The Nintendo 64 is well known for a key few games, and a key few games only. Granted, they’re games like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64— two games so influential they set the foundation for modern 3D gaming as the industry knows it— but there wasn’t that much else to play on the N64.
This wasn’t by design, though. Nintendo had a lot of projects in the oven ready to be served up. Unfortunately, the PlayStation’s freak success and Nintendo’s insistence on using cartridges led to several game cancellations. Not just that, Nintendo would also move key projects over to the GameCube, depriving the N64 more games it might have benefited from during its lifetime.
10 Final Fantasy VII
The Nintendo 64’s Final Fantasy VII as fans might know it seems more like a tech demo that uses Final Fantasy VI as a basis. If nothing else, it’s quite clear where Final Fantasy VII got its overworld visual style from. Beyond that, though, Square did have good reasons jumping ship over to the PlayStation.
Not only did Sony allow them more freedom than Nintendo would have, the PlayStation’s disc based technology ended up being a great boon to Final Fantasy VII’s development. It was able to be a much larger game since it wasn’t restricted to cartridges. That said, it’s disappointing the N64 never got a Final Fantasy title of its own.
9 Grand Theft Auto
Believe it or not, both Grand Theft Auto 1 and 2 were scheduled for a Nintendo 64 release at some point. Both games did release for the PlayStation, after all, and they weren’t particularly demanding. Naturally, both ports were ultimately cancelled and the Nintendo 64 was left without either Grand Theft Auto.
That said, it’s important to understand that Grand Theft Auto was a fundamentally different series at this point. It had virtually none of its staple mechanics (although some important concepts were already in play.) It’s more of a top down driving sim mixed with overt violence. Even fans of the franchise aren’t missing much.
8 Kirby Air Ride
Kirby Air Ride (Kirby’s Airride in Japan) is one of the GameCube’s most underrated titles. It’s nowhere near as accessible as Double Dash and while it doesn’t require as much mechanical mastery as F-Zero GX, it also doesn’t encourage mastery the way it does. Someone really needs to love Kirby Air Ride to play Kirby Air Ride.
Interestingly, Kirby Air Ride is part of a trend of Kirby games being announced for one system only to be pushed to the next. Nintendo actually teased a proper Kirby game for the GameCube, but it was pushed to the Wii. Nintendo teased Kirby Air Ride for the N64, but it was pushed to the GameCube.
7 Mega Man Legends 2
Capcom only released a few games for the Nintendo 64— prioritizing the original PlayStation for most of the generation instead— but they were good games. Among them was Mega Man 64, a port of Mega Man Legends that may have had a worse control scheme, but made up for it by cleaning up the game’s glitches.
As expected, Mega Man Legends 2 was originally slated to be ported as Mega Man 64 2, but the game was very quietly cancelled and the rest of the series released exclusively on the PlayStation. Very little word remains on MM64 2 even today, but it’s likely Capcom wasn’t satisfied with the N64’s sales to justify another port.
6 Mother 3
Mother 3 infamously saw quite a bit of development before being abruptly cancelled. Most sources seem to believe that the game was roughly 60% complete when the plug was ultimately pulled. Fans know it as Earthbound 64 and it’s still one of the most fascinating Nintendo games that never got a chance to be.
It has a sense of style so unique to itself, even on the Nintendo 64. Mother 3 on the GBA is a beautiful close to the trilogy and one of the best RPGs of all time, but it’s hard not to imagine what Mother 3 could have originally been had it released on the Nintendo 64 as initially intended.
5 Project Dream
Developed by Rare, Project Dream is the game that would ultimately become Banjo-Kazooie. Interestingly, the title was originally being developed for the Super Nintendo by Rare’s A-team while their B-team worked on Donkey Kong Country 3. As the SNES’ life was coming to an end, though, the SNES version was cancelled and development moved to the N64.
The scope and ambition of Project Dream was proving to be difficult even on better hardware, however. Looking at Nintendo for answers, Rare chose to style the game after Super Mario 64, twisting Project Dream into the now iconic Banjo-Kazooie. Some cancellations are for the better.
4 Resident Evil 0
Speaking of cancellations leading to a better game, it’s very arguably whether or not Resident Evil 0 pulled that off in its shift from the Nintendo 64 to the GameCube. While the leap in quality is downright breathtaking (Resident Evil 0 on the GameCube still looks jaw dropping even today,) the gameplay is… awkward.
It’s safe to assume RE0 was always going to focus on partner based gameplay, but what exists of the N64 version seems to paint a picture of a more traditional Resident Evil game. Given how overwhelmingly difficult the game as is can be, maybe the N64 Resident Evil 0 would have fared better.
3 Star-Fox Adventures
Star-Fox Adventures is a game that saw a lot of development hell. It was originally a 3D action-adventure game developed by Rare, but Nintendo thought an established IP would sell more so Krystal was shoved to the side for Fox, and was the very last game Rare developed before they were bought by Microsoft.
Before that, though, it was a Nintendo 64 title. As legend goes, Miyamoto convinced Rare not only to hold their new game for the GameCube’s launch, but to embrace Star-Fox the way they did Donkey Kong. Whether it paid off it debatable, but the original Dinosaur Planet probably would have been the better received game.
2 Street Fighter EX
The Nintendo 64 struggled when it came to fighting games. While it did have a key few, none of them were particularly well reviewed and they left absolutely no impact on the industry. Considering how the series thrived on the Super Nintendo, it’s only natural that the N64 get its own Street Fighter.
A Street Fighter EX port was actually in development for the Nintendo 64, but like with Mega Man 64 2, Capcom pulled support and kept the game’s console release on the PlayStation. Frankly, this wasn’t a good time for Nintendo. Capcom was an important ally during the NES & SNES days.
1 Chrono Resurrection
This is actually a fan game, but the fact that it was being explicitly developed from the ground up for the Nintendo 64 while allegedly 80% through development when its cease and desist was issued makes Chrono Resurrection one of the worst cases of “what could have been” in video game history.
Not only was Square actively paying attention to the game’s development, it was being covered by proper outlets. Chrono Resurrection was chugging along and genuinely looked like a good game. The fact it was being developed for the N64 in the early 00s also may have let fans feel “safe.” Why intervene with a fan game on a dead console after all? Unfortunately, Square wasn’t having it and development ceased in 2004.