5 Favorites for the Rare 35th Anniversary

For any kid like me that grew up(?) playing video games in the 90’s and early 2000’s, one of the most beloved and prolific studios was Rare. The British studio was responsible for creating classics like Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads, GoldenEye, and Banjo-Kazooie. There was such a sense of humor and creativity in the games created by Rare, along with a respected level of quality that easily rivaled that of developers like Capcom or Konami during the early and mid-90’s. Rare is now celebrating its 35th anniversary in the gaming industry, so, for today’s post, I’ve created a list of my favorite games developed during the studio’s golden years. To commemorate this occasion Rare has also released a list of tracks taken from its past titles across streaming services online titled – Rare All-Stars 35th Anniversary Collection, which served as my background music while writing this…

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country wasn’t the first Rare game I ever played, that would go to R.C. Pro-Am and Battletoads on the NES, but DKC is a game that holds a special place in gaming history(and myself). Rare convinced Nintendo to allow them the opportunity to create a new game from a classic game character that was considered long past his prime, only to create an all-time classic adventure-platformer and bring the banana-hoarding primate to relevance once again. I will concede that Donkey Kong Country 2 is the best of the series, but my personal favorite will always be the original.

Perfect Dark

Though both GoldenEye and Perfect Dark are great games and examples of how Rare changed perceptions of FPS games on console, I’m choosing Perfect Dark here. In contrast to my preference of Donkey Kong Country games, my choice of GoldenEye or Perfect Dark would be the latter, though not by any great margin. I always felt that Perfect Dark took everything that made GoldenEye a breakthrough (console)FPS game and refined it, along with creating unique, memorable world, weapons and protagonist in Joanna Dark. I’ve written in the past about some of the different things that I loved(and still love) about Perfect Dark so I will keep this relatively brief.

Jet Force Gemini

One of my personal favorite Rare games, Jet Force Gemini was released during their golden days on the N64. The premise of Jet Force Gemini is pretty simple: Juno, Vela, and their dog-companion, Lupus are dispatched to restore order after insectoid overlord Mizar has taken over the planet Goldwood and enslaved the fuzzy alien population. The non-linear worlds in the game were large and colorful, they were also crawling with insect enemies to be splattered. The enemy A.I. in the game was pretty challenging, making for some intense battles which required a healthy dose of the game’s many interesting weapons. Whenever the question is asked about which game you would pick for a remake or remaster, Jet Force Gemini is one of my first picks. There’s also the code for rainbow blood, which resulted in plenty of added color after fighting an army of bugs…

Diddy Kong Racing

While multiplayer kart-racing games begin and end with Mario Kart, Rare took Diddy Kong, the number-two banana in DKC and inserted him into an exciting and colorful kart-racer along with a cast of Rare-verse characters that we would know and love for generations like Banjo and Conker. The success of Diddy Kong Racing is also quite impressive considering it came out the same year as Mario Kart 64. One of the most memorable parts of Diddy Kong Racing(outside of its difficulty) was the fact you had the option of choosing between standard go-kart, plane, and hoverboat to use in the various races before ultimately facing off against the evil WizPig. I’m not going to go without also mentioning my two favorite characters to use in the game that have sadly faded into obscurity – Tiptup the Turtle and Timber the Tiger.

Banjo-Kazooie

Whether asking my favorite Rare game or simply my favorite Nintendo 64 game, Banjo-Kazooie is usually my answer. The game contains everything that made Rare so special – instantly memorable characters and worlds filled with humor and personality, along with an iconic soundtrack and sound effects. I have mentioned Banjo-Kazooie here on WordPress….a time or two and also just finished up a playthrough of the HD remaster on Twitch. I had a great time and was very pleased with how incredibly well the game has held up, especially impressive considering other games from the first generation of 3D games. The final level of Banjo-Kazooie is even turned into a boardgame/quiz show, how awesome is that? I absolutely love this game.

Other honorable mentions would include:

  • R.C. Pro AM
  • Killer Instinct
  • Conker’s Bad Fur Day
  • Battletoads/Double Dragon
  • Donkey Kong 64
  • GoldenEye
  • Viva Piñata
  • Star Fox Adventures(yes, I liked it)

There’s plenty more that I’ve either forgotten or haven’t even played yet, like Grabbed by the Ghoulies or Sea of Thieves. I will also take this opportunity to promote the impressive retrospective/collection of games are included(minus any Donkey Kong games) in the Rare Replay bundle on Xbox One, especially for those subscribed to Game Pass. What are your favorites from Rare? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!

12 thoughts on “5 Favorites for the Rare 35th Anniversary

  1. I think Slalom was the first Rare game I ever played, but Donkey Kong Country was the first Rare game I actually owned. Rare is certainly emblematic of everything wondrous of the AAA scene in the 1990s. It’s a shame they couldn’t make it work out in the following decades because, when it comes to gameplay, they were very much ahead of the curve.

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    1. Yeah, once Rare was bought by Microsoft it hasn’t been quite the same. I would like to go back and give games like Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts and Perfect Dark Zero more of a fair shot than I likely did back then. I remember being quite put off that they weren’t enough like the previous ones and I’m pretty certain there’s some enjoyment to be had out of them…

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  2. Remember buying Perfect Dark and the *rare* UK memory expansion pack and feeling so smug walking home. Was an enjoyable game, lacked a little of the Goldeneye magic at the time and didn’t have as big an impact on the multiplayer front but still a great game. Love how every level felt different and unique, especially Chicago. Great game

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    1. I remember reading in Nintendo Power how only a portion of the game without the Expansion Pack and feeling pretty lucky that I had gotten Donkey Kong 64 the prior Christmas as it came bundled with it.

      I loved the Chicago levels of the game, I remember some of the later Skedar levels getting pretty intense…

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  3. 1. Tiptup is the best 2. Diddy Kong Racing is my favourite racing game on the 64, and 3. the Diddy Kong Racing soundtrack slaps and I’m lowkey offended that none of its themes/track tunes are on that 35th anniversary playlist 😦 This list made me super nostalgic for the N64!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. While playing through Bubblegloop Swamp in Banjo-Kazooie recently I made the comment how Tiptup was another character that was introduced in Diddy Kong Racing, but had gone largely forgotten since…

      The soundtrack for Diddy Kong Racing is pretty awesome and I still get that theme music stuck in my head from time to time. It’s too bad none the music from any “Kong” game made it into that anniversary playlist(thanks, Nintendo). Making this list did make me want to hook up the old N64 and atomic purple controller to play some of those old Rare games.

      Liked by 1 person

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