With the recent reveal of the incredible-looking Yooka-Laylee E3 trailer and all the amazing news that follows, my brain has been going back to the amazing days of yesteryear, resetting to 13 year old me with my trusty Super Nintendo. Unfortunately I have to jump back to reality every few and focus on the fact that it’s Monday and I’m work.
But for me, the best way to get start a Monday is with some good music that takes you back to the fun of the weekend. And today, in this case, we’re going to take a trip back to the mid-to-late 90s with some tunes from the landmark video game company, Rareware!
If you’re just here for the music, skip a page or two down.
The mere mention of Rareware takes me right back to a time when life was beautiful and carefree and full of meaning and not despair. If you’re unfamiliar with Rareware, look no further than Wikipedia and educate yourself! If you grew up playing videogames in the 90s, they probably had a decent impact on your childhood.
That time of simplicity and child-like wonder has now passed and the future is bleak, but there are still ancient artifacts everywhere of those days gone by. In my opinion, you can’t beat the days where Super Nintendo, and later, Nintendo 64 reigned supreme (even if you were a Playstation or Sega person), especially considering the state of the industry. Rareware worked with an attention to detail that not many companies mimicked, and when it came down to the soundtracks of their games, their compositions are still some of the most recognizable even today.
It’s debatable that at that prime time in their career, spanning from the early 90s to about 2000, Rare was pumping out even better quality titles than Nintendo was.
With experience in racing games, 3D platformers, first-person shooters, fighters, side-scrollers and more, the team at Rare proved that they were invincible when it came to quality game development. Unfortunately for them, the pressure of increasing game costs but a stagnant budget from Nintendo meant an eventual purchase by the goliath known as Microsoft.
Early 2015 marked the announcement of the formation of Playtonic Studios, forged out of the same talent that built those incredible games from yesteryear. And so here we are, practically teetering on the edge of a brand new video game, made by the same folks you remember, drawing inspiration from your childhood. Providing you were around 10 years old some time in the mid-90s.
Yooka-Laylee is the upcoming spiritual successor to arguably the greatest Rare development ever, Banjo-Kazooie, and had people digging deep into their pockets to support the project on Kickstarter. Now it’s only a matter of the infamous waiting game.
We’d be doing ourselves a huge disservice if we were to simply wait a couple of months and play the game, without a constant background of some of the finest music to have ever graced a video game. It is with that that I segway into the whole point of this article: to tell you about my favorite Rareware musical compositions!
Killer Instinct – Sabrewulf Theme
I obtained this game through forces unknown. Seriously, if I look back and try to remember who purchased this game for me, I cannot figure it out. What I think happened is I rented it at Blockbuster and then never returned it. It could have cost my parents $100 in late fees and there’d be no way of knowing. Sorry mom!
What I also have no way of knowing is just how many hours I spent in this game, wailing away at the computer AI, learning every single moveset for every character. But as a life-time horror movie fan, this one hit a particular and probably literal chord for me. I know, I know, I get shit on for liking Sabrewulf, but his slashing combos were brutal and I love his wolf-like sounds of satisfaction.
This tune is creepy as hell and I just love it.
Banjo Kazooie – Freezeezy Peak
Freezeezy Peak was absolutely one of my favorites when it comes to Banjo-Kazooie, and the uppity, happy-shiny music was a huge driving force behind this. I’m also a huge Christmas guy, so the fact that this basically playing around in the North Pole was enough for me to spend hours in this level. And the sled race was the greatest thing ever.
While Banjo-Kazooie may show up more than once on this list, I’m making an effort to have some sort of order here.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest – Forest Interlude
Ha! I gotta say, I never noticed the pun in the title of this game. “Kong” Quest. Like “conquest.” Oh boy, the things you miss when you’re young!
That being said, I do plan on purchasing and them demolishing all three Donkey Kong Country games that have been recently re-released on the 3DS.
The Forest Interlude may be considered the best music in any Donkey Kong game ever, but it still needed to make an appearance on this list. It is absolutely one of my favorites, afterall. Paired with the sounds of smashing little rats and tossing barrels, this was the soundtrack to my life from the ages of 12 to 14.
Goldeneye – Cradle
To say that Goldeneye was essentially Rare hanging out of a passing plane and flipping the bird to the world of gaming would be an understatement.
This game took video games and turned them on their head, but the music was so well executed that it took it to that extra level. Even the jazzy music from the Facility as you descended into a freaken bathroom stall was enough to get you amped. Imagine yourself as a kid again, playing Goldeneye. Now imagine a song that you hated at the time, and overlay that music in your head. See? You probably hated it.
I remember the first time playing the Cradle level, and the panic I immediately felt when the usual slow and atmospheric music came to an abrupt stop, and the energy-packed piano line came on, as Trevelyn ran like a scared little girl, and Uzi fire drained my health from all directions. It really set the tone for an epic ending.
Jet Force Gemini – Cerulean
Now this one here! This was truly a great one. This game often gets completely forgotten in these types of conversations, although if I did have one gripe with it, it’s that I never finished it because I didn’t want to collect all the tribals. You know, those furry Wookie-things. Then again, if I could have only one complaint, it’d be about the framerate.
Speaking of Star Wars references, Rare really outdid themselves with the soundtrack on this one. They nailed the atmospheric space sounds, and for its time, a game with this quality of soundtrack was tough to come by.
Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kong Quest – Stickerbush Symphony
Ok, ok. It’s kind of cheating that this game is on here twice. But, truth be told, I’m pretty sure this is one of the nicest video game tracks I’ve ever listened to. It’s just so absolutely serene and reminds me of climbing trees as a kid. When the percussion comes in around 1:05 it’s pure bliss.
Of course, this music also accompanied the absolute most pain in the ass level I can remember from that game: Bramble Scramble. It was a flying level, somehow even worse than the water levels. That was the thing about these games, they didn’t mess around and they didn’t hold your hand. DKC was a cruel bitch to kids everywhere!
Perfect Dark – dataDyne Central
This was another game in particular that I spent a disturbing amount of time playing. Multiplayer mode had an amazing selection of AI bots to party with, from bots who moved faster than you to bots that would seek out and kill the last person to kill them upon respawn. It was a terrific game that was a blast to spend some hours in, and the music was done perfectly to get you amped up.
Of course, this track from campaign mode really set the tone earlier on in the game. It was hard to pick a track from Perfect Dark because the soundtrack is really enjoyed best when you listen to it straight through, or of course, while you’re simply playing the game.
Banjo-Kazooie – Clanker’s Cavern
Alright, so I know that the human race can be separated into two different people: those who prefer Clanker’s Cavern and those who prefer Rusty Bucket Bay. Something to me about the sleazy sound of Clanker’s Cavern just takes the cake, however. It’s a slow jam that conjures images of a drunken band of misfits in a bar, rocking out on their instruments to an equally drunken group of patrons.
If it’s any consolation to the Rusty Bucket people, I think Rusty Bucket was the better level, overall.
And that about wraps it up! It was a blast digging through Wikipedia and YouTube finding all of these track listings and listening to them. What is your favorite Rare game? What about favorite Rare soundtrack? Let’s hear about it in the comments!