The early days of mainstream 3D console gaming began with the PS1 and Nintendo 64. These were pretty experimental times, with developers and genres adjusting to the X, Y, and Z axes. That meant new ideas for the then-new consoles.
As is the norm with every gaming generation, new franchises were born, many quirkier than the others. Unfortunately, a lot of the lesser-known IPs have been lost to time. This also means that gamers nowadays cannot experience the charm of those games and their protagonists anymore.
The Big N's debut 3D machine, in particular, had some interesting games, particularly in the platformer genre. So here are 5 platformer mascots that saw games on the Nintendo 64 and deserve to make a comeback.
A look back at Nintendo 64's legacy
The sly, glasses-wearing gecko, Gex, saw his first entry on the 3DO system. However, Gex: Enter the Gecko marked his debut in three dimensions. Released in 1998, the plot saw the sly lizard jump and kick his way to once again take down Rez, the antagonist t-rex.
The 3D entry feels a lot like Super Mario 64, with similarly themed levels. There's a decent variety, from being inside a virtual space to actual outer space to fighting lightsaber-wielding aliens. Reportedly, the Nintendo 64 version had some content cut, particularly at six levels. However, in turn, it did get an exclusive underwater level, not on PC or PS1.
Goemon is a blue-haired ninja from Konami who appeared in the SNES game The Legend of the Mystical Ninja. The quirky Goemon made his Nintendo 64 debut with Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon in 1998. The plot is kind of weird and very over the top. It features a giant flying peach turning parts of ancient Japanese locales into Westernized fine art structures, like a European-style castle.
This mischief must be stopped, so he sets out on a journey throughout Japan to catch the culprit. Exploration is handled somewhat like the Zelda games with open environments that are freely explorable. Throughout his adventures, he meets different NPCs, explores sizeable areas and engages in mech combat. Yep, full-on mech fights against other equally large enemies in the game, which is fun too.
3) Earthworm Jim
Earthworm Jim has always been a cult-classic character beloved by many. The space-suit clad humanoid Earthworm is an odd but charming character armed with a blaster. He debuted on the Sega Genesis and Super NES in 1994 under publisher Interplay - the same one behind Baldur's Gate and original Fallout titles.
Earthworm Jim 3D acted as the third entry in the series and was released for the Nintendo 64 in 1999. Unlike the rest of the run-and-gun series, it is a 3D platformer and takes after peers like Banjo-Kazooie. It similarly features charming characters, action-based combat, and platforming.
Earthworm Jim 3D was also released on the PC.
2) Rocket the Robot
On a little-known note, Ubisoft-published Rocket: Robot on Wheels was Sucker Punch Productions' first game ever. That's right: the now-Sony-owned studio, known for the inFAMOUS franchise, made their industry debut with a Nintendo 64 title.
Released in 1999, the unique 3D platformer follows the wheel-track of the titular robot, Rocket, who finds himself trapped inside a sci-fi theme park called Whoopie World. His movement is accentuated by the small, uni-cycle-like wheel at his bottom, and he can move around objects using a beam.
In fact, the game was known for being one of the first fully 3D physics driven console games. It was an accomplishment from Sucker Punch that not even Nintendo themselves deemed possible on their own console.
The physics and relevant puzzles feel surreal for such an old console game, but they work perfectly well, with elements like buoyancy, mass acceleration and more. It's a must-play experience.
Who doesn't know about Conker? The badass, foul-tongued squirrel was Nintendo's attempt to appeal to the mature gamer crowd back in the day. Given how fondly he is remembered now, I'd say that was a success.
He made his first appearance on Conker's Bad Fur Day, released in 2001 on the Nintendo 64. The platforming adventure saw Conker start on a hammered note, eventually throwing him down a rabbit hole of chaos with the ruler Panther King. Bad Fur Day did get a remake for the original Xbox but disappeared until the release of Rare Replay. It was a compilation of the UK-based studio's best titles.
These days, though, the poor critter is trapped inside Microsoft's wardrobe of forgotten Rareware IPs, alongside some interesting ones like Viva Pinata and Jey Force Gemini. It's a shame, but here's hoping that Xbox gives him a chance to shine again one day.
Note: The article reflects the writer's own views.