Good ol’ Rare. Many of us have fond memories of Rare and their games growing up on the Nintendo 64; classic games such as
Killer Instinct Gold, Perfect Dark, and Jet Force Gemini. Many consider that stream of time when Rare was developing for Nintendo to be the “Golden Years of Gaming.” Unfortunately, in 2002, Rare was acquired by Microsoft, and the Golden Years came to an end. Rare would go on to make such lackluster experiences such as Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and Kinect Sports.
So what were the best games that were ever produced by Rare? In fairness to Microsoft, I should mention that all of these games will be from the Nintendo 64 … not that I planned it out that way
per se, it just kind of turned out that way (for obvious reasons). I should note that this is part two of a two-part article. The first part published Saturday, February 15th, 2014.
For reference’s sake, my number five game was
Blast Corps, my number four was GoldenEye 007, and my number three was Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Now for the rest!
(2) Diddy Kong Racing
Diddy Kong Racing was the very first game I ever owned for the Nintendo 64. I had the Nintendo 64 already, but I owned no games. I just played my brother’s games. Well, that Christmas I opened up a present and found a copy of Diddy Kong Racing. I had no clue what it was, or who Rare was. When you’re a kid like that, getting any game is a big deal. So, a lot of my fond memories of this game come from nostalgia. But then again, hasn’t the majority of this list? It’s basically Mario Kart 64; it’s a battle go-kart racing game. It made an attempt to mix it up with by adding airplane and hovercraft racing, and added a story mode to it. And, of course, it had that classic Rareware charm to it. The game also introduced a few future Rare characters, such as Banjo, Tiptup the turtle, and Conker the squirrel. All in all, it was a well made and fun game, and I have plenty of fond memories attached to it. Like other Rareware games it also has an amazing soundtrack, though Grant Kirkhope didn’t do this one.
There are a few Rareware games on the Nintendo 64 that I would like to acknowledge. They are fantastic games in their own right, but simply barely missed the cut for “top five,” and still deserve a mention. Inevitably, when ranking anything, something is going to end up first, and something is going to end up last. Winding up last doesn’t make anything
bad, it just means that something else was slightly better in its own right. And with that, my honorable mentions:
Honorable Mention 1: Banjo-Tooie
Banjo-Tooie is one of my favorite sequels of all time. It literally did everything that a good sequel is supposed to do: it used the original game as a jumping off point and then formed it’s own unique identity from there, without resorting to blatantly ripping off the original game or changing everything so much that it’s not even the same game anymore … I’m talking to you Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. It’s such a fine line to walk and hard thing to pull off. But if anyone could, it would be Rare. And they did. And it was amazing. Literally every aspect from Banjo-Kazooie was improved upon and implemented perfectly. Sometimes I find it hard to go back and play Banjo-Kazooie, because I miss all of the added featured from Banjo-Tooie. As I said before, when things get ranked, something’s gotta get cut from the list. Unfortunately, Banjo-Tooie ended up ranking number six on my list. So I felt the need to honorably mention it here.
Honorable Mention 2: Donkey Kong 64
Banjo-Tooie before it, Donkey Kong 64 was a great Nintendo 64 game that just barely missed the mark. The first time I ever played this game, my sister I were spending the night at another brother/sister friend’s house, and they had that clear green plastic Nintendo 64 that was bundled with the Nintendo 64 expansion pack and Donkey Kong 64. My sister and his were off with their cooties doing some silly girl things, so his parents, him, and myself were crowded around his living-room TV and played it all morning. It was one of the best games I ever played. I didn’t know at the time it was a Rare game, and it dawned on me a few years later that that’s why the game was so damn good … it has that classic Rareware polish. I loved it so much that I made my mom go to the store and buy it for me the day after I got back from my friend’s house. Then, a while ago when I was watching the Game Grumps episode with Grant Kirkhope, I realized he did the soundtrack for that game as well! God, why is everything Rare did on the Nintendo 64 so perfect?
Blast Corps and GoldenEye 007, to Conker’s Bad Fur Day and Diddy Kong Racing, Rare certainly had as impact on all of our childhoods. Nintendo and the Nintendo 64 was made forever better, and forever more memorable, because of the games that Rare published. There will always be a spot in my heart for classic Rareware before Microsoft obliterated it all. The answer may be obvious, as many readers in part one of this article already guessed it, but the following is my favorite Rareware game of all time.
“Nostalgia — it’s delicate, but potent. […] In Greek, ‘nostalgia’ literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone.” — Don Draper, Mad Men
When I was younger, my older brother borrowed this game from a friend. I had never heard of it, I just knew I wanted to play it. I got to play it for a total of about 15 minutes before he took it back. Then, this game completely left my memory. A few years later, a family friend of ours bought me this game as a Christmas present. I was so excited. Somehow or another, my mom and I ended up playing it together. As soon as I would get off school, and she would get off work, we would play it for the rest of the night… essentially annexing the family living room and forcing my dad to either watch us play video games, or go back to their bedroom. So my mother and I played this game all the time together, and would eventually beat it. I remember when she woke me up at 6:00 in the morning one time because she had gotten to Click Clock Wood and wanted to show me. I begged her to let me stay home from school to watch her play it. She wouldn’t let me do that, but she did promise not to play that level until I got home. I also recall when we finally got to the final battle with Gruntilda the witch. She let me stay up past my bedtime until we beat it. It’s one of the fondest memories I have of my mother.
Despite having a partially broken back and not being able to move around a lot, she still did everything should could to help her family. She always made sure me and my siblings would get great Christmases and birthdays, and would still take us on family vacations. As I got older her injuries progressed, which would lead to other ailments. She finally got too sick to keep carrying on, and passed away in October 2009. When we went into our house to clean it up, I was looking for something …
anything … that reminded me of her to bury with her. I found our old copy of Banjo-Kazooie. I couldn’t think of a more appropriate trinket, and the game, still with our original save file, was buried with her so that she can play it forever.
I apologize for making this last section so sad, and that I didn’t really discuss the gameplay aspects of it. In this case, it wasn’t the gameplay, story, characterization, plot development, or soundtrack — all excellent mind you — that made this game my favorite, it was the memories I have of sharing this game with my mother that did. Not only is
Banjo-Kazooie my favorite Rareware game, but it is also my favorite video game of all time. And it always will be.
Well there you have it, my favorite Rareware games of all time. I apologize for ending on such a sad tone, and for taking longer than necessary to complete the second half. I don’t really have a valid excuse as to why. However, there it is:
Blast Corps, GoldenEye 007, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Diddy Kong Racing, and Banjo-Kazooie. What were your favorite Rareware games — Nintendo 64 or otherwise? Comment below on your favorite Rareware games, or why you liked (or disliked) Rare.
(Graciously edited by Abby Foote)