News Article

Donkey Kong 64 Required Expansion Pak to Prevent Game-Breaking Bug

Posted by Martin Watts

Game would crash when using the N64's standard setup

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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User Comments (83)



Riquerico said:

Wow, this is very interesting, but at the same time I'm not surprised. When I played Conker's Bad Fur Day I couldn't believe that such a big game full of voice acting didn't require the expansion pak. Rare sure knew how to work with the N64!



WiiLovePeace said:

"Was Nintendo and Rare wrong to advertise Donkey Kong 64’s mandatory usage of the Expansion Pak in the way that it did?" Huh? Of course not! I really can't see Nintendo advertise the game by telling us all it requires the expansion pak because of a game breaking glitch That wouldn't sit right at all.

DK64 is an amazing game, still waiting for a sequel...



Varia01 said:

The game must have really been HUGE. Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time were big games, but this game needed an expansion pack. That's impressive.



parall4x said:

Having experienced first-hand how difficult debugging can be when building for the N64, I can't really blame them.



kaisersalsek said:

wow, I spent almost 14 years thinking it needed the expansion pack because it was a super-progressive game. I can't believe that wasn't the sole reason for it! As I remember, the expansion pack wasn't exactly free - I remember the game was only bundled with the expansion pack, but they were charging about £20 more for DK64 than any other N64 game (obviously sans-expansion pack). Rare, please do me a 14 year back-dated refund!



Chunky_Droid said:

Why would they market it as "This game crashes randomly so here's a RAM upgrade!"?

Overall the game would have run smoother in the end using it anyway.



aaronsullivan said:

Sometimes I can't believe I played through that entire game. SO repetitive and mindless for 75% of the play time. Very interesting little factoid, though. Such an important item released this way.

I wish more people would comment and discuss because it's fun and works out the old noggin. Read the article first, though? It helps us all.



ueI said:

But the game does need the expansion pack if it keeps crashing without it.



twistedbee said:

No, seems justified to me. If it didn't work without an expansion pack then why not include it. Even it didn't actually need it at least the game wouldn't crash... Which would've cause more problems later on.



Captain_Gonru said:

@PvtOttobot I don't remember that one. Are you sure it wasn't a retailer? Because that's the kind of thing I've heard some bad salespeople say.
I recall getting my expansion with a different game, since I didn't get DK until much later. Though I may have bought it separately.



gohanrage said:

Donkey Kong 64 is how I got the Expansion pack so I don't care

which was required for Majora's Mask



Rief said:

Well, they DID lie to us, but well, we did also get a free Expansion Pack. So, i don't mind, and if they advertised it as a game that is bugged, well, that would be even more stupid, so it is more like a white lie.



bizcuthammer said:

Man i really want a sequel to DK64. 3D platformers are my favorite, but no one makes them anymore outside the mario games...



Expa0 said:

This game is pretty much THE collecta-ton There is SO much to do and SO much to collect it's crazy. Despite the game having it's tedious moments I do find it very underrated.



Gioku said:

What makes debugging difficult with N64? Debugging is never easy (I know), but I'm wondering what's more difficult with the N64...



QBertFarnsworth said:

@aaronsullivan As a kid, I always prided myself on being able to beat all of the games I owned (except Battletoads, screw you, Battletoads). DK 64 was the first time, I said "screw it." I don't care enough to go back to the same area again with a different Kong that I don't care about. In an effort to be a bigger game than Mario 64 or Banjo-Kazooie, it just ended up as a bloated game.




It's funny when I look at this article. I don't really recall the N64 Expansion Pak being advertised when they released Donkey Kong 64 back in late 1999. Although, I can imagine the part about the game glitching up or crashing without the N64 Expansion Pak inserted into the Nintendo 64 was true back then because if I recall right, I think Nintendo or RARE said the Expansion Pak was needed to enjoy most of the whole game.



Dpishere said:

I just 101%ed this game a week ago and it is every bit as fun now as it was then. Highly recommended for fans of Banjo Kazooie and Super Mario 64!



Luis_Gimpy said:

I still have the Donkey Kong 64 combo siting under my tv. green N64, yellow DK64, expansion pack. I still enjoy the system to this day. Handed it down to my three year old and he enjoys it.



Pichuka97 said:

I would have loved to see Conker use the Expansion Pak. It would be 10x awesomer.



ULTRA-64 said:

How possible would a ram expansion pack for the Wii u be anybody?? Assuming not, but would shut up the nin-haters to know it could be more of a hardware threat over time!!!?!



Mario500 said:

"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)"

What did the author or editor of the article mean by "mature audiences"?



slim80 said:

what wii u are u playing??????played resident evil on wii u raid mode and I was chatting without a head set its through the game pad.



slim80 said:

@ULTRA-64 my friend I think Nintendo games scare other gaming consoles.this year a new 3d Mario,mario kart wii u,smash bros. 2 zeldas,pikmin 3 .plus the new games we don't know about yet that we will find out on june11th



hYdeks said:

Man, that game brings back so many great memories, it was the first game I got with my N64 when I got one, that and Mario 64. Both where fantastic games, DK64 had very addictive multiplayer as well. Hopefully we see DK 64 some day on the Virtual Console.



ThumperUK said:

It wasn't wrong to say it was mandatory as it was mandatory to prevent crashes! What is more worrying is Rare being unable to solve the problem.....and they're a much worse developer now!!

This doesn't bode well for the next Perfect Dark. I was thinking this would be Perfect Dark "One" after the second being named Zero? Maybe Rare had a hand in naming the xbox as it can't count either!



FullbringIchigo said:

@ULTRA-64 it could be possible if it was released to plug into the Wii U via a USB port, but i'm guessing it would be really hard to do and not to mention expensive

on topic no i don't think they were wrong to advertise it the way they did, they said the game needed the expansion pack and it did so they didn't lie about it



TrueWiiMaster said:

That's pretty weird. All this time I thought the game actually needed the expansion. Ah well. I just want them to release this game on the VC.



WindWakerLink said:

It's fine because eventually we all got the expansion pak...right...? Better late than never as well...right..? If we didn't get for DK 64, it would have gotten it for "Perfect Dark" or "Majora's Mask." It's a win-win.



Pachterkid said:

These days developers would simply release the game with the game-breaking-bug enact. Skyward Sword, Metroid: Other M, etc. I applaud Rare for thinking of a work-around to the problem here.



kaisersalsek said:

Not win win if you didn't get perfect dark or majora's mask like me! (although if I had not been about 13 and actually had money, I'm sure I would have!)

It was always a very random 'upgrade' anyway!



Whopper744 said:

One of few great games from my past that I have not replayed in a looong time. Here's (it's a stretch) hoping for VC release so I can play it on the gamepad



theblackdragon said:

it's over a decade too late for anyone to cry foul over it, lol... i wonder if anyone was able to pinpoint the reason behind the glitch, though? sounds like a good mystery :3



TromaDogg said:

@slim80 It could be the Wii U version of CoD Black Ops 2 he's talking about, I've heard that doesn't support voice chat through the gamepad and requires a separate headset. Which quite frankly, is ridiculous.



Mizzah_Tee said:

@WiiLovePeace "DK64 is an amazing game, still waiting for a sequel..."

Perhaps the game Retro has been working on for Wii U. My head would explode if it came true...



Mizzah_Tee said:

@ULTRA-64 Funny, I was thinking about that the other day when I was playing Perfect Dark on my N64. It actually wouldn't be hard at all and could easily be added by USB. Though I wouldn't see it necessary for a few years, If ever. It would only be needed for a game ported from PS4 or Xbox One that actually utilized that much extra Ram. Honestly by then, Ninendo might be working on their next console, if there is one in 5-6 years. We could be in the last true console generation with these next gen consoles sadly



UnseatingKDawg said:

Makes sense. I'm just hoping (even though it's a pipe dream) that this classic hits the Virtual Console - I'd love to give it a go.



JusticeColde said:

They did the right thing.
It would've been just plain wrong to just give people a game that could break at any moment without the proper equipment.



AltDotNerd said:

I'm just throwing this out there: Donkey Kong 64 remake for Wii U (or 3DS). Remade without any of the "copyrighted Rare material" so Micro$oft can't wave their little Rare ownership license at Nintendo.



Alienfish said:

No, it's four times more, which is still a lot. PS3 has two 256MB chips, one for the GPU, and one for the CPU, with a grand total of 512MB. Xbox 360 has just one chip worth 512MB.

Also, I actually glanced at all the comments so far and am stunned that no one caught the most obvious error in this article. The Expansion Pak was 4MB not 8. The total became 8 when it was added.



TheRegginator said:

Meh. My N64 is the limited edition translucent jungle green one that came bundled with DK64 and the expansion pack. I was six at the time and couldn't care any less because I was so happy.

The game technically did require it, just for the initially stated reasons. It's nowhere near as bad as EA claiming that SimCity had to be online to process things in game when it was actually just a DRM scheme.



tanookisuit said:

There's nothing shifty or fraud about it. It did actually need it because the game would bomb. Given the insanely large areas that it houses and all the stuff in there between loading sections I wouldn't be surprised if it was some memory overflow issue or something similar that hit a bug/wall with the 4MB cap and the added 4MB from that expansion gave it the room to breathe and work. Sure they didn't write 'buggy game in box needs more memory to work' and that's fine. No one who bought DK64 at retail was charged for the memory pack anyway if I remember right, it was thrown in like the rumbler with Starfox.



ivanmata said:

It is highly likely for this to have occurred more than once in the gaming industry. In my opinion, it is okay for them to do so, what happens backstage has no relevance while playing the game, I had a lot of fun with DK64 (Perfect Dark and Conker's bad fur day as well)!



BetweenTheTrees said:


requires a headset?
i play many games online on the wii u. never had to use a headset and i chat all the time. there is a mic in the gamepad that is used. if you were being sarcastic i apologize but it didn't seem so.



BetweenTheTrees said:

i remember getting this game and i remember the expansion pack bundled with the game. but i was a child yet and didn't understand what it was for. but dk64 was massive to me, the best game i had played up to that point. i was obsessed.



BetweenTheTrees said:


maybe they could never fix the bug? maybe it's just unable to convert because of the bug or something. i thought we might have seen it on the wii vc.



aaronsullivan said:

For those saying you can just add a RAM expansion pack to the Wii U by plugging in through USB ( @FullbringIchigo @Ultra-64 ). No, you can't. Not unless you want REALLY slow memory and in that case you'd just offload that to the flash memory or hard drive. It would require a connection with much faster throughput.

It's too bad the N64 didn't have more texture memory, though. It really would have helped that muddy look that almost every game has.

Is there anything "Rare-owned" in the Donkey Kong 64 IP? Donkey Kong Country came over just fine.

If there ever is a sequel I sure hope it's more clever than a mindless series of collection achievements. I like that Nintendo has always tried to do something experimental and brave with the Donkey Kong franchise. The Mario minis, the bongo games. I'd like them to keep doing that until something truly brilliant comes along and reinvents what people want from Donkey Kong. No idea what that would be.



SCAR said:

Maybe it was because of the pause menu. The world may not be impossible to get on screen without the RAM expansion, but have all of your bananas and other collectibles being kept track of off screen, and the ability to pause a game completely with alot going on in the game.
My guess is that the ability to pause and the game automatically keeping track of yoir progress is what required the RAM pak.
I got the DK64 N64 bundle for Christmas of '99, BTW.



aaronsullivan said:

Hey, it could have been the pause menu. Then again, RARE's then very experienced N64 programmers had hundreds of thousands of dollars on the line and they couldn't solve it no matter what they did. Kind of unlikely they didn't think of the pause menu.



Klinny said:

Ha, this is a funny story. I can't really blame them for being "misleading", though. I believe the box just states "REQUIRES N64 Expansion Pak," which is true. Of course you would assume that the additional memory is the reason it requires the Expansion Pak, seeing that that is the function of the Expansion Pak.

However, I don't really expect them to write "REQUIRES N64 Expansion Pak due to game-breaking glitch that we couldn't figure out how to fix" on the box.



SCAR said:

Hmmm... Well, I guess Banjo Tooie had just as big of worlds and pause menus, but that may have been the fix they were looking for in DK64. It could be anything really. Maybe triggering progression in the game(do this to do this). Maybe the game couldn't recognize abilities being relevant further in the game. There were 3 different slam switches, and every level had at least one, so the game would have to go 3-5 potential future levels the player will visit, and activate switch usability. That's assuming the actual move didn't trigger the switch, and the animation just looked different.



mookysam said:

It still amazes me what Rare got out of the N64. Beautiful, expansive games full of colour and little details. I thought Tooie and Conker were even more visually impressive than Donkey Kong 64 and they didn't require the expansion pak.

I never managed to finish DK64. I got to the final boss but my save randomly erased before I could complete it. I could never bring myself to play the whole thing again, given how large it was. My N64 is still with my sister but I am planning to retrieve it and will maybe one day play DK64 again.



Lobster said:

I got my Expansion Pak with Majora's Mask, but I don't think they were wrong to advertise it this way. First of all, you aren't going to tell people, "Oh, it's full of bugs and glitches!" You are just going to say, "Requires Expansion Pak," which they did, and I believe they just let us fill in the reason why.



Lobster said:

@PvtOttobot Btw, I just want to say that I voice chat with my friends online while playing MH3U all the time. No headset required, I just talk and the Gamepad picks it up.



thepitt said:

Hey, at least they took care of the problem instead of pushing bugged-to-crap games out of the door to meet deadlines and to please investors only to contribute to this nonsense where people "expect bugs" in games. If I buy a bugged game I will want my money back - good thing I don't buy games until long after their release. Sadly, I do this because lots of newer games are full of bugs which was an implausible possibly some 10-20 years ago.

First its faulty hardware right off the factory assembly line and now it's games that don't work! The worse part is people are accepting this and it's becoming normal. How stupid are you people?!?

I'm currently programming a game and you know what - It'll be done when "it's done".



ueI said:

@aaronsullivan Donkey Kong 64 contains the game Jetpac which may be Rare owned. People suspect that this is why there's no port or VC version. Come on, Nintendo! I just want to play it and see what all the fuss is or isn't about!



EarthboundBenjy said:

the thing about DK64 is that it contains two retro games - Jetpac made by Rare and the original DK arcade. You can't just remove them from the game because the coins you win from these games are required to open the final boss door. As long as Rare are partnered with Microsoft and as long as they still own Jetpac, DK64 isn't coming out on the Wii U.



SCAR said:

Maybe Nintendo will pay a royalty fee to have DK64 show up unaltered. If Nintendo gave Rare 20% of the money made on a DK64 VC release, I'm pretty sure it would all be good.
Rare's logo on Donkey Kong Country is still there, because they are given credit as making the game, but Nintendo still owns it.
Although they were taken off recently, it's pretty obvious Nintendo had to deal with Rare to get them on the VC to begin with.



SCAR said:

Also, Rare still made Diddy Kong Racing for DS when they were with Microsoft. Viva Piñata and Age of Empires were on DS, too, and those are Microsoft IPs.



Tare said:

Came here for DK

Stayed for the Conker commentary.

British people are silly.



WaxxyOne said:

Interesting info. I'm not surprised they chose to handle it the way they did, and I'm not particularly upset because A) they bundled the expansion pack with the game, and B) based on his description, the game did make use of the extra RAM, it's just that a mode where it wasn't required would have been included if they could have ironed out the crash bug.

It'd be interesting to get one's hands on the original source code and see if the bug could be identified. Not very likely, I know, but the game is plenty old now and the Internet is a magical place full of wonderfully talented people with nothing better to do, so Nintendo/Rare should really think about giving it a shot. My best guess is one or more of the scaled-down resources causing the crash, but that's obviously a shot in the dark.



Tetsuo_808 said:

Hm. I don't know about elsewhere, but the cost of this certainly was passed onto the consumer as the game retailed at £60. I guess we now have the real reason as to why Rare/Nintendo initially refused to sell the game as a standalone pack too!



EverythingAmiibo said:

@Lobster @SunnyShores @slim80 @Captain_Gonru
Really guys? It's in inverted commas, it couldn't be more obvious. Yes Nintendo released a statement (before the Wii U was out) saying that the Wii U mic could not be used for in-game online chat, my guess is that it was a bid to sell their official Wii U headsets! Of course I know it was a lie! Yes I use the SAME Wii U and I play Trine 2 online with the built in mic, jeez people!



mikeyman64 said:

I remember renting this game at Blockbuster so many times. They would always lose the little grey key thing to take the expansion out with so I would have to use the expansion bay lid. I probably rented this game and Banjo Kazooie so many times I could have bought them twice. /shrug



flightsaber said:

@bizcuthammer I favorite genre too. I actually bought a 360 specifically to play Kameo from Rare. It's the spiritual sequel to DK 64, and well worth the purchase...Of course, it happened to be the only notable 3D platformer exclusive I'm aware of for the 360; so my brush away from Nintendo products didn't last long. Thank God for the Wii, Mario Galaxies, and Epic Mickey.



Phallica said:

@Varia01 So you didn't read the story, then? It says it DID NOT NEED IT FOR GRAPHICS, it only needed it because having an expansion pak inexplicably fixed a game-breaking bug that Rare couldn't figure out without it.

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