Classic Rare franchises that need to make a comeback.

As we gear up for the next generation of consoles launching in 2020, it’s a great time to take stock of the unique experiences each platform has provided in the past, and their potential for the future. It’s no secret Microsoft wants to double down on its efforts to bring AAA first-party content with multiple studio acquisitions. Even Xbox lead Phil Spencer has stated he wants to strengthen their output in this area.

The good news for Microsoft is they already have a few aces up their sleeve, they just need to put them into play. These come in the form of long dormant Rare IPs, many of which haven’t seen a proper release since Microsoft acquired Rare in 2002. With the next chapter of home console hardware imminent, now is the time for Microsoft to bring back beloved Rare franchises. Here’s my list of Rare must-haves for Project Scarlett and beyond.

  1. Banjo-Kazooie
  2. Perfect Dark
  3. Conker’s Bad Fur Day
  4. Blast Corps
  5. Viva Piñata
1

Banjo-Kazooie

Next to the likes of the Fable franchise, Banjo Kazooie is arguably the biggest dormant IP Microsoft currently has. The Xbox needs a flagship platforming title, so why not put one of the best of all-time back in action? Even remaking the original game to showcase the power of the new hardware would send Banjo fans into a fever pitch. Looking at the response alone for the iconic duo’s inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate lineup should be enough to get the ball rolling on a Banjo-related Xbox project.

Who could bring the bear and bird back to life after so many years out of commission? There are a few suitors that would be up to the task, and one could be Playtonic. The UK-based studio’s staff is comprised of the talent that created the original Banjo on the Nintendo 64 back in 1998. Microsoft could make a pitch to acquire Playtonic or even explore the possibility of working together to rekindle the Banjo magic.

There’s also a great case for Microsoft’s recently acquired studio, Double Fine, which has a lot of experience in this realm. Not only have they developed their own critically acclaimed titles in Psychonauts and Brütal Legend, but they have also remade classics like Grim Fandango and Full Throttle.

There’s a third option: give the keys to Banjo’s kingdom to Insomniac Games. After all, they’ve proven they’re more than capable time and time again. The studio has worked on classics like Spyro the Dragon, Rachet and Clank and the stellar Sunset Overdrive. Imagine Microsoft and Insomniac working together again, this time to bring us Banjo-Threeie…

Cover art from Banjo Kazooie video game

2

Perfect Dark

The series’ first installment arrived on the Nintendo 64 in 2000 and earned a ton of critical acclaim, drawing comparisons to the legendary Goldeneye. Since Microsoft acquired Rare, we’ve only seen one game, Perfect Dark Zero, as part of the Xbox 360’s launch lineup in 2005. Since then, the rumour mill has been working overtime around the series perennially declaring a new game is in the pipeline. Unfortunately, nothing tangible has surfaced yet, but a properly executed reboot could be another unique AAA title that the Xbox could use to build its portfolio.

Stealth action has taken a back seat lately, especially with its two biggest names in Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell series going AWOL. If Microsoft decided to hand the reigns of the franchise over to a newly-acquired developer, like Obsidian or The Initiative, they could reboot the series and take it in an RPG/stealth direction like Dishonored or Deus Ex. Obsidian has their hands full right now with the incredible looking Outer Worlds, but after that Perfect Dark could be an excellent fit. The Initiative is more of an enigma, as the newly-opened studio has no titles to its name yet. Rebooting a title like PD just might be what they need to make a name for themselves and take the franchise in a new direction.

Cover art from Perfect Dark video game

3

Conker’s Bad Fur Day

The foul-mouthed squirrel was a big departure from the family-friendly platform games both Rare and Nintendo were known for. Fortunately, the gamble paid off, and when Conker was unleashed on the world in 2001, he was an instant hit. The friendly-looking furball was as raw as they come, offering risqué humour that would be right at home in a South Park episode. When Microsoft acquired Rare, the franchise made a return on the Xbox in 2005 in Conker: Live & Reloaded. The game was a remake of the N64 campaign with a new multiplayer component added. Since then, he has appeared in the ill-fated Project Spark DLC that was never fully realized, and on the HoloLens hardware.

At this point, Conker needs to make a proper return, and much of the groundwork has already been laid for him to do so. Chris Seavor, the original game’s project lead and the voice behind the potty-mouth squirrel, recently shared some “top secret” info on twitter. Rare had a direct sequel all planned out called Conker’s Other Bad Day, which looks ready to be green lit into full production. It appears a phone call to Mr. Seavor could get the balling rolling on a massive fan favourite, so please, Microsoft, make the call.

Screenshot from Conker Bad Fur Day video game

4

Blast Corps

This one’s an N64 classic that would make an explosive addition to the Xbox lineup, especially with the power of Project Scarlett and the cloud behind it. For the uninitiated, Blast Corps is a puzzle game where players switch between vehicles to clear a path for a runaway nuclear missile carrier. If the carrier collides with anything, it explodes, destroying the world, and the game’s over. Anything in your way is fair game to destroy: buildings, monuments and even medieval castles.

Later levels become even more challenging, allowing you to use cranes, boats and trains to help clear a path—even TNT is in play! The IP is fun and incredibly unique, and a new version that could incorporate online and couch co-op modes is just what the platform needs. Imagine a modern version, taking the cloud technology that was behind Crackdown 3: Wrecking Zone and using it to power the next Blast Corps. Introducing a deeper story mode, along with new co-op modes, could turn the retired franchise into a must-have killer app for the Xbox platform.

Cover art from Blast Corps video game

5

Viva Piñata

It’s the zaniest garden simulator you’ll ever play! The Viva Piñata series has you take control of a garden and attract Piñata creatures with your own flora and fauna. The game’s concept is beautiful in its simplicity, offering a unique, relaxing experience that falls somewhere in between traditional gardening and trying to catch Pokémon. There’s nothing like the satisfying thrill of getting a rare Piñata like a Roario to finally settle in your garden.

The series had two major instalments and it’s time for Viva Pinata 3 to make an appearance. Next-gen Xbox hardware could theoretically handle massive shared gardens and vast biomes, expanding gardens into massive, multifaceted worlds. It would be wild to see elements from Minecraft’s toolbox that allows players to terraform gardens to include forests, jungles, lakes and rivers.

A “Piñata Creator” would be a great addition as well, letting players mix ‘n’ match their very own creatures and we could see some wild combinations. There is no doubt that a new Viva Piñata installment would add some diversity to Xbox’s lineup, so let’s hope a new game is on the horizon.

Cover art from Viva Pinata video game

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Matthew's Take

Author

It’s time for a full-blown Rare revival on the Xbox platform. With Xbox Scarlett arriving in 2020, the mass acquisition of new studios and the push for more AAA experiences on the platform, Banjo and friends’ return should be nigh.

The games Rare created during the N64 era are some of the best I’ve ever played, and it’s worth the investment to recapture some of that magic. Bringing back even just a few of the titles above would really help to diversify Microsoft’s first-party offerings, something we’ve all desperately wanted to see happen. Even if Rare isn’t interested in helming these revivals, the time for the search to find devs willing and capable of carrying the torch is now.