For me, puzzle games are often some of the most replay-able and addictive games in my collection. Whether the goal is to achieve a high score or to defeat an onscreen opponent, I can get absorbed in these delectable games for hours on end. In this article, we're going to take a look at all of the puzzle games released for the Nintendo 64 in North America. Although I've limited this list to just games that are solely focused on puzzle gameplay, there are certainly more games out there that feature puzzle elements that we won't be looking at.
Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition
First up we have Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition. I've always been a big fan of the Bust-A-Move games and this early entry in the series is an excellent slab of puzzling madness. This series is also known as Puzzle Bobble and it's all about shooting bubbles into the play area so you can try and match three or more of the same color.
Like most Bust-A-Move games, this one offers two different modes of play. The first one is Puzzle Mode where you play through a variety of levels until you reach the end. There's some replay value here because after each batch of levels, you can select your next destination, so it will take a few playthroughs to see all of the puzzles. The objective in this mode is to simply clear the screen before any of the bubbles reach the cutoff line.
The second mode is a traditional Versus Mode that's found in other games like Puyo Puyo and Super Puzzle Fighter. As you make matches, you'll cause more bubbles to appear on your opponent's side and once a player has a bubble reach the cutoff point, the match is over. For this mode, you can play against the computer in a 12 round "story mode" of sorts or against a friend in split-screen action.
Even though this is an early entry in the Bust-A-Move series, it's still a lot of fun. I've played quite a few games in the series over the years and truth be told, I find little variation between each entry, but they're always a joy to play. This particular version was released for a variety of systems and while I may prefer the Sega Saturn controller for a game like this, the N64 release is a still a solid puzzle game.
Well, everything I just said about Bust-A-Move 2: Arcade Edition applies to Bust-A-Move '99. Despite the name, this is actually an enhanced version of Bust-A-Move 3. The vanilla release of Bust-A-Move 3 was released exclusively for the Sega Saturn, but Taito would later release an enhanced version for other systems, including the Nintendo 64. This release is also known as Puzzle Bobble 3 DX and Bust-A-Move 3 DX.
Naming weirdness aside, this one is loaded with classic Bust-A-Move gameplay. It has the Puzzle and Versus modes from the previous game, but also adds in some new modes to extend the replay value even further. One cool thing about the N64 version is that it supports up to four players. As far as I know, the other releases of Bust-A-Move 3 only supported two players, so that's definitely something to keep in mind if you're looking to play some local multiplayer with this one.
Out of the two Bust-A-Move games on the N64, I'd probably go with this one just because it has more content in general, but they're both excellent choices if you like the series.
Charlie Blast's Territory
Charlie Blast's Territory is an odd release for a variety of reasons. For starters, it may not seem like it, but it's the sequel to an older game called Bombuzal, which was also released in North America as Ka-Blooey for the Super Nintendo. In between Bombuzal and Charlie Blast's Territory though is a game for the original PlayStation called The Bombing Islands.
Charlie Blast's Territory is essentially a rebuilt version of The Bombing Islands that features a different graphical style, characters, and story, while also making some changes to the core gameplay. That in and of itself isn't that odd, but here's the thing...Charlie Blast's Territory was released in 1999 in North America, while The Bombing Islands wouldn't arrive until 2001. Aside from both games being published by Kemco, there's not a whole lot to relate the two games based on their artwork and it's always struck me as an odd way handle the two releases.
In any case, let's talk a bit about the gameplay here. Charlie Blast's Territory is definitely a unique puzzle game for the Nintendo 64. The general idea is that you need to blow up all of the bombs on each level, but the catch is you can only light the fuse for one of them. That means you'll need to push various objects around the map to chain the explosions together. Of course, that's easier said than done considering the movement limitations your character has and the obstacles that will be strewn about.
It sort of reminds me of box-pushing games like Sokoban, but yet it's quite different once the game throws more challenges at you. Ultimately though, I was a little disappointed in this one. The presentation seemed rather lackluster, which isn't a huge deal for a puzzle game, but this one just felt a little clunky overall. Aesthetically, I prefer The Bombing Islands and I'd probably recommend that one if you're interested in trying one of these games out. One nice thing about Charlie Blast's Territory is that it has a four-player mode, whereas The Bombing Islands was single player only. This isn't an awful game by any means, but it's probably my least favorite puzzle game for the Nintendo 64.
Dr. Mario 64
Next up we have my personal favorite puzzle game for the N64: Dr. Mario 64. I consider the original Dr. Mario game to be an absolute classic puzzle game and this N64 sequel features the same core gameplay while also pumping in a number of enhancements.
The biggest change from the original game is that there are a variety of different play modes. Classic Mode is essentially the original game, but you also have a Story Mode, Flash Mode, Marathon Mode, and Score Attack Mode. Story Mode is a fun diversion since you can play as both Dr. Mario and Wario, each of which has a hidden character that can be unlocked.
Even though I enjoy playing Dr. Mario games by myself, there's no question that they're some of my favorite multiplayer games. And Dr. Mario 64 absolutely delivers in the multiplayer department. The best part about Dr. Mario 64's multiplayer is that it supports up to four players. If you thought Dr. Mario on the NES could get intense, just wait until you've played a four player battle. The game even offers multiplayer options beyond the Classic Mode just in case your group wants to change things up a bit. Oh and you can also play a standard Versus Mode against a computer opponent if you need to get some practice in.
Magical Tetris Challenge
The original Tetris was a massive success and the 1990s brought about an onslaught of different games under the Tetris label. Some of these games really shook up the formula and others stuck closer to the gameplay found in the original Tetris. Magical Tetris Challenge falls under the latter category...mostly. At a glance, this game looks like old school Tetris with Disney characters slapped on top of it. And for the most part, that's exactly what it is.
The game offers options for playing a more traditional round of Tetris, either by yourself or against an opponent. But what I really like about this game is the Magical Tetris mode that shakes things up a bit by introducing a variety of new and bizarre puzzle pieces. Some of these pieces are very unusual shapes and others take up a large amount of space. They can really catch you off guard if you're used to the standard set of Tetris shapes, but I thought they were a fun addition and helped give the game even more flavor beyond the Disney characters.
Even though Disney games are generally geared towards a younger audience, I thought this one was actually rather challenging in the main Story Mode. The AI can be ruthless at times and it took me a little while to gain my footing with the new shapes and adjust to the speed of the game. I'm by no means a Tetris expert, but it put up a much stiffer challenge than I expected, which was a pleasant surprise.
In addition to the solid single player experience, there's also a two player mode that can provide even more fun if you have some puzzle friends willing to give it a shot. Overall, this is a great and underrated version of Tetris that I'd recommend to any fan of the series.
The New Tetris
Next up we have The New Tetris, which isn't exactly "new" anymore. This name was actually kind of odd even in 1999 when this game was released since there had been new versions of Tetris released nearly every year since the late '80s.
Anyways, The New Tetris follows very closely to the core gameplay found in the original Tetris. The primary game mode is the standard Marathon mode found in most Tetris games. Additionally, you have Ultra mode, which has you racing against the clock to clear 150 lines as fast as you can and also Sprint mode, which is a three minute race to see how many lines you can clear.
The New Tetris has a few handy features that are commonplace now, but were considered new in 1999, such as a ghost piece, being able to store a puzzle piece, and a preview for upcoming pieces. This version also introduces the concept of creating silver and gold squares to earn a line multiplier and increasing the overall depth of the puzzle experience.
Although it might seem a little bare-bones with only three modes, The New Tetris makes up for it by offering some intense four-player battles. I could be wrong, but I think this was the first four-player Tetris game released in North America. Both Tetris 64 for Nintendo 64 and Tetris 4D for Dreamcast featured four-player modes, but neither of those were released outside of Japan.
The New Tetris may not seem like much of an evolution at first glance, but this is a rock-solid Tetris game that's available exclusively for the Nintendo 64 and much like Magical Tetris Challenge, I would recommend it to any fan of the series.
Pokémon Puzzle League
I was a few years outside of the target demographic when the Pokémon craze hit North America in the late '90s and I must admit I've never actually finished a mainline Pokémon game as of this writing. In fact, Pokémon Puzzle League was the first Pokémon game I ever played. Despite the Pokémon assets, this game is built upon another Nintendo series called Panel de Pon in Japan. The series made its debut here in North America as Tetris Attack for the Super Nintendo and Pokémon Puzzle League features similar gameplay, but introduces a variety of new game modes.
The main mode is Stadium mode and it's presented as a series of battles between Pokémon trainers. There's a single player option that leads you through a story, plus a two-player battle mode. Outside of the Stadium modes, the game is loaded with other options such as an endless mode, multiple training modes, a speed run of sorts, a series of predetermined puzzles, and a line clear game against Team Rocket.
As I mentioned before, this game is based on the Panel de Pon series and if you've never played one of those games before, this is a great place to get started. This series is a little different from your standard "falling block" puzzle game since blocks actually rise from the bottom of the screen instead of dropping from the top...until you get attacked by your opponent, then they'll start dropping from the top. You control a cursor that always selects two blocks within the same row and you can swap them at anytime. By doing this, you'll eventually make matches of 3 to 5 blocks and hopefully trigger combos to help clear out your board. The concept is a little different from games like Tetris and Puyo Puyo, but it's easy to pick up and play.
I should also mention there was a sister release called Pokémon Puzzle Challenge for Game Boy Color that was also based on Panel de Pon. This version featured a different set of game modes and pulled in a separate set of characters, so it's worth checking out if you're a fan of the N64 release.
Although this is essentially just Panel de Pon with Pokémon assets, Nintendo did a great job of driving home the Pokémon theme, though I suspect it was applied simply to try and sell more copies. But hey, that's fine because the core gameplay here is a lot of fun and the aesthetics will be a nice bonus if you're a Pokémon fan.
Next up we have the third and final Tetris game for the Nintendo 64 on our list. Unlike the first two we looked at, Tetrisphere deviates heavily from the classic Tetris formula. Instead of having a 2D area constantly filling up with falling blocks, you have a 3D sphere that you can rotate around while looking for ways to match your current puzzle piece.
The main game mode is called Rescue Mode and instead of clearing lines, you're essentially drilling into the aforementioned sphere to rescue a robot that's trapped inside. To rescue the little guys, you'll need to match up the puzzle pieces you're given with those that are already in the sphere. If you make a mistake by dropping a piece where it doesn't match anything, you'll get a strike against you. Once you get three, then your game is over. Making matches alone isn't terribly challenging since there aren't very many types of puzzle pieces and you're able to move things around slightly. The real challenge here is that you have a time limit. If you don't drop your puzzle piece before the timer runs out, then it will be dropped wherever your cursor happens to be, which is almost always not what you want.
The game does a good job of easing you into things by gradually ramping up the difficulty. But by the time you get towards the end, you'll need to make placement decisions in a matter of seconds and it ends up getting rather nerve-racking.
There are some other modes, including a Puzzle mode with predetermined layouts for you to solve and a Vs. mode for two-player battles. Tetrisphere is a great option if you're looking for a challenging and unique puzzle game. It's also exclusive to the Nintendo 64 and one of the more affordable games on this list, so it's definitely worth checking out.
The last game on our list is another unique puzzle game for the N64. Instead of a standard area for placing puzzle pieces, Wetrix provides a plot of land and then gives you different shaped pieces that will either raise or lower the aforementioned land. The idea behind manipulating the land is that you're trying to build walls to contain water that will start dropping after a brief introductory period. As you build up the land, you'll inevitably create different sections, which results in separate lakes that will help boost your score. Later on you'll start seeing fireballs which will evaporate some of the water and thus score you some points.
Although it seems easy enough at the beginning, Wetrix quickly becomes a race against time since if you let water run off the edges of the map, you'll fill up a meter and then it's game over. And just when you think you have things under control, the game will hand you a bomb that you have to drop on your map that will create a hole where water will quickly drain into.
I've been playing Wetrix games for almost 20 years now and I've never really been any good at them. I can appreciate them for being unique, but I'm definitely more of a traditional "falling blocks" kinda gamer. Wetrix does offer a few different game modes, including a two-player mode and it might be worth a look if you're interested in something completely different from the standard puzzle game format. In addition to the original game we're looking at here, there's also an enhanced version on the Dreamcast called Wetrix+, as well as a full-blown sequel called Aqua Aqua on the PlayStation 2.
Well, that about wraps it up. The N64 may not have the largest library out there, but it has a really nice collection of puzzle games, including several excellent exclusive titles. I hope this has been helpful for you puzzle fans out there!