Ten Rare Experiences
It’s a celebration of Rare this month with the recent release of Rare Replay, a compilation of 30 of Rare’s finest games over their 30 years as a games development juggernaut. Obviously the compilation contains some classics but there are some others that couldn’t make the cut due to licencing issues. Considering that, I thought it was worth taking a walk down memory lane to recount my ten best Rare games. These are just my choices, but by no means was this easy. With a rich pedigree behind them I wouldn’t blame anyone for picking none of these themselves in favour of ten others! I doubt it though, as these were the crème de la crème – Rare’s 10 best games.
10 – Donkey Kong Country
Of course we can’t play Donkey Kong Country in the Rare Replay due to the Donkey Kong rights being owned by Nintendo but it doesn’t make the game any less incredible. Doing 2.5D before anyone thought it was possible DKC mixed phenomenal visuals with precise, unrelenting platforming that instantly made it a classic.
9 – Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble
The final 2D Rare Donkey Kong game showed just how far the studio had come in a few short years. Taking all their lessons from the previous two games, and adding the dynamic of the slow, lumbering Kiddy Kong to the fray meant that DKC 3 changed the tempo of the franchise. Clever environment use, Kong combos as well as some of the most varied environments in the franchise to date make DKC 3 an impressive feat still to this day.
8 – Killer Instinct Gold
The first time you hear the phrase ‘ULLLLTTRRRAAAAAAAAA COMBOOOOOOOO’ sends chills up your spine. You’d think having heard it countless times, having been on the delivering and receiving end of these flurries that you’d be sick of it, but even now the thrill of the Ultra Combo never ceases to please. Killer Instinct was a big deal in the 90s and gave those behind both Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat something to think about when it hit the scene. Gold was the game that perfected it all.
7 – Perfect Dark
Riding high on the extraordinary reception that Goldeneye received Rare dipped their toes back into the FPS genre with Perfect Dark. Taking what Goldeneye did well and applying it to their own world and story, Perfect Dark merged high action with stealth, and Sci-fi elements to become one of the N64’s best games. The follow up for the Xbox 360 sucked but couldn’t taint the memory of this classic.
6 – Battletoads
Known by many as among the hardest games of all time, Zitz, Rash and Pimple’s adventures are still spoken about regularly today. This is because Battletoads hated anyone who thought they could play the game on their own terms – you played by the games rules and those who didn’t were punished for their arrogance. Difficult from start to finish Battletoads was and still is a delight to play.
5 – Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Who doesn’t like seeing a squirrel hurl toilet paper at a gigantic singing poo? Conker’s Bad Fur Day had it all, The Great Mighty Poo, endless pop culture pot shots, extensive lip-synching and tech backing it that made the game the most detailed of anything on the N64. Conker’s Bad Fur Day still makes me laugh endlessly to this day while was also as polished a 3D platformer as you’ll see.
4 – Banjo-Tooie
It was always going to be difficult following up Banjo-Kazooie, but Rare succeeded with Banjo-Tooie. Though quite similar in many ways to the original, Tooie added enough new features and upped the scale enough to stand apart from its predecessor while still giving us more of what we loved so much about the original – it was the best kind of sequel – not like that hot garbage that was Nuts & Bolts.
3 – Goldeneye
If you think there’s ever been a better game based on a movie than Goldeneye, then you probably need to play Goldeneye again. An awesome campaign was only the beginning with what many will still consider to be the best multiplayer ever accompanying it. The perfectly designed maps housed open expanses and a number of tight corridors that meant players had a range of choice, while Goldeneye also made social gaming popular well before the social gaming term was ever coined.
2 – Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest
DKC 3 might have had the greatest bells and whistles but it was DKC 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest that captured the hearts and minds of millions. Astounding visuals, perfectly balanced platforming and a musical score that still gets my heart racing today DKC 2 had it all. The darker setting and tone of DKC 2 certainly made it the odd game of the three but I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
1 – Banjo-Kazooie
Nothing, and I mean nothing, that Rare will ever develop can surpass the incredible Banjo-Kazooie. While Tooie upped the ante, it’s the original that lives in the hearts of players due to its incredibly unique charm, original platforming mechanics and perfect balance. Banjo-Kazooie struck the fine line between allowing progression and forcing you to engage in the collectathon and to this day still serves as inspiration for countless indie and AAA platformers. Forever in my heart Banjo-Kazooie is the best work that Rare has ever produced.
The astounding thing about Rare is that if other developers had achieved such incredible levels of success then we’d be singing from the rooftops about their quality, and yet, due to their last decade being largely forgettable, they tend to get forgotten in the conversations that typically contain Nintendo, Naughty Dog and Rockstar. There are probably another dozen games that I could have selected in any of these ten positions which is a testament to the incredible quality of Rare’s works, but I’m curious as to what you would have selected. Be sure to let us know in the comments or via facebook/twitter. Let’s hope the next 30 years of Rare are as successful as the first 30.