Top 10 Rare Games - ArticleEvan Norris , posted on 04 August 2015 / 23,826 Views
Few video game developers enjoy the pedigree of British studio Rare. Founded in 1985 by Tim and Chris Stamper, Rare has spent the last three decades making some of the most creative, audacious, and brilliant video games of all time.
From its early days, to its partnership with Nintendo, to its current, sometimes polarizing relationship with Microsoft, Rare has remained a studio willing to try new things, flirt with new technologies, and provide gameplay experiences found nowhere else.
Many of those experiences I had the pleasure to play at launch. Others - for example Banjo-Tooie, which I picked up at New York Comic Con a few years ago - I played much later. In anticipation of Rare Replay, a 30-game compilation celebrating Rare's impressive software library, I replayed many of my favorites and played many, including Viva Pinata and Conker: Live and Reloaded, for the first time. It was a wonderful trip down memory lane and a reminder of the indelible mark Rare has left on the industry.
10. Donkey Kong Country (SNES)
From a business perspective, Donkey Kong Country is, perhaps, Rare's most important game. Released in 1994 to much fanfare, it buoyed Nintendo's hardware and software sales at a time when competition from rival console manufacturers was intensifying.
With its ground-breaking pre-rendered 3D graphics, deep and addictive gameplay, and expert level design, Donkey Kong Country was a sensation when it arrived in stores in November 1994, selling nine million copies lifetime. And yet Rare was just getting started.
9. Jet Force Gemini (N64)
Inspired by Super Mario 64 and Super Metroid - among others - Jet Force Gemini is one of Rare's most under-appreciated titles. Built by the team that made Blast Corps, Gemini is a third-person shooter focused on exploration, collecting, and massive bosses.
Gemini, like many Rare titles, suffers a bit from its emphasis on backtracking, but its diverse weapons, challenging boss battles, and advanced artificial intelligence make it one of the studio's finest fifth-generation games. The music, sound design, and graphics were all outstanding for the time as well.
8. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest (SNES)
Many fans point to Donkey Kong Country 2 as the pinnacle of the series, and it's easy to see why. The graphics, featuring detailed backgrounds, animations, and special effects, are even more striking than those in the original game. The musical score, including standout "Stickerbush Symphony," is also one of Rare's best. Even the game's story is a notable improvement over that of Donkey Kong Country.
On top of all of that there are plenty of new moves, more diverse environments and enemies, and lots of hidden items. Perhaps the greatest aspects of Country 2, though, are the things that have allowed it to maintain popularity 20 year later - tight controls and complex, challenging levels.
7. Diddy Kong Racing (N64)
Many gamers point to Mario Kart 64 as the pinnacle of N64 kart racing, but it has a serious rival in Rare’s Diddy Kong Racing. Unlike similar kart racing games, Diddy Kong Racing allows players to choose from three vehicles - karts, hovercrafts, and airplanes - although some vehicles are proscribed on certain courses. All tracks are laid out along a similar model, with boost markers and floating balloons that award players with various power-ups.
What makes Diddy Kong Racing particularly engaging is its one-player adventure mode, in which Diddy travels across worlds, competing in races, unlocking battle stages, and ultimately racing against a world boss. Several characters from Diddy Kong Racing, including Banjo and Conker, would later go on to star in their own action games.
6. Donkey Kong 64 (N64)
Of all the Rare Nintendo 64 titles, Donkey Kong 64 probably polarizes fans to the greatest degree. Criticized, sometimes justifiably, for tediousness and excessive emphasis on backtracking, Donkey Kong 64 remains a game of epic proportions and one of the greatest "collectathon" games to grace a Nintendo console. The game follows Donkey Kong and four of his simian relatives, all of whom have unique (and upgradable) abilities.
Each of the eight levels contains items or enemies that can only be collected or defeated by a certain member of the Kong family; consequently each level must be examined and re-examined. Donkey Kong 64 also, surprisingly, boasts a multiplayer mode, which features several environments, modes, and all five Kongs as playable characters.
5. Donkey Kong Country 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble (SNES)
Often dismissed as the black sheep of the original Donkey Kong Country trilogy, Donkey Kong Country 3 is, in several instances, the best game of the series. While it might not have the masterful music or drum-tight level design of its immediate predecessor, Country 3 makes up for it with more diverse levels, a more complex and open-ended overworld, and plenty of puzzles and side-quests.
These adventure elements - exploration, puzzle-solving, finding and using items - set Country 3 apart from the pack, and make it one of Rare's most challenging and rewarding platform games.
4. GoldenEye 007 (N64)
GoldenEye 007 ranks among games like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake as one of the more important shooters ever made. Upon its arrival on the N64 in 1997, GoldenEye proved two important things: one, that first-person shooters could survive - even thrive - on home consoles; and two, that they need not all be corridor shooters where players run from point A to point B, blasting everything in sight.
In GoldenEye, stealth and strategy matter. Apart from its incredible and challenging single player mode, which has tons of replay value, GoldenEye features a legendary split-screen multiplayer mode with customizable weapon sets and expertly-designed maps.
3. Banjo-Tooie (N64)
After the huge success of Banjo-Kazooie, Rare started work on a sequel. In 2000, Banjo-Tooie arrived in stores. In many ways, Banjo-Tooie is a better game than its predecessor. The sound effects, music, and graphics are phenomenal. How Rare crammed so many animations, particle effects, and huge, expansive environments into a single cartridge without the help of the expansion pak is a mystery; although the improved, high-power graphics come with a price -- random dips in framerate.
Banjo-Tooie is much bigger in size and scope than its predecessor. Whereas in Banjo-Kazooie, players could access (and conquer) each world via a magical portal, all of the worlds in Banjo-Tooie are connected. This allows missions to span several different environments instead of being limited to a single world. In a sense there are no "levels" in Banjo-Tooie, only a sprawling open-world hub with interconnected areas.
Other additions include Split-Up pads, which allow players to control Banjo and Kazooie separately, dozens of new unlockable moves, and lots of genre-mashing episodes, including one where Kazooie functions as a gun in a first person shooter.
2. Perfect Dark (N64)
At number two is Rare's follow-up of sorts to the massively successful GoldenEye 007. It seemed unlikely that Rare could create a worthy successor to one of the most critically acclaimed and popular games of all time, but that's exactly what happened. In fact, Perfect Dark surpasses its spiritual predecessor on several fronts: graphics, sound, presentation, and game modes.
In single player mode, heroine Joanna Dark fights across over a dozen levels to uncover a massive conspiracy. In co-operative or counter-operative mode, two players can take on mission objectives together, or try to sabotage one another. And in multiplayer mode, up to four players and eight computer-controlled bots, or "simulants" as they're called in Perfect Dark, can fight for bragging rights.
1. Banjo-Kazooie (N64)
Between 1994 and 2001, Rare (then Rareware) was on top of the world. The British studio was, arguably, the best developer on the planet during that time, challenging even its benefactor Nintendo. One of the titles that best represents that golden age for Rare is Banjo-Kazooie, a creative and technically-superior platform game that excels in level and character design, sound design and music, graphics and, of course, a uniquely British sense of humor. Big, bold, and bouncy, it's Rare in a nutshell.