One of the most critically panned games ever is Superman: The New Superman Adventures, more commonly referred to as “Superman 64.” The Nintendo 64 game starring the most famous superhero suffered from abysmal graphics, terrible controls, and poor mission structure. While fans of Clark Kent’s superhero persona were let down, a nine-year-old kid from New York couldn’t get enough of it. In 1999, Superman was one of my favorite games at the time. When I was younger, my parents let me buy one game every month. I vividly remember going to Toys “R” Us, looking through the glass display, and freaking out that there was a Superman game. Looking at my mom, I pointed at the box, and we went home. Little did I know that my love affair with something terrible was about to begin.
In 1999, I didn’t spend hours on the Internet as I do now. I never looked up walkthroughs, cheat codes, or reviews. Simply put, gaming websites were not a part of my life. I read Nintendo Power religiously, but the publication didn’t have a review when my mom bought the game. When I put the cartridge in my console for the first time, excitement filled my body. I couldn’t wait to play my new game. For hours, I was stuck on the first level. It required players to complete a few challenges forced on Superman by the villainous Lex Luthor.
The opening featured a time trial where players had to fly through rings while navigating through a virtual simulation of Metropolis. Not only was this challenge difficult because of the control scheme, but flying also didn’t feel great to maneuver. After what felt like an eternity, I made it to the next portion, which tasked me to throw cars away from pedestrians before they were struck by the vehicles. The time limit was short, with no room for error. Naturally, I lost and was sent back to the time trial. This started weeks of me trying to get past level one. What’s so unfair about Superman 64 is that there are no checkpoints. A specific objective (save pedestrians, blow tornadoes away, defeat enemies) comes in-between every time trial. Looking at games in 2018, it blows my mind that a game with such terrible level design even existed.
Funny enough, I thought that I was just bad at the game. I didn’t realize that there were so many flaws with Superman 64. I played contently for weeks, determined to beat the game. When I made it through Luthor’s first challenge, I was met with a level where Superman needed to defuse bombs before a dam exploded. It’s a rough level that allows Superman to fly through an enclosed area. If you thought flying through an open world was tough, doing it indoors was way worse. The developers also made it difficult to run through levels. For someone with enhanced speed, Superman sure ran stiff as a board.
Despite all these issues, I adored playing Superman 64. A few years later, in high school, I was talking with my friends about the Nintendo 64, and they asked about some of my favorite games. I went through a list that included The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Donkey Kong 64, Diddy Kong Racing, Jet Force Gemini, Turok: Dinosaur Hunter, and then I concluded with Superman 64. As you can probably already tell, I became the laughing stock of my group. At that very moment, I was told how infamously bad Superman 64 was. In my high school library, we looked up the 3.4/10 IGN review from 1999. It was a glass-shattering moment when I realized that I wasn’t bad at the game; it just sucked.
I wore rose-tinted glasses. Did I like the game because I only bought one a month? Was I blind to the fact that I chose a terrible game, but wanted to get the most from the purchase? I’m not sure, but I didn’t find myself thinking it was terrible. Last week, I looked through the Nintendo 64 catalog trying to come up with a list of games that could be in a Nintendo 64 Classic, when I came across Superman 64.
Nostalgia coursed through my veins, and I started watching YouTube videos of people playing through it. Despite every single bug, glitch, terrible level, and abysmal piece of gameplay (basically from start to finish), I found myself laughing with glee because it brought me back to my childhood. While I can clearly see in 2018 that Superman 64 is one of the worst games ever made, I can’t deny that it’s part of my gaming career. It’s not a roadblock, but a game that helped define who I am as a gamer. As someone who reviews video games, I spend so much time being critical (positively and negatively) of every game that I play, that sometimes I forget to just sit back and enjoy a game for what it’s worth.
Part of me misses being a child because I played games purely for fun. Superman 64 was my summer addiction in 1999, and I don’t have any regrets. While it’s certainly not a game I will ever put on a favorite games list, there’s no denying that I played the hell out of it. You can laugh at Superman 64, scoff at those who had the misfortune (or pleasure depending on whom you ask) to play the game, and even ridicule me for actually praising it throughout this article, but everyone has a guilty pleasure. I’ll leave you with this. My name is Andrew Gonzalez, and I used to love Superman 64.