Today marks the release of Rare Replay for Xbox One, the affordably priced compilation featuring 30 of the studio’s video games, including Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, Banjo-Kazooie and of course, Battletoads. Playing NES games like Cobra Triangle on a Microsoft console is somewhat trippy, but overall, retro fans will spend hours unlocking stamps and reliving their childhoods. Time well spent!
Of course, Rare goes much further back than its Microsoft days. The studio rose to prominence in the 90s under Nintendo’s wing, with such celebrated hits as Donkey Kong Country, Killer Instinct and GoldenEye 007 releasing to critical acclaim and selling well over a million copies. Both companies seemed like the perfect match, with Nintendo’s charm rubbing off on the talented developer. Heads perked up the moment Nintendo whispered new games from Rare were on the way. We never questioned the developers’ commitment to creating quality experiences. Instead, we always purchased Rare games with confidence.
Then in 2002, Microsoft acquired Rare and the vast majority of its IP, including Perfect Dark (a sequel launched alongside the Xbox 360) and Banjo-Kazooie, which in the late 90s seemed about as Nintendo as Mario. This also led to the creation of brand-new games like Grabbed by the Ghoulies and Viva Pinata exclusive for Xbox hardware.
In all fairness we have little to say about Rare joining Microsoft. The studio produced some of the most iconic games for Nintendo and we’re forever grateful. Today, however, we can only think of one ultimate what-if involving all of those Rare-themed amiibo that will never exist.
Seriously, think about all of the cool Rare-inspired amiibo Nintendo would’ve released had the company remained second party. If Pac-Man, Mega Man and Sonic the Hedgehog (three characters from third party publishers) wound up in the newest Super Smash Bros., perhaps we would’ve seen Joanna Dark (Perfect Dark), the heroes from the Battletoads games (Rash, Zitz, Pimple) and of course, both Banjo and Kazooie, the latter of which Nintendo may have combined into one. Several highly respected characters joining the official Super Smash Bros. amiibo lineup, and likely selling out within seconds.
This barely scratches the surface, by the way. Killer Instinct’s Fulgore in Smash, complete with an amiibo to train? Yes, please!
Ultimately Microsoft wound up with Rare, and all of these companies went on to do great things. Nintendo handed the Donkey Kong Country series to Retro Studios and we thoroughly enjoyed the Wii U follow-up, Tropical Freeze. Rare, meanwhile, turned in two excellent Kinect Sports titles for Microsoft’s Xbox 360. We played golf, darts and bowling for hours.
Since we grew up playing Rare’s games, we can’t help but daydream about an alternate future where Conker and Sabrewulf amiibo hang from pegs in stores, rekindling fond memories of our youth. Instead, we’re cool dusting off those beloved SNES and N64 cartridges while at the same time digging into Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts on Microsoft systems. Naturally, we wish all of these companies the best, and can’t wait to dig into Rare Replay this week.
And yes, please ask us about Battletoads.
Now see the five best games in Rare Replay.