One of the most significant second party developers for Nintendo in the '90s, British developer Rareware has gone through their share up ups and downs. This is especially the case after being bought out by Microsoft in 2002. Regardless, the makers of Goldeneye and Donkey Kong Country has an admirable selection of imaginative, quality games that span all sorts of genres.
Still, a variety of their hits have reached a sort of untouchable icon status, which isn't necessarily always warranted. This is partly thanks to some nostalgic Rare-colored glasses that may paint some of these titles in a better light. For some, it's just a case of games that may have been exciting for their time but have aged poorly.
At the same time, the company has put out various hidden gems which have fallen under the radar or didn't get particularly fair treatment. Upon revisiting some of these titles, we find that some are great in their own right and have proven better than history might tell us.
With that said, let's examine some of Rare's colorful lineup of diverse games as we uncover the most overrated and underrated titles in the company's history.
10 Overrated: Killer Instinct
While this surprise hit SNES title from Rare is a pretty solid fighter, it feels something like a tamer version of Mortal Kombat. One can't help but think that much of the hype surrounding Killer Instinct revolves around its style more than its substance.
After all, it was an edgy game made for a Nintendo console—which was a fairly new thing for fans of the Big N—and sported some impressive graphics for its time. At the end of the day, this game is pretty straightforward and does little to stand out in a sea of similar early '90s fighters.
9 Underrated: Banjo-Tooie
The Banjo-Kazooie franchise as a whole can hardly be viewed as underrated. Still, the original 1998 classic definitely got most of the accolades compared to its overlooked predecessor, Banjo-Tooie. Sure, it may not have broken many new boundaries, but it adhered to the already solid formula of the first game and explored some new terrain.
The graphics truly push the N64 to its limits, and the sound design retains that same distinct Banjo charm. The game comes with a new, amusing narrative, lush and colorful new environments, new collectibles, and more in-depth exploration. The ability to split up Banjo and his pal Kazooie adds an interesting new dynamic too. Similar to Donkey Kong 64, Rare has added a smattering of surprisingly fun minigames to the mix.
8 Overrated: Battletoads
This sidescrolling beat'em up gets a lot of credit for somewhat putting the then upstart British developers on the map. But beyond the nostalgia and killer soundtrack — is it really a good game? Partially, but it also comes with tons of frustrating quirks. It's flawed, unforgiving gameplay keeps it from hopping up to legendary status, as it's often portrayed.
Many are aware of Battletoads' insane difficulty, which is fine in and of itself, but oftentimes the game's grueling nature comes from unfair means. Some of the stages are so chaotic and fast-paced they're borderline based on luck rather than skill — Surf City anyone? And the decision to have a friendly fire for the otherwise fun multiplayer is a questionable one, adding to the grind.
7 Underrated: Star Fox Adventures
Okay, so this Rare sendoff to Nintendo home consoles might feel like something of a disappointment. After all, the game feels a bit like a Rare 3D platforming cliche rather than a thrilling Star Fox shooter. But hey, after the mess that was Star Fox Zero, this sure looks better by comparison.
Adventures really is a solid 3D platformer in its own right; provided you're cool with the Rare-style collect-a-thons and scavenger hunts, which are dialed up to new levels of crazy here. Still, the graphics are very pretty for an early GameCube title, and the environments and characters prove memorable. The game feels part Banjo and part Ocarina of Time, which is far from a bad thing. Most importantly, it makes for a fun multi-planet journey and provides a cool new take on Star Fox.
6 Overrated: Kinect Sports
Remember when Kinect—and by extension, Kinect Sports—was all the rage? As it turns out, that whirlwind of motion-sensing hype didn't last all too long. While this isn't a terrible little party game, much of its hype was built around the fact that it was one of the few major games to really showcase Kinect.
And now that the novelty of the tech has worn off, this pale imitation of Wii Sports looks even less appealing than it did eight years ago. Although there are bouts of fun—especially in the volleyball and soccer portions—much of the experience feels dull. It doesn't help that the body motion interactions just feels wonky and imprecise.
5 Underrated: Kameo: Elements Of Power
This majestic fantasy platformer wasn't highly regarded during its release in 2005, as Rare was coming off some pretty successful and quality games. But considering what they've released since, Kameo shines in a much prettier light. Rare manages to break from their typical formula with this game; creating a distinct experience from the ground up.
The game combines fun troll-slaying action with interesting puzzle elements. This is tied to an innovative mechanic that allows you to change into different "spirits," each of which possesses unique elemental abilities. The game looks surprisingly sleek for an early 360 game converted from old GameCube assets, too.
4 Overrated: Goldeneye
Any piece that includes the iconic FPS Goldeneye in any sort of negative context is likely to produce some controversy. And by no means is this '90s Bond shooting romp anywhere close to being poor. Yet, compared to the explosive levels of hype build around this game, it doesn't quite measure up anymore. You've also got Perfect Dark, a game which takes the Goldeneye formula and perfects it — pun not intended.
The archaic joystick + C button controls for movement and aiming haven't aged too well, nor have the blocky graphics. More than that though, the game contains some rather simple "get from A to B" missions and questionable AI. Sure, the multiplayer modes and its amusing lineup of cheats and game-manipulating tweaks make for a fun time with friends. Still, these days there are just so many better shooter options.
3 Underrated: Blast Corps
This N64 Rareware debut gets criminally overlooked, thanks to a lineup from both Nintendo and Rare themselves which quickly stole the limelight. But after revisiting this chaotic action game, many find that it's a blast to play. And yes, that pun was intended...
The game puts you inside a number of fun and distinct vehicles as you blow up and knock down everything in your path while transporting a nuclear device past buildings and obstructions. With its simple top-down view, no-nonsense action, and Rampage-style appetite for destruction, Blast Corps contains a timeless appeal that's still satisfying to play.
2 Overrated: Sea Of Thieves
The concept of scouring the open seas in a pirate ship as you plundered for treasure sounded so awesome on paper. And Rare was out of the game for so long; surely this project would be epic, right? Not so much...
This cooperative exploration romp has its redeeming qualities — the joy in uncovering treasures and working together with friends. Unfortunately, it's a far cry from what it was hyped to be.
One of the biggest criticisms to Sea of Thieves is that it just feels empty and unfinished. Rare titles are often known to be chock full of action and activities to engage in. And yet, much of this game consists of sailing around, doing cumbersome puzzles, and occasionally fighting enemy ships. The game essentially requires you to play online with others to get any real substance out of it, but it usually feels lacking even then.
1 Underrated: Jet Force Gemini
When it comes to action shooters and Rare, most people think Goldeneye or Perfect Dark, but this charming epic is right up there with those. The only difference is the aforementioned games were regarded as classics, while Jet Force Gemini was relegated to cult status. This isn't too surprising giving its unique, tricky mechanics, but it's still a quality game — on the solo and multiplayer fronts.
Gemini combines shooting and adventure platforming mechanics, while painting the scene with a cool blend of sci-fi and colorful fantasy, along with an enriching soundtrack. The game's main appeal is its action and exploration, but it adds depth with some open-world elements and a variety of unique characters with their own abilities.