After 25 years, the lost N64 game that could've been Nintendo's answer to Tomb Raider has been preserved online

(Image credit: Ten Shu)

25 years ago, Nintendo began to promote an action-adventure game called Riqa, but that game quickly disappeared from the public eye and vanished into obscurity. But now, the game is back and playable thanks to one of the original devs at the defunct UK developer Bits Studios.

As far as I can tell, Riqa was first unveiled in the May 1999 issue of Nintendo Power and promoted alongside the horror classic Eternal Darkness, which was then also scheduled to be an N64 release. "Another gorgeous new adventure from Nintendo will be unveiled at E3 for the N64," the magazine wrote. "Riqa, a third-person, sci-fi adventure featuring action and puzzle elements, has been in the works at Bits Studios for quite some time. Riqa (the name of the female agent star) should be ready for release near the beginning of the new century."

Whatever enthusiasm Nintendo proper had for Riqa, the magazine quickly lost interest. The game was not mentioned in the following issue's E3 recap, and the only acknowledgment of it for months to come was in a list of upcoming game titles. That's an unusual fate for a game Nintendo had planned to publish directly.

Riqa was quietly canceled, and its brief moment under a very dim spotlight is scarcely remembered. But now, as Time Extension reports, one of the original developers behind Riqa has published several prototypes of the game online, and they're fully playable on both emulators and actual N64 hardware thanks to devices like Everdrives. 

That developer goes by the name Ten Shu, who worked at Bits Studios from 1997 to 2001. Ten Shu has actually been posting videos of prototype Riqa builds for years on YouTube. Recently, the ROMs of those builds were published to a closed Facebook group, and a preservationist who goes by LuigiBlood has now brought those ROMs to, complete with a bug fix for an issue that prevented one of the builds from running.

For most of you, videos like the one above will be enough to sate your curiosity about Riqa - this is still a prototype game, so it's not going to match the polish of even a 25-year-old retail release. But it's a fascinating little piece of history, especially given the lead character's resemblance to Lara Croft and the game's apparent resemblance to a more action-focused, sci-fi Tomb Raider.

At the time, Tomb Raider was wildly popular and the core games were mostly associated with PlayStation and PC, so it's little wonder if Nintendo was interested in something with at least superficial similarities. Ten Shu notes that many of Bits Studio's canceled N64 projects ended up being subsumed by the company's PS2-era games a few years later, and bits of Riqa might have lived on in a Kemco-published title called Rogue Ops - a stealth-action game that launched to mediocre reviews in 2003.

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Dustin Bailey
Staff Writer

Dustin Bailey joined the GamesRadar team as a Staff Writer in May 2022, and is currently based in Missouri. He's been covering games (with occasional dalliances in the worlds of anime and pro wrestling) since 2015, first as a freelancer, then as a news writer at PCGamesN for nearly five years. His love for games was sparked somewhere between Metal Gear Solid 2 and Knights of the Old Republic, and these days you can usually find him splitting his entertainment time between retro gaming, the latest big action-adventure title, or a long haul in American Truck Simulator.