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The Top 10 Games Developed by Rare

March 19, 2010

The Top 10 Games Developed by Rare
By Alex Coulter

How has Rare's library aged?

Many eons ago, during an age of cartridge-based game systems and split-screen multiplayer, there was a developer that seemed to turn every game they touched into gold. Ranging from first-person shooters, to platformers, to fighting games, this company covered nearly every genre imaginable, and almost always found success. That studio was Rare, the British developer most famous for their games published on the Nintendo consoles of the '90s. Although Rare hasn’t developed any new games for a number of years, they have been busy assisting with ports some of their classics to the Xbox 360, most recently, the critically acclaimed Perfect Dark. Here’s our list of the top 10 games developed by Rare, all of which we would happily buy again.

(Note - they are in order of release date)

Battletoads
1991 – NES

Ahh, Battletoads…one of the most frustratingly difficult yet utterly enthralling games of my childhood. Made to rival the Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles series, Battletoads showed that it was possible create a fun, captivating game by ripping off an idea that wasn’t all that good in the first place. Even though the game is mercilessly tough, and playing co-op with a friend is often more detrimental than helpful, the game is still a blast to play almost twenty years later. The game’s theme song is also one of the catchiest in all of gaming, and makes for a great ringtone.

Donkey Kong Country
1994 – SNES

The Donkey Kong Country trilogy was one of the most popular series of games during the Super Nintendo days, and for good reason. From the revolutionary pre-rendered 3D graphics, to the memorable jungle tunes, DKC was certainly one of the most aesthetically appealing titles of the early '90s. The side-scrolling action struck a fine balance between exploration and fighting enemies, and both co-operative and competitive multiplayer added even more replay value. Even though DKC 2 is widely regarded as the best game in the trilogy, it was the original that made Rare a household name in the SNES era, and helped cement Donkey Kong’s position as a Nintendo mascot even to this day.

Killer Instinct
1994 – Arcade/SNES

With the success of games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, Rare decided to try their hand at the arcade-fighting genre in 1994 with their offering, Killer Instinct. The game borrowed a lot from the aforementioned fighters, such as attack sets and fatalities, but added to the genre as well. I mean, how could you not like a game where breast-induced shock counted as a finishing move? And let’s not forget that without Killer Instinct, we wouldn’t have the “C-c-c-combo breaker!” meme, and that’s not a world I want to live in. Making appearances not only in arcades, but on the SNES, Gameboy, and Nintendo 64 as well, Killer Instinct showed that Rare wasn’t intimidated by branching out into different genres, something that not many developers can truthfully say.

GoldenEye 007
1997 – Nintendo 64

One of the greatest games made for the Nintendo 64, Rare accomplished something with GoldenEye that developers even today can’t seem to manage: creating a fantastic movie-based game. For a controller with only one joystick, the Nintendo 64 handled the game beautifully, creating a first-person shooting experience that had never been seen on a console before. The coolness factor of playing as James Bond was only rivaled by the impressive array of weaponry, ranging from the legendary golden gun, to the lethal sniper rifle. Add in some of the most epic four-person multiplayer found in gaming before the turn of the century, and you’ve got a certifiable timeless classic.

Banjo-Kazooie
1998 – Nintendo 64

Through games like Donkey Kong Country and GoldenEye, Rare proved that they were masters at creating successful games within established franchises. With 1998’s Banjo-Kazooie, however, they showed that they could be just as productive in creating their own original IP. Controlling the tag-team duo of Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird, players got to explore the vibrant, expansive world of Spiral Mountain in their quest to stop the evil witch, Gruntilda. Banjo-Kazooie offered some of the best platforming on the Nintendo 64 since Super Mario 64, and enticed gamers with enough collectables to keep them busy for months.

Jet Force Gemini
1999 – Nintendo 64

Perhaps Rare’s most obscure title released for the Nintendo 64, Jet Force Gemini was a unique third-person shooter that, for some reason, never gained the popularity of the developer’s other titles. The science fiction story was original, the different planets were all diverse, and the gameplay throughout was varied. From puzzle solving, to platforming, to shooting, Jet Force Gemini was a game that transcends a single genre. The controls can be iffy at times, and the graphics haven’t aged well, but the overall experience is still enjoyable and fun.

Donkey Kong 64
1999 – Nintendo 64

Donkey Kong 64 continued what Rare started on the Super Nintendo, and brought DK into the 3D world of gaming, much like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time did for their respective heroes. It was the first game that required the 64’s Expansion Pack, which boosted the system’s memory for enhanced graphics and features, and actually came free with the game. The gameplay in DK64 was top-notch, improving on the already impressive platforming found in Banjo-Kazooie. You could play as five different Kongs in total, all of which had unique powers, abilities, and attacks, which helped add some variety. The game also featured multiplayer, and although it was lackluster, was still entertaining enough when your pesky friends wouldn’t let you play by yourself. Looking back at the lousy rhythm-based Donkey Kong games of the past eleven years makes DK64 look that much sweeter.

Perfect Dark
2000 – Nintendo 64

Thanks to three extra years of hardware knowledge, the advent of the expansion pack, and improving on the very few flaws of GoldenEye, Rare created the definitive shooter of the N64 generation in Perfect Dark. Blending a futuristic storyline with explosive, heart-pumping action, Perfect Dark helped prove that first-person shooters belong on consoles. As impressive as Joanna Dark’s story is, it’s the multiplayer that makes Perfect Dark such an engrossing experience. In addition to the co-operative and “counter-operative” modes of the campaign, the multiplayer also features four-player split screen in a variety of game modes, all of which are worth playing. Arriving on Xbox Live later this week, 360 owners will not only get a chance to play Perfect Dark with improved graphics and controls, but online for the first time as well.

Conker’s Bad Fur Day
2001 – Nintendo 64

One of the last games published for the Nintendo 64, Conker’s Bad Fur Day was a fun, if not fitting, end to the console’s life. The game was definitely aimed at the older crowd, featuring lewd humor, graphic violence, and sex. Of course, those are the very makings of a great game. The graphics were unparalleled, looking more like a GameCube game than one for the N64. The game also packed in an impressive amount of voice acting, especially for a cartridge-based game. And of course, the platforming elements were enchanting as always. For years, Rare provided the Nintendo 64 with hit after hit after hit. It was only fitting that they help close out the console’s life with another quality title.

Viva Piata
2006 – Xbox 360

Released in 2006, Viva Piata marked Rare’s entry into the simulation genre. Being released on the Xbox 360, Viva Piata had the reluctant honor of trying to attract the increasingly large casual crowd of gamers to Microsoft’s console. On some level, the game succeeded, as the bright, vibrant visuals helped attract younger players, and the Sims-like gameplay appealed to the less-hardcore crowd. And the game was surprisingly deep, offering an addictive level of gameplay that could captivate any gamer. Although Rare hasn’t produced many high quality games over the past ten years (especially compared to the nineties), Viva Piata showed that there’s still some life left in the 28 year old developer.

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