The Nintendo 64, the gaming system that blew the doors open to bring 3D graphics to the masses, is 20 years old today. Can you believe it? There were countless great games for the N64, many of them driving games—including all-time best iteration of a game about cartoon characters lobbing turtle shells at each other from go-karts.
If you’re not calling Mario Kart 64 the best driving game on the platform, you are wrong. That joint was the ultimate wholesome social lubricant for everybody from middle schoolers to college kids and preteens killing time with grandparents. Accessible, fun, pretty, and enduring—dust off that enormous TV in your basement and plug it in tonight and I bet you’ll be all smiles all over again in no time.
That said, there were some great and terrible-but-endearing driving games on Nintendo 64 that a lot of us loved too.
Crusin’ USA, one of the console’s original titles, mixed a soul-crushingly repetitive soundtrack (“Redline Shuffle” still haunts my dreams) with a grossly simplistic interface that resulted in a somehow charming 2-and-a-half dimensional driving experience.
I remember the graphics in Automobili Lamborghini blowing my mind about two decades ago, and getting stoked on the game all over again years later when I realized you could unlock other makes with cheat codes.
Another one that was near and dear to me was MRC: Multi-Racing Championship. Generally panned by critics it was frustrating, not all that well animated and limited in scope despite the name but the intro video hooked me so hard I barely noticed and wasted solid days of my life on it.
The last N64 driver I have to shout out is San Francisco Rush, which I remember liking solely because it was the first time I’d seen cars show damage after crashing in a car game. The cars were all “near knock-offs” that you could recognize, but were altered just enough to avoid copyright claims.
Great skid marks, a hilariously bad soundtrack, and those wonderful explosions when you really wrecked! One of the sequels, San Francisco Rush 2, (not San Francisco Rush 2049 as I originally thought) had this amazing jump-level but wasn’t quite as pioneering as the original.
All these videos are making me glad I still have a Nintendo 64. Somewhere. Mom’s attic I think. Shoot, I sure hope it survived my parent’s home renovation.
The nostalgia’s strong for me here since I basically grew up with Nintendo, having stayed loyal until you could buy a used PlayStation 2 for reasonable money.
But now it’s your turn to enlighten me on your favorites and why they’re better than mine. Is anybody’s N64 still hooked up and ready to go?