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Discussion Nintendo Aside, Was Rareware The Best Developer From 1994-2001?

Rareware

Koopa
1994-2001. These eight years is what many consider to be the ‘golden age’ of Rareware. Their output has always been incredibly impressive (they released 47 games on the NES alone!), but the games they released within this eight year period are often considered the best the studio has ever made. So good, in fact, that it led Nintendo to acquire a 49% stake in the company and Howard Lincoln to claim in an interview that they were the best developer in the world.

So let’s take a look at the whopping twenty-nine games they released in this eight year time frame:

SUPER NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Donkey Kong Country 2
  • Donkey Kong Country 3
  • Killer Instinct
  • Ken Griffey Jr’s Winning Run

NINTENDO 64
  • Blast Corps
  • Killer Instinct Gold
  • Goldeneye 007
  • Banjo-Kazooie
  • Banjo-Tooie
  • Jet Force Gemini
  • Mickey’s Speedway USA
  • Perfect Dark
  • Conker’s Bad Fur Day
  • Donkey Kong 64
  • Diddy Kong Racing


GAMEBOY/GAMEBOY COLOR
  • Donkey Kong Land
  • Donkey Kong Land 2
  • Donkey Kong Land 3
  • Donkey Kong Country
  • Donkey Kong GB: Dinky Kong & Dixie Kong (Japan only)
  • Monster Max
  • Conker’s Pocket Tales
  • Mickey’s Speedway USA
  • Mickey’s Racing Adventure
  • Perfect Dark

ARCADE
  • Battletoads Arcade
  • Killer Instinct
  • Killer Instinct 2
So looking at their library of games, how would you compare them to the other big developers and their releases within that same eight year period? Do you agree with Howard Lincoln’s assessment they were the best developer in the world at that time? Bigger and better than the likes of some of the other powerhouses like Konami, Capcom, and Square Soft?

Let’s discuss! 🙂
 
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Square had an incredible run on the PlayStation as well.

I think Rare was right place, right time and right talent sort of deal. They were absolutely amazing from 1994 to around 1998. Things started to fall off near the end. We may never know all the reasons but I feel the devs feeling limited by Nintendo contributed
 
Rare's eight year run during this period was a rapid fire barrage of brilliance the likes of which we'll likely never see again now that development times have grown exponentially.

Old school Rare were such a wonderful addition to EAD's games, they had such a great style and flair of their own and they were a big part of what made this era of Nintendo so special to me.

Thankfully, if Yooka Laylee and Impossible Lair is any indication, a measure of their magic lives on.
 
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hey wait a fuckin minute...
 
Nah, not even close to Capcom, Konami, Namco, Square, or Nintendo.

Edit: or Sega.
 
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It's in the conversation, but that Square run in the 90's up to ~01 is probably the king.
 
I think they have the most variety in their output. It's either them, Square, Capcom or Konami (if we're not talking about Nintendo)
 
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I agree it was probably Square (though Rare had better variety), but it also feels a little unfair to compare Rare to one of the major publishers - despite that being exactly the question.

Also Rare hipsters itt like their late 64 output wasn't still very good.
 
I agree it was probably Square (though Rare had better variety), but it also feels a little unfair to compare Rare to one of the major publishers - despite that being exactly the question.

Also Rare hipsters itt like their late 64 output wasn't still very good.
I mean, their late N64 output like DK64 and Conker wasn't very good, so...
 
A lot of people are bringing up the big Japanese publishers/devs like Konami, Capcom, and Square (and Sega should probably be in there too tbh), but I'll also just say Midway had a pretty dang good run through most of the '90s into the early '00s

Not sure on the exact dates but Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, NFL Blitz, Cruis'n, San Francisco Rush, Doom 64, Rampage World Tour, and Gauntlet (and various sequels for a lot of those) is a solid output imo
 
Id Software redefined an entire genre of game multiple times over while revolutionizing gaming tech with Doom 2 and the Quake series. Looking Glass pioneered immersive design with System Shock and Thief in that timeframe as well, to such an extent that the industry is still playing catch-up in some ways. This isn't going over the litany of storied devs in Japan as well.
 
The worthwhile stuff they made in that time is pretty much DKC2 and Goldeneye. Mayyyybe throw in Banjo Kazooie.
No maybe about it, blasphemous take

On topic, I’d probably say Capcom or Square is also up there, but Rare’s mid-late 90s output is legendary in its own right. I do think around the early 2000s they faltered; I have a soft spot for games like Tooie and Conker, but great they are not.
 
I used to feel this way in my gut, but having revisited these games I feel like they peaked with Banjo-Kazooie before rapidly falling off a cliff. Tooie and Conker in particular were extremely upsetting to revisit!
 
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Square, Capcom, id Software, BioWare had an amazing run with the first entries of Baldur's Gate, Blizzard (even if you can't believe it), Ensemble Studios.
 
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I'd say it's Square without a doubt, those guys were at an absolute pinnacle during the late SNES/PS1/early PS2 era. Rare's definitely up there though.
 
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While this is very loosely the timeframe of the 32/64 bit generation, it's also a pretty specific time period built around Rare, so it seems odd for a comparison (and also why is just Star Fox Adventures getting left out from their time with Nintendo by making it 01 instead of 02?)

As for whether or not they were the best though, I think this is the crux of the issue:
That's a lot of games, but I wouldn't necessarily call most of them good.
It's a large list of games, but not all winners by any means. I think the primary thing Nintendo had over Rare was consistency. Most of the famous bad Nintendo games are from outside developers. Rare had a bunch of internal development teams just like Nintendo, but one of them could release Donkey Kong Country 2 and then another could release Donkey Kong Land 2. Rare at their best in this period was better than Nintendo, but Nintendo, especially in the 90's, had much tighter quality control.

Nintendo's complete-ish list in the same time period (only their own internally developed games, otherwise we might as well include most of the Rare games above on here), for comparison's sake:
NES
Zoda's Revenge: StarTropics II

SNES
Super Metroid
Super Punch-Out!!
Super Mario All-Stars + Super Mario World (basically just a compilation of existing releases with small tweaks, but if the GBC version of DKLIII is listed, why not)
Tetris & Dr. Mario
Yoshi's Island
Marvelous: Another Treasure Island

N64
Super Mario 64
Wave Race 64
Mario Kart 64
Star Fox 64
Yoshi's Story
1080° Snowboarding
F-Zero X
Pokemon Stadium (JP)
Ocarina of Time
Pokemon Stadium
Majora's Mask
Pokemon Stadium 2
Dr. Mario 64
Animal Crossing

GCN
Luigi's Mansion
Pikmin
Animal Crossing

GB/GBC
Wario Land
Donkey Kong 94
Mole Mania
Game & Watch Gallery
Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball
Game Boy Camera
Wario Land II
Tetris DX
Link's Awakening DX
Super Mario Bros. Deluxe
Wario Land 3

Virtual Boy
Mario's Tennis
Teleroboxer
Mario Clash
Virtual Boy Wario Land

GBA
Super Mario Advance
Wario Land 4
Super Mario Advance 2

I didn't count the Satellaview here because I still don't quite grasp that thing's deal and what would even count as a singular game for it. Even without it though, this is around ten more games than Rare (albeit many of them ports), and definitely higher average quality. The only console where I think Rare might actually win this is N64, and even that's dubious.

But the question was "aside from Nintendo", and yeah I've got no idea if anyone was better at the time. Maybe Square? But I've played Chrono Trigger and that's basically it, so I have no idea. Sega? I'm real skeptical of Capcom. And Konami, definitely not. Treasure is actually a pretty decent pick, though I don't think most if any of their games reach Rare's peak, and they released half as many. For consistency though I'd give them the nod.
 
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You know I've never taken the time to reflect on this, and for the size of the studio it's true that Rare's output was just mind-boggling for the time. But while I was thinking on it, I looked up an incomplete list of the first non-Nintendo developer that came to mind during that period: Capcom. Now, Capcom was huge for the time, comparing them to Rare is a bit farcical, but it did make me take a gander through some incomplete listings

From 1994-2001, Capcom put out

Mega Man 7
Mega Man 8
Mega Man & Bass
Mega Man X
Mega Man X2
Mega Man X3
Mega Man X4
Mega Man X5
Mega Man X6
Mega Man Legends
Mega Man Legends 2
Mega Man Battle Network
Resident Evil
Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 3
Resident Evil Code Veronica
Dino Crisis
Dino Crisis 2
Final Fight 3
Demon's Crest
Alien vs Predator
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse
Breath of Fire II
Breath of Fire III
Shadow over Mystara
Onimusha
Devil May Cry
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons
The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages
Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney

And so on, and so on, and so on. Were all of these bangers? Nah. Not by a long shot. But the amount of sheer gold they released in that time period is genuinely staggering. And this list is far from complete!

Ah? What's that? I left out the what?

The whatting aims?

The fighting games?

I don't see why those are relevant. That's only cover SF2 Turbo, the Alpha series, Third Strike, Capcom vs SNK, Rival Schools, Power Stone, the Darkstalkers series, every Marvel versus title from Children of the Atom up through MvC2, Street Fighter EX, Red Earth, Puzzle Fighter, Jojo's Venture & Bizarre Adventure...

...
...
Man those 8 years were wild for Capcom
 
Square is the definitive choice if you think baby's first epic journey and pressing the A button make for peak video games. They're probably the most consistent developer in terms of the amount of releases, but like, when their peak from that era is stuff like Final Fantasy VII or Parasite Eve .... yeah no. Good video games but hardly masterpieces.
 
Now, Capcom was huge for the time, comparing them to Rare is a bit farcical, but it did make me take a gander through some incomplete listings
You know, you actually made a very good case for Capcom.

When I saw this thread I thought of it more as a 90's thread despite including 2000 and 2001, and while I think they definitely made some good games during that time period frankly I feel it's not as up to par as the 2000's or even the 2010's. Mega Man X is great with a really unique style of platforming, but the game design always felt clunkier than Castlevania or Mario. Classic Resident Evil is amazing, but personally I feel 2 is much better than the rest of the PS1 trilogy and REmake ended up being by far the best classic game anyways. And I don't have much interest in Street Fighter II or most of Breath of Fire, though I've never tried them so they might be good.

But when you include Devil May Cry, Ace Attorney, and then remind me of games like Code Veronica and Demon Crest? Absolute fucking peak. Onimusha also looks dope though I haven't played that one yet.

I still think there's an argument to be made that Konami is the secret second best of that period though - Castlevania had some big stumbles with IV and the design flaws of Symphony but it was overall a much more consistently interesting series than Mega Man, plus you add Contra, plus Metal Gear 1 + 2 and Silent Hill 1 + 2. It would be a narrow win, but it's a surprisingly overlooked streak of greatness, I think just because so many of their IP were niche and didn't share a fanbase. More likely they're third though but I don't know who'd be second.
 
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Square is the definitive choice if you think baby's first epic journey and pressing the A button make for peak video games. They're probably the most consistent developer in terms of the amount of releases, but like, when their peak from that era is stuff like Final Fantasy VII or Parasite Eve .... yeah no. Good video games but hardly masterpieces.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmm
Nope, I'm not touching this one. You can't bait me to get cancelled for my bad video game takes.
 
Yes, unquestionably. Nobody else even came remotely close.

Rare more or less single handidly carried the entire N64 on their backs when Nintendo couldn't do it alone.

For those of you touting the likes of Squaresoft and Capcom... sure, they were huge in the 90s... but they were also only able to develop games in one (RPG) or two genres (Fighting/Belt Scrollers & Survival Horror) respectively. Rare on the other hand did everything. And not only did they develop games in every genre imaginable? They fucking excelled in every single genre to boot.

Rare are basically the only developer outside of Nintendo EAD/SPD that I could genuinely say were masters of every trade. They did it all. They even made their own hardware! (Both in the arcades and a cancelled handheld console that was scrapped when Nintendo showed them the Game Boy).

90s Rare were the best developer the industry has ever seen, and likely the best developer that the industry will ever see. Our best days are behind us.
 
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I don't know if I want to get mad at "actually Final Fantasies 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 isn't that good a run" or at "Square only made one genre, Capcom only made two, and the golden age is over so games will never be that good again"
 
Yes, unquestionably. Nobody else even came remotely close.

Rare more or less single handidly carried the entire N64 on their backs when Nintendo couldn't do it alone.

For those of you touting the likes of Squaresoft and Capcom... sure, they were huge in the 90s... but they were also only able to develop games in one (RPG) or two genres (Fighting/Belt Scrollers & Survival Horror) respectively. Rare on the other hand did everything. And not only did they develop games in every genre imaginable? They fucking excelled in every single genre to boot.

Rare are basically the only developer outside of Nintendo EAD/SPD that I could genuinely say were masters of every trade. They did it all. They even made their own hardware! (Both in the arcades and a cancelled handheld console that was scrapped when Nintendo showed them the Game Boy).

90s Rare were the best developer the industry has ever seen, and likely the best developer that the industry will ever see. Our best days are behind us.

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Not even close. Rare was and still is incredibly overrated by N64 kids imo.

They peaked with DKC2 on the SNES and then followed it up with those frankly bad collecthathons on the N64. BK was decent the other three, (Tooie, DK64, and Conker were terrible games) Give me Spyro/Crash games and of course Mario 64 over these any day of the week.

Diddy Kong racing was not as good as Crash Team Racing. I would even say it wasn't as good as Mario Kart 64.

What else? Perfect Dark was pretty cool i guess but awful on the original hardware, as the sub-20 FPS performance kills any enjoyment. Goldeneye fares even worse. Jet Force Gemini is an awful terrible game. Now that DP has leaked you can see that it would have been every bit as bland from a gameplay perspective as SFA turned out to be.

Speaking of which...
I don't buy into the narrative that Rare ever had some sort of "downfall" as the fans of the N64 era Rare like to portray over and over again throughout the years. They have remained entirely consistent as a studio from 2002 and were like that I would argue until 2008. SFA, Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Kameo, BK Nuts, and Bolts were not amazing games but they were about as good and bad as your average N64 era Rare game. In fairness, once they pivoted to Kinect Sports it got pretty bad but on the whole, nah. Rare is just as mediocre now as they ever were.

So yeah... pretty mediocre is how I would sum up Rare. and I would take a ton of other developers over Rare even during their "peak".Rare was a quantity over the quality studio.

They did make the N64 software droughts less of issue but nothing they ever put out makes me think they deserve to be in the conversation as one of the best developers. It's mostly N64 kids over-inflating their value.
 
Not even close! Rare had a few good games, but most of them were terrible. They had some variety going on, but they absolutely struggled outside of platformers and their two FPS' to make anything worthwhile. And even most of their platformers were bad!

Now Sega... they were amazing during this era, especially when you consider their incredible arcade work!
 
I think you will find square released all star pro wrestling and the bouncer in 2001 and are therefore the best developer from that time period. I don't make the rules.

No but seriously the breadth and quantity of these games, and often quality for the time (DK to Banjo to golden eye) and all the variety between is very impressive.

It's all subjective, from a purely personal perspective I would put it at most around Capcom and square, I liked street fighter, bof, resi, and ff a loooot during that time, but I was a platformer kid and golden eye had a huge influence.

Konami might be harder, as you juuust edge in MGS 2 in that time period. The cut off is kind of arbitrary though. I love Castlevania so that another bias for me.

And then naughty dog gave me Crash and CTR (my personal fav racing game), Jak 1 edges in too, "no loading (kinda)" and great animation and scope for the time.

I'd throw insomniac in to the ring if Ratchet 1 was a year earlier. Its not though, so rip.

Activision (if you include id and Neversoft) were pretty crazy during that time too.

Actually including 2001 might be the biggest mark against Rare for the comparison since many devs were pushing the PS2 pretty hard then. Conker and Mikey's speedway probably don't hold up to MGS2.
 
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Not even close. Rare was and still is incredibly overrated by N64 kids imo.

They peaked with DKC2 on the SNES and then followed it up with those frankly bad collecthathons on the N64. BK was decent the other three, (Tooie, DK64, and Conker were terrible games) Give me Spyro/Crash games and of course Mario 64 over these any day of the week.
A someone who played Spyro as a kid and never had an N64 until a few years ago, none of the Spyro games remotely match Banjo. Banjo-Kazooie remains by far the best collectathon to this day. Tooie is one of the most ambitious platformers of any kind ever, but heavily flawed. Spyro 1 is enjoyable if basic, 2 is a pretty weak attempt to imitate Banjo-Kazooie when the formula they had going for the first game worked just fine, and 3 executes most of 2's ideas better but is still not as good as the first one. DK64 is awful and I've never played Conker, but it's not a collectathon anyway. Crash 2 is a surprisingly good game that falls apart in the second half and the other two are just torture devices.
 
Square is the definitive choice if you think baby's first epic journey and pressing the A button make for peak video games. They're probably the most consistent developer in terms of the amount of releases, but like, when their peak from that era is stuff like Final Fantasy VII or Parasite Eve .... yeah no. Good video games but hardly masterpieces.

Yes, unquestionably. Nobody else even came remotely close.

Rare more or less single handidly carried the entire N64 on their backs when Nintendo couldn't do it alone.

For those of you touting the likes of Squaresoft and Capcom... sure, they were huge in the 90s... but they were also only able to develop games in one (RPG) or two genres (Fighting/Belt Scrollers & Survival Horror) respectively. Rare on the other hand did everything. And not only did they develop games in every genre imaginable? They fucking excelled in every single genre to boot.

Rare are basically the only developer outside of Nintendo EAD/SPD that I could genuinely say were masters of every trade. They did it all. They even made their own hardware! (Both in the arcades and a cancelled handheld console that was scrapped when Nintendo showed them the Game Boy).

90s Rare were the best developer the industry has ever seen, and likely the best developer that the industry will ever see. Our best days are behind us.
Great thread for bad takes.

I'm with most, while there where some pearls, most if the output was mid to bad.
Them doing different genres doesn't change the fact that only platformers stuck.
Capcom, square, konami, etc...

Square rarely moved outside of RPG.
Capcom and konami revolutionised the horror genre in that time, Capcom created the spectacle fighter genre, konami made mgs1/2,... And not to even mention the pc market. Say valve with Half Life, TF, CS.
Or blizzard with warcraft 2&3, diablo 1&2, StarCraft? Or I'd Software?


Is this thread a secret "I was a nintendo64 kid and had no chance to play all the other releases" thread?

(Btw I'm one of those that finds DK64 fine, good visuals/music, fun character designs, fun movement, to much backtracking, to bloated, unfocused level design. 8/10 I would say. Maybe 7.5)
 
DKC2 is one of the greatest platformers ever, but I wouldn't say they're in the running for best devs overall. The competition is very stiff though, no shame in that.
 
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Never was the biggest fan.
I like maybe 3 or 4 of all these games and they were very good (!) but iterative versions of proven Nintendo first party games concepts.

I prefer several other developers from that era who took more risks and innovated more.
 
Yes, unquestionably. Nobody else even came remotely close.

Rare more or less single handidly carried the entire N64 on their backs when Nintendo couldn't do it alone.

For those of you touting the likes of Squaresoft and Capcom... sure, they were huge in the 90s... but they were also only able to develop games in one (RPG) or two genres (Fighting/Belt Scrollers & Survival Horror) respectively. Rare on the other hand did everything. And not only did they develop games in every genre imaginable? They fucking excelled in every single genre to boot.
What RPGs/strategy games did Rare make? I don’t think their output was any more varied than, say, Capcom at the point that you’re adding in Gameboy and arcade games.

Even as someone with a SNES/N64/GB at the time, I just didn’t think that much of Rare, which was why, with Rare carrying the N64, I didn’t think that much of the console.
 
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