Wave Race 64 features nine different race courses all designed to challenge the player in different ways. There are four different playable characters each with different statistics. The four characters include Ryota Hayami from Japan, Dave Mariner and Ayumi Stewart from the United States, and Miles Jester from Canada. In each race, the player must complete three laps in order to finish it. The ultimate goal is to get in first place. As the player progresses, the courses get harder (as do the opponents). In all there are three difficulty settings.
When Wave Race 64 was released to the Virtual Console, the Kawasaki ads in the game were replaced with Wii and Nintendo DS ads, as Nintendo's license to use the Kawasaki logo had expired. Incidentally, using Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color logos would have provided a more "authentic" look.