I’ve talked a lot about my favorite games here at The Daily Crate, and there are a lot of characteristics of what a “favorite” game means to me. But, at the end of the day, I’ve gamed for a good portion of my life, and there’s something that almost always makes me lean towards one game or another: The Nostalgia Factor.
And while I may not be as interested in the platforming genre as I once was, one game that was a major game-changer for me growing up was Rare’s 1998 Banjo-Kazooie. Now, when I first saw that Banjo Kazooie was one of the featured franchises for July’s TEAMWORK Loot Gaming Crate, I was pumped to do one of my typical breakdowns of why Banjo-Kazooie has stood the test of time, why it’s still one of the greatest and most interesting games ever made, and it’s a true gem in Rare’s storied history – however, I was basically beat to the punch by a much deeper dive than I would have been able to do by Nintendo Life. I want to plug their story, found HERE, because it’s a really great look into the history of this awesome game, 20 years in the making. So instead of that deep dive, I’ll just briefly break down three things that really stand out when I think about the time I spent with Banjo the bear and Kazooie the bird 20 years ago.
In Mario’s Shadow – There is no denying that when Banjo-Kazooie released, it would be in the shadow of the undeniable face of Nintendo, and the King of Platformers: Mario. Before the game even launched in 98, it was drawing comparisons to Super Mario 64 which was released nearly two years prior – and while it must have been rad to be compared to what many argue as one of the greatest games on the Nintendo 64, and one of the greatest games of all time, I imagine it was also incredibly nerve-wracking at the same time, because who in their right mind would try and fill those shoes?
I was 10 years old at the time the game came out, so I didn’t keep up much with reviews or previews or anything for games, I just wanted games that looked fun and passed the “eyeball” test. Thank goodness I didn’t skip Banjo-Kazooie because it looked like Mario, because I would have missed out on one of my favorite games from my childhood! While I loved Super Mario 64, and still do, I have much fonder memories of the sound design, the brand new cast of characters, the interesting new mechanics, and the lovable duo of Banjo and Kazooie.
Gaming’s Best Year? – Banjo Kazooie was a serious highlight in 1998, and that is truly saying something – because the competition from gaming that year was impressive to say the least, and contains a few of my favorite games EVER – you had Xenogears, StarCraft, Pokemon Red/Blue, Half-Life, Ocarina of Time, Baldur’s Gate, and Metal Gear Solid, just to name a handful. So, needless to say… I had a lot of great memories from the majority of the biggest hit games of 98. And while I do speak of those games often, there’s something magical about Banjo-Kazooie that makes it such an important game to me, even today.
Great example: When I was 20 years old, I visited home during college. My sister, who recently turned 10, was getting a bit more interested in video games and wanted me to show her the ropes. I had my SNES, my Nintendo 64, my PlayStation, and my XBox 360 with me at the time, and of all the games I could have dusted off to show her, I went for one in particular: Yep, you guessed it, Banjo-Kazooie. Do I think it’s the best game ever? No, probably not, but when I was her age it was a game that resonated with me a great deal, and I wanted to share that with her – plus she loves animals and may not have appreciated my love for intense, brooding RPGs, so the friendly bear and bird duo seemed an obvious choice – and I’m so glad that was the game she played, and to this day playing Banjo-Kazooie with my sister is one of my favorite and most cherished gaming memories.
My Last Favorite Platformer – Platformers, as a genre, are games that I just flat out don’t play as much anymore, and when I do I don’t seem to get as into them as I did when I was younger. In fact, the last time I devoured a platformer from start to finish, it was Banjo Kazooie. I loved it, and I beat it over the course of a particularly rainy week in Alaska during the summer, the week of 4th of July. But once I completed it, the rain kept coming down, so I kept playing, aiming for a completionist file like I often did when I had the time – I almost never can play that way anymore. Ah, the glory day
The only time in recent memory that I felt the same kind of joy from a platformer, outside of the honest-to-goodness fun I had trying out Mario Odyssey on the Switch, was when I played Banjo-Kazooie’s spiritual successor, Yooka-Laylee. The art style, the characters, the sounds, the combat and gameplay mechanics, the whole thing just felt so fun and so much like the homage to Banjo-Kazooie they wanted it to be. In fact, it was so good that I put down The Witcher 3 and spent an entire weekend playing through the game, and I loved every single minute of it. If you’re looking to scratch that Rare itch, and don’t have access to any of their older games, I would highly recommend getting Yooka-Laylee.