Nintendo 64 Expansion Pack Comparison Essay

The Nintendo 64 Expansion Pak was an add-on for the Nintendo 64 that doubled the amount of RAM the N64 had to 8MB. This allowed for greater resolution, longer draw-distance, and more detailed graphics. It was bundled with Donkey Kong 64, one of the first games to utilize the hardware. Nintendo published titles that either required or used the Expansion Pak included Donkey Kong 64, The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask and Perfect Dark.

Games that require the Expansion Pak

Games that can be improved with the Expansion Pak

Title Pak required? Notes
Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage NO Required for the "High Quality" graphics setting.
All-Star Baseball 2000 NO
All-Star Baseball 2001 NO
Armorines: Project S.W.A.R.M. NO
Army Men: Air Combat NO
Army Men: Sarge's Heroes NO
Army Men: Sarge's Heroes 2 NO
Battlezone: Rise of the Black Dogs NO
Castlevania: Legacy of Darkness NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 640×480 however performance suffers as a result.
Command & Conquer NO The Expansion Pak is required for high-resolution map textures.
Daikatana NO Allows for a "hi-res" graphics mode, which changes the game to a widescreen view but has little noticeable effect on graphics.
Donkey Kong 64 YES Used to enhance graphics such as lighting, particles and provides more expansive environments. Also prevents a game-breaking bug that would cause the game to randomly crash. Since Rare could not fix the problem, the Expansion Pak is packaged with the game. If the Expansion Pak is not used, a notice will freeze on screen notifying otherwise.
Duke Nukem: Zero Hour NO The Expansion Pak allows the player to choose between playing at high resolution or with a faster frame rate.
Excitebike 64 NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 640×480.
F-1 World Grand Prix II NO The Expansion Pak allows a full race replay.
FIFA 99 NO Allows for an unadvertised "Super High" resolution mode of 640×480.
Gauntlet Legends NO The Expansion Pak is required for 4 player multiplayer.
Hybrid Heaven NO Enables two hi-res modes, which increases resolution to 640×480 however performance suffers greatly as a result.
Hydro Thunder NO The Expansion Pak is required for 3 and 4 player multiplayer.
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 400×440.
International Superstar Soccer 2000 NO The Expansion Pak is required for high-resolution textures; however, performance suffered as a result.
International Track & Field 2000 NO
Jeremy McGrath Supercross 2000 NO
Ken Griffey, Jr.'s Slugfest NO Allows for hi-res gameplay.
The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask YES Used to enhance graphics such as increased texture detail, removal of fog and increase number of on-screen models as well as effects.
Madden NFL 2000 NO
Madden NFL 2001 NO
Madden NFL 2002 NO
NBA Jam 2000 NO Only the PAL version signifies its Expansion Pak compatibility on the box.
NFL Quarterback Club '99 NO
NFL Quarterback Club 2000 NO
Nuclear Strike 64 NO
Perfect Dark NO Required for the single player, co-operative and counter-operative campaigns, as well as most multiplayer features. Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 640×222.
Pokémon Stadium 2 NO Increases resolution to 640×480.
Quake II NO Uses the Expansion Pak for extra graphical detail.
Rayman 2: The Great Escape NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 640×480.
Re-Volt NO Unlocks Medium Resolution mode (doubles resolution); cheat code "FLYBOY" enables higher quality.
Resident Evil 2 NO Increases resolution to 640x480.
Road Rash 64 NO The Expansion Pak increases the framerate from 30 Hz to 60 Hz.
Roadsters NO
San Francisco Rush 2049 NO The Expansion Pak is required for Track 6, the Advanced Circuit, and music during Arcade races.
Shadowgate 64: Trials of the Four Towers NO
Shadow Man NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 640×480.
Spider-Man NO Improves performance
South Park NO Enables hi-res mode, increases frame rate in lo-res mode.
StarCraft 64 NO The Expansion Pak is required for the Brood War missions.
Star Wars: Episode I: Battle for Naboo NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 400×440.
Star Wars: Episode 1 Racer NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 640×480, as well as increasing the framerate in lo-res mode for smoother gameplay.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron NO Enables hi-res mode, which increases resolution to 400×440.
The World Is Not Enough NO Provides enhanced graphics and visual effects.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater NO Improves performance
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 NO Improves performance
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3 NO Improves performance
Top Gear Hyper Bike  NO
Top Gear Overdrive NO Enables hi-res option, which increases resolution to 640x240
Top Gear Rally 2 NO
Turok 2: Seeds of Evil NO Enables two hi-res modes, which increases resolution to 480x360 or 480x232.
Turok 3: Shadow of Oblivion NO Enables two hi-res modes, which increases resolution to 480x360 or 480x232.
Turok: Rage Wars NO Enables two hi-res modes, which increases resolution to 480x360 or 480x232.
Vigilante 8 NO
Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense NO
World Driver Championship NO Required for hi-res mode.
Xena: Warrior Princess: The Talisman of Fate NO

DK64's bug likely drove Rare absolutely bananas

When Donkey Kong 64 released all the way back in 1999, it was the first Nintendo 64 game to require the system’s 8MB Expansion Pak add-on in order to work. Advertising at the time suggested that the game was just so big that it couldn't possibly work without it. However, Chris Marlow, one of the game’s programmers, has confirmed in a recent director’s commentary video (which should only be viewed by mature audiences) for Conker's Bad Fur Day that the Expansion Pak was needed in order to prevent a game-breaking glitch from occurring.

Marlow explains that a glitch would cause the game to randomly crash, but only when configured to work using the N64’s standard 4MB memory setup. As Rare was unable to identify the cause of the crash, it was eventually forced to release the game with the Expansion Pak bundled-in for free.

This naturally came at a great expense to the developer and Nintendo at the time, but former Rare employee Chris Seavor (perhaps best known for providing the voice of Conker) states during the same video that this ended up working in Perfect Dark’s favour (which released a year later), as that game actually did require the Expansion Pak in order for all of its gameplay features to work. Perfect Dark ended up selling more than 3 million copies worldwide.

Was Nintendo and Rare wrong to advertise Donkey Kong 64’s mandatory usage of the Expansion Pak in the way that it did? Share your thoughts on this interesting revelation in the comments section below.

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