While Xbox has been buying other studios to bring their titles exclusively to Xbox, they also have a large pile of franchises that haven’t seen the light in a long time.
Bringing back these franchises would not only bring amazing games to the Xbox platform, it would also mean reaching out to plenty of new gamers.
In 1998, Rare developed a platform video game featuring the dynamic duo of a bear named Banjo and a bird called Kazooie for the Nintendo 64. Since then, there have only been two other mainline entries into the Banjo-Kazooie franchise: its sequel Banjo-Tooie in 2000 and Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts in 2008. All three were developed by Rare, which Microsoft now owns.
Microsoft is in dire need of a fantastic platformer. Nintendo has Mario, Yoshi, and Kirby to fill that void while PlayStation has Astro from Astro Bot, yet Microsoft doesn’t have a franchise to rival the other platforms.
This is where Banjo-Kazooie and Rare come into play. While Rare works on updates to Sea of Thieves and their upcoming game Everwild, we feel that they should start a smaller team to start development on a Banjo-Kazooie reboot.
It’s indisputable that Banjo-Kazooie is a beloved franchise for many. Whether it was because of their three main games or their inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, people want to see Banjo-Kazooie come back into the video game world in their own way.
Bringing back Banjo-Kazooie won’t be hard to do. The previous games in the franchise have set a good starting point for how a new entry can be improved. Having Rare or another team focus on fantastic level design, emphasizing a balance of gameplay variety and area layout, will help this game be successful. Players will be grateful that the franchise was brought back with love and care if the above design ideas are taken into account.
With the critical and commercial success of Crash Bandicoot 4: It’s About Time, that proves that it is possible to bring back a franchise that people haven’t seen in a while. It should be just as possible to make it for a brand new audience while keeping some elements of the original franchise, ensuring that its heart lives on.
Another game developed by Rare, Viva Piñata is a life simulation game that has the player tending to a neglected garden as they breed piñatas based on real-world animals. The original game, which was released in 2006 alongside a television show, received good reviews and has led to several sequels.
In a world where Animal Crossing: New Horizons took over 2020 and is continuing to sell incredibly strong, this is the perfect time to bring back Viva Piñata but expand it to compete with Animal Crossing. The key is to let Piñata Island be the entire playing field so the game can mimic Animal Crossing, but with Piñata. It can still have the heavy gardening aspect of the original game, but it would be one of several mini-games that a person can play to keep up with the status of their island.
We haven’t seen a new title in this franchise since 2008. It completely skipped the Xbox One era, save for some of the games being included with Rare Replay. Having this title make a comeback would be great for the younger generation seeking a go-to game that can be the Xbox equivalent of Animal Crossing. All the better for Microsoft if those children are enticed to grow up in the Xbox ecosystem and have it be their preferred consoles.
Such a revival could also appeal to millennials, given that players such as myself have spent over 300 hours in New Horizons. Many folks would jump for the chance to give a new, improved, and expanded Viva Piñata a try if it were to release on Xbox Series X and PC.
Following the Rare theme established, let’s bring back Conker. Another of Rare’s platformer series, Conker put players in the shoes of the titular red squirrel who was consumed by greed and struggled with a drinking problem.
Though first introduced in Diddy Kong Racing, Conker the Squirrel was properly established in his best known persona with Conker’s Bad Fur Day, a 2001 game for the Nintendo 64. Save for a remake of Bad Fur Day – 2005’s Conker: Live & Reloaded – no other Conker games have seen the light of day.
This might have to do with Bad Fur Day failing to sell many copies, despite widespread critical acclaim. The low sales count was blamed on the marketing being towards an older audience and the game releasing towards the end of the Nintendo 64’s lifespan. As of now, it is considered one of the most rare Nintendo 64 games, widely coveted by collectors.
The game did, however, see a comeback on Rare Replay and is considered one of the best games in the collection. This seems to suggest that there is still an audience for Conker’s particular brand of crass antics.
While this character isn’t the most child friendly, it can follow in the same vibe as Deadpool in his own films and video game. Let Conker continue his hard-drinking and crude behaviour while being able to break the fourth wall and make jokes about other video game franchises, including the likes of Mario and Sonic.
A return of Conker would be fantastic for the Xbox library, without question. Such a fantastic platformer doubling as a purposefully edgy game has the potential to keep players entertained with the character and storyline, all while having some laughs along the way.
Released as an Xbox Live Arcade title in 2009, ‘Splosion Man is a 2.5D action platform game in a similar style to Rayman Origins and its sequel Legends. Solving puzzles while avoiding traps and enemies, the player guides ‘Splosion Man, a character made from explosive material, out of the facility in which he was created. The game received great reviews and was voted to be the Best Original Xbox Live Arcade Game of 2009.
Likely not to take as much development time and financial backing as a brand new Banjo-Kazooie game, a follow-up to this game would be great for Game Pass. It would help quench the thirst for a quick platformer on Xbox’s services until one of greater scope is released on the console.
There aren’t many changes needed to be made to the original recipe for this title. The gameplay was pretty straightforward and could easily make for a solid budget title. The original game featured 50 levels along with 3 bosses, with an additional 50 levels exclusive to cooperative play. Even just putting the original game out as a remaster on Game Pass, with the option to play online, would be a huge success.
Let that remaster lead to the development of a new title with the same scope as the original, but with new levels. If it is released and receives the same success as the original did back in 2009, it could even open up the possibility of bringing back its successor, Ms. ‘Splosion Man.
I feel confident that not many people will be familiar with Tinker. This puzzle game was released on Windows in 2008, tasking the player with leading a robot through levels by solving puzzles, flipping switches, and finding their way around obstacles.
In the original game, the player had a limited amount of moves before they lost the level. If this game was to be brought back, I would want it to be work similar to Superliminal or The Turing Test. Let players have unlimited number of moves and time to initially solve the puzzle. To keep the soul of the original game, there can be a race mode that brings back the limited amount of moves to truly test the player and make them analyze their every decision with care.
Beyond that, puzzle games are my favorite style of games to play because it makes the player think in many different ways. Having a cute robot to lead through the puzzles would give this game a character to act as its mascot.
I’m always a fan of puzzle games, so it’s sad to see that Xbox is lacking in that department. It may be able to bring in games from other developers, but to have a strong exclusive puzzle game on Xbox consoles and PC could capture the puzzle game market. Truly, Tinker could be a runaway success if handled correctly.