With tomorrow's release of Rare Replay for the Xbox one, the fairly recent release of the newest Killer Instinct, and the upcoming Sea of Thieves, Rare (formerly known as Rareware), despite having been a shell of itself for the last decade or so, seems to be having a bit of a resurgence, both in development, and marketing from Microsoft. With this recent boost, I think it's a pretty excellent time to count down my top ten Rareware games. Keep in mind that Rare is one of my favorite developers, so there are some games I really enjoy that missed the list, meaning AI think everything here is pretty great to some degree. Also, one game per series. So yeah, onto the list:
10. Donkey Kong 64 - I know I'm kicking off this list with what seems like a huge plea for unsubscribes, but I assure you that's not the case. First of all, I love Rareware. There are games not on this list I find pretty awesome, even when you don't factor in my one-per-franchise rule. Secondly, I don't have the nostalgia that a lot of people do. I didn't have this game growing up, and I don't think I ever even rented it, cuz I did that with a lot of games. This game is brimming with humor, personality, and charm. Cranky's Lab, K. Lumsy, Snide, the final boss fight, and the entire opening sequence. Of course, the music is amazing and it's not possible to dislike the DK Rap. Unfortunately, the biggest factor for any platformer is my greatest displeasure with this game. The controls. They're not unresponsive, It just feels awkward, the turning is horribly sharp and sensitive, and the enemies and platforms aren't all that fun to fight or traverse respectively. Rare perfected the 3D platformer later on, but it was still a new thing at this time and they just didn't grasp it very well in my opinion (just like Super Mario 64).
9. Star Fox Adventures - I know this sounds crazy, but hear me out. There's a really damn good game here. If it remained listed as Dinosaur Planet instead of Star Fox, I'm certain it would've been well received and fondly remembered as one of the last vestiges of Rare's former glory. I didn't grow up with this game, or any Star Fox game, but I did play Star Fox 64 first, and enjoyed it. I guess i don't have the blinding hatred for anything different that comes with many peoples' nostalgia, but it's a fun platformer in a creative world with some cool characters, very solid platforming and combat, and some really fun vehicle sections. Not to mention that it's easily one of the best looking Gamecube games and still looks great in 2015. As fun as 64 is, this Star Fox game easily has the most depth and variety in the series.
8. Goldeneye 007 - This game is a legend and a hallmark in video games. It popularized the FPS genre on consoles as well as couch multiplayer and many conventions still seen in the genre today. We likely wouldn't have the likes of Halo, Bioshock, or TimeSplitters had Goldeneye 007 never been made. It was a massive hit and is still on everyone's top N64 games list. I too loved it as a kid and put many hours into it. The soundtrack is still pretty amazing and I think it's better than any Bond movie's. Playing this game are among my earlier memories. So why is it only my 8th favorite Rareware game? it holds up horribly. It's painful to play today, and its successor, Perfect Dark, was better and was only beaten out by this because of my nostalgia. It's a massive landmark in gaming history and I remember it fondly, but it definitely doesn't stand the test of time.
7. Blast Corps - Blast Corps is an insane and fast-paced mix of racing, puzzles, and mass demolition. Think Rampage with a top-down view, a wide variety of cars with different stats and special moves, and Link to the Past-esque puzzles. Throw this into a timed setting where the goal is basically to forcibly remove everything from a certain area and it turns into sheer mayhem. Like Goldeneye, I played this as a kid, though not nearly as much. Unlike Goldeneye, it still holds up pretty damn well today. it's still a BLAST (get it!?) alone with friends and will test reflexes and critical thinking all the while being too chock full of explosions and blissful destruction for you to realize it. Did I mention that some of these vehicles are MECHS?! And you can go into Space? You blow shit up as mechs in space. It also goes for dirt cheap so if you own the system, you really should try it.
6. Conker's Bad Fur Day - Conker is the first absolute classic on this list in my opinion. The humor is amazing and ridiculous, the characters are the Rare classic staple ridiculousness, for example, a talking flower with giant tits and the well-adored singing opera turd that is The Great Mighty Poo. The levels are varied and interesting, playing on many themes ranging from a classic Looney Tunes-esque level to clearly Conker in The Matrix. The game that makes this stand out the most in their catalog is definitely the formerly eluded to absurd level of crass and adult humor within. The company known for their delightful platformers loved by kids everywhere wanted to take a different route an ended up doing a total one-eighty. It's off the walls with sexual innuendos, fart jokes, and drunken debauchery. it's still presented in the same cutesy art style which creates an even more hilarious contrast. It's the second highest of games I didn't play as a kid, and though the soundtrack is great, it's not one of my Rare favorites. On top of that, the platforming sections fall flat in some areas. Overall, it's still amazing and a necessary play for any fan of the genre. it also has a pretty sweet remake on the Xbox if that's more your thing. The colors are kinda dulled though.
5. Jet Force Gemini - To me, this is the most under appreciated game in Rare's catalog. It's an action-platformer/3rd=person shooter hybrid set in a futuristic world where you play as a boy, his twin sister, and a dog (yes, you get to play a dog with guns and hoverboots) in a fantastical take on a dystopian future and blah blah blah, stop the evil dude. The fun comes in the solid platforming, great shooting controls, challenging puzzles, and fun characters you meet. it's a more serious setting than Rare usually tackles, but it's got enough of their signature goofiness and radiant designs to be light-hearted without being disingenuous. Basically, it's a really fun and interesting take on future war with ridiculousness abound.
4. Diddy Kong Racing - Diddy Kong Racing was among the first quote on quote Mario Kart clones and it's still among the best. Unlike many that came before, or after for that matter, it actually features many unique mechanics that make it stand apart from Mario Kart. The most apparent is the ability for your kart to change between a car, aircraft, or boat depending on the environment. Speaking of which, the environments are more vibrant and detailed than many of its kind, Mario included, and many of the tracks are also a bit longer, in order to incorporate the transforming mechanic, which whether that's a positive, depends on your tastes. You can race as iconic characters such as Banjo from Banjo-Kazooie, Conker, Tiptup the Turtle... Timer the Tiger (ok, they're not all icons), and the titular Diddy Kong. There are also appearances by much of the Kong Family, a genie elephant, and a pig wizard. What more could you want? Besides more characters you know I suppose.
3. Killer Instinct - Killer Instinct is considered a classic among fighting games. it introduced insane combo systems and combo breaking mechanics still used in big titles like Street Fighter IV to this day. The insane fast-paced combat and fluid animations still make it one of the most challenging and hectic fighters ever released. it has excellent, hard-hitting music, amazing graphics that hold up amazingly today, and perfectly fluid animations. The difficulty makes Dark Souls look like shit, and there's little more satisfying than seeing a friend rage when you get him locked into an ultra combo. Killer Instinct is one of the greatest fighting games ever, made even more amazing considering the team behind it is known for colorful 3D platformers.
2. Donkey Kong Country - Donkey Kong Country is definitely the most nostalgic game on this list for me. It was possibly the first game I played, and I have a plethora of memories of it. It still looks amazing, it controls perfectly, it's insanely creative, it has tons of character and humor, stellar music and it's practically endless fun in my opinion. Most gamers know this classic, but if you haven't tried it, you're truly missing out. On a side note, I know many people are gonna say that its sequels are superior, and I can't particularly argue with that. I do, however, have a massive amount of nostalgia for this game, and it's still a borderline masterpiece on its own.
1. Banjo-Kazooie - Banjo-Kazooie is a majestic piece of platforming greatness. Rare took what Mario 64 established, and blew it out of the water. Unlike most N64 games, this game still looks beautiful to this day. The designs are creative and every single creature has an amazing amount of character and charm. The levels are all unique, vibrant, lively, and rather large in scope, but still full of things to do. The text dialog is hilarious and every character's voice is substituted with an amusing noise repeated over and over. The game is overflowing with creativity and the fun factor is seemingly limitless. I played a decent amount of this as a kid and loved it, though I do have more memories of gamed like Donkey Kong Country and Goldeneye. However, this game has held up better than hose, and better than most games over time. It's still an absolutely blast to play and I can always pop it in and have a great time no matter how many times I've played it. I almost forgot to mention one of he greatest video game soundtracks ever composed. I guarantee you'll get hooked on it. Just thinking about it has lodged about three or four tracks deep into my brain. If you have any interest in platforming games, you will feel like you've gained a previously missing portion of your life when you play this masterpiece of the genre.
There are definitely some good games I had to leave off. Obviously Banjo-Tooie, the Donkey Kong Country sequels, Kilter Instinct 2 and its N64 port, Gold. Other great games such as perfect Dark, R.C. Pro Am, and Battletoads were also heavily considered. There's also a solid Banjo-Kazooie game on Game Boy Advance and I've heard great things about Viva Pinata but haven't had a chance to play it. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the list and stuff and thanks for reading.
Also, most of the old Rare team is currently working on a new IP called Yooka-Laylee (inspired heavily by Banjo-Kazooie). It looks amazing and I definitely suggest checking the project out. It absolutely demolished its Kickstarter goals and is well on its way to a huge release on consoles and PC.