The Nintendo consoles of the 90’s were loaded with classic games. Most of these incredible Nintendo titles had one thing in common: the developer. This developer wasn’t just any developer, it was Rare Ltd., a company that was founded by Tim and Chris Stamper. Throughout the years, Rare developed some of the most innovative and creative games on the market, and was Nintendo’s right hand man. Sadly this all came to an end in 2002, and whenever a new Nintendo console is released you can’t help but think how different things could have been if it wasn’t for a certain $375 million dollar deal. Let’s take a trip down memory lane at the beginning and the end of Rare’s ride with Nintendo.
Rare Ltd. first broke the scene on the Nintendo Entertainment System back in the late 80’s. They developed games for a wide range of genres, from game show games like Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune, to adventure titles such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Wizards & Warriors. The most notable title Rare developed for the NES, was the notorious beat ’em up, Battletoads. Nintendo began liking what they saw from the Developers at Rare and purchased a major stake in the company in 1994, spawning the birth of Rareware. This is when the ball really started rolling for Rare, and really began showing what they were capable of.
In late 1994 Rareware developed Donkey Kong Country, which would not only show that they had the makings to be a powerhouse for the platforming genre, but also it went on to be one of the greatest selling Super Nintendo game of all time. Rare went on to develop the entire Donkey Kong Country trilogy, as well as the classic fighting game series, Killer Instinct.
When the Nintendo 64 was released in 1996, Rareware never let their foot off the gas. They began producing high quality games at a steady rate, making them an industry leader. The majority of the most iconic games created in the late 90’s had Rare’s name all over them. In 1997 Goldeneye 007 was released, which changed the entire gaming industry forever. Goldeneye revolutionized the first person shooter genre and multiplayer gameplay, no doubt Rareware’s biggest achievement. They followed up their FPS success with another classic, Perfect Dark. To keep a good variety they produced solid racing titles like Diddy Kong Racing and Mickey’s Speedway USA, classic platformers like Donkey Kong 64, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, and of course who could forget the cult classic, Conker’s Bad Fur Day. With their immense momentum, and the Gamecube just around the corner, it looked like their was no stopping Rareware and Nintendo. What many did not realize was that this would become the beginning of the end of what was the greatest second party developer the gaming industry has ever seen.
On September 24th 2002, millions of diehard Nintendo fan’s hearts shattered worldwide when Microsoft announced they acquired 100% of Rare Ltd. for $375 million. In many fans’ eyes this is when the company known as Rare died. One could argue that Rare was still producing great games, which was true in the case of Conker: Live & Reloaded, Kameo: Elements of Power, Perfect Dark Zero, and Viva Pinata, but you can’t deny that major wind was taken out of their sails, having only developed less than a dozen of Microsoft games in the last 10 years. This is a shocking turnaround from their hay day with Nintendo, producing multiple games per year at a consistent rate. Who really knows what Microsoft has planned with Rare, but it definitely seems like a major waste of potential.
What Could Have Been
One can’t help but think how different things would be if Microsoft hadn’t made that 375 millon dollar offer. There was massive potential for Rare as a developer on the Gamecube, Wii, and Wii U. Nintendo has fared pretty well on their own with the Donkey Kong series but could you imagine how awesome it would be to see a Banjo Kazooie title on the Wii U? How about a Diddy Kong Racing game for the Gamecube? (Which was in development but was mothballed due to the Microsoft acquisition). The possibilities were endless, and the realization that none of this will ever happen is incredibly depressing. When that depression sets in, just reflect on the good times, go back and replay all the great games, and thank Rare Ltd. for what they have done for the gaming industry.