Terrible games are relatively few these days. Publishers have so much riding on big releases that to put out something sub-par would only result in poor sales, consumer backlash and angry shareholders.
It wasn’t always this way. Years ago, publishers were rather fond of releasing utter tripe in order to make a quick buck. In fact, throughout the ‘90s it wasn’t uncommon to see new releases gain scores as low as 1/10 in gaming magazines – a score rarely seen today.
Every platform holder from the era was guilty of allowing garbage to flow through quality control. SEGA, Nintendo, Sony, 3DO, and Atari – providing a game booted up and was in a “playable” state, it would be allowed onto store shelves. Contrary to popular belief, the coveted ‘Nintendo Seal of Quality’ covered little more than that.
For some reason, the worst games the N64 had to offer live in infamy. Terrible titles that are still to this day mocked, scrutinised and frowned upon. The SEGA Saturn had just as many poor games – if not more – but they’re rarely ever paraded about in such a fashion. As for the PSone, YouTube would have you believe Bubsy 3D and The Simpsons Wrestling were as bad as it got.
Search for Superman 64 on YouTube and you’re presented with over 600k results; over half a million. Over 117k videos are dedicated to Crusin’ USA, Mortal Kombat: Mythologies clocks in at 46k, Carmageddon has just over 23k, while ClayFighter 63 1/3 can claim 15.5k videos. Even Aero Gauge, which many would refer to as an obscure release, has over 33k videos in its honour. In comparison, most bad PSone games have half as many dedicated videos, if that. Bubsy 3D being the exception – every angry gaming YouTuber across the globe has seemingly covered it at one stage.
Question is, then, what’s so special about the N64’s worst games? It’s almost as if they’ve been granted special status within the halls of video gaming. If you care to indulge, we have a few theories about why the likes of Superman 64 have remained in our collective minds instead of fading into obscurity.
Nintendo set the bar high
Nintendo released several genre-defining gems within the N64’s first year of sale. By the end of 1997 it could boast of a catalogue featuring such first-party greats as Super Mario 64, Mario Kart, Star Fox, Wave Race, GoldenEye 007, Pilotwings, Diddy Kong Racing, and Blast Corps.
Each and every one was a system seller. It was expected that third-parties would follow suit, harnessing the system’s power to create all-new experiences. Nintendo wasn’t allowing any old riffraff onboard the N64 party bus either, spending the best part of three years assembling a ‘Dream Team’ of handpicked outside studios.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy was arguably the first game to suggest that third-parties were struggling with the new hardware, not to mention the constraints cartridges posed.
Nintendo, it seemed, wasn’t willing to lend a helping hand to ensure third-party quality. As such, it came as a mild surprise to see a few stinkers on the shelves during the N64’s early days.