3rd party N64 Games That Didn’t Suck Volume 1: Beetle Adventure Racing!

Nintendo 64 Beetle Adventure Racing Front Cover

Okay hold up…

I originally wrote this and published it on 1up in 2009. You may have seen a link to that post in the “N64TPEDS” section that’s gone now. 1up (or at least 1up’s original links) is starting to disappear, so I said I’d one day re-post this series (along with another one) here on WordPress.

I don’t think this is going to be a regularly scheduled thing though. I’m just putting this up now because I honestly couldn’t figure out anything I could write an interesting blog about today. You’ll see the other volumes show up on such days in the future and who knows, if I ever have time to play some more N64 games I could definitely add new entries to the series.

Foreword (2009)

Most people think the Nintendo 64 had atrocious, nay, nonexistent third party support.  Many who reminisce about the N64 mainly just go over how they sold theirs in early 1997 and switched to PlayStation for the remainder of that console generation, periodically borrowing N64s whenever GoldenEye or Zelda came out.

For someone who stuck exclusively with the N64 from 1996 to 1999, the story was a little different.

Sure it sucked looking in at all the games that went to the PlayStation like Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, and everything in-between.  That doesn’t mean we just sat there and played the same five games for three years though.

Believe it or not, there is actually quite a bit of third party content on the N64 I remember having hours and hours of fun with – and most of it was exclusive to that system.  The quality of those games compared to what was on the Playstation doesn’t really matter, what matters is people enjoyed them.  I don’t think the N64’s game library quite deserves to be written off as just Nintendo’s games sitting atop a barren wasteland.

Somewhere along the line I got the idea for doing blogs going over the third party N64 games I enjoyed the most, just to try and prove the system wasn’t completely worthless outside Mario and Zelda.  I don’t know how many parts this series is going to have but I already have quite a few games planned.  Maybe I’ll run into others who enjoyed some of these games and have suggestions.

Actual Post

Beetle Adventure Racing! is one of those games a fan might think no one else played. It’s that obscure. Actually, most of the games that fall under this “third party N64 library” probably fit that description.

Trying to explain the concept behind Beetle Racing makes you realize how freaking ridiculous it is. Oh the “Adventure Racing” part makes sense: It’s a racing game where you can take all kinds of action-filled alternate paths where fun, dynamic things start happening. It’s somewhere in-between a standard car racing game and what goes on in today’s Mario Kart games. But with only Volkswagen Beetles for some reason.

To this day I still don’t know if Beetle Racing was some kind of marketing tool from Volkswagen, or just made by some guys whose minds we can’t even begin to fathom.  Are they telling us that a Beetle can survive anything short of being smashed into the side of an Apache helicopter?  What makes things even more suspicious is apparently there was an Australian release called HSV Adventure Racing!.

Beetle Racing introduces itself like an advertisement or opening for some kind of Saturday Night Live derivative, just with cars, like a comedic version of Top Gear or something (well, even more comedic).  The game advertises its gameplay features with stock words like “Thrills,” “Spills,” and “Chills.”  I think this is the only game that’s ever directly told me that I was going to have fun.

Through the intro sequence, the involvement of beetles, the gameplay concept, and the commentary (that I’m not sure takes itself seriously), what’s most unnerving about Beetle Racing is there’s no storyline or “setting” to back any of this up. It’s like a world entirely populated by sentient Volkswagens.  Everything is just there to set up a tone for the game itself – a very fun and still very well-made game.

Beetle Racing in most respects is your basic arcade racing game.  There is no-holds-barred racing and there are powerups like speed boosts.  The difference is a whole lot of emphasis is on finding the various shortcuts hidden on each track.  On anything but the easiest courses you pretty much have to master the shortcuts if you want to win.

Back in 1999, finding and experiencing a lot of the shortcuts actually was pretty thrilling.  You’d go down a road or across a bridge normally, and then later find a way to fly right over it and past a helicopter – or through the buildings lining the streets.  That thrill is probably what made me spend hours trying to discover everything on every track.

Playing Beetle Racing is kinda like trying to find the best way through each level in Mirror’s Edge.  The closest equivalent I can think of to this game is actually Hydro Thunder in terms of the way the vehicles treat their environment.  Beetle Racing even has a “teleport” function that put you back on the main track with a press of the L button if you get stuck.  That for me solidified it as a sort of experimental racing game if you will.

The last little tidbit I enjoyed back in the day was what I believe was the final unlockable car – a police car that would cause AI cars to stop with its siren.  I think I just Game Sharked my way to that car in order to win everything.

What spurred the inclusion of Beetle Racing on this list was actually my randomly finding the game at a Play N’ Trade for less than $10.  To me it was one of those things you just snap up on sight as memories flood back in a “holy shit I remember that game!” moment.  That’s how a few other games got on this list too.

In today’s terms though, what any new player would get out of Beetle Racing is debatable.  Compared to a lot of arcade stuff of recent this game actually still seems pretty tightly designed.  They put enough work into the track layouts for them to actually hold up.  Otherwise though, it might’ve been one of those “you had to have been there,” kind of things.


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