A low-key legend returns

Wave Race 64 is back.

Back in ‘97 there was nothing else like it. Those remarkable 3D visuals, the spectacular environments, and the sheer joy of movement that Nintendo had always excelled at, now amplified by genuine analogue control. I am of course talking about Mario 64. But there was another game that launched around the same time, a slightly more low-key release, for which all of those things apply; Wave Race 64.

Understandably, in the early N64 days it was difficult for most games to step out from under Mario’s formidable shadow. Nintendo’s flagship title was a bonified game-changer, and deservedly stole the limelight from anything that came near it. But even though it remains a wonderful game to this day, I’m sure most people can agree that it has been bettered by at least one of the two Galaxy games and/or Odyssey in the years since its release.

Wave Race 64 has simply never been bettered. No, not even by its own GameCube sequel.

Unlike most games from that early 3D era, Wave Race is still just as impressive now as it was back then. In fact, as time marches on and still nothing has emerged to challenge it – nothing has matched that magical feeling of bobbing, weaving, and diving through actual water – Nintendo’s achievement becomes even more apparent. Wave Race is arguably even more impressive now than it was back then.

And so the news this week that it would be launching on the snappily-named Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack service brought a huge smile to my face. Game ownership and subscription services are a thorny and divisive subject covered a few times already in The Week in Games (and it would be lovely to have the option to buy these games individually), but right now I’m just happy to have easy access to one of my favourite – one of the best – racers I’ve ever played.

It may not be the new entry fans had hoped for – but an upscaled, portable Wave Race 64 will do very nicely indeed thank you. And just in time for the weekend, too.

This article is an extract from The Week in Games newsletter.

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