9 Underrated Nintendo Games That Deserve More Attention

Nintendo Nostalgia

 

There are many unknown games out there. Some have pleased critics and others haven’t so much, yet they often go unnoticed. I believe that there are so many games out there that deserve far more attention. In this list, you’ll see some titles that could be considered cult hits, and you’ll see some that you may dislike yourself – and that’s fine. I, however, love absolutely every one on this list. I highly recommend that you give all of the games you read about a chance, as they’ve been greatly overlooked by the industry (in my opinion). While I may personally favour some of them over others, you need to check all of them out and I recommend each and every one of them. The only parameters I have are that I have to have played the game and it has to be available on a Nintendo system. Note that PAL names are written first, with any NTSC different titles coming second. There are even a couple of big names in there, so I hope you enjoy reading! And who knows, maybe you’ll read about a great new game to put on your Christmas list? (Or you could buy some new games with some left over Christmas money)…

Star Fox: Assault (GameCube)

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I introduce to you the game that made reviews mostly worthless to me. It didn’t get poor reviews – absolutely not – yet this is the lowest rated entry in the Star Fox series. If people reading this know me, then you’ll be aware that I’m absolutely in love with Star Fox. Lylat Wars (Star Fox 64) is my favourite game on the Nintendo 64, and Star Fox: Assault is my favourite game on the GameCube. Don’t get me wrong, not all of it plays like a traditional on-rails shooter that the series is known for, but it handles land missions pretty damn well. Of the story’s ten levels, you’re bound to your Arwing in four of them – three of which are classic on-rails levels. These three levels come at the beginning, middle and end of the single player, so they’re fairly distributed. I know what all the die-hard fans of Star Fox are thinking, though. “Only thirty percent of it plays like Star Fox? Why should I play this?” Because that isn’t true, that’s why. In missions in which you’re supposedly bound to be on-foot, you’re often given the choice of also piloting your Arwing and/or Landmaster. Jumping from on the ground into a tank is certainly a satisfying shift, one that is enhanced once you’re able to fly around in your Arwing. I don’t just recommend this game to Star Fox fans, but also to fans of the action genre in general. Now, depending on your skill level, it can take under three hours to complete, but don’t let that put you off. Not only are there three difficulty levels, but it’s incredibly replayable, and the multiplayer extends the playtime greatly, if you’re into that sort of thing. With an orchestral soundtrack, perfect controls and a supporting voice acting cast that really do bring the characters to life, Star Fox: Assault is worth a slot in your GameCube collection.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day (Nintendo 64)

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Conker’s Bad Fur Day, mostly known for The Great Mighty Poo, an anthropomorphic opera singing mass of excrement, is rather difficult to get a hold of today. I’d actually like to stray away from what it’s famous for, as this game deserves much more credit for all of the other content it has on offer. Offering a sixteen hour long single player, there’s both a lot to see and do here. Conker the Squirrel is a foul-mouthed rodent with a drinking problem, and sees himself get into many a foray on his quest to return home. Along the way, you’ll meet several characters including Birdy the Scarecrow, Gregg the Grimm Reaper and Franky the Pitchfork, among many others. Bad Fur Day mixes many genres into one, including platforming, racing and shooting, yet manages to seamlessly blend them into a wonderful adventure. Uncommon at the time were cutscenes, which are plentiful here and all voiced. You can think of the cutscenes as your reward for completing a significant portion of the single player, because even for someone who is generally uninterested in stories within video games, I adore them. The most watchable aspect of these is the dialogue – where the game’s jokes are expressed the most. In memory, this is the only game that has intentionally made me laugh with the game as opposed to at it. You could argue that some of the jokes are a little stale over thirteen years later, but none of the enjoyment is lost. If you like pooing bats, swearing cogs, movie-spoofing, dinosaur-squishing adventures, then you should already be sold. Just watch out for the price tag, but don’t worry – it’s definitely worth it.

Rhythm Paradise / Rhythm Heaven (Nintendo DS)

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Not something that comes to mind when you hear the phrase “rhythm game”. Straying away from the traditional Guitar Hero-esque games, Rhythm Paradise (Rhythm Heaven) features fifty stages, all of which (minus one) utilize simple taps and flicks on the touchscreen of the DS. These levels open up a plethora of music and visual oddities, from stomping on turnips to clapping monkeys. I’ll leave you to discover most of the weirdness yourself. Of the fifty stages, ten of these are remixes – most will see you playing four or five minigames mixed together into one song. There are also a few extras in there, such as rhythm toys and endless games (something that’s kept me hooked for a while). These are unlocked via medals, obtained by doing well enough in a level to get a ‘Superb’ rank, giving you an incentive to both replay and perfect each rhythmic challenge. Not only do I adore the replayability, but this game actually does the rhythm genre a lot of justice. Each tap and flick actually does something to accompany the rhythm, which some rhythm titles seem to fail at. In fact, it does this so well that I can even play a lot of the levels without looking, given that it works on audio cues, as opposed to visual ones. And, yes, I have genuinely played with my eyes closed and succeeded, so there’s a goal for you. I wish there were more rhythm games in this fashion. Although this one was actually successful enough to see a sequel on the Wii, I just don’t see it get mentioned. It’s a big shame. But, if you are a fan of any sort of rhythm title, then I cannot recommend this enough. It’s not like you need any DK Bongos to play it, so you’re safe. Talking of the DK Bongos…

Donkey Kong Jungle Beat (GameCube)

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Ah, the DK Bongos: by far the best peripheral for any console, hands down. This pair of digital (and pretty ridiculous) bongos came with Donkey Konga, a game that would have made the list if there weren’t already two music-based games here. After two Donkey Konga entries had been released, Nintendo gave them another use – in an action platformer. If any company could make a platformer from some plastic drums, it would be Nintendo. Coming from the same team that developed Super Mario Galaxy came Donkey Kong Jungle Beat. This is actually a game I prefer to the reboot of the Donkey Kong Country series on Wii and Wii U. It looks visually similar, being in 2.5D form, but plays rather differently. Given the limitations of the DK Bongos, moves are restricted, but actually expand. Constantly tapping either the left or right bongos will move you in that direction, pressing both at the same time issues a jump and clapping stuns enemies and collects bananas in mid-air for you. However, from these moves come a variety of combos, meaning even more actions, including a ground pound, wall jump, backflip and several more. Combos can increase your banana count, which, in a similar way to the Sonic series, acts as your health. The more bananas you collect in the two levels of each ‘world’ will give you more health in the boss fight at the end. Some of these boss fights are against a form of mechanical elephant and a massive bird flying around above you, but the most satisfying are the one-on-one battle against other apes. These fights remind one of Punch-Out!!, making beating the hell out of another gorilla a tonne of fun. It’s not very long, but it definitely makes use of those perhaps underused DK Bongos. There is a re-release on Wii available, but the true experience of Jungle Beat is with the GameCube version, so make sure to pick it up.

Electroplankton (Nintendo DS)

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Something which many were made aware of thanks to Super Smash Bros. Brawl‘s Hanenbow stage, Electroplankton is an ill-known game, despite its appearance at E3 2005. Unfortunately, it was met with limited availability and publicity, combined with America and Europe having to wait eight and fifteen months respectively to play it from the original release date in Japan, meaning very few people bought it. Electroplankton is more of a music tool as opposed to a music or rhythm game. There are ten of these tools for you to mess around with, each creating different music. As you can’t save any data, every time you play, you’re essentially forced to come up with something different – but this isn’t a limitation in my eyes, as coming up with various tunes is a real time killer. Take Luminaria, for example. With this, you’re given four plankton and a screen full of arrows. Touching any of these plankton will send it round and it will follow the arrows around the screen, each producing a different note. The plankton move at different speeds, produce different sounds and the directions of the arrows can be changed and pointed in eight directions. This is probably the one I’ve personally spent most time with. You can discover the other nine in your own time – but don’t worry if you can’t pick up the full game on DS. Luckily for you, all of the ‘instruments’ have been released as DSiWare downloads, meaning all DSi and 3DS owners can download them all. There is absolutely no excuse to miss out on this if you’re a fan of music-based games, and this really is an underrated gem.

The Incredibles (Game Boy Advance)

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Uh-oh. A Game Boy Advance game based on a movie. I’ve got a lot of defending to do. I know that you’re probably thinking that this only made the list because I played it as a child, and you aren’t wrong. Games based on movies tend to fall short of anything creditworthy. But here’s the thing: this is actually a good, solid action title. Think something like Final Fight or Streets of Rage with an Incredibles aesthetic. There’s not too much I can say about it apart from that the majority of the game is a standard, surprisingly well executed beat ’em up. This isn’t the only gameplay, as you’ll play as Frozone and Dash in some sections, but you spend most of your time playing as Mr Incredible, beating up henchman, turrets and different iterations of Omnidroids. Being aimed at children, it isn’t too difficult, although there’s a handy password system to jump to any level you wish. It even features small cinematic style ‘cutscenes’ (screenshots) from the film, which tell the (admittedly useless) story, but it’s a nice little feature nonetheless. The focus is on the gameplay here, and it’s a fantastic little gem. You’ll have to take my word for it here, but don’t pass it up if you see it dead cheap somewhere. There’s never anything wrong with spending a few pennies on a game. If you like side-scrolling beat ’em ups and can spare a little bit of change, then there isn’t a reason why you shouldn’t play this. Never judge a book by its cover.

Wario World (GameCube)

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A 3D platformer featuring Wario – something that may turn many off at the very utterance of such a phrase. Wario World is a mix of 3D platforming and (another) beat ‘em up. The very basics are that you have to rescue Spritelings, which are scattered throughout the various levels you encounter. The amount of Spritelings you collect will give you a slightly different ending, resembling Luigi’s Mansion. You’ll need a minimum requirement of red diamonds – another collectible – to actually end the level, yet this is seldom a problem. It’s best that you like short games as there are just eight levels, plus four boss stages. Within the four worlds, there are two levels – a mini boss waits for you at the end of the second, although a bigger boss afterwards has its own level dedicated to itself. This means that, including the final boss, there are just thirteen levels to get through. You might think that completing it in one sitting isn’t hard to do, but I was spending over thirty minutes on each platforming section, simply because I wanted to. It’s great punching, pile driving and spinning the enemies round into each other, completing mini puzzles and exploring and the length does not detract from the experience. I mean, if you press down L, Wario will open his mouth and suck in coins near him. Keep pressing it and he’ll look like a fool. That should be reason enough to buy it. There are claims that this can be beaten in a day (but can’t a lot of games)? Wario World is one of those games where I just don’t care how long it lasted. I had fun, so I have no complaints. It took me about two weeks of on and off playing to finish, and it’s an experience that’s stuck with me, and one I hope you share with me.

42 All-Time Classics / Clubhouse Games (Nintendo DS)

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This is a collection of board, party and card game that’s kept me entertained in short bursts for years. Containing things like chess, checkers, hangman, ludo, darts, bowling… The list goes on. There’s even a Professor Layton style block sliding puzzle with many of its own levels to keep you entertained. I can definitely recommend this to those who like card games, as there are plenty available here (and, yes, that includes solitaire). I’m not into cards myself, but I’ll likely find myself playing Blackjack from time to time. Local multiplayer is a big point in favour of 42 All-Time Classics (Clubhouse Games), given that only one copy is needed. Although the selection for multiplayer is significantly less than the games available in single player, a lot of fun can be had with the ones that you can play together. To keep yourself even more entertained, Stamp Mode and Mission Mode exist, giving you certain (and sometimes difficult) tasks to perform. Stamp Mode will set you a small challenge and give you one to three stamps, depending on your performance. Completing portions of Stamp Mode will unlock you more games in single player and some stamps to use in the PictoChat-esque chat function for use in multiplayer. Mission Mode contains thirty missions for you to tackle, each one increasing in difficulty. I’ll leave it up to you to find out (or likely Google) what completing this nets you. I don’t really see why you should pass this up. Most titles that include many games in one fall flat, but there are forty-two to choose from here. I can guarantee that you’ll be entertained for a while with this – even if it you only play for a few minutes a week.

F-Zero X (Nintendo 64)

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Ah, F-Zero. One of Nintendo’s more underrated franchises. At time of writing, it’s been over a decade since Captain Falcon has starred in his own game. Sure, there was an F-Zero inspired track in Mario Kart 8’s first DLC pack, but it will never come close to what F-Zero achieves. Its N64 game is the second in the series – and it absolutely stomps the original. Technical limitations of the SNES meant that 3D tracks were impossible. Well, the N64 fixed that. And it managed to achieve at sixty frames per second. With thirty racers on-screen. In 1998. Sure, the graphics suffered a bit, but who cares? It’s all about the gameplay, and man this game proves it. The F-Zero series is notorious for high speed racing, with a focus on anti-gravity. Tracks can twist any direction, turn back on themselves or even be in cylindrical form. Think Mario Kart 8 but faster, harder and crazier. That’s ­F-Zero. The reason I’ve opted to choose this over F-Zero GX on the GameCube is for one reason: the X Cup. This is a mode that randomly generates tracks. That means there will be a different track every time you play. Some could be a flat circle, and others could be filled steep hills and sharp corners, often throwing the CPU, and incidentally, yourself, off the track. I’m known to replay games, but this really takes the cake for replay value. If this feature was in the GameCube sequel, it would genuinely be one of the best racers ever made. And anyone lucky enough to own the F-Zero X Expansion Kit, exclusive to Japan and being on the commercial flop add-on for the N64, the 64DD, can even create their own levels. There are regular cups to choose from, but I can’t stress enough how damn fun an unlimited amount of tracks is. Show this little series some love.

Why are you still reading? Go on eBay, Amazon, your local GAME or GameStop and see if they have any of these available. You need to play them, and make sure others are in the loop. But did I miss anything? Is there an underrated Nintendo game that I need to know of? Do let me know, because I’m likely to check it out. Just make sure you check these ones out, though.

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About The Author

Opinion and feature writer

Suckling upon the gaming teat of an N64 growing up, I'm now a gamer who spends thousands of hours a year gaming and writing. I love it.