Incredibly, there are only 196 Japanese N64 games, meaning the country only received just over half of all 387 games released on the system.
Out of these games, a whopping 85 of them are exclusive to that region, meaning there are there are a lot of N64 games that many of us in North America and Europe never got to experience.
We’ve compiled our list of the best Japanese N64 games based not only on how fun they are, but also how accessible they are to a non-Japanese speaking audience.
N64 Today’s 8 best Japanese N64 games
Susume! Taisen Puzzle Dama: Tōkon! Marutama Chō
Released in 1998 as part of the long-running Taisen Puzzle-Dama series, Susume! Taisen Puzzle Dama: Tōkon! Marutama Chō is a head-to-head battle-puzzle game.
The gameplay is similar to the Puyo-Puyo series: coloured balls with faces fall from the top of the screen, and matching three or more of the same colour will clear them. Some balls are sealed in clear boxes, and you must complete a match next to them to release them — paving the way for some serious combos.
Chaining up a combo will dump sealed boxes on your opponent’s screen, which typically results in the combos getting even bigger until one player can’t clear their stack in time.
Susume! Taisen Puzzle Dama: Tōkon! Marutama Chō stands out as a result of its colourful and vibrant visuals, and superb 2D animations. There’s a wacky cast of characters to choose, each of whom will jump around the screen in joy or wince in despair, depending on how well the game is going.
While it’s straightforward to play, it’s easy to see why Susume! Taisen Puzzle Dama: Tōkon! Marutama Chō was never localised. Almost every female character removes their clothes as they chain big combos – even the baby transforms into a busty woman in a bathing suit!
While such content will no doubt encourage seedier players to master the game, it’s fair to say that others simply won’t find it appropriate.
Densha de Go! 64
Densha de Go! 64 (Let’s Go By Train! 64) is a train simulator developed by Taito that offers a wagon load of strictly on-the-rails fun.
The game gives you the opportunity to drive a variety of trains along recreated Japanese train routes, such as the famous Yamanote Line.
The game is compatible with a bespoke peripheral, the Densha de Go! 64 train controller, which mimics actual train controls (albeit heavily simplified) and features five speed and eight brake settings, as well as a neat little area to place a pocket watch.
Being a simulation game, Densha de Go! 64 demands impeccable timekeeping, accuracy and adherence to the rules of the railroad.
It really cannot be understated just how hard this game is, primarily because it will punish you for even the tiniest of mistakes (such as arriving a single second late into a station).
The game does feature a lot of Japanese text, but it’s relatively easy to tell what you need to do by looking at the signals and recommended speeds (which are shown in numbers). You can play the game in English on your N64 console by using an EverDrive 64.
It’s not for the faint-hearted, and may even feel like a second job at times, but there’s really nothing else like it on the N64.
Sin & Punishment
Released late in the N64’s life, Sin & Punishment quickly became a cult classic for importers of Japanese N64 games. It proved so popular, in fact, that Nintendo eventually released the game in the West on its Wii Virtual Console in 2007 (and then again on the Wii U eShop in 2015).
Co-developed by Treasure and Nintendo, Sin & Punishment is a stylish rail shooter set in a dystopian future.
In response to a global famine, humans bred creatures known as Ruffians to serve as a food source. The only problem is that they’ve proliferated beyond control, and now an armed force tries to stop them – all while heavily oppressing the people of Japan.
To be frank, Sin & Punishment’s story is barmy and hard to follow, but it doesn’t matter when the gameplay is so superb.
Playing as Saki or Airan, you must run and gun your way through a range of stunning stages, shooting down hordes of enemies and bosses. You can even perform a melee strike on enemies that get too close or use it to deflect incoming projectiles.
Sin & Punishment is easily one of the best Japanese N64 games, and it’s a shame it never received an NTSC/PAL release on the N64. Thankfully, navigating the game’s menus is easy, and the voice acting is also entirely in English.
Puyo Puyo~n Party
Western audiences have already had some exposure to the Puyo Puyo series, the most recent occasion being the release of crossover game Puyo Puyo Tetris. Sadly, neither of the two N64 Puyo Puyo games, Puyo Puyo Sun 64 and Puyo Puyo~n Party made their way out of Japan.
Puyo Puyo~n Party is a battle-puzzle game for up to four players. Gooey blobs (Puyos) fall from the top of the screen; match four or more and they disappear. By stacking Puyos a certain way, you can create combos by clearing one matching group and making the others fall into place.
Doing this will fill your opponent’s screen with junk, making it more difficult for them to clear their own Puyos and increasing your chances of winning.
We’ve chosen Puyo Puyo~n Party over its prequel Puyo Puyo Sun 64 for our list of best Japanese N64 games primarily because the speed of gameplay is slower. If you want a faster paced game, however, then you can’t go wrong with the first game either!
Bakuretsu Muteki Bangai-O
Developed by Treasure, the same studio behind Mischief Makers and Sin & Punishment, Bakuretsu Muteki Bangai-O is a 2D side-scrolling shoot ’em up. Supposedly, only 10,000 copies were ever released, making this one of the rarest N64 games.
Playing as siblings Riki and Mami, you take control of Bangai-O, a humanoid mecha, to do battle with the Cosmo Gang – villains whose most egregious crime is contraband fruit.
Riki can fire homing missiles when piloting Bangai-O, whereas Mami fires projectiles that bounce off walls and then home in on enemies if close enough. Knowing when to switch between the two pilots is often the key to beating the game’s 44 stages; it’s about more than just shooting enemies.
Bangai-O is a visual tour de force, and frequently dazzles you with an overabundance of bullet hell.
Holding the R button charges a special attack; activate it just as enemy projectiles are about to hit you and you’ll unleash a stunning 360-degree torrent of shots that will obliterate almost everything on screen. It’s simply glorious, and for all its supposed power the N64 clearly struggles during these moments – oddly making it all the more satisfying.
Bangai-O features minimal menu text and options, and you don’t need to understand the story to enjoy the fast-paced and overwhelming gameplay.
Ucchannanchan no Honō no Challenger: Denryū Iraira Bō
Based on a segment from a Japanese TV show that aired in the ’90s, Ucchannanchan no Honō no Challenger: Denryū Iraira Bō is best described as a video game version of a wire maze game.
You must guide a metal rod from one end of an obstacle course to the other without touching anything along the way.
Devilishly tricky corners, moving obstacles and a gruelling time limit make Ucchannanchan no Honō no Challenger: Denryū Iraira Bō a remarkably tough game.
It doesn’t help that there’s a Japanese commentator shrieking and yelling in excitement as you’re trying to make it to the end.
It may not look like much, but the game does make great use of the N64’s analog control stick to offer super precise control.
There are a number of courses to beat, and you can even take on a friend in a head-to-head versus mode.
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2: Ōdō Keishō
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2: Ōdō Keishō shuns the over-the-top nature of its American counterpart, instead offering a more conventional Japanese wrestling experience.
The game shares the same game engine as WWF WrestleMania 2000, but features an entirely different roster of wrestlers (All Japan Pro Wrestling) and a wealth of moves not found in other N64 wrestling games.
Virtual Pro Wrestling 2: Ōdō Keishō has garnered a cult following in the West ever since it released in 2000, and is still popular today with a small, yet dedicated fanbase.
If you’re familiar with N64 wrestling games then chances are you’ll get on just fine with Virtual Pro Wrestling 2: Ōdō Keishō, despite the menus being entirely in Japanese.
You can, however, get hold of a partially complete English patch, although you’ll need an EverDrive 64 to use it on console.
F-Zero X Expansion Kit
It doesn’t technically qualify as a game in its own right, but F-Zero X Expansion Kit deserves a mention because it makes F-Zero X even more amazing than it already is.
Released in 2000 for the ill-fated 64DD (a disk drive add-on for the N64 that was only released in Japan), F-Zero X Expansion Kit adds 12 new tracks, a track editor and the option to create your own machine. It also features new music tracks, including a cover of Mario Kart 64‘s Rainbow Road for F-Zero X’s version of the same track.
Edit Cup enables you to put six of your custom tracks into their own cup. While the track editor features a good range of options, the vehicle editor limits you to selecting from a list of pre-defined parts and decals.
Getting hold of a copy of F-Zero X Expansion Kit is tricky, due to it only ever being released in Japan and in relatively small numbers.
Not only that, but the 64DD hardware itself is very rare, with supposedly around only 15,000 units ever being made available to consumers. Even if you do find both of these, expect to pay a considerable amount of money for them.
If you’re not fussed about having the real deal, then you’ll be pleased to know that a hacked ROM of F-Zero X Expansion Kit exists, and runs perfectly on an EverDrive 64 without requiring a 64DD. There’s even an English language version.