,” though the AI isn’t up to snuff against Perfect Dark. Still, fans of GoldenEye may enjoy The World Is Not Enough.
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(NTSC-U: 4/30/1998, PAL: 6/3/1998, NTSC-J: 9/2/1999)
Covering a niche market that combines the first person shooter with the ability to move in any direction, Forsaken 64 is the only true Six Degrees of Freedom FPS on the Nintendo 64. In other words, while traditional FPS only allow movement on the X and Y-axis, 6DoF shooters allow movement on the Z-axis as well. The gameplay style is most often associated with the Descent series, though Forsaken 64 was an admirable edition to the genre. Unfortunately, this movement style didn’t sit well with some shooter enthusiasts, which is why it would never become as popular as other N64 FPS titles.
Forsaken 64 offered a choice of characters in single player, a multitude of weapons and levels, and four-player split screen with a host of game modes and options, including AI bots. It’s unfortunate that the game wasn’t more popular, as it definitely should be experienced. It is at its heart a Descent clone, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as Forsaken 64 does what it does extremely well and with style.
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Quake 64 (NTSC-U: 3/24/1998, PAL: 5/24/1998), Quake II (PAL: 2/7/1999, NTSC-U: 5/31/1999)
Programmed by John Carmack, Michael Abrash, and John Cash, featuring level designs by American McGee, John Romero, Tim Willits, and Sandy Petersen, graphics by Adrian Carmack and Kevin Cloud, and music by Trent Reznor, Quake was a new epoch in the first person shooter by id Software, following their success with Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Doom 2. With it came the Quake engine, server-based multiplayer (as opposed to the LAN-based multiplayer offered in Doom), a co-op mode similar to the one found in Doom, deathmatch, Teamplay, and the creation of some of the most important FPS maneuvers ever created, like bunny hopping and the rocket jump. And in 1998, Midway saw fit to port the game to the Nintendo 64, where it is alternately known as Quake 64, or simply Quake.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the best choice. While some new lighting and graphical effects were added, the single player experience is the same as the PC(unlike the Sega Saturn port, which added several original levels). The multiplayer was also severely maimed in the process, allowing only two players instead of the four player standard for the console. As a nice touch, the game allows saving to the N64 memory card as well as a password system, but considering that GoldenEye 007 had been released by this point, it’s difficult to praise the game.
Quake II fared significantly better. Though it came well after its PC counterpart, the Nintendo 64 version featured updated graphics, entirely new levels, the ability to create and save user profiles, rumble pack compatibility, faster speeds, and four-player multiplayer, practically a must for the Nintendo 64. On top of it, multiplayer boasts different modes, including 2-on-2 or even 3-on-1. To counter this, the animation is choppy, and while playable without the expansion pack, the graphical bump is noticeable.
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Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
(NTSC-U: 11/17/1999, PAL: 12/15/1999)
Coming in as the only Tactical FPS on the console, Rainbow Six requires strategy, and lots of it. The AI in the game is incredible, the frame rates are consistent, and the sound effects are quite stunning. Overall, the Nintendo 64 port of the popular PC hit, based on Tom Clancy’s book of the same name, is actually quite good. In fact, the biggest complaint upon release by such websites as IGN was that the game was too short.
Still, the levels do offer some amount of replayability by offering the choice of setting up the mission beforehand in various ways, or launching from the get go and attempting to do everything yourself on the fly. To further add to this, the game includes two-player co-op, so you can bring a friend to watch your back as you move through the levels. If you like to take your time in first person shooters and go for a one shot one kill ratio, Rainbow Six is definitely for you.
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(NTSC-U: 3/31/1997, NTSC-J: 8/1/1997, PAL: 12/2/1997)
Perhaps the most unique Doom title in the series up until the release of Doom 3, Doom 64 takes the original games and shoots in a considerably darker and more satanic direction. Demons are redesigned and much larger, the levels are unique, darker, and even booby trapped, weapons are more devastating, and the music is even eerier than previous installments. There’s even an entirely unique laser cannon in the game, called the Unmaker. And once gained, the Unmaker can be upgraded by finding several tablets to make a more powerful weapon.
However, it’s still Doom, so if you’ve played any of them, you should know what to expect. There’s no multiplayer, and saving can only be done between levels. While the engine was updated a bit to include such features as colored lighting, by 1997 it was showing its age, especially considering that the Quake engine had been released on the PC already. But if you’re a big fan of Doom, well, Doom 64 is definitely worth checking out, since it is definitely a unique variation on what was at the time an aging formula.
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(NTSC-U: 5/31/1997, PAL: 6/24/1997, NTSC-J: 12/18/1997)
Originally created by Raven Software and published by id Software, Hexen was ported to the Nintendo 64 by Software Creations. Of all the console ports, the Nintendo 64 was the most accurate. Unfortunately due to hardware limitations, the game was modeled on the original floppy disk release of Hexen, so it lacked the FMV sequences and Redbook audio music found on the CD-ROM version for the PC(and included in both the PS1 and Sega Saturn ports). To make up for this, the N64 version included storyline info between levels to help explain the plot. The N64 version also boasted four-player deathmatch and co-op, though with toned down graphics.
For those who’ve never played Hexen, it’s a fantasy-based FPS, where players must select from several classes at the beginning(also selectable in multiplayer), which affect speed, health, and what weapons they will gain. Each character also has a super weapon which can only be used after they’ve found all the pieces for it. These super weapons include a sword that shoots green bolts of energy, a trio of massive fireballs, or a cross that shoots disembodied killer souls who ravage anything they touch. The game features multiple levels which can be accessed in out of order via a complex portal system. It’s a complicated game, but well worth it with a couple of friends playing in the same room.
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Duke Nukem 64
(NTSC-U: 10/31/1997, PAL: 11/14/1997)
While still a port of Duke Nukem 3D for the PC, Duke Nukem 64 had some significant changes. First and foremost would be the considerable amount of censorship, including the removal of all nudity and certain adult-themed locations, such as an adult bookstore early in the game, and many of Duke’s notable lines were redubbed by Jon St. John(Duke’s voice actor) to remove much of his swearing. Other changes included adding weapons and locales from the Plutonium Pak(the Duke Nukem 3D expansion), as well as streaming the levels into one continuous game, as opposed to the episodic approach from the PC release. There’s also no music in the game, except for the Duke Nukem theme, “Grabbag,” and the music in the status screen.
That said, it’s still a Duke Nukem game, featuring lots of pop culture references and one-liners, four-player split screen deathmatch, and two-player co-op. The firepower is nasty, the action can get frantic, and there’s just something fun about putting one’s boot upside some alien pig cop’s face. The controls can feel a little awkward for some, and if you’ve played the PC version, the missing dialogue, music, and adult themes can be a bit upsetting(you can no longer give cash to strippers…), and the graphics didn’t see any improvement like in Doom 64, but the game can still serve as a fun experience.
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(NTSC-U: 12/12/1998, AUS: 12/16/1998, PAL: 3/5/1999)
Based on the popular television show of the same name, South Park has the player take control of one of the four main children from the series, who must face off against the dealings creations caused by a comet that is rapidly approaching South Park. Built off the Turok 2 engine, the game featured four-player split-screen multiplayer, and a large number of unlockable characters that could be earned during gameplay by unlocking cheat codes. The game even featured voice acting and music based on the show.
And yet, somewhere between the mutant turkeys and the Toilet Plunger Launchers, the game has a polarizing effect on the fans. First, level design in single player is generally simplistic, mostly consisting of moving from one spot to another. The graphics are an interesting 3D representation of the show, but can feel sparse and bland. And beyond the multiplayer, there’s no reason to come back, not even alternate difficulty levels. Also, the crude humor may throw some off, even more so than Duke Nukem. After all, the Duke didn’t urinate on his snowballs.
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Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M.
(NTSC-U: 11/30/1999, PAL: 6/30/2000)
Similar to Turok, the Armorines were a Valiant Comics property, which was bought by Acclaim in 1994. As comics sales slumped, Acclaim took a greater role and began turning certain Valiant titles into games, including Turok, Shadowman, X-O Manowar(who had a crossover game with Iron Man from Marvel Comics), and the Armorines. In fact, Armorines even uses the Turok 2 engine. Unfortunately, this hasn’t saved it from trouble. The game suffers from slowdown, especially when multiple enemies are on screen, but the resolution can be changed when using the expansion pack. And there have been numerous complaints about how dark the game is(though to counteract this you do gain night-vision goggles, which severely limits your viewing area but allows you to see clearly in dark rooms).
As for gameplay, Armorines allows the player to choose from two characters at each level, which will affect movement speed, what items you can use, and what weapons you have access to. A co-op mode is also available, as well as multiplayer deathmatch, though expect more slowdown and some framerate drops. While the game runs faster than Turok 2, Acclaim tweaked the controls to feel less precise, so aiming can be a problem. And since the plot of the Armorines comic featured several parallels with Starship Troopers, and the film version had been released only two years prior, many folks associate the two. So if you like the thought of gearing up and taking out some space bugs, you might find yourself enjoying Armorines. It should also be noted that while the Nintendo 64 version was considered quite average by reviewers, the PlayStation version fared far worse.
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John Romero’s Daikatana
(NTSC-J: 6/26/2000, NTSC-U: 7/31/2000, PAL: 11/1/2000)
“John Romero’s about to make you his bitch.” Oh man, he sure did. The saga of the production of Daikatana is a long and arduous tale, one which could easily be turned into a novel. And that’s about the PC version. The Nintendo 64 version is actually worse than its PC counterpart. Rushed to release only a few months after the PC version’s release, the game suffered from massive amounts of fog, poor graphics, horrendous amounts of motion blur made worse in multiplayer to the point of crippling it, as well as problems with enemy AI, rubbish controls, a story that just collapses, etc. The title weapon, the Daikatana, isn’t even usable!
On a funny note, the two AI partners still appear in cut scenes, but aren’t actually in the game, which might be considered a boon: the AI was so poor that they actively got in the way of the player in the PC version. Attach a floating release date constantly being pushed back, horrendously outdated technology, a design team of admittedly-talented amateurs, and Romero’s girlfriend serving as level designer, on top of other problems and criticism from the community, and you have a recipe for disaster. The only version of this game that’s any good is the Game Boy Color version. As the Daikatana ad campaign said, “Suck it down.” Suck it down indeed.
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Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire
This game changes genre depending on the level, alternating between third-person action, racing, and a space shooter similar to Star Wars: Rogue Squadron. But thanks to camera manipulation, all the third-person action levels can be played as an FPS, albeit with no gun model present and difficulty looking up and down. Still, it certainly adds a new experience to a game that was already quite good.
Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes series
Both Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes and its sequel, Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes 2, are third person shooters, where you play a green plastic army man. While not really constituting a first person view for the game, both games feature an aiming mode which will allow for greater precision while firing.
Duke Nukem: Zero Hour
Another third person shooter, Duke Nukem: Zero Hour follows Duke Nukem as he travels through time kicking alien butt. To spice things up, there’s an unlockable first person mode for the main story which can be accessed with cheat codes, and the multiplayer is all done in first person.
Jet Force Gemini
Again, a third person shooter, though the game can be played almost entirely in a first person-esque view. There’s just one problem: there’s no jump button when you’re in this mode, which means the player must switch back to third person during any of the platforming sections.