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The origins can be traced back to 1982 when Tim and Chris Stamper founded Ultimate Play the Game. The studio saw early success on personal computers like the ZX Spectrum with titles like Jetpac, Atic Atac, Sabre Wulf, and Knight Lore. One day, the team decided to focus on the international market. They created a subsidiary called Rare in 1985 to reverse engineer the Famicom hardware to learn its inner workings, something that Nintendo had previously claimed to be an impossibility. After impressing Nintendo with its tech demos, Rare was granted unlimited budget for developing Nintendo Entertainment System games. At this time, the team decided to sell the Ultimate Play the Game brand to U.S. Gold, and the entire company was renamed to Rare. A string of successful NES releases followed, including R.C. Pro-Am, Snake Rattle 'n' Roll, and Battletoads, and several licensed games.
In 1994, Rare acquired several SGI computers and used them to create a boxing game tech demo, which eventually became Killer Instinct. Nintendo was so impressed with this demo that they would purchase a 49% stake in the company, making Rare a second-party developer. Nintendo would entrust Rare with making several Donkey Kong titles, including the Donkey Kong Country series, the Donkey Kong Land series, Diddy Kong Racing, and Donkey Kong 64. Banjo made his debut appearance in Diddy Kong Racing, and a couple of months later, in 1998, Banjo-Kazooie was released for the Nintendo 64. In 2000, Rare released a sequel titled Banjo-Tooie.
On September 23, 2002, Rare released Star Fox Adventures, which was their last game as a second party developer for Nintendo. One day later, Microsoft bought out the entirety of Rare. As a first-party developer for Microsoft, Rare would make games exclusively for the Xbox line and PCs. Some of their early titles for the Xbox line of consoles include Grabbed by the Ghoulies, Conker: Live & Reloaded, Kameo: Elements of Power, and Viva Piñata. Rare would also collaborate with Nintendo and THQ to publish a few games for Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS. Two Banjo-Kazooie titles, Banjo-Kazooie: Grunty's Revenge and Banjo-Pilot, were released for the Game Boy Advance during the years 2003 and 2005 respectively. In 2008, Rare released a sequel to Banjo-Tooie, titled Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts. Shortly after its release, Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie were re-released as Xbox Live Arcade titles.
In the 2010s, Rare created a few Kinect Sports titles. For the second half of the decade, they spent a majority of their time developing the online multiplayer title Sea of Thieves and releasing updates for the title. In 2015, Rare released the compilation title Rare Replay for Xbox One, and among the games it included are the Xbox Live Arcade releases of both Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie as well as Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts.