Wave Race 64: Kawasaki Jet Ski

aka: Shindou Wave Race 64, Wave Race 64
Moby ID: 3541
Nintendo 64 Specs
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Description official descriptions

Wave Race 64 is a jet-ski racing game. The goal is to beat the other participants in the race by successfully navigating the jet-ski through courses marked by colored buoys. Red and yellow buoys must be passed on right and left side, respectively, in order to gain speed and ensure advantage in the race. Failure to pass the buoys, on the other hand, leads to decrease in speed and eventually disqualification.

Game modes include Warm Up (basically a training session in a course known as Dolphin Park); Time Trials, in which players race against time; Championship, in which players compete in a tournament, choosing one of the four available difficulty levels; and Stunt Mode, where performing various stunts awards players with point. A two-player split-screen versus mode is available as well. Players can customize their racers, modifying their parameters, which include grip, handling, acceleration, top speed and collision stability.


  • ウェーブレース64 振動パック対応版 - Japanese spelling

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Credits (Nintendo 64 version)

38 People (29 developers, 9 thanks) · View all



Average score: 88% (based on 44 ratings)


Average score: 4.0 out of 5 (based on 70 ratings with 4 reviews)

Amazing Water

The Good
Water effects are outstanding, even now.

The Bad
Difficulty curve is steep.

The Bottom Line
It took a few months for the Nintendo 64 for a new game, and when it game it met with glowing reviews. I do remember playing this slightly as a kid, and distinctly remember having a lot of trouble with it due to being awful at it. However, it was only short goes as it was a friend’s copy of the game.

Wave Race 64 is a jet ski racing game. Not only do you have to complete the circuits, but you have to pass buy buoys on the correct side. Miss one and you’ll lose some power, miss five and you’ll fail that race.

It’s difficult to get across the look of Wave Race in screenshots – the ocean and how it moves is the main impressive part of the game. The ocean moves in a realistic way and it still stands out as water in games is still not easy to do today – to the point that it’s really games that are entirely focused on water that have proper wave simulation (games like Sea of Thieves). The water is also not just for looks – it affects the movement of your jet ski and you’ll have to work out how to race using them to your advantage.

The levels in Wave Race also manage to feel distinctive, which is not an easy task for water based games. While I’ve just praised the waves a lot, one stand out level is Drake Lake – which doesn’t have waves. The level starts off foggy but clears up as you progress, with the lake having a silvery reflective surface. There’s something really beautiful about this level, even today.

Another very memorable one is Southern Lake. In this level, the tide is going out. Each lap, the obstacles will be different due to the level of the water. A big pier blocks the way on the first lap, but you can zoom through its supports on later laps. Unfortunately, the game only has 8 courses (plus a bonus training course)

There are three main difficulties in Wave Race, however the difficulty doesn’t just alter the enemy racers. Instead, the locations of the buoys are different, making navigating the levels much more difficult. You need to truly master the waves to succeed at the game and your reward is reverse mode, where you race across the tracks backwards, which makes the levels feel a lot different.

Outside of the main championship mode, Wave Race offers time trial and a stunt mode. You can set your own high stores in the stunt mode as you have to make it to the next checkpoint while hitting rings and performing tricks. The other main move is a 2 player race.

Wave Race 64 doesn’t contain a lot of stuff, but there’s so much detail in what it does do that it makes up for it. It’s a really fun game that rewards skill and offers a significant challenge. Wave Race got a sequel on the GameCube, but there’s nothing out now that’s quite the same.

Nintendo 64 · by Cube1701 (41) · 2024

Does This Sequel To The 1992 Gameboy Title Hold Water?

The Good
In 1992, Shigeru Miyamoto would have to wait another four years for his concept of an accurate 3D jet ski racer to come alive. "Wave Race", (the top-view racer released for the Gameboy) was a only a vague hint at what would come in 1996. "Wave Race 64" for the Nintendo 64, saw a fully real-time wave modeling engine, brilliant game play, and an appreciative audience. As with many Nintendo titles, "Wave Race 64" saw the transition into the third-dimension not only with ease, but with an exceptional addition to the game's spirit and theme.

The addition of this title to the Wii Virtual Console has a possible hidden advantage. Above the added convenience and versatility the download provides for players, "Wave Race 64" can now be played with later generation analogue controllers. Many gamers found the original Nintendo 64 controller's stick to be sub-par, and so now modern gamers have the unique opportunity to replay this title with the kind of control that this title both deserves and demands.

A water-themed racer, this title asks player to choose (in this order), a game-mode, a racer, and jet-ski options. As with many racer-style games, there are more than a few courses to play though. Championship Mode plays through these sequentially, and, depending on your initial difficulty setting, this mode will add and adjust various courses to improve the experience. Thankfully, Nintendo have offered a respectable array of environments in which to wet your vessel. A simple shoreline frolic, a night-time city-scape course, and a foggy and sleeting glacial setting are but a few of the scenarios presented.

By today's standards, you could argue that the modeling of the characters and their craft as blocky and possibly even chunky, but those who have been followers of Nintendo's consoles will surely see past these somewhat dated graphics and may even find a charm in them. After all, it's not as if the developers or designers disrespected the game by offering lazily created or dull characters - they made use of what was available well. The four (skiers?) from which you can choose are different enough, and do represent a thoughtfulness towards game play longevity.

Speaking of which, the game play itself is really top notch. I must admit, the idea of jet-skiing in a video game holds little appeal as an idea in itself, but the actual execution of this title just goes to show that genre really doesn't matter, but game design does. This title puts players (sometimes neck-deep) in a rich, dynamic, and living ocean. The cushioning effect of the water is accurate, and the sheer throwing-power of the same water becomes immediately apparent. For a jet-skier, you get major air, and if timed correctly, you can use these slingshot-like effects to leap across obstacles, all with the option of dive-bombing on your landing.

"Wave Race 64" sets it's courses' boundaries and "track", for lack of a better word, by arranging various red and yellow-coloured buoys about the circuit. These indicate to the player that he is required to either pass on the left or right of the floating arrows. So in essence, you'll be doing a lot of weaving! However, this is what sets the game apart from the standard racer. The ability to cut short, or slide out wide make a huge difference. Finding the optimum line for your rider while keeping control is what the game is constantly asking players to do. It's difficult to begin with, but the idea makes for some deeper game play that might be originally assumed. Figure into this the relentless splashing and smashing of the water and your rivals, and you've got a very challenging racer.

Musically, this game is under-stated. Thankfully, the in-your-face "EA Trax"-style soundtrack was unavailable in 1996, so this title made use of some almost "Pilotwings" style music, and takes players to a different view of wave-racing. The on board chip is put to some unusually gentle and almost whimsical style music. Compare this to say "Wave Race: Blue Storm", and you can see that the game would not of necessarily benefited from a fully licensed soundtrack anyway! (Players of "'Blue Storm" will know the contrast between these two soundtrack styles well).

The Bad
While there may not be quite enough options for a modern gamer to tweak, the time trial mode may hold interest beyond what other games of this ilk may offer. After all, the tracks are so indefinite and somewhat undefined that you can almost always catch a break and improve your time. Don't count on re-living that glorious moment though, as the ghost data is missing from the Wii edition.

The Bottom Line
Everything about this game has dated except for the game-play. Compare it to say the terrible "Kawasaki Jet Ski" game released on the Wii, and you have a superiour game that is twelve years older and virtually handicapped in it's technological prowess. Nintendo's foresight in creating a game with replay value and true-to-life physics is still paying off for them!

Wii · by So Hai (261) · 2008

Finally! An interesting racing game that isn't Mario Kart!

The Good
I have never really made it a secret that I dislike racing games, I simply can't bring up the interest to control a bunch of cars while they practice hand-break turns. That is why I was rather skeptic when my friend told me he had a racing game for me, but that feeling immediately disappeared when I saw it was about Jet Ski's and not cars. I freaking love Jet Ski's, those things are awesome! It's at least a positive sign, that somewhere in the world there is a developer who doesn't use cars in racing games. Next time I want to see a racing game in which you control a Nazi submarine.

The biggest problem when making a racing game for the Nintendo 64 was that it would always have to be compared to Mario Kart 64, but Waverace 64 is different enough from that game to avoid the title "Mario Kart clone". There are no power-ups, you can only play fair and the races are very different, unlike games like "Diddy Kong Racing" where you can just close your eyes a little and it would look like you're playing with Mario, Yoshi and Peach.

I really like the fact that there are no power-ups because there is a point where even the biggest Nintendo fan is going to say "oh great, another jerk abusing the hell out of the blue shells". Instead you have to pass these little signs with arrows on it, the arrow points out if you have to pass it from the right or the left. As you do so you build up a power meter which increases your speed, but failing even once is going to reset your meter, now that is much better. This also makes the game less frustrating for people who love realistic games.

Somebody else already praised the physics in this game and I have to agree, the waves in this game look fantastic, but they also serve a role in gameplay. See, if there is an obstacle you need to get past, most players would just go around it. However, you can use the waves to jump over whatever is blocking your way and save precious time, though your timing needs to be correct. Now that's a graphical novelty that I like, one that actually affects the gameplay in interesting ways.

The graphics overall deserve to be praised, they look gorgeous and a lot better then Mario Kart 64 (oh dear, I am comparing them again!). The models resemble normal humans and they actually pull it off quite well, even though the 64-bit graphics don't allow for much realistic detail. The vehicles also look really awesome and colorful and I can't complaint about the levels either. There is even a crowd watching the show!

The Bad
While I really like the waves as a visual treat and I love how they can help you out in gameplay, there is still the problem that it constantly looks like you're playing "that game I should probably stop naming in this review" while constantly tapping the jump-button. It also makes it ridiculously hard to see what you're doing sometimes and quite often I'd miss one of the signs because a wave was obscuring my vision. The controls aren't really that great to begin with, sometimes I tried to move slightly to the left, but my character made a 360 degrees turn or he just fell of the Ski.

Falling is a big problem in this game, if you touch anything from a brick wall to a small piece of drift wood, you will fall and have to wait ten agonizing, flow-breaking seconds before you can continue again. Especially in the higher classes this will instantly drop you to the last place. Sometimes you fall off if you turn to fast which is just great because you need to make sharp turns all the bloody time.

The Bottom Line
There is very little to complaint about in this racing game, it's very well designed, it's a lot of fun and it has Jet Ski's in it. The graphics are also pretty damn good for Nintendo 64 standards and the term "Mario Kart clone" certainly doesn't apply here. It's not as good as the near-flawless Kart game on the same console, but it's still worth playing if you're into racing games or if you want a realistic game for this system.

Sports fans and teens/adults will most likely have a lot of fun with this game, some kids however don't really like the realism and lack of bright colorful graphics and may refuse to try it out. A great addition to the Nintendo 64's amazing library.

Nintendo 64 · by Asinine (956) · 2011

[ View all 4 player reviews ]


1001 Video Games

The N64 version of Wave Race 64 appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


In the Virtual Console release, Nintendo has slipped in advertisements for the Wii and Nintendo DS along the racing wall sidelines to replace the Kawasaki ads. This is due to the Kawasaki license no longer existing for the game.


  • Electronic Gaming Monthly
    • March 1997 (Issue 92) - N64 Game of the Year runner up + Sports Game of the Year + N64 Game of the Year runner-up (Readers' Choice) + Sports Game of the Year (Readers' Choice)
    • November 1997 (Issue 100) - ranked #68 (Best 100 Games of All Time)


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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Chris Martin.

Wii U added by Michael Cassidy. Nintendo Switch added by Rik Hideto. Wii added by gamewarrior.

Additional contributors: Terok Nor, Guy Chapman, Alaka, Martin Smith, Eric Smith, samsam12, DreinIX, FatherJack.

Game added April 2, 2001. Last modified January 12, 2024.