Very few video game development companies have the history and pedigree that comes with the name Rare. These are the minds that brought us some of the best games in history; Goldeneye, Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie. These are just some of the pieces of art that have come from the UK-based studio over the years. Rare released some of the iconic Nintendo IP that we know and love today, and in 2002, the company was purchased my Microsoft, where they began making games for the Xbox and Xbox 360. While the general consensus is that the quality of games began to decline post-purchase, the company still put out some great material. In August, 2015, Microsoft released a compilation of 30 games from the incredibly deep vault, dating back to when the company was known as Ultimate Play The Game. Many of these games aged well. However, a few of them didn’t. After spending six months with Rare Replay and playing through each game, here is our power ranking of all 30 games included in Rare Replay.
The Creme de la Crap
30. Lunar Jetman
Bringing up the rear is the most painful, and unintuitive of the 30 games. Lunar Jetman was the sequel to the popular Jetpac game. You play a man on the moon trying to destroy alien bases by driving a rover left and right over the screen. The game has aged very poorly. The controls are shoddy, the overall gameplay is rough and limited, and the game just isn’t very fun. When I started Lunar Jetman, I had absolutely no idea what to do or where to go, and I just didn’t have any fun nabbing all the elusive stamps in the game.
29. Solar Jetman
Solar Jetman was the sequel to Lunar Jetman, released on the NES. Although it was a sequel, it wasn’t much better. In this game, you fly a space ship through 12 different worlds, trying to final elusive parts to build the Golden Warship and destroy a giant alien boss in the end. The flying mechanics are heavily based around gravity and pushing against it, but the level design is brutally difficult. Even slightly grazing walls induces tons of damage, while enemies swarm you relentlessly. The levels felt like rinse and repeat areas, and the gravity was ridiculously overwhelming. While a step forward from the bland Lunar Jetman, Solar Jetman wasn’t that much further ahead.
Gunfright was an excruciatingly frustrating game. It is the last of the Sabreman series, where you now play the role of sheriff in the wild wild west. Commonly perceived as the first FPS game, you must track down and duel outlaws in the streets. However, if you touch any of the citizens, you will die. If you touch any of the tumbleweeds while walking around, you will die. If you graze a cactus while searching, you will die. Once you find the dastardly villain you’re looking for, you must kill them in a quick-draw contest that gets more and more difficult as you climb the ranks. While a fun concept, the 4-dimensional walking mechanics, and the limited effort in names (at one point, you’re simply searching for “Mexicans”, at another point, “Bandits”) detracts from the experience. While this game is better than the above, its still in the bottom of the barrel.
A Small Step in the Right Direction
In Underwurlde, the sequel to Sabrewulfe, you jump around a dungeon and throw weapons at random monsters. The only way to die is taking a tumble, but the reaction any time your dude was touched by enemies was over the top and ridiculous. The gist of the game is to find a few items in the dungeon, get past the devil, and make it back to the surface. The dungeon is massive, so there’s a ton to explore, and there are several different types of weapons to use, even if the weapon you choose doesn’t impact anything. Underwurlde was the first game I actually enjoyed, even if just for a little bit.
26. Killer Instinct Gold
I’m not a fan of fighting games, but I can appreciate a good one when I see it; Street Fighter 2, Street Fighter Alpha, Injustice, or Mortal Kombat 2 all come to mind. Killer Instinct Gold is not a game like those listed above. The Super Nintendo port to N64 leaves a lot to be desired in the fighting space, as it is glitchy, hard to figure out, and generally unfair (the last boss can block EVERYTHING I throw at him? REALLY?). The characters aren’t really that original, and it feels like a lacking, albeit solid, attempt at a fighting game. Also, the polygonal graphics have NOT aged well.
25. Knight Lore
Knight Lore was the first good game I played. You play as Sabreman (this is the third in the series) after he has been bitten by a werewolf, and you must find all the necessary ingredients to brew the potion to cure yourself. You can use items as stepping stones to get to other stepping stones, and must gather the ingredients in the proper order. The little puzzles throughout the game are enjoyable, even if repetitive, but the narrow time limit can trim the enjoyment, not to mention the janky movement mechanics that haven’t aged well at all.
24. Sabre Wulf
Sabre Wulf was the first in the series, pitting a brave adventurer against the jungle and the monsters it had to offer. Even though a single hit could kill you from any monster in the field, constantly holding down the attack button can mediate this for the most part. There are also flowers throughout the levels that you can collect that have varying results; some make you invincible, some make you sprint extremely fast, and some destroy every enemy on the screen. The goal of the game is to collect the four pieces of the wulf medallion so you can enter the Underwurlde (yep, that Underwurlde, aka the sequel) by bypassing the protector. It’s a fairly quick game and pretty entertaining, but ridiculous spawns, random sprinting, and invincible enemies can put a quick damper on a fun experience.
23. Atic Atac
Atic Atac reminds me of Bud Light beer. I absolutely hated it the first time I had it, and I still dislike it to this day, but I’ve come to understand why people enjoy it: it’ll do in a pinch to play something. Atic Atac features one of three characters who must find and assemble a three part key in a four story mansion. The mansion is full of traps and secret passageways (one specific passage for each character), as well as many, many monsters. Your life is always ticking down, whether you are struck by monsters or not, so there is a constant sense of urgency (even if said health can be refilled via food). The other issue is that you can only carry three objects. When there are three pieces of the master key, and four different colored keys to open doors in the mansion, this can present a problem. Atic Atac is by no means a great game, but it has its fun moments.
Rounding out the “Meh” section is a game that is heavily nostalgic for me. Slalom was the first game Rare released on the NES system, and it shows at times. The game is extremely unfair, and can force out a string of expletives you didn’t expect. Slalom puts you in the role of a skier, taking on progressively harder runs. You must make it to the bottom of the mountain within the time limit, which typically involved almost-perfect runs… at lightning speed. One accidental twitch can spell doom as you hurl down the mountain. Unfortunately, you will end up basically playing the same run, while dodging other skiers, trees, and sledders throughout the course (oftentimes, you actually do play the same course repeatedly if you want to experience all of the different campaigns). There is also no continue feature or anything along those lines (thank goodness for the Rare Replay save). At first, this game felt like a lot of fun, more so because it was the first of the NES games, but after a little bit of time, I found myself ready to move on.
Entering the Fun Zone
21. Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts
People love to hate on red headed step children, but the truth of the matter is, there are a lot of really cool red headed people out there, and there are some real cool step-siblings out there as well. Nuts ‘n’ Bolts is quite often looked down upon as the red headed step child in the Banjo family. Some people hate it because it doesn’t look right, other people hate it because it’s not the conventional Banjo game we’ve come to know and love, and others seem to hate it because, well, its from Rare post-purchase. Nuts ‘n’ Bolts is vehicle-driven, where its about a 4:1 ratio of driving vs platforming. Players can build their vehicles from over a thousand different parts, leading to tons of room for creativity. The game is a fun experience, even if it’s admittedly a far cry from the N64 Banjo games (which, if we’re being honest, are absolute masterpieces).
20. R.C. Pro-Am
Let’s be real, everyone loves driving R.C. cars around . Now if you add missiles, oil slicks, and other traps to sabotage your competition, that’s a recipe for a ton of fun. R.C. Pro-Am reminds me a lot of Mario Kart before Mario Kart was even created. You start off with a brutally slow car (don’t worry, everyone else is too), and you collect power ups over the course of 20 or 25 races. After you snag enough powerups, you get a new model car, but you’re still upgrading different pieces of your vehicle at the same time. In the latter half of the races, there’s a very slim margin of error, as every other car is blazing around the track. Make sure to not finish last, and you can keep moving along. However, there aren’t many variations on the scenery, so be ready to play what feels like the same map many times.
19. R.C. Pro-Am 2
Everything R.C. Pro-Am did well, R.C. Pro-Am 2 improved on. There were more tracks, more weapons, more upgrades, and more variables in every race. From planes dive-bombing you to boosts and iced over roads, R.C. Pro-Am 2 brought even more to the table. The cars were faster and the controls were a little tighter, but it still left some pieces to be desired. The number of tracks required to “complete” the game increased from the first R.C. Pro Am, and the upgrading system was revamped as well (collect enough parts and you can upgrade to a better model before the other racers). I definitely enjoyed R.C. Pro-Am 2 far more than the original.
18. Digger T. Rock
Indiana Jones, Kid Edition! Digger T. Rock puts the player in the shoes of a brave adventurer exploring deep down into several different tombs. DTR would end up fighting snakes, skeletons, and even cave men, but the goal was always the same: get to the end. There are several cool mechanics involved with Digger T. Rock, using rope ladders to make falls… well… not kill you, explode destructible walls, and even throw rocks to take out enemies from a distance. Once the gate at the end of the level was open, DTR had a set amount of time to make it there before it closed back up, essentially resetting the level. Digger T. Rock was well ahead of its time, but, the game was fairly short, and there were a few places where if you did something out of order, you were stuck and had to start over the entire game.
17. Perfect Dark Zero
Similar to Banjo Kazooie: Nuts ‘n’ Bolts, Perfect Dark Zero is another game that people love to knock because it wasn’t its predecessor. This was one of Rare’s first games on the Xbox 360 platform, and also one of the first FPS games of that generation. The game looked great for those graphics, and served as the prequel to Perfect Dark, exploring how Joanna became the kickass secret agent she is. With tons of challenges and a fun multiplayer mechanic (don’t worry, there are bots to fill in the spots where players would normally go), the game offers hours and hours of gameplay. Being one of the first games with Achievements, the expectations were set a little high in terms of an attainable 1000g.
Leaving Good, Entering Great
Jetpac was the first game that came out of the Rare studio. Virtually everyone has had some kind of experience with Jetpac, as its been included in some way, shape, or form in many games throughout the ages (staring at you, Donkey Kong 64), and was actually remade (and is later on this list) on the Xbox 360. The original is a blast to play, with its simple premise and easy-to-pick-up controls. Compile your spaceship and fuel it up, then GTFO! But its not that simple, tons of enemies appear and attack you in different patterns from both sides of the screen. With the basic wraparound mechanic, you need to always watch your back and both sides of the screen. Jetpac has influenced many games throughout the years, and was a great way to kick off this amazing collection.
15. Cobra Triangle
Cobra Triangle was the biggest surprise in the entire collection. It is basically comprised of several boat-based mini-games in one, that make up the campaign. You might be protecting swimmers from would-be kidnappers in one mission, trying to steal bombs the next mission, and then racing to the finish in a third mission. There is a ton of variety in Cobra Triangle, and the boss battles are extremely enjoyable. With many different ways to upgrade your boat, you can take a few different approaches early on, but the boat will wind up the same way at the end. However, if you miss some upgrades, this can block you later on, as some events really do require a minimum speed to complete. I thoroughly enjoyed Cobra Triangle from the get-go, even though I had no idea what to expect.
14. Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll
Snake! Rattle and Roll! (Okay okay, I know its actually Shake, Rattle and Roll!). SRR puts you in the role of either Rattle or Roll, the head of a snake that grows a body via defeating enemies and eating pellets. This game is one of the best 3d (-ish) platforming games for Rare on the NES. With several levels with a consistent difficulty curve, the game offers a very digestible challenge, and is a ton of fun throughout. Each level feels different, and enables the player to feel like they’re really building up to something. The last few levels are brutally challenging, but are nothing unfair. Climbing that final mountain presents the player with a serious feeling of satisfaction, but the final boss fight is more tedious than difficult. The game is great for couch co-op, but requires some serious precision in the latter half of the levels, so make sure your partner is as good as you are.
13. Jetpac Refuelled
The re-imagining of Jetpac, but in modern day form. Jetpac Refuelled was released on the xbox 360 arcade, and did not disappoint. The game adds an incredible amount of levels, as well as competitive multiplayer, and keeps things fresh by adding weapon upgrades. The general gameplay is the same as the original – assemble the ship, gather fuel, blast off – but the upgraded graphics really bring it to the modern day. No matter how much time you spend in Jetpac, Jetpac Refuelled is sure to bring a fresh and new experience.
12. Grabbed by the Ghoulies
Ah, the tale as old as time in the horror genre. Boy meets girl, boy and girl go on a walk, boy and girl get lost in a storm, girl gets kidnapped by ghouls, boy must save girl. Ok, maybe not so old as time, but its definitely a blast. In Grabbed by the Ghoulies (GbtG), you take on the role of Cooper, desperately trying to save his girlfriend, Amber. The game is pretty simple, combining exploration, platforming, and combat. In each room, you go through a beat-em-up section and solve platforming problems. GbtG moved away from the typical Rare puzzle, splitting up exploration and combat. It was a nice change, but still left something to be desired when compared to greats like Banjo-Kazooie.
From Good to Great!
11. Battletoads Arcade
Originally released and then later brought to consoles, Battletoads Arcade was a great sequel to one of the most iconic games of the NES-era. The graphics were updated for arcade cabinets, but the difficulty was just what we would expect, given the source material. Thankfully, Battletoads Arcade wasn’t overly unfair like some of its arcade counterparts, but it DID still try and steal every quarter it could (the last boss is invincible for the first 45 seconds of the fight – thanks in-game documentaries!). The combat is thoroughly enjoyable, as each character has unique finishing moves, with their bodies turning into some form of weapon. The game is sure to produce many laughs, and just a few frustrations, as you (and a buddy or two) battle through each and every stage.
10. Blast Corps
Blast Corps might be one of the most underrated games on the N64 platform. The game revolves around pure destruction. There are 57 levels with a runaway nuclear missile carrier, and using a variety of vehicles, you must clear the way of buildings to avoid complete annihilation. With inventive puzzle elements and a lengthy campaign, this is a game with tons of gameplay. Once a level is completed within the time limit, you can go back and fully explore everything it had to offer, finding loads of secrets and boosting your overall medal rating. Blast Corps is a ton of fun, and with a cheery soundtrack, it’ sure to make the time fly by.
9. Viva Pinata
If you haven’t played Viva Pinata, you probably weren’t a gamer with an Xbox 360 when it released. This game puts you in charge of a pinata farm, breeding new types of pinatas and watching them grow. The pinata farming simulator starts you off with a neglected garden, and you must build it back up to its former glory. The game includes a multitude of mini-games to continue progress, such as the maze mini-game for mating. Viva Pinata also includes a lot of customization for each pinata, allowing you to name each one and help increase the personal bond with the little guys. The game also allows you to deal with feral pinatas, and tame them to become your own. While it may take a long time to make something beautiful in-game, its totally worth it.
8. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise
Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise adds everything that the developers originally felt was left out from the original. VP:TiP adds cooperative play, as well as multiple modes of play. There are many more pinatas to add to your garden, and there are also a couple areas for the pinatas to actually inhabit. The game also greatly increases the amount of items that can be placed inside the player’s garden at one time. Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise adds a lot to the experience, and includes quite a bit more ruffian experiences. This game is an absolutely joy, and definitely improves on the first one.
7. Kameo: Elements of Power
Kameo was another launch title with the Xbox 360, and it was a pleasant surprise. You play as Kameo, who can harness the powers of elemental warriors and change into different combat forms based on who she’s fighting. The game features open world exploration, with different areas tailored to different elements. The combat is surprisingly enjoyable, and the story is more than expected. Kameo set the bar high for the Rare products on the Xbox 360 console. The puzzles in the game weren’t too terribly difficult, but were still fun to solve. Kameo: Elements of Power also included a fun co-op experience, breaking up the memorable points of the game into digestible pieces. Kameo is a definite delight, and deserving of a spot on the top-1o.
6. Jet Force Gemini
Jet Force Gemini is a game I’ve been begging for a remake or re-release since I couldn’t beat it when I was in middle school. I love everything about this game, with the exception of having to gather every single collectible Tribal. There are three characters for the player to choose; Juno, his sister Vela, or their dog Lupos. The Jet Force team fights to stop the oppression by Mizar and his bug army. Each character has unique abilities that help them through the different stages. The game starts off somewhat railroading each player, but once they each make it to Mizar’s palace, they can visit the other planets, where they find other upgrades and Tribals. Jet Force Gemini includes other types of challenges with Floyd the robot that require practice and precision. Overall, the game is fantastic, but just barely misses out on the top tier.
The Rare Pantheon
5. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
Conker’s Bad Fur Day brought a dirty edged razor to the Rare catalogue. The game puts you in the role of Conker the Squirrel, trying to to make it back home to his girlfriend Berri. He’s basically the Squirrel version of Bender from Futurama. Conker is a greedy, heavy-drinking, swearing, smoking son of a gun. The game is an action-platformer, where Conker must attain a certain amount of money before they can move onto the next level in the hub world. Conker has a frying pan he can fight with, and move around the environment with ease. The game has a unique way of telling a story, with over the top antics, and ridiculous-but-memorable segments. Conker’s Bad Fur Day has a cult following for a very understandable reason.
*Many swear words were uttered while playing this game*
Battletoads is known as one of the most difficult games ever made. From the Turbo Tunnel to the water maze, to the unicycle segment. The game is based around side scrolling beat-em-up action, with a mix of other segments. Battletoads is brutally difficult, and not for the feint of heart. You will enjoy every minute of the game playing as Pimple, Zitz, and Rash, even if you wind up screaming and shouting at the TV. Battletoads lives on in cherished infamy and earns a well-deserved place in my top five.
Banjo-Kazooie, what is there to say? Banjo and Kazooie are two of the most iconic characters to come from the N64 era. One of the perfect platforming games on the N64, B&K had a fantastic blend of great characters, great gameplay, and just enough collectibles to make you want to chase them, but not too many to get tired of it. The camera could be tough to work with at times, but everything else about the game, from the abilities to the (kind of) back and forth between Banjo and Kazooie more than made up for it. In many levels, you met some characters who needed help out of a jam, and somehow you always come to care about these giant sharks and massive sphinxes.
Banjo-Tooie took everything that Banjo-Kazooie did, and did it better. The game added more abilities, allowed Kazooie to go out on her own, and was even more over the top. Much like 22 Jump Street played into the sequel cliches, Banjo-Tooie did this much, much earlier, even making a joke about a Banjo-Threeie. The story is solid, and the gameplay did nothing but improve upon the original. In the sequel, the musical notes are now used not to open new parts of the hub world, but to learn new moves, which gives them the feeling of much more significance. Also, having the entirety of the worlds connected makes it much easier to move around, instead of having to pop in and out of the hub world continuously.
1. Perfect Dark
At the very top of the list is Perfect Dark (what else did you expect?). Perfect Dark puts you in the shoes of Joanna Dark, a secret agent specializing in dealing with aliens. The spiritual successor to Rare’s Goldeneye has influenced countless console FPS games, and its fingerprints can be seen in many modern day shooters today (facility always somehow makes an appearance). Traces of the story can be seen in popular games like Halo, and it was one of the first games to include bots for players to shoot in their spare time when friends weren’t around. The story is one of the few greats in the FPS world, but when it is complete, there are tons of side operations to take on as well, ranging in difficulty from a cakewalk to thoroughly brutal. Perfect Dark is the pantheon of the Rare Replay collection, thanks to its influence and ability to still hold up after so many years.
And there you have it, our ranking of the 30 games included in Rare Replay. To be honest, all of these have something special about them, and for $30, this is an enormous bang for your buck, even 6 months later!