The first seeds of the company that would one day become the internationally-renowned Rare were sown way back in the late 1970s, amidst a clutter of arcade boards in a terraced house in Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire. Momentum was building for the first great home gaming boom of the early 80s, and Tim and Chris Stamper were determined to be ready for it. Thus was Ultimate - Play The Game born.
Ultimate was to attain a near-legendary status in the European 8-bit world during its relatively brief existence, kicking off with the launch of Jetpac on its platform of choice, the Sinclair Spectrum, in the summer of 1983. This first release was a massive hit, and Ultimate went on to release a string of classics on various 8-bit formats between 1983 and 1986, each one earning instant critical acclaim and huge sales. Games from this era such as Underwurlde, Sabre Wulf, Lunar Jetman, Knight Lore (a pioneering title in isometric 3D) and Alien 8 still rank among the all-time greats.
But as the mid-80s drifted by, the home computer market began to wane and the Stampers became keenly aware that the future of the industry lay elsewhere - in the emerging breed of international consoles. Ultimate finally ground to a halt, and from its ashes rose the phoenix of Rare, based now in a farmhouse in the nearby village of Twycross, set up primarily to study and develop for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Rare went on to produce a total of around 60 games for the NES and Game Boy (with occasional dabblings in the Mega Drive/Genesis and Game Gear markets) over the next few years, from Slalom to Marble Madness, RC Pro-Am to Battletoads. But it was Donkey Kong Country on the SNES, released in late 1994, which was to suddenly hurl Rare back into the limelight.
One of the biggest-selling videogames of all time, DKC was the beginning of a multi-platform franchise which has seen sales of well over 30 million copies to date. The original DKC was followed by Killer Instinct, the first in another extremely popular series, which hit top place in the 1995 arcade popularity charts and spawned highly successful home conversions. Nintendo were so impressed with these achievements that they invested in a landmark fiscal partnership with Rare, giving the fast-growing British outfit freedom to expand its premises, staff base and ambitions.
It was not long before consoles took another evolutionary leap and Rare turned its hand to developing for the brand new Nintendo 64. The first fruits of the company's next-generation labours hit the shelves in 1996 in the form of arcade upgrade KI Gold, hotly pursued into 1997 by a trio of high-class titles which pushed the hardware all the way and earned themselves places in more than a few Best of the Year lists: Blast Corps, GoldenEye and Diddy Kong Racing (DKR also being the first title published under the Rare name).
Riding high on the acclaim generated by previous outings, Rare ploughed straight into 1998 with 3D adventure romp Banjo-Kazooie. This mascot-based title went down a storm and expectations were bubbling over for future offerings, which in 1999 took the form of N64 epics Jet Force Gemini and the long-awaited Donkey Kong 64, plus Rare's first outings on the Game Boy Color - Conker's Pocket Tales and Mickey's Racing Adventure (the latter introducing a momentous franchise deal with Disney).
During 1999 Rare underwent another massive change, finally making the move from its long-time headquarters of a converted farmhouse to a custom-built centre of operations more suited to the business of creating cutting-edge videogames. The multi-million pound development at Manor Park, just down the road from Twycross, was designed and constructed over the course of five years to strict guidelines that ensured the preservation of the area's rural charm. Featuring fully landscaped grounds, a state-of-the-art internal climate management system and, vitally, much more free space to house the ever-increasing body of staff, this new HQ offered the perfect environment for Rare's production teams to go on creating the highly-regarded titles for which they'd become known.
And there was no slowing down in 2000, with perhaps Rare's greatest and most heavily-anticipated line-up to date: Perfect Dark (N64 and GBC), Mickey's Speedway USA, Banjo-Tooie and the Game Boy Color adaptation of Donkey Kong Country all hit the shelves in this benchmark year. In 2001, development wound down slightly in preparation for another console generation shift, the company's only release this year being its N64 swansong, the ground-breaking (and Mature-rated) comedy adventure Conker's Bad Fur Day.
Again, in 2002, only one title was released: the long-awaited Star Fox Adventures for Nintendo's new GameCube system. However, there was a much bigger Rare story in the wind this year, as rumours of the company's buyout flew thick and fast until their clarification and confirmation at Microsoft's September X02 event in Seville, Spain, where it was confirmed that Rare had officially become part of Microsoft Game Studios, aiming now to bring the fruits of their reputation and development talent to the Xbox system.
And this is how events stand at the moment, with a range of confirmed and secret games in production for the Xbox (including Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Conker: Live & Uncut, Kameo: Elements of Power and the elusive Perfect Dark Zero), plus development ongoing for Nintendo's handheld Game Boy Advance (Donkey Kong Country, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and a modern update of 80s classic Sabre Wulf). In these early stages of its new life Rare is keeping its cards pretty close to its chest, but when those cards are shown and the games really begin to flow, there's no reason for anyone to be anything less than blown away.
Rare's first work that SPOnG is aware of is the 1986 title, "Slalom" (NES).
The company has been involved titles released on the Xbox One, PC, Wii, Xbox 360, DS/DSi, Xbox, GameCube, GBA, Game Boy Color, Arcade, N64, Game Boy, Sega Megadrive, SNES, Game Gear and NES. Of these, "Donkey Kong Land" (Game Boy), "Conker's Bad Fur Day" (N64), "Viva Piņata" (Xbox 360), "Banjo-Tooie" (N64), "Perfect Dark" (N64) has been a best selling title.
The company's most recent involvement was on the 2018 release "Sea of Thieves" (Xbox One).
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