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Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey – Nintendo 64

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey – Nintendo 64

box artPlatform: Nintendo 64

Developer: Williams Entertainment Inc

Publisher: Midway Games

Release Date (NA): November 11, 1996

Genre: Sports, Hockey

Nerd Rating: 7/10

Reviewed By: Steroid Gamer 

Wayne Gretzky is a legend in the world of professional hockey, and of course that means such a special athlete is deserving of his or her own video game in their respective sport.  Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey for the Nintendo 64 fits that description.  You may be thinking “Whoa this game plays in 3D?  I’ll go get my glasses”.  Well, don’t do that.  You see kids, back in 1996 video games had just started to be playable in 3D environments.  That’s what the “3D” is referring to, not the kind you go to the movies to see while wearing glasses that make you look like an MIB agent.


"And here's the opening face off!"

“And here’s the opening face off!”

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey (Gretzky’s Hockey) was developed by the huge sports publisher Midway games and was the first four player Nintendo 64 game….EVER.    That’s quite an accomplishment and it ends up being a key factor in the game’s success.    Gretzky’s Hockey leaned heavily towards an arcade-feel with the gameplay over a more realist approach a sports game might take today.  The basic mode was 3 vs. 3 hockey instead of the standard 5 players on each team.   You can use turbo blast to skate faster, shoot flaming hockey pucks that would ignite the goal in flames, and even knock the goalie (and goal) into the boards and out into the stands.  Don’t feel too bad for the goalies though as they could randomly transform into a brick wall…literally.  The goalies were always controlled by the A.I. while the other three skaters could be controlled by the player, easily switching back and forth with the shoulder buttons.  The A.I. would go back and forth between games from completely incompetent and leading to final scores like 18-13, or they’d be harder than a brick of ice and shut down any puck that would come near the goal.  Luckily, the A.I. on your team, as well as the opposing team where always on the same page…..or ice rather.  Basically either they sucked or they were great.  It didn’t really matter because they always matched.

Typical of sports games you play in shorter, quicker games having 2:00 minute periods instead of the standard 15:00.  It makes the arcade mode great because games never stall or get boring.  Having so little time to compete adds a big competitive and tense vibe to the game that would most likely be absent if you had additional time in each period.  Arcade mode also turned off penalties which resulted in fights.  The fights were a highlight as the game would temporarily turn into a traditional 2-D fighter, giving each player a health bar, and letting you drop gloves and duke it out without any consequences.  You could trip players as much as you want, or perform a “power check” which would send the recipient sliding down the ice in agony.  Each player had what I called “the Pissed Off meter” which would grow the more they got pushed and shoved around the ice.  Much like real hockey when the tempers started to flare that’s when the gloves would drop.  Arcade mode didn’t take itself to seriously and that’s why Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey is such an approachable game.  In the mood for some quick hockey games but don’t want to sit through all the rules and regulations of a standard game?  If so, this is the perfect game for you.

"Flying" on the ice takes on a whole new meaning.

“Flying” on the ice takes on a whole new meaning.


The game’s play by play commentary was performed by just one unnamed person, and while it could repeat the same phrases back to back the dialogue itself was hilarious.  Hearing the vocal narrator scream “The shot is blocked” after a close goalie save, or the classic “Robin Hood and his merry-men are up to it again” when players would keep tripping each other always provided laughs.  The sound effects weren’t bad, but they could have been better at the time the game was released.  Occasionally, if you tried to skip past after goal celebrations the audio would drop out for 5 seconds or so.  The physics on the other hand felt extremely genuine…at least in terms of the hockey puck sliding around.

The game had full rosters as well with nine different players to choose on you’re starting line-up and two different goalies.  The game did have a simulation mode that had all the rules and regulations of a normal NHL game.  This mode really felt like it took away all the fun.   This game was clearly designed to be played like an arcade sim, not a realistic one.  Every two seconds the game was stopped due to a penalty, whether it was offsides or icing the game would constantly be interrupted which wasn’t any fun. scoreboard

Outside of exhibition matches the game did offer a season mode that would take any team of your choice through the entire length of an NHL season, championship game and all.  You could also choose whether you wanted to play by arcade or simulation rules.  Back in 1996 this might have been a fun mode, but it doesn’t hold up by today’s standards.  You can’t manage rosters by trading or releasing players, no long lasting injuries where present, and so on.  The mode was just playing one game after another and for a game that’s best placed in quick doses season mode just feels like a chore.

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey was the first Nintendo 64 game to have the ability of four-players playing at once.  Each player could create a user profile that would save your stats such as wins, losses, goals, assists and that sort of thing.  It was a simple addition but it was cool to have something to play for other than bragging rights when going up against your friends.  Gretzky’s hockey is one of those games that falls into “the more the merrier” column.  It was a total blast to trip your opponent right before they were going to slap the hockey puck into the goal.   Four-player games could get a little hectic and result in a shoving match, but that just depends on the attitude of those playing.

flaming goal

Too bad goalies can’t double as firemen.

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey was the first of its kind both in allowing up to four-player action and building the game in a 3-dimensional environment.  Arcade mode was constant fun and provided competitiveness amongst players.  Other than the dull simulation and season mode the game has little else to offer unless you want to set-up your own rules or screw around with instant replay.  The rosters are big and the in-game commentary provided more laughs than it provided any real insight into the sport of hockey.  Bottom Line; if you want a casual, fun, arcade-type hockey game than Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey will clean up your craving quicker than a Zamboni at halftime.  However, if you are looking for something closer to the NHL you see on TV each week you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Looking for Extras?

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D hockey was originally an arcade only game, then made it’s way to the N64.  The game was ported to the Playstation a year later and named Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey 98′.  This version was also made available on the N64, but both games are extremely similar.   arcade machine

Written by Sean Collins

Sean Collins

Sean Collins (aka Steroid Gamer) started playing video games when he was 8 years old. His first console was a Nintendo 64 and his first game was Mario Kart 64. He fell in love immediately and has been playing games ever since.

My current systems include; N64, Gameboy Color, Gamecube, Wii, 3DS, PS3, Vita, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

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  1. Steroid Gamer
    Steroid Gamer says:

    Thanks. Yeah, the movie industry is mostly at fault for the 3D movement, but video games haven’t been shy about them either. I remember when Sony was marketing their 3D Tv so you could play PS3 games in 3D. What ever happened to that? lol

    • I actually bought the damned PlayStation 3D Monitor and it really did add to a few games, but it seems like 3D support has disappeared. The fad faded as quickly as the Move, it seems.

  2. Great review! The first paragraph is especially funny to me because kids do take 3D to mean depth of field now instead of how it used to mean 3D character models. Had a friend out of the loop ask me the other day why Majora’s Mask 3D was marketed with 3D in the title when it was already in 3D on the 64 lol.


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