There are some names in the gaming industry that hold great memories for many gamers. Nintendo, Sega, Konami and EA are some of the biggest names that will roll off your tongue when asked what your favourite developer is. It is no secret that Sega is definitely mine but another firm comes to mind when I think about nostalgia and my gaming past. Rareware is synonymous with quality, but not all their titles are classics. I take a look at the top 5 that make up my Rareware memories.
Starting life out as Ultimate Play the Game in 1982, The Stamper brothers made quite a name for themselves in the home computing scene throughout the remaining decade. Their first game, JetPac, was a huge success and it led to much interest from bigger developers. Before the end of the decade the Stampers had sold the entire catalogue of Ultimate to US Gold. Around this time they started up Rare and before long Nintendo bought a stake in the company. Throughout the 90’s Rareware would produce some of the SNES and N64’s most loved games.
It was during this time that my love for Rare started to develop. I had played a few of Ultimate’s titles but never truly appreciated them. It was not until the collaboration with Nintendo that I really started to notice just how good the Stamper games are. Looking back I have now put some time into the Jetman series and also dived into the history of the brothers. They were some of the first gaming celebrities and created a brand that gamers loved.
I have chosen my top 5 Rareware games based on my own nostalgia. These are not their best games, some might even consider them the worst. But these games represent my memories of this great British developer that still continue to produce excellent titles to this day. It is uncommon for a developer to be so consistent for such a long time but long may it continue. Join me in celebrating Rareware as I discuss my top five.
When I first considered getting my N64 in the summer of 1997 it was only Mario that had really taken my fancy as a game to get with it. By chance a friend had purchased the latest Nintendo magazine and it had some previews of upcoming games for the new console. Out of all the games on show only Blast Corps stuck with me. Its big, bold and bright visuals matched with the promise of blowing up lots of stuff had me sold from day one.
It did not appear in the UK until Christmas that year but it was my first purchases after Zelda and Mario of course. I recognised the Rareware branding from my time playing Battletoads on my Mega Drive. One thing I always knew with Rare games was their steep difficulty but overall quality. I was not disappointed, right from the start I was knocking down buildings with dump trucks and bulldozers. To discover later that giant robots made up part of my arsenal was a real treat and all the secret vehicles to uncover was a joy.
Blast Corps may not be the best game that Rare has ever developed but to me the idea of using huge robots to destroy buildings is amazing. The game does not take itself that seriously or try to be anything other than a mindless destructo-fest. And while it starts out easy you will soon be challenged as the final few rounds start to swallow up many restarts. Trying to get gold on some of the mini challenges is also tricky. It took a few months trying to 100% Blast Corps.
High scores are something I am drawn to as well as recognition of a good performance. Blast Corps has all these things and even if the main game is fairly straight forward I know I can always turn to it to attempt those promotions and gold badges on each level. The music is silly but bounces along and the characters have some real personality. This game will always be special to me and I visit it at least once a year.
My family was late to the Game Boy party and my brother got one for his birthday around 1992. We only had a handful of games at the time but one has stuck with me throughout my life as the first Game Boy game I completed. The Fortress of Fear, a Wizards & Warriors titles, is an action platformer with an insane difficulty level. At the time of its release in 1990 critics mostly canned it and commented on why it was chapter ten when only two previous games in the series had been released. Eight year old me was not to know and I fell in love with this game due to its platforming and sword play.
I might not have played it so much if we had more Game Boy games but back then you played what you had. It is not a great game and revisiting it again for this video has highlighted its flaws. But this is about my Rareware nostalgia and the company had thrown their lot in with Nintendo producing a vast amount of titles for the NES. I never had a NES as a kid so missed out on most of those first time round. But the Fortress of Fear remains my first experience with Rare and many of the great games that were to come.
If I played this game for the first time today I would probably not give it much time but it is my Game Boy nostalgia. The blurry animation and rubbish sounds remind me of laying on the living room floor gripping that little grey box tight. I remember the day I finally completed it only to be disappointed with the end screen. If memory serves me correctly I did not go back much after that. Sonic 2 came out and I was firmly back on my seat as a Sega fan with my mega Drive. But for that brief window Rare and I had a Game Boy love affair.
Fortress of Fear is also the game I say got me into handhelds in general. I was not a huge fan of Game Boy or LCD games back then but this little adventure changed all that. One of my favourite consoles of all time is the GBA and it started with this clunky action game from Rareware for Nintendo’s iconic bundle of joy.
Never being a particularly huge fan of that plumber guy it was always Nintendo’s original bad guy that I was drawn to. I have early memories of playing the classic arcade game but it was not until 1994 that the big DK became my firm favourite Ninty character. Donkey Kong Country is one of the greatest games ever made and I remember my jaw dropping to the floor when I saw some preliminary screenshots and development footage.
I distinctly remember the adverts in the gaming press at the time. Seeing such an iconic video game character in 3D was mind blowing for ten year old me. You must help DK get his banana horde back from the beasts in the Jungle and you are joined by series newcomer Diddy. The game features a host of other friends to aid you on the dangerous journey and every creature had real personality. The bold visuals are striking and it is still astonishing what Rare achieved with the now ageing SNES.
Each time I see Donkey Kong Country it makes me remember a time when games were changing constantly. This was one of the crowning glories of the 16-bit era. I really love the two squeals but this first one is where my memory is placed. Being the first DK game that Shigeru Miyamoto was not directly involved in and acted as adviser. It was a big gamble for Nintendo that paid off and helped sway my decision to finally buy a SNES. This game also put Rare firmly on the map and everyone was talking about them. They were the next big thing in gaming.
I knew it was a special time for video games in the mid 90’s. Donkey Kong Country blew the competition aside that year. It still holds up well to this day and I play it regularly. It is filled with barrels,lots of barrels! Well I guess they are kind of DK’s thaing. I just love how hard it is and all the special friends that help you on your way. Enguarde the Swordfish is my favourite alongside Diddy. They feel like real friends with their big smiles and bright eyes. This game is in my heart and I will never forget just how many good times it has given me.
The N64 had many of my friends in a whirl in 1998. There had been so many great games already released but one would bring us all together. Diddy Kong Racing is a game I fell in love with the moment I first played it. The characters and bold visuals shone through and teenage me was excited. It was also fairly tough, not impossible, but certainly challenging. To 100% the game you need to beat the developers times on every track.
The challenge would unlock the best racer, TT. This little red clock character is the fastest with the best handling. My friends and I were in our own race to unlock TT by smashing the times within the game. It was not only the TT challenge that had us gripped the multiplayer in Diddy Kong Racing is amazing. Easily as good, if not better, than anything Mario Kart has to offer. The excellent two player adventure mode allows for real teamwork as well.
Everything just seems to work in this great Rareware title. The music, sounds, track design, difficulty and fun all come together for an incredible experience. Just flying around the over world island is a joy and all its little secrets that you uncover. I just love how it mixes Mario 64 style star system to unlock new areas with the addictive racing of Mario Kart. It is such a unique kart racer and has so much to offer you.
One of my favourite parts are the four bosses. Each one is huge on the screen and tough challenge to beat. Then you have to do it all again in mirror mode! I will always remember 1998 as the year my friends and I were bought together in a common cause to beat the times and share our love for Diddy Kong Racing. A common aim to unlock TT and improve our skills against the computer and of course each other.
I was one of those 90’s kids that hung around arcades and popped my 10 pence pieces into fighting games, shooters and pretty much anything that took my fancy. But in the summer of 95 a new game appeared that took my love of beating the hell out of friends to a whole new level. We had rode the wave of Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat in the previous years and now there was a new kid on the block. Killer Instinct had been released in arcades in late 94 but did not land in my home town until some time later.
The jaw dropping visuals, insane combos and finishers made it the perfect game for dazzling attacks and rivalries were reignited. The competition to unlock the special moves was brought to a head when a very much scaled down port arrived for the SNES. Rareware had already sprung a surprise with Donkey Kong Country but a 2D fighter was something completely new for the company. I honed my skills and combos for hours and the home port served as a great way to keep pace with the arcade challenges on the weekend.
The announcers booming voice, huge combo counts and awesome no mercy moves set in motion my love for fighting games that holds strong to this day. I have Killer Instinct to thank for countless days of unlocking moves, discovering secrets and smashing the high scores. I still play this game a lot to this day and thanks to emulation I can even play the arcade original. The skills may not be as sharp as they were 20 years ago but I still mix it with the best on this classic title. It is a real shame that its squeals have failed to live up to the majesty of the first.
It remains my favourite SNES game and will always draw me in to take down my foes in a blitz of combos and specials. The unique combo system has not been matched to this day and Killer Instinct sets out its own stall. Where everyone else was rushing out Street Fighter II clones Rareware were pulling everything great about the genre into one amazing title. It still sends a shiver down my spine when I hear the words ULTRA-ULTRA-ULTRA!