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Rare Ltd.

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Rare Ltd.
Type Subsidiary of Microsoft
Founded 1982
Headquarters UKTwycross, England
Industry Interactive entertainment
Video games
Products Video games
Employees ~200[1]
Parent Xbox Game Studios
Website Rare Ltd.
Article on Wikipedia Rare (company)

Rare is a British video game development studio based in Twycross, Leicestershire, England. The origins can be traced back to 1982 when Tim and Chris Stamper founded Ultimate Play the Game. The studio saw early success on personal computers like the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, and Commodore 64 with titles like Jetpac, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, and Knight Lore. Ultimate eventually became particularly well-known in the U.K. for their isometric game engine "Filmation" and the secretive marketing of their titles and brand, down to advertisements not showing any screenshots of games whatsoever. However, knowing that microcomputers were only popular platforms for gaming in the U.K. and therefore a financial dead-end, they decided to branch out into other markets. The studio decided to focus on the then-Japan-exclusive Famicom due to its potentially worldwide reach and high specs, thus creating a subsidiary called Rare in 1985 to reverse engineer the hardware and learn its inner workings, something Nintendo claimed to be impossible. After impressing Nintendo with its tech demos, Rare was granted unlimited budget for developing Famicom games, now called the Nintendo Entertainment System in the PAL region. At this time, the company decided to sell the Ultimate Play the Game brand to U.S. Gold (though they would regain the rights in 1988) and officially renamed the whole company to Rare. A string of successful NES releases followed, including R.C. Pro-Am, Snake Rattle 'n' Roll, and Battletoads, as well as several licensed games based on brands such as Beetlejuice and Sesame Street, and outsourced NES ports of PC and arcade games.

In 1994, Rare acquired several SGI computers with profits from their NES titles and used them to create a boxing game tech demo, which eventually became Killer Instinct. Nintendo was so impressed with this demo that they would purchase a 49% stake in the company, making Rare a second-party developer. Nintendo would entrust Rare with the Donkey Kong license, which resulted in the Donkey Kong Country series, as well as the Donkey Kong Land series on Game Boy and Donkey Kong 64 on the Nintendo 64. Rare would go into what many consider their "golden age" during the lifespan of the Nintendo 64, with titles like Blast Corps, GoldenEye 007, Diddy Kong Racing, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, and Conker's Bad Fur Day. Another game in development for Nintendo 64 was Dinosaur Planet, but this was changed to a Star Fox game at Nintendo's request. During the development of this title, Rare was in talks with Microsoft and Activision to be bought out in full, with Nintendo showing little interest. On September 23rd, 2002, Star Fox Adventures, the last Rare game released during their partnership with Nintendo, was released on the GameCube. One day later, Rare was fully acquired by Microsoft, with all their in-development projects either being moved to the Xbox; reworked to feature Rare's original stable of characters in place of the Donkey Kong Country characters, which Nintendo retained the rights to; outright cancelled; or - in the case of Donkey Kong Racing - all of the above.

Now a part of Microsoft, Rare would make games exclusively for Xbox brand consoles and eventually PC. These titles include Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo: Elements of Power, and the Viva Piñata series. While few of the original titles under Microsoft were critical failures, many fans of Rare's output before the buyout were opposed to the company's new direction, in part due to their controversial attempts to revive their existing characters in the vehicle-building sandbox title Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts and the heavily censored remake Conker: Live & Reloaded. Rare would also briefly collaborate with THQ to publish several games for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS based on their existing franchises and characters, as well as partner with Nintendo again for remakes of earlier Donkey Kong games, followed by a drought in content for Nintendo platforms between 2007 and 2019. Through the early 2010s, Rare would choose to primarily work on the moderately successful Xbox Live Avatars and games utilizing them, particularly with the Kinect accessory. Rare would eventually find the biggest success they had experienced since their collaboration with Nintendo in the pirate adventure game Sea of Thieves for Xbox One and PC. They additionally assisted with outsourced installments of the Battletoads, Conker, and Killer Instinct IPs for Xbox hardware; and are currently working on expansions for Sea of Thieves in addition to the upcoming Everwild.

Rare is credited for the modern version of of Donkey Kong for virtually all of his future video game appearances and were the original creators of four characters that appeared as fighters in the Super Smash Bros. series: Diddy Kong, King K. Rool, Banjo and Kazooie. All Donkey Kong music sourced or rearranged from Rare games credit them for their compositions, even after the Microsoft buyout and before the collaboration to bring Banjo & Kazooie to Smash.

In Super Smash Bros.[edit]

Donkey Kong, who saw a resurgence in popularity upon the release of Rare's Donkey Kong Country, appears in the original Super Smash Bros., taking his design from said game. Congo Jungle, a stage based on various levels in Donkey Kong Country, appears as Donkey Kong's home stage. Additionally, the Motion-Sensor Bomb, an explosive device from the pivotal 1997 shooter game, GoldenEye 007, also developed by Rare, appears in Smash 64.

In Super Smash Bros. Melee[edit]

Donkey Kong returns in Melee, representing his universe alongside numerous content originating from Rare games. Congo Jungle reappears as a Past Stage, while Kongo Jungle and Jungle Japes are two new stages from Rare's Donkey Kong Country. Characters from the Donkey Kong Country series such as Dixie Kong and King K. Rool appear as trophies in Melee. The Barrel Cannon, which debuted in Donkey Kong Country, appears as an item and stage element. The Motion-Sensor Bomb returns, keeping its GoldenEye 007 appearance in international releases of Melee, while resembling the design of and being called the Proximity Mine from Rare's Perfect Dark in the Japanese version of the game. The Cloaking Device from Perfect Dark serves as another new item. Members of Rare's staff acted as voice actors for the Star Fox Smash Taunt in Melee, later reprising their roles in Star Fox Adventures. These voice clips would return in Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate.

In Super Smash Bros. Brawl[edit]

Donkey Kong makes his third appearance in the Smash Bros. series, being joined by Diddy Kong, who first appeared in Donkey Kong Country. Their respective Final Smashes are based on abilities from Rare's Donkey Kong 64. Jungle Japes returns as a Melee Stage. Numerous trophies of characters from Rare's Donkey Kong games cameo as collectible trophies in Brawl, including King K. Rool, Dixie Kong, Funky Kong, and Lanky Kong. Many of these characters have Stickers as well. Trophies and stickers representing characters from Star Fox Adventures, a Star Fox game developed by Rare, appear as well.

In Super Smash Bros. 4[edit]

Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong are both veterans in Smash 4. Familiar stages from Rare's Donkey Kong Country return, with Congo Jungle and Jungle Japes appearing on the Wii U and 3DS versions of the game, respectively. Aside from the trophies of characters from the Donkey Kong and Star Fox universes originating from Rare-developed games returning from Brawl, King K. Rool appears as a DLC costume for the Mii Brawler.

In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate[edit]

Donkey Kong and Diddy Kong both return as veterans with King K. Rool appearing as a newcomer. Klaptrap, an enemy type from the original Donkey Kong Country, appears as the series' first Assist Trophy. Kongo Jungle (now known as Kongo Falls), Jungle Japes and Kongo Jungle 64 all return as famliar stages. The King K. Rool outfit for the Mii Brawler returns, along with an additional Mii hat based on Dixie Kong's beret and ponytail that's available for all Mii Fighter types. Additionally, Krystal - appearing as she does in the Rare-developed Star Fox Adventures - debuts as an Assist Trophy. Multiple Rare-created Donkey Kong and Star Fox characters also appear as Spirits. Banjo & Kazooie also make their debut as a DLC playable fighter in Fighters Pass Vol. 1, along with an accompanying Spiral Mountain stage and multiple Banjo-Kazooie-themed Spirits. Notably, they are the first fighter created for an original series by Rare to appear in Smash (as opposed to created for an existing Nintendo series), as well as the first form of original Rare content altogether to appear in Smash since the Microsoft buyout. Rare's logo makes an appearance on Banjo's backpack when it is opened.



  • Rare is the first company located outside of Japan to receive representation in Smash via a playable character, with Diddy Kong's inclusion in Brawl. In addition to getting King K. Rool, Banjo and Kazooie in future installments, they would later be joined by Retro Studios with Dark Samus, Mojang Studios with Steve, and Disney with Sora.
  • Due to having created multiple Nintendo owned characters and having some of their other properties represented in 64 and Melee, Rare is the first and only third-party company to receive minor representation before introducing a playable character.
    • Rare is also technically the only third-party to be represented in 64 at all. However, the company was a second party at the time.