15 Best Japan-Only N64 Games Worth Checking OutThis post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something we may get a small commission at no extra cost to you. (Learn more).
Some games never make it out of Japan.
This has been true since the dawn of the gaming era, and it doesn’t seem like it’ll change anytime soon.
Of course, the Nintendo 64 is no exception.
Since its release in 1996, a grand total of 387 games were released for the system. Of those, a solid 85 never left the Land of the Rising Sun.
Join me on a trip to the far East of video games as we take a look at some of the better N64 titles we’d honestly (probably) learn Japanese just to play.
15. Neon Genesis Evangelion (1999)
An Evangelion game on the N64?
How had I never heard of this?
Well, it’s probably because the game kind of sucks.
I say “kind of” because I can’t help but love the fantastic visuals and the mere fact that it exists – but make no mistake, the gameplay is terrible.
The best part about this game is the opportunity to gawk at 3D models of your favorite EVA units and Angels.
It’s a game for the fans, but definitely not an entry point to the series. Yet it still gets a mention because just the fact that this exists is noteworthy.
14. Virtual Pro Wrestling 64 (1997)
WWF Wrestlemania 2000 was a fine wrestling game for American fans of the sport.
But it was hardly the best one in gameplay.
That accolade would go to the Japan-only Virtual Pro Wrestling series.
Instead of the flashy theatrics found in Wrestlemania, this game focuses on the technical aspects of the sport.
There are over 200 moves, and many possible combos for your Japanese wrestlers to perform.
You won’t find any big-name American wrestlers in it. But you can watch WWF recordings from the 90s if that’s what you’re looking for.
If you care more about gameplay, this is the way to go (if you can find a copy).
13. Super Robot Spirits (1998)
There were plenty of 2.5D fighters on the N64, but none had the all-star cast of Super Robot Spirits.
This game is ideal for the classic anime fan, especially if you’re into mecha.
It features robots from Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Chodenji Machine Voltes V, and Dancouga: Super Beast Machine God, among others.
The battle system is somewhat basic, but the robots look astounding – and their flashy special moves are a pleasure to watch.
12. Super Robot Wars 64 (1999)
If 2.5D fighters are not your thing, consider Super Robot Wars 64 – a strategy RPG featuring a massive cast of mechs from many famous series like Getter Robo, GoShogun, Mazinger, and Gundam.
This game features four primary campaigns, each of which can branch into different paths.
There are almost 100 missions to play through as you slowly unlock more units for your mecha army.
I’ll admit the gameplay is solid, but the story feels like an excuse to cram as many different mechs into the same screen.
I’m sure the mecha anime fiends out there won’t mind, though!
11. Custom Robo (1999)
Another franchise that got its start on the N64 before making it abroad was Custom Robo.
It plays on the universal childhood fantasy of our toys coming to life and playing out our dreams.
Much like its 2004 GameCube counterpart, the game focuses on dueling other kids and their robots to collect more parts for customization.
You’d also get what’s presumably their lunch money after beating them.
The game’s graphics are crisp for the N64, and it plays like a charm, although the soundtrack is all over the place.
If you can deal with obnoxious music, you can have a lot of fun with it.
10. Bomberman 64 (2001)
I know what you’re thinking.
“Hey, I’m pretty sure I played Bomberman 64 in English!”
Well, you’re not wrong. A game titled “Bomberman 64” was released internationally in 1997 – except in Japan, where it was called “Baku Bomberman”.
This small change left the Bomberman 64 name free for this fantastic 2D adventure to take in 2001.
It’s a more traditional take on the Bomberman formula, filled with classic bombing action and lots of fun mini-games.
The game features 4-player competitive multiplayer and a 2-player co-op mode.
If you can get your hands on it, you’ll love it to bits.
9. Doshin the Giant (1999)
I’ve always loved weird, somewhat mystical games like Doshin the Giant:
It’s a titan/god simulator where you play as the titular Doshin and choose whether you’ll help or hinder the people of Barudo Island.
Help them, and Doshin will grow from the love and faith poured on him by the local tribes.
Act like a spiteful god, and their hate will turn Doshin into Jashin – his dark, evil counterpart.
You may have played this game on the GameCube when it was re-released in 2002.
If so, you’ll be surprised to learn it was originally a launch title for the Nintendo 64DD – a peripheral that let Nintendo’s iconic machine read 64MB optical discs.
Regrettably, this attachment never really caught on. And like the titles in our ranking here, it never made it abroad.
8. Bakuretsu Muteki Bangai-O (1999)
I love classic side-scrolling shoot-em-ups, and Bakuretsu Muteki Bangai-O is one of the best on the N64.
In it, you fly a mech – the Bangai-O – through over 40 levels full of collectibles to pick up and enemies to destroy.
The more enemies you blow up, the more score you’ll get.
You get to choose between playing as a boy, whose primary weapon are missiles, and a girl, who wields lasers to great effect.
The controls are solid, and it actually lets you fire in all eight directions, which was in no way the norm back in the day.
7. Puyo Puyo~n Party (1999)
The Puyo Puyo series is Tetris’ hyper-Japanese cousin.
While several entries have been released outside of Japan, most have stayed in the Land of the Rising Sun – including Puyo Puyo~n Party.
The name may suggest a happy-go-lucky entry in the series. But this title switches things up by doing the contrary:
It introduces a serious and somewhat dark storyline, and features badass character designs straight out of a JRPG.
If you ignore the story, you don’t really need to know the language to enjoy Puyo Puyo~n Party.
The four-player multiplayer is one of its main draws, and its puzzle gameplay is timeless.
6. Sin and Punishment (2000)
It’s the year 2007, and humanity is facing a worldwide famine of unprecedented proportions.
To combat it, humans create a new species to use as food – but stupidly make them smart enough to revolt.
That’s the setting for the best on-rails shooter on the N64 – Sin and Punishment.
You thought the famine was bad?
Try inter-species war.
Other than sleek graphics and fun gameplay, the game is memorable for making you hold the controller “wrong”, meaning your left thumb is on the D-Pad while the right one moves the joystick.
5. Wonder Project J2 (1996)
Anime and visual novel fans who don’t mind reading translated scripts will find a lot to love in Wonder Project J2, a life simulator with some of the most beautiful visuals on the N64.
The game follows Josette, a robotic gal who communicates with the player by asking her pet robot bird Yes/No questions.
Your answers to her queries will influence her personality and affect her decision-making as the story unfolds – though she won’t always listen to your advice.
The story starts out innocent enough, but takes a turn for the dramatic near the halfway mark.
And if you like it, be sure to check out the original Wonder Project J on the SNES.
4. SimCity 64 (2000)
All of us outside Japan missed quite a few N64 games because of our lack of N64DD.
SimCity 64 was also dependent on the peripheral, and it’s a real fun game for SimCity fans.
This Japan-only city-builder was developed by HAL Laboratory as a successor to the SNES version of SimCity.
Among other things, we see the return of the city advisor Dr. Wright.
What’s so interesting about this game is how different it looks compared to SimCity 2000.
This game employs hybrid 2D and 3D graphics, and introduces stuff like pedestrian-level free-roaming and a day/night cycle – things we’d have to wait until SimCity 4 to get in the West.
SimCity 64 is as obscure as it is cool.
3. Animal Forest (2001)
True fans of the Animal Crossing franchise will know that, while we first saw it on the GameCube, the original game was developed for the Nintendo 64.
This version of the game was released as Doubutsu no Mori (or “Animal Forest”) only in Japan.
The innovative social simulation aspects were already there – as was literally everything else.
Even the graphics were mostly identical.
Still, there’s no reason to feel cheated here. The one thing the GameCube brought to the table – its internal clock – gave us some of its most memorable aspects.
But if you wanna check out the N64 version it may be worth your time as a hardcore fan, as there are some exclusive differences.
2. Densha de Go! 64 (1997)
It’s possible to travel through most of Japan by train.
Railroads were vital in the country’s industrialization after the Meiji Restoration, and the Japanese seem to be quite fond of locomotives.
That’s one of the reasons why Densha de Go! 64 – a train-driving simulator – was such a massive hit.
It’s Taito’s second best-selling game after Space Invaders, and it even got into Famitsu’s Gold Hall of Fame for its enormous success.
Game designer Akira Saito actually traveled the country by train to fine-tune the in-game depictions of the authentic Japanese train lines you can access in the game.
It also came packaged with a special controller that mimics real-life train controls.
Anyone looking for an authentic Japanese experience on the N64 should take a look into this title. It may seem odd, but it’s a Japan exclusive that’s truly a sign of its time.
1. Rakugakids (1998)
If you ever thought, “Scribblenauts really needs a 2D fighter spin-off”, well you’re in for a treat.
Rakugakids translates roughly to “doodle kids,” a reference to its memorable doodle-like art style.
The game features epic battles between various unique characters based on children’s drawings, including a heroic astronaut, an anthropomorphic cat, and a bear with mounted tank guns fittingly named “Beartank”.
The game may look childish.
But its fighting mechanics are actually pretty deep.
The special moves and super combos look fantastic in the game’s hand-drawn art style. So check it out if you have the time, you likely won’t be disappointed.