Which Nintendo 64 Games Require an Expansion Pak?

Which Nintendo 64 Games Require an Expansion Pak?

Nintendo first released the Nintendo 64 console in June of 1996 with 4MB of RAM and it featured an upgradable memory slot on the front of the console for potential later use.  Competition in the console market heated up with the release of the Sega Dreamcast in November of 1998 which featured 16MB of memory onboard and improved graphics. Nintendo released the 4MB Expansion Pak in 1998 to double the available memory on the Nintendo 64 to 8MB.

The results of the Expansion Pak were immediate and noticeable in games that used the add-on, such as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron and Turok 2: Seeds of Evil.  The Expansion Pak boosted frame rate performance and screen resolution.  It also allowed the Nintendo 64 more room for texture data, which solved a problem with the Nintendo 64: Due to memory constrictions, the Nintendo 64 often stretched lower resolution textures over well-constructed models.

At first, the Expansion Pak was not required for games -- it was just an option to provide enhanced graphics. The aforementioned games, such as Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, were entirely playable without the Expansion Pak. The difference to the visuals when adding the Expansion maybe made it difficult to roll back to a Nintendo 64 without the booster, but the core gameplay did not change one bit. And that is the key to the Expansion Pak's success over the failure of the 32X. The Expansion Pak, which debuted at around $50 in stores during the holiday season of 1998, was not a requirement. It was just there to juice performance for gamers that decided to apply some of their gaming money to an enhancement instead of another game cartridge.

Over the next year, the Expansion Pak was used by a number of games to bolster visual presentation. This eventually turned into a selling point for many games. If you have an Expansion Pak already and are choosing between two games -- one that uses it and looks significantly better than the game that does not -- which do you choose?

Nintendo was smart to not require the Expansion Pak right away. It wasn't until late 1999 the Nintendo finally released a game that required the add-on to play: Donkey Kong 64. And then Nintendo did something even better -- it included the Expansion Pak in the first roll out of DK64 so no player was left behind. That is how you foster good will for an add-on. The 32X used its own series of games, splintering the audience for the add-on. Nintendo's approach was far more inclusive, waiting a year before ever thinking of making the memory booster essential.

The second (and only other) game that required the Expansion Pak was 2000's Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Majora's Mask did not include an Expansion Pak. By this point, the memory booster had been on sale for two years. Majora's Mask used the Expansion Pak to display more on-screen characters, push back the draw distance, and add extra effects and lighting that the Nintendo 64 could not otherwise handle. Could Majora's Mask been playable without the Expansion Pak? Perhaps, but any outrage over requiring an add-on to play this Zelda adventure was muted by the steps Nintendo took in the previous two years to foster adoption of the attachment. If you were a hardcore Nintendo 64 owner -- the kind that would nab Majora's Mask on its launch weekend -- chances were good you had already invested in the Expansion Pak sometime within the last two years.

The one notable misstep with the Expansion Pak is 2000's Perfect Dark. Technically, the game did not require the Expansion Pak, but without it, you missed out on a lot of content. In fact, Rare and Nintendo admitted readily that approximately 35-percent of the game is playable without the Expansion Pak, which includes the entire single-player campaign. Perfect Dark lagged behind its spiritual precursor, GoldenEye, by several million sales, moving 1.3 million units in America. Now, there is no empirical evidence that proves sales of Perfect Dark suffered due to the need for the Expansion Pak. In fact, it's more likely that Perfect Dark underperformed due to the sunset period of the Nintendo 64 in 2000 as generation churn occurred. But closing off over half of the game to players without the add-on couldn't have helped.

Games that require the Expansion Pak

Donkey Kong 64

The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask

Perfect Dark (Otherwise the majority of the game content is inaccessible)

Games that benefit from the Expansion Pak

007: The World is Not Enough

All-Star Baseball 2000

Armorines - Project S.W.A.R.M.

Army Men: Sarge's Heroes 2

Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness

Command and Conquer


Donald Duck: Goin' Quackers

Duke Nukem: Zero Hour

Excitebike 64

F-1 World Grand Prix II

Gauntlet Legends

Hybrid Heaven

Hydro Thunder

Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine

Indy Racing 2000

International Track & Field 2000

Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000

John Romero's Daikatana

Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest

Madden NFL 2001

Mega Man 64

Namco Museum 64

NFL Quarterback Club '98

NFL Quarterback Club '99

NFL Quarterback Club 2000

NFL Quarterback Club 2001

Nuclear Strike 64

Pac-Man: Maze Madness

Pokémon Stadium 2

Quake II

Rayman 2

Resident Evil 2


Road Rash 64

Roadsters Trophy

San Francisco Rush 2049

Shadow Man

South Park

Star Wars: Episode I Racer

Star Wars Episode I: Battle for Naboo

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron

Stunt Racer 64

Supercross 2000

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3

Top Gear Hyper-Bike

Top Gear Overdrive

Top Gear Rally 2

Turok 2: Seeds of Evil

Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion

Turok: Rage Wars

Vigilante 8

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