For video games of old, difficulty was often a feature rather than a bug, and interestingly enough that was something that made certain games extremely compelling to certain (masochistic) fans. There are still games being released today with a built-in mean streak intended to inspire some controller-chucking, hair-pulling, scream-into-your-pillow-so-mom-can’t-hear moments, but for the most part expansive worlds and immersive experiences have taken the place of straight up trickiness.
By the time the Nintendo 64 was released in 1996, video games were just starting to become deep enough that developers didn’t need to make them overly hard to keep things interesting, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some vicious N64 titles out there with little to no regard for human sanity. Some of these entries were great because of their difficulty, some in spite of it, and others were mostly joyless and just plain hard.
8 Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire
Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is pretty fondly remembered by a lot of Star Wars fans, and for good reason: it was an original adventure in the Extended Universe that still managed to get in plenty of familiar moments. Those that don’t remember it so fondly probably do so because it could be really, really hard.
With the difficulty set to easy or maybe even medium things can go fairly smoothly, but set it to hard and even the most battle-hardened gamers are likely to have fits trying to down some of the trickier bosses.
7 Donkey Kong 64
It may be a fan favorite as far as the Nintendo 64 goes, but Donkey Kong 64 held some remarkably high standards for anyone trying to simply beat it let alone 101% it. Yes, this game goes 1% beyond the normally accepted standard for total completion.
The sheer volume of things to collect in this game is nirvana for enthusiastic completionists but it’s the 9th circle of Hell for most others. What makes it all the more infuriating is that retrieving all the necessary items for that 101% means a mind-melting amount of backtracking, which is a video game characteristic that just about every gamer on the planet can agree is far more painful than it is entertaining.
6 The Legend Of Zelda: Majora’s Mask
There were two things likely to send a chill down the spine of just about any gamer of the 1990s and early 2000s: water levels and timed levels. A lot of credit is given to the trickiness of the Water Temple in Ocarina of Time, but considering the fact that the entirety of Majora’s Mask is essentially timed, there’s really no comparing the two as far as difficulty goes.
This little wrinkle in the Zeldaformula was enough to cause considerable division within the fandom, but it wasn’t enough to derail the game entirely. Not even close, really. Majora’s Mask is somewhat divisive, but it’s still considered an absolute classic, ticking clock and all.
5 Superman 64
Some games are hard by design, others are hard because of it. Superman 64 is a notoriously broken game that is often ranked among the worst ever made. Critics variously cite bumbling controls, boring gameplay, eye-straining graphics, and a plethora of bugs, glitches, and other technical nightmares for the game’s uncommon awfulness.
However, there is a sort of ironic love for this title out there which leads some to pick it up just to see how terrible it really is. When they do, they generally find that the utter brokenness of the game makes it exceedingly, almost compellingly, difficult. Almost.
4 Perfect Dark
Perfect Dark received great reviews and is often ranked among the best N64 titles of all time, but it pulled no punches when presenting its fans with a serious challenge. There’s little room for error, a lot of room to get totally turned around on any given level, and some of the challenges it asks players to complete can appear nearly impossible at first.
Fortunately, there are various difficulty levels players can choose from in Perfect Dark. Unfortunately, they all present a fair amount of challenge anyway. And unless an absolute master is behind the controller, the hardest difficulty is really only good for an incredulous laugh or two.
3 Body Harvest
Nintendo consoles are generally known for their family-friendly franchises that offer wide appeal and little to no blood, guts, or reasons to be offended. It’s not like they were totally devoid of edgy titles, though. Body Harvest, for instance, sports a name reminiscent of a brutal black metal band and involves plenty of alien death and deadly weapons. It’s also viciously difficult.
An early Rockstar Games title, Body Harvest is among the more forgotten and underrated N64 entries out there, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Some of it is thanks to the unpleasant camera and not-so-great controls, and some of it is thanks to a combo of minimal save points and maximum ways to die.
2 F-Zero X
F-Zero is a series that is generally lauded for its challenging difficulty levels, but along with that lauding comes a lot of screaming, thrashing, drop-kicking consoles, and weeping in the fetal position beneath the glow of the indifferent television. These games are not easy.
While many consider F-Zero GXto be the most difficult, F-Zero X is not a far cry from it, and the not-as-smooth controls on the Nintendo 64 version add to that difficulty for many. However, it otherwise has aged quite well and can be found on Nintendo Switch Online, so any brave challengers may want to consider giving it a whirl.
1 Jet Force Gemini
It’s frequently stated among fans of the Nintendo 64 that Jet Force Gemini is probably the most difficult game in the system’s entire library. Not necessarily because it requires too many heroic feats of dexterity or moments of impossible precision, although there is some of that in there. Rather, it’s more because of the ungodly requirements needed to make it from level to level.
Finding hidden items can be fun and challenging, but when players are asked to retread ground over and over and over, and some of the items are mind-bendingly well-hidden, the entertainment factor can degrade to pure unadulterated rage in a hurry.
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