The Nintendo 64 era was an exciting time to be alive. Games were moving out of 2D sprites and into fully realized three-dimensional spaces. Despite the blurry texture filtering, primitive model geometry, and thick, misty distance fog that modern players might notice coming straight from a modern, multi-million dollar offering, N64 games are still beautiful in their own right. A few indie game developers have cottoned on to this and have directed their efforts toward reproducing the look and feel of the Nintendo 64 dreamscape.
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Hooking up an authentic controller to a PC may be impossible (besides maybe supergluing a Wiimote to the base of an Xbox controller), but getting the same 90s game feel is still possible, thanks to the tight scattering of talented indie studios who have worked hard to reverse engineer the magic of the era. Whether it is pure nostalgia or down to the genuinely captivating style born from hardware limitations, players have plenty of opportunities to experience or re-experience the 64-bit magic.
5 Macbat 64
A Charming, Chipper Jaunt Through Short, Shifting Genres
- March 17, 2017
expertly captures the look of N64 Rare-style classic
- Features minigames reminiscent of a plethora of nostalgic genres
While it isn’t the first attempt at recapturing the magic of Rare’s legendary bear and bird game with a bat protagonist, Macbat 64 forgoes the graphical modernization and huge level sizes afforded to it by modern hardware as its bat-contemporary does and delves straight into old-school blur and texture stretching. The game is about the adventures of a spiffy little bat with a monocle and the ever-encroaching terror of the water level (which, spoilers, doesn’t turn out to be that bad in the end).
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The graphical fidelity of Macbat is a little inconsistent, but this is likely due to the developer’s intent on squeezing in as many old Nintendo 64 game references as possible (Mario Kart, Donkey Kong, Majora’s Mask, even Goldeneye). Siactro, the creator of Macbat and a few other modern Nintendo and PlayStation throwbacks with cute protagonists, accurately describes the levels as “micro worlds,” which is a slight giveaway to the game’s short (under an hour) length.
4 Super Kiwi 64
A High-Flying Collectathon Starring A Flightless Bird
Super Kiwi 64
- December 2, 2022
- Simplistic but tight feeling controls and movements make exploration of each of its levels a joy
isn’t challenging (nor does it aim to be) and can feel a little short
With collectible floating cogs, unlockable secrets, and a main character with an upgradable backpack with a myriad of versatile abilities, Super Kiwi 64 is a relatively short collectathon platformer that offers nostalgic Nintendo fans a chance to run around nine tight, bright levels while testing out Banjo-Kazooie-esque movement. Each level can be tackled in any order. While the game never becomes too challenging, there is a clear focus on horizontal difficulty progression, with each world having its own trials and tests.
Judged against the classic Nintendo 64 games of old, there is a distinct lack of puzzles to solve and characters to interact with. But everything else, from the music to the controls, feels like it is authentically 64-bit. One of the biggest criticisms of Super Kiwi 64 is that it feels too short. However, not being able to get enough of a game is also quite a compliment, and brevity isn’t the worst a game can do for working stiff gamers old enough to have been around in the Nintendo 64’s heyday.
3 Valkie 64
A Varied Aventure That Takes Clear Inspiration From An N64 Classic
- November 25, 2022
- Malte Glade
Draws environmental design inspiration from
The Ocarina of Time
but doesn’t quite capture the same sharp feel of combat
- Uses fewer rough textures and blurry filtering than other N64 retraux titles
Many indie studios looking to emulate the N64 style do so with the idea of capturing a kind of “cuteness” inherent to primitive character models and the console’s bright, limited color palette. But if it wasn’t apparent from the image above, Valkie 64 is going for a more Legend of Zelda look (if not quite an authentically Zelda feel), from its hollow carpet-like grass fields to the blue and purple minimap. Other N64 throwbacks will intentionally blur their textures, but Valkie is decidedly a blend between old and new with its smoothed pixel shading, seamless animation transitions, and dynamic lighting.
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The game looks more like how Nintendo fans would imagine their old favorites looking today. Before any Zelda fans rush off to play it and make side-by-side comparisons, it’s only fair to say that while it does a lot of great things (including having some interesting, if simplistic, swordplay mechanics and nonlinear progression), Valkie does come with limitations especially next to Nintendo’s 1998 masterpiece.
2 Knight’s Try
A Tough But Fair Retro Trail For Platforming Glory
- January 27, 2022
- Modus Interactive
The unholy combination of Super
- Features tough-but-fair obstacles, enemies, and platforming
If soft, overly stretched textures and hazy particle effects somehow subdue players’ rage after falling down a pit for the 99th time, then Knight’s Try might have stumbled on the perfect platforming formula. Either way, this giant-island-filled-with-hazards-and-pitfalls-floating-in-the-void jump ’em up combines the best graphical and level design elements of Super Mario 64 with the impossibly challenging yet reasonably fair difficulty philosophy of hardcore games like Dark Souls.
Finding the balance between frustration and fun is not something every developer has eyes for, but Modus Interactive valiantly demonstrates its worthiness for the task, all while offering a game world with all the same heart and gooey atmosphere as a genuine Nintendo 64 classic in addition to fun little secrets scattered throughout each level. Players are given three difficulty modes to contend with, and Sir Trye is given a new armor set with a greater jump height for completing each one, offering intrinsic (player skill) and extrinsic (character ability) progression as a reward for such hardcore dedication.
1 Corn Kidz 64
A Fun Retraux Ram-page For Infinite Nachos
Corn Kidz 64
- October 17, 2023
- Action-Adventure , Platformer
- Filled with dark jokes, secrets, and fun twists on old conventions
- Movement abilities are easy to pick up but tricky (and rewarding) to master
This entry follows the quest of one kid (goat) for infinite nachos and soda pop in a dream (or nightmare) world. Corn Kidz is a double-triumph in the sense that it both pays homage to the classic cartridge games of old (with all the refined controls and level design expertise expected of one) and builds upon their foundations, using some contemporary conveniences expected of modern games (checkpoints and accessibility) while innovating (a level-up and experience point system integrated with collectibles).
Like classic N64 titles of yore, Corn Kidz is not long. It does not boast a huge range of levels or boss encounters, but it does hide secrets for keen players to pick out between its levels and tasty bites of corny adult comedy throughout its environments, convincingly taking on the appearance of a golden-age Rare title. Its most impressive selling point is its easy-to-pick-up, difficult-to-master movement, akin to Super Mario 64, but with ramming instead of air-kicking. Its secret levels reward those who put in the hard work of perfecting a grasp on these mechanics but never punish a player looking for a casual bit of platforming fun.
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