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Over thirty years of laughs and cheers!
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Rare Ltd. (formerly Rareware) is a Twycross-based (though they started in Ashby-de-la-Zouch) video game development company founded by Chris and Tim Stamper in 1982. They're famous for their pioneering of sophisticated technology to make video games, the sheer amount of crap they get past the radar, the idiosyncratic little mysteries they weave into their games that leave gamers pondering for decades, and their media-shy nature.

While the company attained most of their early fame (as "Ultimate Play the Game") through their games on the ZX Spectrum, they are best known for their work with Nintendo. In 1985, the Stamper brothers figured out how to reverse-engineer an interesting new video game console from Japan known as the Famicom. Nintendo was so impressed that they gave them an unlimited budget to produce titles for the system, which they proceeded to do to the tune of around sixty games under the new name "Rare" (having sold the "Ultimate" brand). While this period brought about games like Battletoads, it would be the SNES-era where they'd find the start of their biggest wind of fame and success. Rare poured much of the money earned during the NES years into Silicon Graphics workstations, making them one of the most technologically advanced developers on the planet. Their subsequent experiments with the new technology once again managed to impress Nintendo, with the Japanese company now buying a 25% stake in the company (which would eventually grow to 49%) and giving Rare the option to work with one of their characters. They chose Donkey Kong, a once popular character that had fallen by the wayside in the face of Super Mario's popularity, believing that they could revitalize the character and make him relevant once more.

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Now renamed Rareware, the company released Donkey Kong Country in 1994 to great financial and critical-acclaim, becoming the best-selling game for the system behind only Super Mario World. Additional entries in the Donkey Kong Country series were created throughout the SNES's lifespan, with the ape enjoying newfound popularity and the studio some high levels of attention. The company would hit their stride come the Nintendo 64, where they became known for tackling whatever genre they wanted... and subsequently making one of the best entries in it. The First-Person Shooter? GoldenEye was the first game to make the genre work on console, years before Halo. The Mascot Racer? Diddy Kong Racing brought story modes, missions, and multiple vehicle types to the table. The Fighting Game? Say hello to Killer Instinct with its unique rock-paper-scissors combo system. And the Platform Game? There is no shortage of people who argue Banjo-Kazooie to be superior to Super Mario 64. If the SNES days proved Rareware to be a great developer, then the games this Nintendo second-party developer made for the N64 only cemented that fact.

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Early during the Nintendo GameCube's life, however, a big change was on the horizon. While in the midst of producing Star Fox Adventures, Rareware began looking for potential companies to fully buy out the studio, to help offset the rising costs of game development. With Nintendo surprisingly refusing to acquire the studio, the Stamper brothers found themselves being bought by Microsoft, who had recently entered the video game market and had been courting the developer for some time. The deal closed in late 2002 after Activision failed to make a better offer, and Rareware (now named "Rare" once more) was now a first-party developer for the Xbox. Rare retained ownership over their own characters and properties in the change, while Microsoft granted Rare permission to continue producing games for Nintendo handhelds if they so wished. For their part, Nintendo did actually end up acquiring a Western game developer that same year after all. It would just turn out to be one more American than British.

Under Microsoft, Rare would make games that received mixed-to-positive critical reception, with most becoming financial disappointments to varying degrees. Fans would come to feel that the UK-based developer had lost some of the magic it had when under Nintendo, and this sentiment would only become stronger over time, with the departure of Chris and Tim Stamper in 2007 not helping. Following the fan backlash towards and commercial failure of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Rare would find themselves tasked with making sports games solely for the Xbox 360's Kinect peripheral. Kinect Sports would receive positive reviews for managing to differentiate itself from Nintendo's Wii Sports series, and ended up being the most successful game produced by the developer in years, leading to a similarly successful sequel, but a failed third entry on the Xbox One.

By this point, several key employees had left Rare to form the indie company Playtonic Games and make the kind of games Rare used to be famous for in the N64 era. Their first game, Yooka-Laylee, would release in 2017 to mixed-to-positive reviews. In addition, while Rare properties would be utilized, it would be other companies playing with the characters, such as Double Helix Games with Killer Instinct. However, just as fans were beginning to finally lose hope in the developer, Rare released Sea of Thieves. While not as beloved as older Rare games, receiving mixed reception, many still view it as a return to the previous creative energy and experimentation that Rare was known for.


Games developed/published by Ashby Computers and Graphics/Ultimate Play the Game:

  • Jetpac
    • Lunar Jetman
  • Atic Atac
  • PSSST
  • Tranz Am
  • Cookie
  • The Sabreman series
  • Alien 8
  • Nightshade
  • Cyberun
  • Gunfright
  • Martianoids
  • Bubbler
  • The Staff of Karnath
    • Entombed
    • Blackwyche
    • Dragonskulle
  • Outlaws
  • Imhotep

Games developed/published by Rare (1985-2003):

Games developed by Rare, a subsidiary of Microsoft:


Tropes associated with Rare:


Alternative Title(s): Ultimate Play The Game, Rare Ltd, Ashby Computers And Graphics, Rareware

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